People often wonder if they can switch the position of their front and surround speakers and get the same results. While much of this comes down to what type of speakers you have, some are interchangeable.
You can use surround speakers as front speakers by swapping out the speakers’ connections in the back of the AV receiver. The sound that should be going to your front speakers will be delivered to your surround speakers, but you may not get the same sound quality.
If you swap out your speakers, the quality of the sound depends on what kind of surround speakers you have. People often purchase a lower-quality speaker for their surround speakers, as they are not as vital to the listening experience. Read on to find out what each speaker does in the surround set up.
What Is Surround Sound?
As an affiliate, I may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page.
Surround sound is exactly what it seems like it would be. It is a listening experience that completely surrounds the user. This works by physically positioning multiple speakers around the listener, so they receive noises from many different angles.
These speakers are powered and operated by a receiver, which gets audio tracks from different sources, sorts through them, and optimizes them for 5.1 audio, which is the default home surround sound system. It then sends each track and sound to each specific speaker to create an impressive home-theater or music lounge experience.
There are six speakers in the standard surround sound setup. We will examine these and what they do below.
What Each Speaker Does in Surround Sound
The center speaker is arguably the most important speaker in the surround sound setup. It delivers most of the dialogue in movies and TV shows. If you’re only listening to your surround sound system for music, it is probably not the most important speaker for you.
If you are a movie lover, however, you would benefit greatly from investing in a high-quality front speaker.
Front speakers are usually designed to fit easily around your TV. You want to position your front speaker as close to your TV as possible. This will ensure that the dialogue sounds realistic, and like it’s coming from the actors on the screen in front of you, not in the room across from you.
Improper placement of the front speaker may also cause a delay in dialogue delivery, meaning that you may experience the words at a different time than the actors mouth them on-screen.
Left and Right Speakers
These speakers are also extremely important to the experience of surround sound. Some even say they are more important than the center speaker as they are crucial for both music listening and movie watching.
In movies, the left and right speakers produce most of the music and deliver most of the film’s sound effects. They also emit dialogue when the actors move to either side of the screen to help enhance the feeling of being immersed in the film.
These speakers are capable of producing a wide range of sound levels. They can produce the bass in music and action as well as the mid notes of sound effects and the high notes of music and dramatic moments.
People often spend the most amount of money on these speakers as they are such a big part of the surround sound experience.
The left, right, and center speakers are the main players in a surround sound system. Together, they deliver most of the listening experience. If you’re only going to invest in expensive speakers for part of your surround sound system, these three speakers are where you should put your money.
Surround Left and Right Speakers
The surround left and right speakers put the “surround” in surround sound. These are the speakers placed behind you to give the auditory illusion of being encircled by the sounds coming out of the AV receiver.
These speakers deliver extra sound effects and music cues. They truly enhance the audio-visual experience of the movie. These are the speakers that turn a TV set into a home theatre.
These need to emit a similar range of tones to the front left and right speakers, but not to the same degree. People often spend less money on these speakers than their front cousins.
Another unique note about the surround speakers is the way they deliver sound. A lot of surround speakers are often bipole speakers. These speakers have two internal speakers that emit sounds in opposite directions at once. This is great for speakers that are right behind the listener’s head as it keeps them from getting blasted with sound and enhances the “surround” experience.
The front speakers are all usually direct-sounding speakers. This is one of the main reasons you may not want to use your surround speakers as front speakers.
One of the most talked-about types of speakers is the subwoofer. These speakers deliver the powerful bass that you hear in action scenes, dramatic moments, and many types of music.
Many audiophiles are extremely passionate about the presence of a subwoofer in the speaker system. The bass is thought to act as the reference point for all other sounds in a composition. As Andrew Pouska says in The Role of The Bass, “The bass plays a powerful role in how we hear harmonies. When we hear several notes played at the same time, we hear them all relative to the lowest sounding pitch — the bass note.”
This is why bass tones have their very own speaker, the subwoofer.
Subwoofers usually sit near the television, and directly on the ground as they can cause shelves to vibrate with their powerful noise.
Things to Consider When Using Surround Speakers As Front Speakers
Now that we know each of the speakers’ roles in the surround sound platform, we can better decide if we want to use surround speakers as front speakers.
Some of the things to consider when using surround speakers as front speakers are:
- Are they of the same quality? Are your surround speakers of a high enough quality that you will not notice a huge difference when you move them to the front of your listening experience?
- Do they have the same range? Your surround speakers may not have the same abilities required for a front left and right speakers to produce the full range of sounds in movies and music. Again, your listening experience can suffer because of this.
- What shape are they? Often, front speakers are standing speakers, and surround speakers are compact, easy to place units. The smaller units usually do not deliver the same amount of sound, and definitely not on the same physical level.
- Are they dipole speakers? If your surround speakers are dipole speakers, they could ruin your audio experience by shooting most of the movie’s main sounds or music to the sides of the room, instead of right at you.
It is technically possible to use surround speakers as front speakers, but there are many things to consider. Some of the main factors of your decision include the quality of your surround speakers, whether or not they are dipole speakers, and if they have the range of sound that you will want from front speakers.
Generally speaking, it is best to use speakers for the specific function that they are designed for.