We have talked about the viewing screen and the receiver for the “Covering the Basics” article set but those will mean absolutely nothing if you don’t have the immersion of the sound system to fully engulf your soul in the experience.
If you want to learn more about the speaker options and how to pick the right one for your room, keep reading. We’re going to get you started.
Keeping the harmony with proper speaker selection
Two Primary Styles of Speakers
If you are in a dedicated theater room or man-cave, your best option to provide the full robust sound desired by most is going to be floor standing tower speakers. The acoustic properties of the speaker enclosures can provide strong, room filling, realistic sound for all your movies, sports and games. Speaker arrays that include tower speakers can really bring the theater to your house.
Bookshelf and Compact
When retro fitting a surround system to an established structure, we don’t always have the ability to build a dedicated room just for viewing movies or playing games. We are often time using a room that is also the gathering room when visitors come by to visit. These multi-purpose rooms may require a different setup utilizing smaller, less obtrusive speakers. This is where the compact and bookshelf speakers will really come into play for your surround sound.
These types of speakers can offer a quality dynamic sound but they generally won’t be able to provide the room filling sound that goes across the entire audio spectrum with power like tower speakers are capable of doing. But, with their compact footprint, these speakers can be placed in more precise locations throughout the room, ensuring you have accurate playback of the soundtrack from the movie or the event you are viewing.
Prepare for the install
You have to know what the purpose is for each of your speakers. In a standard 5.1 setup you are going to have 2 front, 2 rear, 1 center (placed below or above the viewing screen) and a sub-woofer. If you are going with a 7.1, you will be adding 2 speakers directly to the side of the viewing area. If you are building a dedicated theater with the latest and greatest features, you may be looking at the 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos or DTS:X systems, which also add 4 in-ceiling or upward firing speakers specifically calibrated for these advanced codec deployments.
Map the Placement
To ensure you are going to get the most out of your system, create a map of where the speakers should be placed in regards to the viewing area. The strictest placement option is definitely going to be the center channel. This has to be center of the viewing screen, either above or below the television. The placement of the other speakers will depend on the size of the room and the main viewing location.
The center channel of a movie soundtrack primarily will carry the voice tracks. This is the speaker that will provide the dialogue from the various scenes and will keep the sound anchored with the video being presented on the screen.
The center channel speaker can either be what you are building the entire system around or it will need to be sized in accordance with the front channel speakers. If you are going to be building a full theater quality surround sound, get a larger center channel speaker to match the larger size of the front tower speakers. This is going to help you fill the room with a full, rich sound. If you are going to be using bookshelf or compact speakers for the left/right front speakers, you can use a smaller center channel speaker to ensure the balance of sound is maintained.
Either way that you go, the center channel is a vital cog in the system. For high quality dialogue sound, ensure that you get a quality center channel speaker and you’ll be happy with the performance of your surround sound.
Left/Right Front Stage Speakers
The front left/right speakers will be handling the music and left to right effects of the movie soundtrack. The musical balance with the voice track on the center channel is critical, so a proper size with the center speaker is paramount for a quality viewing experience.
Bookshelf, compact or tower options are all good choices for front speakers of a surround sound but balance them with the center channel for the best results.
The rear or surround speakers are normally placed alongside or behind the seating area. These speakers will help fill in the auxiliary sounds of the movie. If there are animal sounds in the distance, trees rustling or rain falling on the tin roof, these speakers will help fill the room to better immerse you in the movie. They are also supporting functions on directional effects, such as that of a car passing from the back to front or the sound of a train moving through the stage area.
The “filling” sounds can be built upon by adding the side speakers to the rear surround. This would be needed in 7.1 systems or the newer 7.1.4 technology.
Add the Bass
Explosions, tanks rumbling by or the intensity of a tornado are only truly felt when a subwoofer is added to your surround sound system. The deep bass of an audio track is normally separated out to provide this depth but also to protect the other speakers in the system. Choosing a powered subwoofer is going to provide more “oomph” that a passive subwoofer will, so our recommendation for a high performance system is to get a powered version.
The size of the room will determine the size of the speaker needed. In an average sized room, a compact sub may be all that is needed but as the room size increases, it may be necessary to move up to a 12” or larger speaker. This is always going to be up to your preference but our other guideline is generally a 12” sub will provide a great accompaniment to most surround sound systems.
Pre-matched Speaker Systems
If you don’t want to search for each speaker individually, a good option is to purchase a matched system from a manufacturer. You can benefit from a reputable company giving you a performance matched system that will work well together when connected as recommended. There are many of these systems out there to fill your every need. From a basic 5.1 system to the cutting edge 7.1.4 system, every possible option is available.
Should You Get a Professional Contractor?There are many opinions out there in regards to using a professional installation service or be more of a DIY person. I am of two minds on this one because while I can see the advantage of a professional install, I don’t feel that it is always needed. Here are a couple of questions to ask yourself:
I hope you guys enjoyed this article and I’ll see you on the next installment.