Nowadays, most people and homeowners already have some type of surround sound system, either in their TV set or PC. Being myself one, though, I know by experience that it is not a simple thing to optimise the system and get the most out of it.
Home movies can be an amazing experience, providing it combines amazing image quality with surround sound of equal quality. Modern-day movies are designed to engulf us with sounds and ambience noises coming from all angles, thus putting in the heart of all the action. That is why surround sound systems make home movie nights such a memorable experience. With each motorcycle passing by, each bullet hissing, each scream or whisper from the protagonist seem to come right from the walls.
Still, there is no reason to envy others or to think that such an optimisation is possible only the people with special knowledge in audio systems. No, you can easily get it at your home too.
Audio system manufacturers have designed and evolved the whole concept of surround sound. It sounds simple, but it is not: using several speakers to simulate a 3D sound experience. There is no need to use a great number of them to achieve this result and an immersive audio experience. The key lies in properly setting up the system and tailoring it to the needs of your personal space.
There are a few fundamental things you need to know before we proceed with our tips. If you want to buy a new surround sound system, you will notice in your market research that they are named using number combinations like 5.1, 7.1, 9.1, and 11.1. You probably know what that means already, but we may as well make it certain: the first number is the number of speakers of the surround sound system, while the second denotes the number of subwoofers.
By far the most popular pick is the 5.1 surround sound system, so let us use that as an example: it consists of a channel speaker, usually for conversations, a pair of side speakers for music, a pair of rear speakers for ambience sounds, and, of course, the subwoofer. All of these components together can create the perfect surround sound experience, providing your room is of size and dimensions suited for a 5.1 surround sound system. If it is very big, you will need more speakers to achieve the best possible result.
When you figure out which type of surround sound system is ideal for your space, try also the following tips to get the best out of it.
Show the Subwoofer the Respect it Deserves
Bass is essential for an immersive sound experience – and do keep that in mind. That is why audio experts caution about its importance and warn against sidelining it by misplacing it.
Many people fall into the trap of hiding the subwoofer somewhere in the back or in a corner, often as a means to lower a bit the effect of the deep bass, or simply because it’s a bit bulky and they do not want it in their way. This is a gross mistake.
The subwoofer is the heart of your surround sound system. To get the most out of it, you need to bring it to the fourth and carefully select its location by trying a few and seeing which one works better for your space and ears.
Usually, the best spots are a bit off-centre of where you sit. It is vital to make sure that it does not touch any other item. It should just stand on the floor and thus perform at its best.
The Central Speaker Needs Some Height
You do not have to be a nuclear scientist to figure out the proper position for the centre speaker – but it does require some thought when it comes to how high or low it should be.
Audio experts usually recommend putting the centre channel speaker above the TV set, preferably in a horizontal position. Why? Because the dialogue will seem to come right from the screen.
How are you going to get it up there? A legitimate question, since no TV set has a special mount for this purpose. The best way to do it is to use a wall mount, with rubber feet for angling. A stand can do the trick too.
If there is no way to be placed above the TV set, then put it right in front of the TV set but as close to it as possible.
Mind the Size
Several audio experts insist that the majority of medium-size living rooms require a 12-15” tall bookshelf speakers to ensure optimal performance.
Remember, the size of the room directly affects the audio result and the experience created by your surround sound system. If it is really big, then a 38-inch option is preferable – or even a higher one.
Again, Mind the Size
We said it once, we will say it again. Bigger rooms require more speakers.
In some cases, what is needed is an upgrade in technology or an increase in the number of speakers used in a room. 7.1 and 9.1 surround sound systems perform surprisingly better in large living rooms, so it is far from a mere waste of money. Besides, the same model with a couple of speakers more is not much more expensive than its 5.1 brother.
Last but not Least – Calibration
And we arrived at the last of our tips. In order to achieve optimal audio results from your surround sound system, you need to calibrate the levels of the speaker system output.
Just this move by itself will improve greatly the sound quality of your surround sound system. It will bring out discreet sounds and ambient noise within overwhelming parts of an action movie or a spectacular drama.
The good news? Several contemporary surround sound systems come with built-in automatic calibration features that make things easier for people less experienced with complicated tech configurations.