If you’re thinking about buying a new television, surround sound speakers or if you have been contemplating installing a cinema in your home, you have probably spent a lot of time researching the kit you might buy. You might have read reviews, blogs and magazines to make sure the money you spend on your new system is going to get you the best return, and create the best home viewing set-up.
What many fail to take into consideration is the acoustic set-up of their new systems. You could spend a fortune on a new speaker system – but if the acoustic set up of the speakers isn’t correct, it could end up sounding like you are listening to your movies through a tin can.
With the right system and acoustic set-up you could easily turn your lounge into a viewing room that could rival that of your local cinema. If you’re thinking about upgrading your sound system because you’re not happy with the acoustics, you may be able to improve the set-up of your existing system with some small changes and a bit of furniture rearranging.
Getting the Right Number & Size of Speakers
Having the right speakers is the first step to creating the ultimate acoustic experience in your living room. This doesn’t necessarily mean buying the most expensive or top of the range speakers. In order to achieve a cinema quality sound experience, you will need to invest in a surround sound speaker system. Larger rooms will require more speakers to project the sound across the whole room. Most people opt for five speakers to create their surround sound. You also need to consider if you have enough space in the room to accommodate the number of speakers you are looking at buying. Mark out the position of the speakers before you make the purchase to be sure that they will fit into the room correctly without looking too cramped or oversized.
The size of the speakers is also important. If you’re working with a room that will have multiple purposes, smaller speakers can more easily stay out of the way or even be moved when you need to do something else. If you have a dedicated TV room or have a larger space to work with, you have the luxury of opting for bigger speakers than can give a more dramatic sound.
While you have some freedom on the actual positioning of each individual speaker, there are some general guidelines you’ll need to follow in order to get the proper acoustic experience from your surround sound speakers.
On either side of the television should be the front left and right speakers, with the left speaker on your left-hand side as you face the television. These shouldn’t go too far away from the television, or else the soundscape will seem wider than normal.
Depending on the speakers you chose, you might have a few others to position in the room. With 5.1 speakers, you’ll have the surround left and surround right speakers, which should be set up on either side of your seating. With 7.1 speakers, you’ll also have surround back left and surround back right speakers, which should be placed behind your seating.
Positioning the Subwoofer
The subwoofer is the heart of the entire package. It provides the deep bass and accounts for the .1 in the 5.1/7.1 terminology.
You can be fairly flexible when choosing a position for the subwoofer as they are usually omni-directional, which means they project sound in all directions. Most people position it close to the television purely for the ease of connecting the whole system together. If you would like more bass from your system you can position it against a wall, or a corner. However this isn’t ideal for most type of movie setup as it can create a deep boom, or “muddy” sound that will muffle some of the frequencies coming from your speakers.
If you do find that the sound from your system is too bassy and you can’t correct it with repositioning, you can install bass traps in the crevices of your room. These are designed to catch sound waves so that they don’t overlap with each other to create that “muddy” effect.
Working Around Furniture
While subwoofers may be omni-directional, the rest of your speakers will be directional and the sound can therefore easily be distorted by obstructions between the speaker and your ears.
Placing speakers behind furniture can hinder the listening experience in your home cinema. You also want to avoid having any furniture or equipment in your TV room that will distort the sound with their material makeup. Dense hard objects will reflect sound, and therefore too much metal or a lack of any furniture will create an irritating reverb. Soft, porous objects will absorb the sound, so if your TV room has too many rugs, sofas and other furniture, much of the sound will absorbed leaving you with a muted and muffled acoustics. The key is having a balance in the contents of your TV room, and playing around with removing and adding different objects until the sound quality improves.
Equalizing is a process the balances your audio system to best suit the characteristics of the room.
Equalizing your surround sound can be a laborious task, but it’s one that’s necessary to achieve the ultimate acoustic set-up, and you will need to try out lots of different types of sounds through your system to get it just right. Play videos, music and any other sources of sound that you will be using on a regular basis. Adjust each of the sound properties on your system, including the pitch, bass and frequency until you have the optimal setup for all of the types of media the system will regularly be playing.
The perfect acoustic set-up will be very personal to you. You may prefer a more bassy sound experience whilst others might enjoy some reverb from their sound system. It’s all too easy when buying a new system to plug everything in and dive straight into a film and some popcorn. But spending a few hours setting up your sound correctly will make all the difference to your viewing experience and will ensure that no matter which system you have at home, you will be getting the most out of it.
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