Speaker Choice For Home Cinemas

This may go against the grain for some, but one of my all-time favourite movies is Star Wars Episode 1. Now before you stop reading let me explain why. The famous pod racing scene in episode one is possibly the most engaging surround sound experience I can think of in any sci-fi film that I have ever experienced. The bangs of pods exploding and the sound of the racers all around you is totally immersive and exciting.

A true home cinema experience involves many components but one that gets people talking is the sound. This article will explain some of the most important aspects of home cinema sound and what you should plan for.

Size and layout of the room

When considering surround sound speakers the best thing to start with is the size of the room that the speakers will be going into. How big is the space you have? If you have a large open plan living room with vaulted ceilings you will need different gear to that of a small or a medium-sized room with standard height ceilings. Speakers should match the size of your room. Floor standing speakers are ideal for large open spaces, whereas stand mounted, on-wall or in-wall speakers are well suited for smaller rooms. 

Another consideration that you should also look at is what the room will be used for when it’s not being used as your home cinema. It may be that your cinema room, by day is a family room or a kid’s playroom. As such you want to make sure that your speakers are safe and away from being knocked over. This would mean that speakers should be mounted either in-wall or on-wall and away from head height.

Speaker Placement

The next part to consider is how you arrange your home theatre speakers this has a large impact on the way that your system sounds. Correct speaker placement elevates an average sounding system into an exceptional home theatre experience.

Your front and left and right speakers will focus the sound field.  You should angle your speakers slightly towards the seat that’s directly in front of your screen. Tweeters should be at ear level when you are seated.

Play around with your speaker arrangements and test what works best for you. When you put the speakers closer, you may find that your bass is more prominent in the soundstage. Whilst this may be good for general audio listening, it will dull your mid and high tones, giving you less of a fuller soundstage.

Your centre channel speaker will generally deal with most of the spoken word in a film or programme. This speaker should really be set at the midpoint of your screen and at ear level if possible. 

5.1 Systems

In a 5.1 system, your surround speakers are best placed to the left and right of your seating position. If you aim them slightly towards you-you will get the best possible surround sound experience. If a side placement isn’t available to you, place your speakers a few feet behind your listening position and facing forward towards the screen wall. You will always want your surrounds 1 to 2 feet above ear level to get the best possible surround effect.

7.1 Systems

In a 7.1 system, your surround speakers are positioned beside and behind your listening position. Similar to 5.1 setups, speakers are placed to the left and right of your listening position 2 speakers are also added to the rear. These speakers are positioned behind you facing forward towards the screen wall. Both pairs should be positioned 1 to 2 feet above ear level for the best possible performance.


Bass frequencies are omnidirectional, therefore you will have some flexibility about where your subwoofer can be placed. You can place your subwoofer near a wall and this will generally result in more bass. If you place your subwoofer near a corner you will get even more of a bass response. As a general rule, most people put a subwoofer at the front of the room so it’s easier to connect it to the AV receiver.

In some cases, you may even want to add a second subwoofer for a better bass response. Using two subwoofers increases the bass distribution by filling in gaps where the bass may be weak. A second sub also provides a more impactful dynamic to your soundstage.

The layout of your room will now determine where the second of sub should be placed if you require it. Some rooms get the best results by having a sub in each of the two corners in front of the room. In some cases, you may get better bass distribution by having one sub in the front of the room and the other at the rear. Experiment with a few different arrangements and see where you get the best bass for your room.

Imperfections in Speaker Placement

Perfection can be hard to achieve, especially when it comes to speaker arrangements for your home theatre. Don’t be discouraged. Finding that perfect spot for each the speaker is difficult, however many AV receivers offer an automatic calibration system that will take care of imperfections for you.

An Included microphone with your AV receiver can be placed at your listening position and then it will send test sounds to that microphone. These test tones are played at different volume levels, therefore, mapping out your room and adjusting the levels of each speaker to compensate for imperfections in your placement by automatically adjusting the timing, output level and equalization for each individual speaker.

Speaker Size

The next thing to look at is the size of the speakers that you wish to purchase. Compact speakers offer an unobtrusive option especially when the system is not always the centre of attention. Compact speakers can easily blend into the decor and leave plenty of room for other activities such as working as a living room or media room. In-wall and in-ceiling speakers are also great options which still give you an immersive sound without taking up floor space.

If you are lucky enough to have a dedicated home cinema room and space isn’t a big concern then you are free to use larger speakers. These speakers will typically be floor standing, which will help you reproduce a true cinema experience. A larger speaker will typically offer a larger acoustic chamber which would deliver powerful surround effects which are perfect for movies and video games. For your surround channels, many people elect to use bookshelf or on-wall speakers. Is also possible to use in ceiling speakers too meaning you can have a completely clutter free cinema room. 

Subwoofer size

A subwoofer would you deep bass that plays throughout your home cinema. The subwoofer is what gives explosions and low flying aircraft that rattle and punch. As a general rule the larger the driver d for the base choose a subwoofer that matches as well with your room size and your speakers if you have a large room, we would suggest a 12 inch or larger driver if you have a smaller room who would recommend 10 or even an 8 inch driver.


Choosing the correct speaker setup for your room can be a complex task and matching sizes of speakers and positioning them can be difficult. If you have any questions about choosing the right equipment for your system our expert team are here to help.

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