How To Set up a 5.1 Home Theater System

A home theater system is composed of multiple speakers that seek to emulate the quality of sound and video of movie theaters in a private home.

History - Home theaters became a hit in the United States when Kodak 8mm film projectors became affordable to consumers. Multi-channel audio systems and laser discs became the next generation of home theaters. When VHS players became available on the market, many household owners purchased one. Through time and continuous improvement, people have enjoyed the technology brought along by DVDs, High Definition Television and Dolby Digital 5.1-channel audio systems.

Today, expensive home theater systems include a Blu-ray player, a 60" HDTV with a 16:9 (widescreen) format, a home theater receiver with five to seven surround sound speakers and one very powerful subwoofer. This setup could cost almost $80,000. Some families might even afford to setup a custom-built screening room, which includes cinema style chairs and digital projectors.

5.1 Surround Sound - Home theaters typically include either Dolby Digital 2.0, 5.1 or 7.1 sound systems. The decimal number is the subwoofer and the first number is the number of speakers it can support. So a Dolby Digital 5.1 would include a subwoofer, 2 front and 2 rear surround sound speakers and a center channel speaker. The center channel would be responsible for the voices in the movie.


  1. A 5.1 Home Theater System starts with positioning of the television set. It should be positioned in a way that no light from doors or windows would reflect on it. Reflections will make the darker scenes of the movie hard to make out.
  2. Place your receiver next to the television set. The front of the receiver should be exposed, since it will receive the commands from the remote control.
  3. Place other components like a laserdisc, DVD, or Blu-ray player on the top or bottom of the receiver to make connection easier. Before making the connections, make sure that you buy the highest quality cables, since this will also affect the quality of the audio. As much as possible, use either fiber optic audio-in or S-Video connections.
  4. Run the wires where you would place your front and rear speakers. Spare about two to three extra feet of wire for further adjustments in the future.
  5. Front channel speakers should be placed near the television set for sounds that should appear to be coming directly from the screen.
  6. The subwoofer can be placed anywhere, as long as it faces the audience. It should not be placed under furniture or in a corner.
  7. The front surround sound speaker should be three to four feet away from your receiver and center channel speaker. If you have a large room, place it farther away.
  8. Rear surround sound speaker placement should match the distance between the front speaker and the receiver with the distance between the front and the rear speakers.
  9. Make sure that the speakers are equidistant to each other, facing the sweet spot where the audience will usually sit to watch a movie.
  10. Finally, calibrate all your components and speakers so that you get balanced audio from all of them. Use a sound meter if necessary.

You can now watch a movie and test your 5.1 theater system at home.


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