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Help me with Surround Sound setup

10,594 1,820 September 18, 2017 at 12:05 PM
I was trying to research a little about the proper surround sound setup but it seemed like an over-abundance of information (bipole, dipole, monopole speakers...surround vs bookshelf speakers...)

Here is a rough layout of what my living room is like. Using this, is there any advice people can give me on what the best setup would be?

There are a few things I need advice on:
I see many set-ups where people use two subs. Is that just to get double the power? Or do the two subs handle two different frequencies in order for each one to get better clarity on the bass notes?

I would like to get an Atmos setup because three-dimensional sound is intriguing to me. Are two overhead speakers enough or is it better to get four?

Since my room seems pretty small (and because I don't really have the space for that many speakers) I think I will just go for a 5.x.x setup. I have read that the bulk of the budget should be spent on the initial 3.1 setup (front L, front C, front R, sub) because those speakers are what handle the majority of the sound. Is this an agreeable statement?

Thanks for any help

edit: To clarify the entryways...the one on the left is a regular door-sized entry with no door that leads to the hallway. The french door entry is the size of french doors but only one side actually swings open 180-degrees (into the living room). The entry at the bottom is about five feet wide with no door and leads to the breakfast nook and kitchen.

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Quote from RUsum1
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I was trying to research a little about the proper surround sound setup but it seemed like an over-abundance of information (bipole, dipole, monopole speakers...surround vs bookshelf speakers...)

Here is a rough layout of what my living room is like. Using this, is there any advice people can give me on what the best setup would be?

There are a few things I need advice on:
I see many set-ups where people use two subs. Is that just to get double the power? Or do the two subs handle two different frequencies in order for each one to get better clarity on the bass notes?

I would like to get an Atmos setup because three-dimensional sound is intriguing to me. Are two overhead speakers enough or is it better to get four?

Since my room seems pretty small (and because I don't really have the space for that many speakers) I think I will just go for a 5.x.x setup. I have read that the bulk of the budget should be spent on the initial 3.1 setup (front L, front C, front R, sub) because those speakers are what handle the majority of the sound. Is this an agreeable statement?

Thanks for any help

Two subs are not needed imo. Yes you can futz with different low ranges and the like, but seriously it is a massive overkill and completely unnecessary for most everyone at home.

Not familiar with Atmos setups, but for a smaller room it just seems like more overkill imo.

Generally, a standard 5.1 setup is going to work great in a room this size and I would spend the money on the L/R/C speakers and the receiver and not get caught up in the rears so much. As noted, the majority of your sound goes through the left and right and the center is used for the dialogue. The rears are basically just for effects and background noise so getting decent but not high priced rears is a reasonable thing to do when on a budget.

Many top receiver brands like Denon will come with a setup program and microphone to calibrate the speakers based on various locations in the room. Generally place the L and and Rs next to the TV...the center under the TV\in front of it and the rears can go anywhere in the back equally spaced from the main seated position, though usually you do not want them directly behind you. Spending more time and money on buying quality components and speakers is far more important than anything else here imo. That is of course a function of your budget and whether you want floor standing or smaller, in or on-wall speakers.
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Last edited by YanksIn2009 September 18, 2017 at 03:20 PM.
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Two subs are not needed imo. Yes you can futz with different low ranges and the like, but seriously it is a massive overkill and completely unnecessary for most everyone at home.

Not familiar with Atmos setups, but for a smaller room it just seems like more overkill imo.

Generally, a standard 5.1 setup is going to work great in a room this size and I would spend the money on the L/R/C speakers and the receiver and not get caught up in the rears so much. As noted, the majority of your sound goes through the left and right and the center is used for the dialogue. The rears are basically just for effects and background noise so getting decent but not high priced rears is a reasonable thing to do when on a budget.

Many top receiver brands like Denon will come with a setup program and microphone to calibrate the speakers based on various locations in the room. Generally place the L and and Rs next to the TV...the center under the TV\in front of it and the rears can go anywhere in the back equally spaced from the main seated position, though usually you do not want them directly behind you. Spending more time and money on buying quality components and speakers is far more important than anything else here imo. That is of course a function of your budget and whether you want floor standing or smaller, in or on-wall speakers.
Maybe four Atmos speakers are overkill, but I would think having at least two would be beneficial for that overhead sound since it's different than just adding two more speakers

After posting this I looked up more info regarding two subs. It seemed like it was for a few benefits.
1) Having two subs helps spread out the workload (I guess like a parallel feed similar to electricity. Instead of having 15 amps on one wire, you can get 10 amps each on two smaller wires)
2) If you don't have space for one large size sub, two smaller subs could work for you
3) Having only one sub may not be good for everyone in the room so two subs helps spread out the noise (seems like this would only effect larger rooms than what I have)
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Last edited by RUsum1 September 18, 2017 at 03:39 PM.
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Quote from RUsum1
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Maybe four Atmos speakers are overkill, but I would think having at least two would be beneficial for that overhead sound since it's different than just adding two more speakers

That is of course up to you and a matter of taste and budget. Never dealt with Atmos speakers but I just can't imagine the background noises of birds tweeting, an aircraft flying by, etc. are going to sound that much better just because they bounce the sound off the ceiling to warrant the additional price, but everyone's tastes are different. I spend on the receiver and L/Rs first and then the center speaker as that is where the quality can be noticed by an audiophile like myself.
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Quote from RUsum1
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Maybe four Atmos speakers are overkill, but I would think having at least two would be beneficial for that overhead sound since it's different than just adding two more speakers

After posting this I looked up more info regarding two subs. It seemed like it was for a few benefits.
1) Having two subs helps spread out the workload (I guess like a parallel feed similar to electricity. Instead of having 15 amps on one wire, you can get 10 amps each on two smaller wires)
2) If you don't have space for one large size sub, two smaller subs could work for you
3) Having only one sub may not be good for everyone in the room so two subs helps spread out the noise (seems like this would only effect larger rooms than what I have)

Unless you plan on shaking your house apart, this is overkill and largely nonsense propagated by very high end audiophiles and people who just like excessive amounts of bass imo. Spreadout the workload...in a small room? Don't have the space for one large sub (they come in roughly 12 to 18 inch cubes)???? You do not have room on the floor for a 12-18 inch cube? I have one sub running in my 1200 sq ft man cave and I can shake the walls if I really wanted to.
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Quote from YanksIn2009
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Unless you plan on shaking your house apart, this is overkill and largely nonsense propagated by very high end audiophiles and people who just like excessive amounts of bass imo. Spreadout the workload...in a small room? Don't have the space for one large sub (they come in roughly 12 to 18 inch cubes)???? You do not have room on the floor for a 12-18 inch cube? I have one sub running in my 1200 sq ft man cave and I can shake the walls if I really wanted to.
I was more thinking along the lines of instead of needing a higher end $500 12" or 14" sub, I could get two $200 8" or 10" subs. Or is that just stupid haha
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I was more thinking along the lines of instead of needing a higher end $500 12" or 14" sub, I could get two $200 8" or 10" subs. Or is that just stupid haha
I would look to get the best sub in your price range. You can get a very good sub in the 300 to 400 dollar range. Like anything else, you can go nuts with all this and spend many 1000s plus on a system. I approach it first at figuring out your total budget. Then find the receiver and left and right speakers you want. Then the center...then the sub...then the rears. Add in cost for wire and installation. You then make some compromises as needed if you run over what you want to spend.
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I've had one of these setups for a few years, and I develop some of this technology. Here's a little of what I've learned:

In 5.1 sound, (or any surround sound), the center channel speaker carries most of the dialog. Also, what you're trying to do is create a soundstage with the Left-Center-Right speakers. So they should be equal quality of the same brand. The midrange and tweeter drivers should be the same on all of these speakers.

The subwoofer and its placement matter a LOT. You'll spend a while adjusting the gain on the sub after you buy it. But placement also matters very much, because the sound comes out in all directions and bounces off of the two nearest walls.

Speaking of your walls, it is very very good if you can get some sound deadening on them. If that French door has a curtain over it, that's way better than pure glass, which will reflect the sound. Ideally, you want a lot of your wall and floor area to absorb a lot of the sound. For example, if you ever go into a restaurant that is annoyingly loud, it's because the room has a hard floor and all hard walls. The conversation bounces all around, in all sorts of phase, and your ears hate it. Same thing with home theater. You don't want too much reflected sound. Do your best: If your floor isn't carpets, lay down an area rug. Put curtains and coverings on your walls as possible. It will at least break up the reflections.
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Overall there's a ton of good advice here but the real question is.. what is your budget?

If you're budgeting this.. then, as mentioned, get your LCRs, 2 rears and a sub and set it all up. Later you can add the atmos speakers either just in the front or the rears too when budget allows. But I wouldn't factor those into your budget right now since you'll end up skimping on the speakers that matter.

Edit: Just saw this: https://slickdeals.net/f/10576216-polk-audio-speakers-on-heavy-discounts-starting-149-99-149-96
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With that room and watching on a TV you aren't going to fully enjoy the benefits of 2 sub-woofers and a 13 channel Atmos system, 7.1 or really even 5.1. I have a dedicated theater with a 12 foot front projector and 7.1 sound. I have a Klipsch 400 watt sub but I could use another sub. Yes, two subs are a huge improvement when you move to fuller sound. Atmos really needs 2 subs. I can't imagine you would run your setup at a volume that could take advantage of 2 subs in that room. I large one should do it. With high action, high tech movies the sub makes all the difference.
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With that room and watching on a TV you aren't going to fully enjoy the benefits of 2 sub-woofers and a 13 channel Atmos system, 7.1 or really even 5.1. I have a dedicated theater....
Oh come on... If course you can get a full 5.2 sound stage in a room that size.
Here, I can play that game:
Unless you build a full cinema with at least fifty seats, you can't fully enjoy surround sound.

A home theater is supposed to be set up to deliver a certain output in decibels to the seats. The idea is to match the reference level of a movie theater, so that you can hear the full range of sound. That's easier to do in a small room.
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Oh come on... If course you can get a full 5.2 sound stage in a room that size.
Here, I can play that game:
Unless you build a full cinema with at least fifty seats, you can't fully enjoy surround sound.

A home theater is supposed to be set up to deliver a certain output in decibels to the seats. The idea is to match the reference level of a movie theater, so that you can hear the full range of sound. That's easier to do in a small room.
I was referring more to the arrangement of couches along the edges, offset screen and nothing in the room being geared towards a theater experience. My theater has floating couches in the sweet spot for 7.1 surround and correctly sized image for the seating distance. He'll never enjoy a great theater experience in that room as it is set up. With the door openings I am not sure he could even arrange things if he wanted to. And I suspect his TV is high on the wall. But yes, he could get all the speakers going for whatever that is worth.
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Thanks for the link. I'm always on the lookout for speaker deals now.

Quote from dealgate
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I was referring more to the arrangement of couches along the edges, offset screen and nothing in the room being geared towards a theater experience. My theater has floating couches in the sweet spot for 7.1 surround and correctly sized image for the seating distance. He'll never enjoy a great theater experience in that room as it is set up. With the door openings I am not sure he could even arrange things if he wanted to. And I suspect his TV is high on the wall. But yes, he could get all the speakers going for whatever that is worth.
TV is actually on a TV stand that has an integrated mount. The top of the TV is a little lower than head-height and it's a 65" screen

But you're right about my restrictions of the furniture placement. By no means is this a dedicated movie room. It's just my living room that I want to be able to have surround sound. Most of the time I'll just be watching TV shows. And just to clarify the entries...the one on the left is a regular door-sized entry with no door that leads to the hallway, the french door entry is the size of french doors but only one side actually swings open all the way (swings into the living room), and the entry at the bottom is about five feet wide and leads to the breakfast nook and kitchen.

With that being said, is it possible to enable/disable certain speakers? Like if I'm watching ESPN talk shows or The Simpsons or something, could I just have the front speakers be on instead of the entire system? No rears, atmos, or sub? Or would I have to actually unplug the speakers that I don't want to use at the time?
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Last edited by RUsum1 September 20, 2017 at 11:38 AM.
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With that being said, is it possible to enable/disable certain speakers? Like if I'm watching ESPN talk shows or The Simpsons or something, could I just have the front speakers be on instead of the entire system? No rears, atmos, or sub? Or would I have to actually unplug the speakers that I don't want to use at the time?
A home theater system is designed to play at movie theater volume levels. But, yes, most AVR's let you switch into stereo mode, which is quieter.
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Thanks for the link. I'm always on the lookout for speaker deals now.


TV is actually on a TV stand that has an integrated mount. The top of the TV is a little lower than head-height and it's a 65" screen

But you're right about my restrictions of the furniture placement. By no means is this a dedicated movie room. It's just my living room that I want to be able to have surround sound. Most of the time I'll just be watching TV shows. And just to clarify the entries...the one on the left is a regular door-sized entry with no door that leads to the hallway, the french door entry is the size of french doors but only one side actually swings open all the way (swings into the living room), and the entry at the bottom is about five feet wide and leads to the breakfast nook and kitchen.

With that being said, is it possible to enable/disable certain speakers? Like if I'm watching ESPN talk shows or The Simpsons or something, could I just have the front speakers be on instead of the entire system? No rears, atmos, or sub? Or would I have to actually unplug the speakers that I don't want to use at the time?
Most of the time the receiver will automatically default to dolby if the source provides it. You can always manually change it to Stereo only to disable the center and rears. I get my TV OTA so sometimes I just don't power up the receiver and use the TV speakers for news etc. (PS: Simpsons has dolby 5.1)
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