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These 4 Components Are Everything You Need for a Surround Sound Setup

by Olly Mason

There’s no pretty way to say it: settling for entertainment that feels one-dimensional is just boring. On the other hand, a surround sound system creates layers of sounds that fill every inch of your space, literally bringing entertainment directly to and around you. In other words, a surround sound setup can make listening to your favorite soundtrack feel like a live concert, and your favorite shows feel theater-quality.

While surround sound systems aren’t exactly new on the home electronics scene, innovations are constantly adapting to keep up with the surge of tech advancements. That might sound intimidating, but it actually means more new ways to experience your shows, music, and movies. So, if you want to enjoy your entertainment on a deeper level, make sure you review list of surround-sound must-haves!

Woman in terracotta-colored sun dress sits on a wooden floor surrounded by tower speakers

1. Speakers

Ladies and gentlemen: welcome to the main attraction. Okay—as you’ll find out by the end of this list, speakers don’t exactly play a solo role in a surround sound setup, but to say they’re an important factor is an understatement.

Speakers can be grouped into two categories: surround speakers and subwoofer speakers. Since subwoofers deliver a unique sound experience, we’ll dive into those in the following section.

The main speakers of surround sound system consist of a center speaker, two side speakers, and two surround/rear speakers. The first home theater surround sound systems used floor speakers that stood in front and to the side of a room’s primary seating area.

Newer surround sound systems cater to the sleek aesthetic of modern homes, swapping our floor speakers for bookshelf speakers and wireless speakers that provide a more discreet silhouette. For a truly invisible speaker configuration, you can also choose to install in-wall speakers and in-ceiling speakers that virtually disappear into their surroundings.

The number of speakers in a surround will dictate whether it’s a 5.1, 7.1, or 9.1 surround sound system. Here’s a quick breakdown of the numbers:

  • The first number represents the total number of speakers (or channels), including the center speaker, the left and right side speakers, and the surround speakers
  • The second number represents the number of subwoofer channels

Note: It’s important to know the channel capacities that can be supported by your surround sound’s A/V receiver (more on that below!).

Installer positions wall speaker next to mounted TV while other man signals position with arms

2. Subwoofer

Just as its name suggests, subwoofers deliver low, rumbling sound you can feel on a deeper level. Think: the thrilling debut of T. Rex in Jurassic Park, the brassy introductory notes to the “Imperial March,” or the driving bassline to “Another One Bites the Dust.” While epic on their own, experiencing these iconic moments with a subwoofer speaker unlocks a richer experience.

Subwoofers are registered in hertz (Hz) frequencies, ranging from the lowest frequency perceptible to the human ear at around 20 Hz, all the way up to 200 Hz. Anything below 60 Hz is classified as sub-bass, and this is the point where the frequencies start to become a physical sensation rather than audible. In other words, you’ll definitely start to feel it.

While not usually the case, some subwoofers come with a set hertz output; if you do find yourself choosing a subwoofer like this, make sure hertz frequency is below 80 Hz to enjoy the bellowing bass that’s indicative of a subwoofer speaker.

Man in red shirt seated in chair being blasted back by giant subwoofer speaker

Subwoofers:

  • Should be positioned to side of your primary seating area, but never in a corner
  • Do not need to be big; subwoofers over 12 inches are best experienced in larger rooms

3. A/V Receiver

If a surround sound system is an orchestra, the A/V receiver is the conductor; all instructions are transmitted to the A/V receiver where it then decodes signals and sends them to the corresponding audio and video components.

What’s more, an A/V receiver acts as a hub for multiple sources, which means switching between listening to music to watching your favorite miniseries will be seamless, and it often can be done right from the receiver’s remote.

As an added bonus, an A/V receiver keeps the connections limited to a compact source, providing another way to keep the setup neat and manageable.

4. TV

Can you think of a better complement to the rich resolution of a 4K TV or the real-life display of a LED television or OLED TV than the multi-dimensional and immersive audio of a surround sound system? The two go hand-in-hand, and while current television models are designed to work seamlessly with a surround sound system, there are still some key things you should look for if you plan to enjoy your TV with surround sound.

While standard HDMI cannot pass two-way audio between components, HDMI Audio Return Channel (a.k.a. HDMI ARC) works by allowing signals to travel both ways between your television set and audio components. In doing so, it can reduce the number of cords needed for the overall setup. This is especially nice if you want to mount your TV, but the thought of a million wires waterfalling from behind the set makes you cringe.

First-person shot of a hand holding a TV remote to make a selection from a TV screen

Scope out Your Space!

We know—decking out a media room with a surround sound system that produces major boom is music to every audiophile’s ear. However, the size and layout of a room will also play a major role in a surround sound’s fidelity. In order to create the richest experience, consider the final following points:

  • A balance of soft surfaces like throw pillows, sofas, and curtains and hard surfaces like wooden floors, tile, and glass shelves creates ideal acoustics.
  • The center speaker should sit directly in front of the main seating area and just above ear level.
  • The left and right side speakers should sit right behind the TV angled between 22 to 30 degrees and should be just above ear level.
  • The surround speakers should be placed on opposite sides from each other angled between 90 to 100 degrees and should be just above ear level.
  • In-wall speakers should be installed six to seven feet above the floor.
  • For all speaker installations, we recommend measuring the wall depth and distance between speakers according to the manufacturer’s recommendations a minimum of three times.

Satisfy Your Audio Needs

With full installation services from the pros you can trust, Spencer’s TV and Appliance is your trusted provider of electronics to deck out your favorite room in your home. From home theater systems to soundbars to outdoor speakers, everything you need for a surround sound system can be found at a Spencer’s near you! Shop online or in-store today!

Father, mother, son, and daughter enjoy TV with popcorn on the couch