The Ultimate home Theater Experience


Dolby Digital

As you review the diagrams, remember that the goal of all speaker placement for movie, multichannel music and stereo is a smooth, consistent and unbroken soundstage across the front, and a sense of envelopment in the ambient surround effects. Ultimately, you're after a sense of location, whether that is suggested by what's playing on-screen, by the recording hall or even the dry acoustics of many rock recordings.

As you explore speaker locations, use as a reference a really great Dolby Digital movie presentation in a big Cineplex when you had a seat in the central part of the auditorium. You don't want to "hear" the location of specific surround speakers or, for that matter, your main left and right front speakers. If a sound is "hard-mixed" on a recording or soundtrack to a particular spot at the side or rear, then it's OK for it to appear there. In Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks, most movie dialog is hard-mixed to the center channel, and if you experiment with center speaker placement, the dialog should be one with the actors on the screen. It shouldn't seem detached from the screen. If it is, you have your center channel too far away from the screen.

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5.1 & 7.1 Speaker Placement Charts

5.1 Channel Dolby Digital/Dolby Pro Logic II


The "standard" Dolby Digital 5.1 setup (fig.1) it represents the mandatory standard for current DVDs and for High Definition TV broadcasts. (DTS, a competing system, is optional on DVDs. It does not have to be included.) Center yourself in the middle of your couch, facing your display and center-channel speaker at 0 degrees, your left and right main front speakers should be within a 22- to 30-degree angle to each side, viewed from your seat.

The main left and right surrounds should be to your left and right in the listening area, above ear level if possible (ideally 2 feet or more) at an angle of 90 to 110 degrees from the front center. This setup also applies to Dolby Pro LogicII playback. If your 5.1-channel speaker setup is doing double duty for DVD-Audio playback, you may want to move the surrounds a bit farther back in order to compromise between the suggested Dolby Digital 5.1 placement and the somewhat conflicting standards for SACD and DVD-Audio mixes.


Dolby Digital EX/ Pro Logic IIx/7.1 channels

Pro Logic

Dolby Digital EX adds a sixth mono channel at the back. Although a mono the back channel is better realized by using two rear speakers, at angles between 135 and 150 degrees to the front center (fig. 2). Directly behind you would be 180 degrees from the front center, we sometimes confuse rear-emanating sounds and place them in front of us. This dual-rear arrangement also serves perfectly for Dolby Pro LogicIIx (7.1 channels), which synthesizes separate Left Back and Right Back signals for increased realism and more dramatic rear/front or front/rear effects. DPLIIx also adds heightened spaciousness and realism to many 2-channel music sources (not all), by extracting natural ambience present in recordings and redirecting it to the side and rear surrounds.

Similar speaker placements apply to DTS 5.1 and its variations, DTS ES and Neo:6. DTS is not a mandatory standard for DVD or HDTV, but it's enjoyable nonetheless.


Corner Arrangement of Dolby Digital 5.1

CornerCorners are tricky as sound waves like to bounce. You can mitigate this by placing baffling material on the wall directly behind the left and right speakers and following the placement diagram above.


deep bass of 80 Hz and below is non-directional, the subwoofer can go just about anywhere on the floor, corners will give you the greatest enhancement of deep bass, at the risk of it sounding boomy. Moving a subwoofer or a floorstanding full-range speaker away from any corners will reduce the its tendency to have too much bass. You will have to experiment to achieve smooth and extended deep bass. Bass output will vary in different spots in the room as a function of the room's dimensions, aim for good bass extension in preferred seating locations. Adding a second subwoofer will help smooth out the bass for other listening locations.


Expert Knowledge

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