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How to Set Up a Surround Sound System

How to Make All Speakers Work on Surround Sound

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Did you just purchase a new surround sound system? Or are you having trouble with the one you already own? 

Surround sound speaker systems can be tricky to set up if you don’t understand how they work.

But that’s what I’m here for as I’ll give you a detailed guide on making all speakers work on a surround sound system. Let’s get right to it.

Setting Up a Surround Sound System

The audio signal in a surround sound system is divided into multiple channels so that different sounds are split up among multiple speakers. 

The way to make all speakers work is by tweaking the settings in the receiver and playing a 5.1 or 7.1 compatible audio and video track.

The audio/video receiver is the main part that coordinates the sound distribution, so this is where you’ll be doing most of the tweaking.

Here are the steps involved in properly setting up a surround sound system:

  • Determining the type of surround system you have
  • Positioning the speakers correctly
  • Tweaking the settings of the receiver unit
  • Playing audio/video tracks that support surround sound.
HiFi Speaker - Surround Sound System
Fluance Speaker | Make Life Click

Type of Audio System for Surround Sound

The number of speakers will determine the type of surround system you have. There are three types of audio systems:

  • 2.1 – includes a left and right speaker together with a subwoofer
  • 5.1 – includes three speakers in the front, two in the rear, and a subwoofer
  • 7.1 – includes three speakers in the front, two speakers to the side of the viewing area, two speakers in the rear, and a subwoofer.

The number before the decimal indicates the number of speakers, while the number 1 corresponds to the subwoofer.

Only the 5.1 and 7.1 audio systems are considered surround systems. So, a surround system can have five or seven speakers, depending on the configuration.

How to Position Speakers for Surround Sound

The speaker placement for the 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound systems is similar.

Three speakers must be on the front side and around the TV for both 5.1 and 7.1 audio systems. One on the left, one in the center, and one on the right. 

The left and right speakers in the front are the loudest, while the center speaker transitions sound between them to make the listening experience seamless. 

Meanwhile, the two speakers in the rear of both 5.1 and 7.1 audio systems emit sounds that give a sensation of something happening behind you.

Lastly, the two speakers on the side of the 7.1 audio system are an additional bridge between the front and the rear speakers. They provide a more immersive listening experience and are placed at a higher position.

How the Receiver Works

The receiver is the brain of the surround sound system. It receives audio signals, decodes and amplifies them, and sends them to the speakers accordingly.

The receiver also transmits video signals from a Blu-ray or DVD player to the TV.

A receiver separates video and audio signals through a decoding process. There are two types of decoders, digital and analog, and they operate differently.

A digital decoder transmits the audio signals to Dolby Digital-enabled speakers.

Meanwhile, the analog decoder uses two audio channels to produce multiple sounds sent accordingly to the speakers. This is also called 4-2-4 processing.

How to Make All Speakers Work on Surround Sound
Speaker living room placement | Make Life Click

How to Make all Speakers Work on Surround Sound System

To make all speakers work on a surround sound system, you first need to make sure that they’re all properly connected to the receiver.

Depending on your receiver type, the pins on the back will have an AV connection or spring clips. 

Follow the layout printed on the back of the receiver to connect the speakers properly. Make sure the wires are not loose or broken.

The next thing you need to do is make sure the receiver is set up properly. For this, there are two things to consider:

  • The size of the speakers
  • The crossover configuration.

The size of the speakers is important. This is because the sound signal coming from the receiver will be different for small and large speakers. Make sure to select the right size.

The crossover configuration is the sound frequency of the audio signal that’s being transitioned from the receiver to the speaker. 

The crossover setting is measured in Hertz (Hz), and most modern receivers automatically adjust the crossover levels. You can also set the crossover configuration manually so the speakers will emit the proper sound at a given time. 

A good crossover setting is around 80Hz for all speakers, but it’ll depend on your preferences and the size of the room. 

While an 80Hz crossover can be enough for some people, it may be too low for others, so adjust manually as you see fit.

How to Play Music Through all Surround Sound Speakers

Playing music through all surround sound speakers depends on the receiver type and how the audio signals are encoded.

Today’s most common audio surround sound is Dolby Digital, which TV services can also broadcast. It’s also called AC-3.

If your receiver has a digital decoder, it will automatically decode and play Dolby Digital audio format and send it to all speakers accordingly. 

But what if the music you want to play on the speakers has an older analog audio format? Then the receiver can play that format if it supports multichannel stereo.

With multichannel stereo, the receiver takes the analog stereo signal and divides it into the number of speakers your surround system has. 

Unfortunately, the sound quality may not be as good as playing a music track with Dolby Digital encoding.

Dolby Atmos 5.1 Set-up guide
Dolby Atmos 5.1 Set-up guide | Dolby
Dolby Atmos 7.1 Set-up guide
Dolby Atmos 7.1 Set-up guide | Dolby

Which Audio System to Get: 5.1 vs. 7.1

If you would compare the 5.1 system versus the 7.1 system, the difference is minimal. Both surround sound systems offer deep immersion. 

The two additional speakers of the 7.1 system, also called surround back speakers, supplement the sound produced by the other speakers only slightly.

In general, a 7.1 surround system is better if you have a large living room, while the 5.1 system is ideal for smaller to medium-sized rooms.

To wrap this up, I hope you found this article helpful in setting up a surround sound system.

If you’re still having trouble or if you have any questions, feel free to put them in the comment section below and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

A passion for writing and ongoing research projects gives Catherine an incredibly broad knowledge of all things. She has authored an incredible number of articles and can be found in the wilderness when not attached to technology or listening to podcasts.


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