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Classy living room with map markers strewn about

How to Make a Sound Investment: Step 1

Think Location, Location, Location

Aug 10, 2022
2.5
Minutes

Run the numbers.

When you choose a program to watch, you'll see a series of symbols and numbers that designate how the audio and video are mastered. For audio, you'll see numbers, such as 5.1, that indicate how many separate audio channels are available. Each channel is designed to play on a separate speaker. Using 5.1 as an example, here's what the numbers mean:

5.1 = 5 speakers and 1 subwoofer

What if you only have two speakers? The channels are combined and played through the available speakers, impacting both sound clarity and placement. Remember, location matters. Sounds originate from—and move to—designated locations in the room, underscoring action on the screen. To experience movies, series, sports, and games the way they're meant to be heard, choose speakers that are designed for specific locations in the room.

Go wireless.

When you think about speakers throughout a room, a sea of wires may come to mind. Banish the thought, because wireless sound systems deliver stunning sound without speaker wires, making setup easy.

Important Tip

To ensure speakers meet the highest standards for wireless sound, look for the WiSA-certified emblem.

Capitalize on location.

Self-contained and easy to set up, soundbars are a popular choice; however, there's a catch. Although soundbars feature two to five speakers, all speakers reside in a single bar. As a result, soundbars don't meet the location requirements that true cinema-style sound requires. Let's explore location—as it pertains to speaker placement—and you'll see why.

Get in the zone.

In a 5.1 sound system, for example, speakers are divided between two zones.

Front Zone

The wall where the TV resides is the front zone, and contains the following speakers:

  • Front satellite speaker (left)
  • Center-channel speaker
  • Front satellite speaker (right)
  • Subwoofer
Rear Zone

Directly across from the front zone—and behind  the seating area that faces the TV—is the rear zone, containing the following speakers:

  • Rear satellite speaker (left)
  • Rear satellite speaker (right)

Set the stage.

Placement of each speaker, within its designated zone, matters. That's right—it's all about location. Let's take a look at how a 5.1 system is set up to take advantage of the way audio is mastered.

futrist living room overlooking the water
Milan 5.1 shown here

The center-channel speaker is placed directly below the TV, alongside the wireless audio transmitter. The front satellite speakers are placed to the left and right of the center-channel speaker—the distance between the three speakers dictates the width of the soundstage. Ideally, the subwoofer is placed near a wall or corner to optimize low-frequency output; however, its not mandatory. The rear satellite speakers are placed directly across from the front satellite speakers, behind the seating area. All satellite speakers are angled towards the seating area. And with that, the stage is set for immersive cinema sound.

Learn more about how to make a sound investment.

  • Don't Miss a Word (coming Aug 16)
  • Dive Deeper (coming Aug 23)
  • Reap the Rewards (coming Aug 30)

Explore more.