- Author John Steward
- Published August 6, 2014
Home theatre audio masterclass
Bunging a home cinema system in your living room will improve the sound of your television. But to make it sound absolutely tip-top, it’s worth putting in a little extra care…
Plonking kit around the room and hoping for the best isn’t a great idea. If you’re stuck, you could do a lot worse than use some of movie specialist THX’s advice, modified with some living-room-friendly tweaks from the experts at What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision magazine. Before you start, though, there are a couple of things to consider.
Look at your room’s size
There’s no point jamming floor-standing speakers in a bedsit, just as a diddy sub/satellite system will be lost in a big room. Also consider whether you want a traditional system or style speakers
Match your system
Just as some people don’t get on with others, some amps don’t get on with some speakers. Before you buy, audition your chosen speaker package with your own amplifier – and preferably a DVD or Blu-ray you know and love.
Work out the positioning
Once you’ve got your speakers home, it’s time to work out where to put them. This isn’t so hard if you’re just using a soundbar or SoundPlate – just put it under the TV, close to the screen (so the sound doesn’t appear detached from the picture), with the subwoofer close by. If you’re using more than just one or two speakers, though, there are a few more things to take into account.
If you’re using floorstanders, make sure you give them space (this might even involve moving furniture). Using smaller speakers? Take stands and/or wall-mounting into account. Want to get really nerdy? You can download a free positioning chart here – use a laser-pointer, a spirit level and a tape-measure for extra precision.
If possible, put the subwoofer between the front left and right speakers, wand the centre channel level with these. Angle it upwards if necessary.
Using a 5.1 system?
Place the two front speakers at ear height, with a 45-degree angle from the listening position. The centre channel should go either directly above or below the TV, and be angled so it’s pointing directly at the listener. The surround left and right speakers should go at 90-110 degrees to each side, and be placed a minimum of two feet above ear height if you can.
It’s the angle that’s more crucial here, though. Strictly speaking, the sub should go in the middle – but we know that isn’t always practical, so we’ve put it at the side here, between the centre and left channels.
Using a 7.1 system?
Set up the first five speakers as above. If you don’t have a THX-certified amp or speakers, place the two back channels slightly apart behind you, firing straight ahead. This will give you the most even spread of sound.
If your kit is THX-certified, however, place the back speakers next to each other on the rear wall. This lets the Advanced Speaker Array tech do its job – it’s a processing mode that uses one speaker configuration to disperse sound in different ways depending on what you’re watching or listening to.
What if you want to go all-in?
Using more than one subwoofer might seem excessive. But don’t worry, it needn’t cause ructions between you and the neighbours – deploying multiple subs isn’t meant to make the bass louder. Instead, it evens out the spread of bass around the room, making it harder to localise – and therefore more immersive.
If you’re using two subs, place them in the middle at the front and back at the room. Pulling out all the stops and using four? Put them at twelve, three, six and nine on an imaginary clock-face.
Wire it up and calibrate
Once your speakers are in the room and ready to go, connect the cables. You can chase these into walls or under floors for style points. Remember to keep it away from mains wiring, though. Finally, run your amp’s auto set-up to calibrate the sound – but remember to tweak it afterwards for truly customised results.
Don’t forget the screen
To find the best size screen for your room, work out how far away from the display you’ll be sitting. THX recommends a 35in screen for 3.5-5ft, 40in for 4-6ft, 50in for 5-7.5ft and 60in for 6-9ft. That might seem huge for a small space, but don’t forget – you want the display to fill your field of vision for the most immersive experience.
Don’t place it too high up, either – you shouldn’t have to look up more than 15 degrees, so above the mantlepiece probably isn’t ideal.
Once you’ve got a lovely new audio set-up, you’ll need an equally lovely display. For more information on LG’s range of ULTRA HD 4K and OLED televisions – as well as the new Smart TV with webOS interface – click here >>>