How to Set Up Surround Sound Systems

By James Clark

A surround sound system consists of an amplifier and at least five speakers plus a subwoofer to deliver an audio experience approximating the sensations and quality of a movie theater. The amplifier delivers discreet signals to the front left and right speakers, the center speaker, which delivers dialog and is usually placed over the television, and the left and right rear speakers. The amp also sends a low-frequency signal to the subwoofer, which produces a heavy bass sound. Learn how to set up a surround sound system to achieve the best audio possible from the equipment.

Things You'll Need

  • Speaker wire
  • Wire strippers

Step 1

Determine where to place the television in the room based on the main seating location, such as a sofa.

Step 2

Place the center speaker over the television, either directly on the unit or mounted to the wall just above the set.

Step 3

Place the left and right front speakers on either side of the television, at least 10 feet apart to obtain the best sound separation.

Step 4

Mount the rear left and right speakers either on speaker stands or the wall immediately behind the listening area. The rear speakers should be to the sides of the main seating in the room and turned at a 45-degree angle to the seating area.

Step 5

Place the subwoofer in an unobtrusive place within the room. To the side and against a wall is a good location. Subwoofers produce an omni-directional sound, meaning they can be placed anywhere in the room. It's a good idea to place the subwoofer near an electrical outlet since most subwoofers include a built-in powered amplifier that will need to be plugged in.

Step 6

Run speaker wire from each speaker to the amplifier.

Step 7

Connect the speakers and amplifiers to the wires using the black wire for the negative connection and the red wire for the positive.

Step 8

Be careful to connect the center speaker wire to the center speaker output terminals on the amplifier, the left and right front speakers to the left and right front channel outputs on the amplifier and so forth.

Step 9

Connect audio-video equipment such as a DVD or Blu-Ray player to the amplifier, using the red plug for the right audio channel and the black or white plug for the left audio channel. The yellow plug is for the video signal.

Step 10

Use the amplifier's test feature in surround sound mode to check the sound volume on the front left, center and right channels, the left and right rear channels, and the subwoofer. Adjust according to your sound preferences.

Tips & Warnings

  • Most amplifiers come with a delay feature that phases the sound from front to rear speakers and from left to right. Adjust the delay to suit your preferences. A longer delay setting tends to increase the effect of the surround sound, creating a more immersive listening experience.
  • Disconnect the power before connecting electrical equipment or speaker wires. A sudden power surge can damage components.

References & Resources