This guide will cover the following elements of a theater installation:
- Choosing Components
- Speaker Positioning: 5.1, 6.1, 7.1
- Wiring your Speakers
- Speaker Installation
- Selecting your Cables
- Connecting your Equipment
- Programming & Settings
*for TV and Projector installation see the appropriate installation guide.
Step 1: Choosing Components
The basic components required for a home theater setup are as follows:
Audio: Surround Receiver or surround processor and amps
A surround receiver includes the processor and amps with a radio tuner, while with audiophile grade components the processor and amps are kept separate.
Display Device: TV or projector and screen
Sources: Cable/Sat Box, DVD/Blu-Ray, Gaming (Xbox,PS3), Server (Esscient, AppleTV)
Universal Remote: www.universalremote.com (See remote programming guide)
Step 2: Speaker Positioning
First lets understand the different surround options 5.1, 6.1, and 7.1 starting with the basic 5.1 surround setup.
5.1 is the minimum setup to achieve surround sound. It consists of 5 speakers and a subwoofer:
2 Front Speakers (left & right) – For the main audio, soundtrack, and front effects.
1 Center Speaker – for all the voices, and center effects.
2 Rear Speakers (left & right) only for rear effects and sometimes soundtrack.
Subwoofer – for all low end bass and effects (explosions and such)
6.1 simply adds a rear center speaker for additional effects. But for most shows and movies that don’t have 6.1 it only combines the sound from the left and right rears therefore blending the effects.
7.1 adds an additional rear pair of speakers. Ideally separated enough from the first rears to add additional effects from further behind. Again movies without 7.1 will just simulate these effects from the main rear speakers.
*in 5.1 the 5 stands for the # of speakers and the .1 is the subwoofer. Therefore a setup with 2 subwoofers would be 5.2
Now lets find the optimal positions:
Front Speakers: separated 8-12 feet symmetrically with the TV & at seated ear level. If using ceiling speakers aim towards the listening area if possible.
Center Speaker: Centered directly below or above the TV, or behind if using a perforated projection screen.
Wall – ear level beside or behind listening area (couch or chairs) separated equal with fronts.
Ceiling – just behind listening area (couch or chairs) separated equal with fronts
Rear Center (6.1) – centered between rears
Rear Backs (7.1) – Behind rears at least 5 feet with equal separation.
Step 3: Wiring your Speakers
First you will need an accessible wiring space (attic, crawl space, unfinished basement, or basement with a drop ceiling)
Measure carefully, then from your wiring space drill holes through the bottom or top plate in each location where you will need to run wire (your equipment location & each speaker location)
*be very careful not to drill through the ceiling, floor, or other wiring/pipes.
Cut access holes where each speaker will go and one “outlet height” for your equipment. For in-wall or in-ceiling speakers just use the template and cut the speaker hole. For mounted speakers cut a hole for a low voltage box.
Then run your wires. See the Wiring Guide for more details and tips.
Step 4: Speaker Installation
There are two types of speakers we will cover here:
In-wall / In-ceiling
In-wall or in-ceiling speakers should be mounted according to the included instructions, but here are a few tips. Make sure you cut your hole exactly the right size, and not too close to the studs or joists (you will need space for the wings or mount back). Also, when you screw in the speaker do not tighten it too much as it will make it very difficult to install the screen.
Wall mount speakers should be mounted with an appropriate mount depending on the weight of the speaker.
Small < 10lbs: You can install a low voltage box with a nylon (unbreakable) plate (with a small hole in the middle where the speaker wire comes through). Then attach your mount directly to the plate with coarse thread dry-wall screws.
Large 10-25lbs: You will need to mount these directly to a wall stud. Install your low voltage box about ½” from the stud then attach your speaker mount to the stud directly beside your plate.
Step 5: Selecting your Cables
Cables: Ideally you will need:
1 Long HDMI - from your equipment to your display
1 HDMI – For EACH compatible source
If you have components that do not have HDMI then use the next best cable option
Component Cable – a set of 3 RCA cables (Red, Green & Blue) for Video Only (up to 1080i)
Optical Audio – A single digital cable for audio with a unique end. (Fragile)
Coaxial Audio – A single RCA cable used for digital audio
Standard AV Cable – A set of 3 RCA cables – Yellow (video) & Red / White (audio)
Step 6: Connecting your Equipment
Using the video switching in your surround receiver or processor you can connect all of your components audio and video cables directly to the receiver and then use one video cable out of the “Monitor Out” output and into an input on your TV or display. On the back of your receiver, note which inputs you plug each device, sometimes they are only labeled 1,2,3. Audio, video, and digital audio are typically in different sections, make sure you connect the different cables according to their corresponding input label.
Step 7: Programming & Settings
There are several settings you may need to adjust depending on your equipment. Don’t assume the factory defaults will correct for your setup. Here are a few common settings:
Receivers - You always need to setup your receiver for your speaker placement, either by using the included microphone following the setup menu, or by manually entering the distances and levels. Then setup your inputs if necessary (Input 1 = Cable, Input 2 = DVD). If you are using zone 2 or 7.1 rear back speakers then set your amp appropriately.
DVD – Always run through the setup menu (without a DVD) to verify or correct the settings. If you have an HDTV and digital surround you will need to set the video to 16:9 or wide screen, and progressive to on. For the audio set to the digital cable type you are using and make sure Dolby Digital and DTS are turned on. You also might have to change the digital audio section to “bit stream” depending on your receiver.
Cable & Sat Boxes – Make sure the video output is set to the highest your TV can display, usually 1080i. Some cable boxes have a hidden setup menu accessible by turning off the box and then pressing the menu button.
Blu-Ray – Make sure the setting are accurate for your display, and the resolution is set to upconvert DVDs to the highest setting 1080p
Gamming Devices – Xbox360 and PS3 both have 1080p capability natively. For the Wii you can buy a special component cable and through the settings change to progressive 480p.
Universal Remotes – See the Universal Remote Programming Guide.
You’re now ready to enjoy your home theater. Please leave any questions or comments below.