Set Up A Home Theatre System

Home theatre set-up tips for choosing speaker sizes, wiring your equipment and budgeting so that you can get the best possible sound.

The TV is finally in, your knuckles still aching from the three flights of stairs you and your 2 buddies slowly climbed. It didn't look this heavy at the store. But now it is yours, hovering over the living room in your apartment. There are many other boxes slightly opened in the living room. Speaker wire and countless remote controls are spread across the carpet. The 35-inch set rests cozily on the stand you set up the night before. It's a perfect fit. With a touch of a button, your receiver and all six of your speakers begin to growl, giving life to the image on your new screen. Months of hard work has just paid off as you and your friends sit on the couch, load your favorite DVD, and enjoy a true movie experience. The home theater system you put together may not have been perfect, due to some restrictions and practical limitations, but you were able to get by these hurdles without too much compromise.

So how did you get through the challenges and obstacles, and where did you start? Lets go back into time about 6 months to find out.

Living Space: First floor-- Best scenario-Bass from subwoofer resonates downward. On the first floor, you are closer to the foundation of the building. You should have little to no problems with neighbors (sound wise, anyway.) Second Floor--some problems. If it is the top floor, you may have vaulted ceilings. This affects the sound of your home theater. You are looking for a rectangular area for set-up. Even sides and even ceilings would be the best scenario. Vaulted ceilings tend to lose your sound on one side. It is like being in one room and listening to sound from an adjacent room. Surround parameters in receivers and speaker placement can alleviate this problem.

Setting up your system on a flat wall-Best scenario. Stay away from wall corners to set up. Use a flat wall so that the speakers can be equidistant to each other. Good sound requires measuring between speakers and your TV. If your left main speaker is 3 feet from your TV (Center Position) then your right main speaker should be 3 feet away as well. This is why it is difficult to stuff your home theater in a wall corner.

Speaker Buying-Apartment dwelling requires smaller size speakers. Although Tower speakers with integrated subwoofers offer better sound because they work together, and sub crossover points are specific so that every speaker is utilized properly, they are usually much more expensive, a lot bigger and bulkier than satellite systems. Also they cannot be tweaked to your specific room conditions, since crossovers and speaker placement is limited to where you place the tower itself.

Sat-Sub system-This is your best bet. A Sat-Sub system can consist of up to 5 bookshelf speakers (or other small size speakers) and a subwoofer that can be mated to the system. This set-up is more practical, because of size and placement. The smaller the speaker, the more room you have to work with. When buying speakers you must understand the speakers' frequency response, crossover points, its sensitivity rating, recommended amplifier power, impedance, and maximum power handling before clipping. The most important factor is your ears. Listening to a speaker system with your favorite material that you bring from home (CD-DVD-CDR) gives you an advantage. You know when the snare drum is supposed to kick in during your favorite song, and you know how it is supposed to sound like. Don't be afraid to ask the stores employees to mix and match speakers with different receivers and subwoofers. Just because they set-up a system before you walk in the door does not mean it is the best set-up. Usually they will mate the most expensive pieces of gear to certain speakers so that the speakers sound better. Remember that you are on a budget, and you want to hear in a real world setting, with real world equipment that is in your price range, and not that exotic piece of gear that can be traded in for that down payment on a house.

Frequency Response-A measure of what frequencies can be reproduced through the speaker: this means anything below 80hz and that particular speaker cannot reproduce anything above 20KHz. The human ear can hear anything in the 20hz-20, 000hz(20KHz) range, so in this particular set-up you would need a subwoofer that has a frequency response of at least 80hz to take the responsibility off the main speakers. Smaller bookshelf type or satellite type of speakers share a limited frequency response because of their size. Usually you lose out on the low end (subwoofer levels). A typical rating can be 80 Hz-20 kHz.

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