Q. What’s the Best Way to Add Surround Sound to My Living Room

A consumer wants to add surround sound to his living room, but needs help determining the best speaker placement.

Jun. 18, 2009 — by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Q: I want to add surround sound to my living room but my problem is where do I place my front speakers. I have a rectangle room and at the front left corner my 40” LCD display is mounted above my wood burning fireplace. To the right of the corner fireplace is a window and at the other end of the room is the entrance to the dining room.

Would I get better sound if I use in-room floor speakers and move the display off the fireplace and in front of the window on a stand? We love movies, which is why we want to add 5.1 to 7.2 Dolby Pro Logic IIz. Any help in dealing with this corner fireplace would help. - Greg Samaai

A. Rob Schultz of Inspired Electronics offers these tips via CE Pro.

As custom installers, we frequently have to combine room aesthetics with “purist” audio and video considerations. And we’ve worked in your exact situation (TV mounted over a corner fireplace) for a number of clients.

I see three options for you, each with its own pros and cons.

1. Keep the TV where it is, and use in-ceiling speakers for the fronts. These would be arranged in a line parallel to the TV. The surround speakers can be in-ceiling or in-wall (or freestanding, but I’ve never seen a client who wants that). This option provides the best soundstage for the front speakers, and keeps the speakers out of the room. It has several drawbacks, including the difficulty of getting wiring to the right spots in the ceiling and the acoustic concerns raised by arranging the speakers out of alignment with the room.

2.  Keep the TV where it is, and use a surround bar for the fronts. Again, you could use in-wall, in-ceiling, on-wall, or freestanding for the surrounds. This option makes your front speaker wiring much easier. And there are many surround bar options that can look good with a wide variety of TVs. Of course, you still have the acoustic concerns, and your fireplace design may not allow for this option.

3.  Move the TV to a flat wall, and mount speakers normally. An audio purist would prefer this option, because your speakers are now able to be in the “right” spots in the room acoustically. However, your interior designer would probably have a fit, since you’ve now totally screwed up the room flow and focal points of the room. Where do you put the sofa - looking at the TV, or looking at the fireplace? and you may have issues mounting the speaker that ends up near the corner where the fireplace is (depending on the room).

We’ve used all of these options with various clients, and the end choice usually boils down to this: Which compromises are you most willing to live with?

Morgan Harman of The Tech Source offers this advice:

If you are a do-it-yourself type,try Google searching for ideas.  I did a quick search and came up with this resource: http://www.dolby.com/consumer/home_entertainment/speaker-setup-guide/index.html

If you want assistance, definitely look up a local home theater installation company.  They can and should be a resource for anyone who wants help getting the right setup.  Most established companies can even offer room analysis, design and acoustic tuning services.  Although you’ve described the room, the acoustics need to be analyzed on-site.

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