How to make the most of your 5.1 Home Theater System

Home Theatre

A For Audio—Choosing the Right Home Theatre system

To the world, audiophiles might seem a little strange. ‘Why would anyone in their right minds spend so much on gear!?’ But, in all technicality, anyone who gives undivided attention to the sound that is coming out of the speakers is an audiophile. There’s so many frequencies that our poor speaker systems cannot reproduce. Every new thing you experiment with will expose you to a different sound, a different timbre, a different tone and so many ways to customize your listening experience. It's incredible. You are spoilt for choices. That’s why usually buying a good home theater audio system can be excruciatingly confusing. Here’s a rundown of the things you need to keep in mind if you’re new to the world of sound.

Think about what you need

Of course, more the money you put in, better is the sound quality. But don’t just walk in a showroom and pick out the largest and most expensive equipment. You don’t necessarily need to buy the largest TV and huge speakers, a 5.1 or a 7.1 channel to get great sound.

For all you know, you just might need a killer sound bar instead. Although, it is not as powerful as a surround sound system, it simulates a surround sound and it will make watching the TV an amazing experience.

If you’re an active music listener, put your money into a pair of quality floor-standing speakers. For the passive music listener, some bookshelf speakers will do the job. Genres like rock, reggae and hip-hop are majorly bass driven, unlike pop which requires good tweeters, so to get a relative bass boost, buying a good wattage amp is advisable. And if you're a hardcore audiophile, get a quality turntable, a preamp and some good grease speakers. A DAC also comes in handy.

Finally, if you’re a movie buff - your Tv obviously needs to support the HD and Blu Ray formats - and surround sound is a must, you need to consider other factors like..

“How big is your room?”

When the person showing you the different systems asks you this question, they’re, ideally, not judging your house size or trying to sell you the biggest speakers. They’re calculating the effects that your room will have on the speakers’ sound to suggest to you the most suitable option.

Large speakers are not a great choice for small, closed rooms. The Home theater will take up a lot of space and fill the room with so much bass that the sound will turn muddy. Similarly, small speakers in a large, open room will sound highly localised.

Speaker Placement and Channels

Room size, however, is only one of the factor. Speaker placement is a major issue too. Are you going to place your speakers in/on some piece of furniture? You might want to be careful, if you’re putting them inside an entertainment cabinet. It’ll be filled up by the bass and produce some unwanted resonance. Hard surface is also an enemy. The sound reflecting over the hard surfaces will change, irrespective of your speaker quality. Drapes, furniture, carpets, anything that breaks the long, hard surfaces will help your speakers achieve their potential. And obviously, don’t purchase speakers which don’t go along with your decor.

After all that deliberation, you need to think about the placement of your surround system so they work in cohesion. You need to think about how many channels you can incorporate. If your couch or chairs are against a wall, a 7.1 channel becomes pointless. You’ll have a hard time installing even the surround speakers of the 5.1 itself, let alone the back surround speakers which need to be placed 3 feet behind your location.  Additionally, while good tweeters are very necessary for the surround sound but if you’re purchasing a home theater system and if the designer had intended for you to use an additional tweeter, he would have included it in the design. Arbitrary tweeters are very difficult to integrate properly in an existing design. The desired amplification of treble can be achieved by boosting the range of your main speakers using your pre amplifier.

An End Note

The most important thing is that you sit down and think about what you will use the speakers for - whether it's movies you love or some good old rock n roll - the room they will be installed in and their possible placement. With a good idea of the number and kind of speakers you need, it’ll be time to start researching, then do some Home Theatre shopping.

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