5 tips for installing surround sound speakers
How to cleanly install side and rear speakers without a mess of wires
atching a movie in surround sound is an enormous amount of fun. But sometimes running wires or installing rear speakers can be a logistical challenge. It certainly was for my system!
Here are five tips for a clean home theater installation. We'll start with a traditional wired approach, and then look at some other ways to get great sound while keeping things tidy.
1. Use flat wire for your surround speakers
One of the challenges of installing surround speakers is getting wire from one side of the room to the other. Thankfully, there are some simple ways to keep things stealthy.
Flat speaker wire is designed to be tucked under a rug, or concealed behind baseboards. You can also snake flat wire up and around doors or window frames to keep it out of sight.
Flat speaker wire can be concealed behind your baseboard, making it ideal for sending signal to your surround speakers.
I have found cord covers quite helpful for covering and protecting speaker wire. The before and after photos below will give you a sense of just how helpful. You can even paint them to match your décor.
Read our article about cable management to learn more.
2. Use a wireless transmitter
Sometimes it's not practical to make a wired connection between your home theater speakers and receiver. I ran into this problem with my powered subwoofer — running a cable proved exceedingly difficult.
The solution? A high-quality wireless transmitter, which lets you send signal from your receiver to anywhere in the room.
How to send a wireless signal to your surround speakers
If your receiver has multi-channel RCA outputs, Audioengine makes it easy.
The compact Audioengine N22 amplifier is a great choice for discreetly powering surround speakers (shown on a desk for scale).
How to send a wireless signal to your powered subwoofer
Want to eliminate the long subwoofer cable between your receiver and powered sub? I recommend using a wireless subwoofer kit, like Martin Logan's SW2-TRD or SVS's SoundPath to get wireless bass in your room.
I use the SoundPath kit with my SVS sub, and love the placement flexibility it provides without sacrificing sound quality.
The SVS SoundPath subwoofer adapter kit lets you add wireless connectivity to your powered sub.
3. Run the wires through your walls
Want your wires totally hidden? Run in-wall speaker cable through your walls or ceiling for a footprint-free installation. Our comprehensive in-wall wiring guide offers an in-depth look at what's involved with this type of installation.
I recommend in-wall wiring if you are working with a new build, or renovating an existing space and have access to the studs.
If you use in-wall wire with externally-mounted speakers, I recommend using wall plates to help make your connections neat and clean.
Have new construction? Use in-wall rated wiring for a clean, stealthy installation.
4. Use in-wall or ceiling speakers
If you install in-wall or in-ceiling surround speakers, the wire is completely hidden away. That's the route I went, and love the immersive sound effects I hear without my surround speakers taking up any floor space.
Recessed speakers do require more installation work. But they provide a smooth, finished look that sounds fantastic. Plus, they have paintable frames and grilles to match your room's décor.
Read my in-wall and in-ceiling speaker buying guide for recommendations on the best options for your room. I also have tips for placement and installation that may be helpful as you plan out your system.
In-ceiling surround speakers provide powerful overhead sound effects with zero footprint.
5. Go with a wireless speaker system
Wireless surround sound systems are simple to set up, and offer a lot of flexibility. They're an ideal choice when running speaker wire across your room isn't feasible.
Options range from compact sound bars to full-sized floor-standing speakers. Our wireless surround sound buying guide has tips on choosing the right system for your space.
Everything you need for a wireless Dolby Atmos® experience
One of our most popular wireless speaker systems is the Sonos Arc home theater bundle. It includes a Dolby Atmos-enabled sound bar, two wireless rear speakers, and a wireless subwoofer.
This system is a great way to get immersive surround sound without running speaker wires to each location. It's fantastic with music, too.
The Sonos Arc is a fantastic way to enjoy room-filling surround sound without any wires getting in the way.
Bonus tip: Try front speakers only
If you're not able to make any of the above options work, consider forgoing surround speakers altogether.
A powerful front soundstage is an excellent way to enjoy TV, movies, and music. Here are three great options:
1. Go with a sound bar
Read our sound bar buying guide to learn more.
2. Choose a 2.1 system for music and movies
A pair of well-positioned speakers and a powered subwoofer can be potent. I especially like powered stereo speakers for a 2.1-channel system.
3. Step up to a 3.1 system for improved dialogue
Upgrade your stereo rig to a 3.1-channel system — that's stereo speakers and a sub, plus a center channel for improved dialogue.
Our center channel speaker buying guide will help you find the right one for your room.
Use a sound bar and a sub in the front of your room for clear dialogue and convincing sound effects.
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