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Surround Sound Speaker Placement: 5.1, 7.1 & Dolby Atmos Setup

modern home theater room with several surround sound speakers

Finding the best surround sound speaker placement for your room can make or break your 5.1, 7.1 or Dolby Atmos home theater system.

Don’t go to all the effort of choosing the right speakers for your room – spending your hard-earned money on quality equipment – and then just put them in any old place when installing them.

If you spend some time getting the 5.1 speaker placement just right, you will make the best of your surround sound setup.

The most important speakers are the center, front left and front right, which do most of the work when reproducing a movie soundtrack.

But the surround, rear, Dolby Atmos and subwoofer speakers also play an essential role in creating an immersive sound.

So it is crucial to find the perfect spot for each surround sound speaker to optimize your multi-channel home theater.

I will discuss each speaker type in this article and point out the important considerations for each one.

Center Channel Speaker Placement

The center channel speaker plays a crucial part in a 5.1 surround sound system. It is the main speaker for the dialogue in a movie, so you must place this correctly.

You should position the center speaker just above or below the middle of the TV screen – usually below – but this will depend on the height of your TV screen and if there is a suitable place to put it.

Just try not to place it too far from the screen, or the sound may appear removed from the picture. This will sound unnatural and spoil the impact of the soundtrack.

Ideally, your primary seating position will also be central to the middle of the TV. So, the center channel speaker should be pointing directly at you.

Close up of a home theater center speaker

The position above or below the screen isn’t so important as the position relative to your ears.

Ideally, the speaker’s tweeters should be level with your ears when sitting in your viewing position. This is because higher frequencies are more directional.

The tweeters are the small speaker cones in your speaker.

In a bookshelf or floorstanding speaker, the tweeters are usually positioned above the larger woofer speakers. However, in a center channel speaker, they are generally fitted in line with the woofers.

You may be able to remove the speaker grille if you can’t see where the actual speakers are. Be careful, though!

If you can’t get the speaker into a level position with your ears, try to slightly angle the speaker up or down. Just try to ensure it is pointing at your head when sitting down.

If possible, the tweeters of the center speaker should be the same height as the tweeters of the front left and right pair. Although, this can be difficult to achieve precisely.

Doing this will allow a more consistent sound when the audio moves across the front three speakers.

Height placement of center speaker in a room

However, you will find that as long as they are relatively level – say within 1-2 feet – you won’t notice too much of a problem when the sound pans across the speakers.

If in doubt, play a movie, watch a scene with plenty of effects moving across the front speakers, and listen to how it sounds.

Using your ears and judgment is probably the most crucial aspect of speaker placement.

Also, avoid placing the speaker behind the TV’s front edge, especially if it is on top. This means the sound will hit the TV first, affecting the sound reaching you.

You can use wall brackets, floor stands, or shelves to place the speaker – just try to make sure it is stable and on a solid, flat surface. In many cases, this can be the most challenging speaker to find a good position for.

If so, you might consider a piece of furniture designed to hold a TV and the center speaker.

A speaker designed specifically for the center will usually be a broad, horizontal shape, allowing it to lay along the edge of a TV screen and spread the sound evenly.

However, you can use any speaker type as your center – such as a regular bookshelf speaker. But bear in mind the shape of this type of speaker may be more challenging to install in an ideal position.

Also, you may not get the wide soundstage you can get with a dedicated center channel speaker, which will depend on the speaker’s design.

Front Left and Right Speaker Placement

The front left and right speakers are the equivalent of the stereo pair you might use with your hi-fi system.

They handle much of the music and sound effects in a movie soundtrack but sometimes reproduce the dialogue.

Therefore, balancing the sound field across the front of the screen is essential, which is easier if the front left, center and front right speakers complement each other.

The front speakers should be an equal distance left and right of the TV – and ideally, both should be an equal distance from the primary listening position.

However, the chances are your room may not suit this exact positioning. So, in many cases, one speaker may be slightly closer than the other.

That’s OK; if necessary, your AV receiver will adjust the output level for minor differences. Just try to make things as equal as possible and that you are as central as you can manage.

Front left and right speaker placement in a room
Front left and front right speaker placement

If you imagine an arc across the front of the room from your central home theater seats, you should try getting the center speaker at the top.

Then, the front left and right speakers will be slightly further forward. This ensures they will be a similar distance away from the listening position.

If this proves difficult, don’t worry too much. Your AV receiver can compensate for the difference in distance between speakers.

Get as close as possible in your room, but don’t start knocking walls down to get it exactly right!

The suggested angles for the front left and right speakers from your sitting position are 22 to 30 degrees (see below). So, use this as a guideline when positioning the front speakers.

This angle may not be possible depending on the size and shape of your room, so don’t get too distracted by the numbers.

Front Left and Right Speaker Placement Angle
Front left and right speaker placement angle (top view)

One common suggestion is to imagine an equilateral triangle. You are at the tip, and your front left and right speakers are at the other two points.

If all the distances between you and the speakers are the same, this will result in the 30° angle between you and each speaker.

If you move further away, the angle will narrow, which is fine. But try to avoid getting too close, or you won’t get a great stereo effect, and you might be too close to the screen for comfort.

Ideally, the front speakers will have their tweeters at ear height when sitting in your viewing position, which should be about the same height as your center speaker.

If you have floorstanding speakers, the height of the tweeter should be about right when sitting down. Similarly, with bookshelf speakers, your stands should create the right level.

Many people like to have the front speakers slightly angled to point at the centrally seated position. This is called ‘toeing-in’ the speaker.

However, this can come down to personal taste and vary between speakers. The best idea is to play with the angle of the speakers and decide which you prefer.

You will usually get a wider soundstage if you don’t toe-in the speakers – and a narrower, more focused sound if you do. But, the design of your speakers will also have a significant impact.

Also, consider the audience. If only you are watching, toeing in the speakers can help you get the best stereo effect in your listening position.

But suppose several people are watching across the room. In that case, not angling the speakers will usually be better for everybody as they all benefit from the broader stereo effect.

As with the center speaker, if you can’t get the front speakers at ear height, it can be beneficial to angle them up or down toward the listening position.

Although, whether you can do this depends on the stands or brackets you use.

But, depending on their design, you should only position some speakers on the level, so it’s up to you if you think angling them improves the sound.

Learn more: Stereo vs surround sound layouts for your home theater

Surround Speaker Positioning

The surround speakers create a sense of space in your room. Ideally, the surround speakers in a 5.1 surround sound configuration should be placed just behind or to the side of your listening position.

Dolby recommends an angle of 110° to 120° from your listening position, as in the image below.

However, if that’s impossible, the next best location is nearer the 90-degree angle on either side.

THX recommends between 90° to 110°, so I wouldn’t feel the need to get too precise. You can put your protractor away!

5.1 surround speaker placement - rear speakers
5.1 surround speaker placement – rear speakers

For example, if your couch is up against a wall, you can put the surround speakers on either side at 90°.

In many rooms, you may struggle to get the exact position but always try to get as close as your space will allow.

Depending on your room, you may have to compromise due to the position of walls, doors, windows and furniture. But there are usually ways to get as close as you can with a bit of thought.

The surround speakers should be slightly higher than the front speakers in the room. Ideally, about 1 to 2 feet above head height when sitting down.

This is because the surround channels create an ambient sound in your room. So, you should benefit if they are slightly further away from your ears.

The idea isn’t to get the direct up-front sound you want from your front speakers.

You would usually point these speakers at the central seating, much like the front speakers. However, this can also depend on the speaker’s design – and if the stands or brackets allow it.

Try angling standard direct-firing (monopole) speakers straight at your listening position.

Although, some people may find the sound too direct when you do this.

Therefore, placing direct-firing speakers relatively high above your main movie chair is also worth considering, as this will disperse the sound more before it reaches your ears.

Experiment and let your ears decide which sounds the best.

It should be noted that since Dolby Atmos speaker layouts were introduced, Dolby now suggests the surround speakers should be nearer head height/ear level.

They suggest either the same height as the front speakers or no more than 1.25 times the height.

This is so there is a distinct separation between the surround and Atmos effects, and you might want to experiment with this and see what works best in your room.

If you don’t have Atmos, anything from head height to one or two feet above should work equally well once the receiver has worked its magic.

However, I think head height might feel a bit close in a small room.

The surround effects should complement the front soundstage – not compete with it.

Higher will also likely be better if more people are in the seating area, as the people nearest the head height speakers will block the sound for others.

Remember, many people won’t have the luxury of getting the speakers precisely in the recommended locations anyway.

7.1 surround speaker placement - rear and back speakers
7.1 surround speaker placement – rear and back speakers

7.1 speaker placement is similar. However, the left and right surrounds should be slightly more to the side of the listening position – between 90° and 110°.

The two extra back speakers should be behind the listening position at around 135° to 150°.

Apart from that, the height and angle of the speakers should be the same as with a 5.1 speaker system.

Learn more: 5.1 vs 7.1 surround sound: which is best?

What is the Minimum and Maximum Distance for the Surround Speakers?

There are no recommended distances for the surround speakers, only angles relative to the listening position.

The calibration of your speakers will adjust the output level for each one so they produce the same volume at the main listening position.

So if your speakers are close, they will be turned down. And if they are further away, they will be turned up.

However, if you have enough room to play with, I would try and use some common sense.

If the surround speakers are too close, they might distract from the front-of-room sound.

But, if they are too far away, the sound might get lost, and you may start to get reflections from the rest of the room.

As a rule of thumb, aim for around three to six feet, maybe? But, of course, that depends on the space you have available.

Bipole and Dipole Speaker Placement

If you have bipole or dipole surround speakers, you don’t need to worry about angling them – the design of these speakers will provide the ambient sound you need.

They will usually mount flat against a wall.

In a 5.1 setup, the ideal place for bipole speakers will be directly behind the listening position – pointing toward the front speakers.

Place them about 1 or 2 feet above the listener – in line with, or slightly wider than, the front speakers.

If that’s not possible, the next best option is directly at either side – 90° to the listening position. Again, 1 or 2 feet higher than the listener.

For dipole speakers, the correct positions are 90° on either side of the listening position. This means the speakers in the unit will be facing the front and back, i.e., not at the listening position.

As in the previous examples, these should also be 1 or 2 feet higher than the listener.

One advantage of bipole speakers is they are more flexible in their positioning.

If you come across a different name, bipole speakers are also known as bipolar speakers.

This video covers some of the issues I have discussed – and highlights the compromises that are sometimes required:

YouTube video

Dolby Atmos Speaker Placement

A Dolby Atmos system must have at least two speakers to recreate the overhead audio.

These should be installed high in your room as in-ceiling, on-ceiling or on-wall speakers – or you can buy dedicated Dolby Atmos modules that you can place on top of your existing speakers.

Traditional speakers with integrated Dolby Atmos modules are also available.

These modules will bounce the overhead audio off the ceiling toward your listening position.

For DTS:X soundtracks, there is no requirement for dedicated overhead speakers or modules, and a DTS:X soundtrack will adapt to any speaker layout.

It won’t be as much fun without the height element, though.

Learn more: Surround sound formats: Dolby Digital vs. DTS & THX

Does Your AV Receiver Support Atmos?

The other thing to consider before you start is the support from your AV receiver.

Firstly, the receiver must support Dolby Atmos and have output channels for the number of speakers you require.

Budget models will only support two Atmos speakers plus a 5.1 layout.

You can also install speakers for Atmos in several different locations. The common ones are:


  • Front Height Left/Right
  • Surround Height Left/Right
  • Rear Height Left/Right


  • Top Front Left/Right
  • Top Middle Left/Right
  • Top Rear Left/Right


  • Front Dolby Atmos Enabled Left/Right
  • Surround Dolby Atmos Enabled Left/Right
  • Back Dolby Atmos Enabled Left/Right

No matter which ones you use, you should always install Dolby Atmos speakers in pairs.

When you set up your receiver, you will need to tell it what type of Dolby Atmos speakers you have installed in your room – and where they are.

Then the receiver will adjust the delivery of a soundtrack to suit your installation.

But not all receivers will support all the possible locations – so check this before drilling holes in your ceiling!

Positioning Your Dolby Atmos Speakers

With the introduction of Atmos audio, Dolby introduced a slightly different concept for home theater sound – listener-level audio and overhead audio.

Listener-level speakers are the standard 5.1 or 7.1 surround speakers, and ideally, these should be roughly the same height and placed around the ear level.

This leaves space above for the Atmos overhead audio plane. When combined, this will produce a thrilling 3D audio experience in your room.

If the overhead speakers are mounted on the ceiling and pointed directly down, they should have a wide dispersion pattern of around 45 degrees (from 100 Hz to 10 kHz).

For speakers with a narrower soundstage, these should be angled toward the primary listening position.

Ideally, you should install the overhead speakers at around 2 to 3 times the height of the listener-level speakers. While these are only guidelines, try to get as close as possible in your room.

The main thing is to get a good separation between the listener level and overhead speakers – although not too far, or the audio will become disconnected and won’t be as immersive.

As already mentioned, the minimum number of overhead speakers for Dolby Atmos is two – although Dolby recommends four.

While several speaker locations are supported, with four overhead speakers, the suggested places to use are:

  • Top Front Left/Right
  • Top Rear Left/Right

As in the picture here:

5.1.4 Dolby Atmos Layout with Overhead Speakers
5.1.4 Dolby Atmos Layout with Overhead Speakers

As you can see, ideally, you should center the position of the overhead speakers around the listening position, roughly in line with the front speakers.

But this does require support from your AV receiver for these locations – and enough space in your room. You can choose a different layout if you don’t have either of these.

Another thing to consider is the speaker type.

The ideal speaker for the top front, middle and rear locations is in-ceiling because they are intended to be directly overhead.

However, many people can’t (or don’t want to) cut holes in their ceilings to install speakers. If so, consider using conventional speakers with brackets, which will make less mess.

Or, why not try putting speakers on the sidewalls and angling them down to the primary listening position?

You can still tell the receiver these are top-positioned speakers. Or, if supported by your receiver, you can identify them as surround and rear-height speakers.

This isn’t strictly as intended, but if you bend the rules a little, you can still get a great 3D effect in your room. Try it and see what sounds best to you.

With four speakers, the recommended angle from the listening position is 45 degrees to the top front and rear speakers.

Although this can be increased to between 30 and 55 degrees if necessary.

Angle of Dolby Atmos Top Front and Top Rear Overhead Speakers
The ideal angle of Dolby Atmos top front and top rear overhead speakers

If you only install two overhead speakers, Dolby recommends using the top middle left and right speaker positions.

This should be 65° to 100° above your listening position. So, anything from just in front of you to directly overhead or slightly behind.

Angle of Dolby Atmos Top Middle Overhead Speakers to Listening Position
The angle of Dolby Atmos top middle overhead speakers

But you don’t have to. You could install two front-height left/right speakers if you prefer. Or any of the other locations.

If you don’t want to install overhead speakers at all, buying Dolby Atmos-enabled modules – or speakers with integrated Dolby Atmos drivers – is a good solution.

They can also be easier to install.

The idea is you place the modules around ear level, and they direct the audio toward your ceiling, which creates a diffuse overhead sound when it reflects down to your listening position.

The recommended position of the modules is slightly different from the overhead speakers.

If you only have two Dolby Atmos modules, placing these on or near your front left and right speakers is recommended.

If you want four modules, you should place the rear pair on, or near, the rear back surrounds in a 7.1 system – and on/near the rear surrounds in a 5.1 system.

There are a few other guidelines you should remember if you want to consider using this type of speaker.

When you install Dolby Atmos-enabled speakers, you should:

  • make sure the room height is between 7.5 and 14 feet
  • ensure that the ceiling is made of reflective material like plaster, drywall or hardboard
  • place them at, or slightly above, ear level
  • install them no higher than one-half the room height

If you can follow these points, you should get an effective overhead sound using Atmos modules.

Positioning Dolby Atmos speakers is more complicated than traditional 5.1 and 7.1 systems.

The beauty is you can go from a 2.1.2 layout to 7.1.4 to 11.1.8 and beyond – and use a combination of overhead speakers and modules.

The recommended location for the Dolby Atmos speakers does vary slightly between each layout, but they do follow the same basic principles.

And you can also just place your speakers where they will fit and still get a pretty good immersive experience. Don’t be afraid to experiment and decide what sounds best in your room.

You can also visit the Dolby website for more detailed information on more Atmos layouts.

Learn more: What is Dolby Atmos, and is it worth it?

Placement of the Subwoofer

The subwoofer is the maverick of surround sound speakers. It’s the cool guy who goes where he wants and doesn’t follow the same rules as everybody else.

The main reason for this is the subwoofer has a specific job – to reproduce the really low bass in a soundtrack.

Low bass frequencies are less directional than higher frequencies due to their long wavelength, making it harder to tell where the sound comes from in the room.

Therefore, subwoofer placement in a room is much less critical than with other speakers – which can be a blessing given the size of the darn thing!

Wherever you have a spare bit of space in your room, you can stick it anywhere pretty much.

Although, there are a few general guidelines worth considering if you can.

Subwoofer Speaker Placement - A Collection of Subs

In general, avoiding the corners of a room can be important for the subwoofer because the bass frequencies can become ‘boomy.’

Having said that, you can sometimes use a position near the corners of a room to your advantage and boost the bass sound from your subwoofer. Your neighbors might not be so pleased, though!

The potential disadvantage is the bass becomes too overpowering in the room and harder to control.

Have a play around with the position and see what you think. You will have to try this for each room, as no two rooms will sound the same.

One thing to listen out for is areas of the room where the bass is especially quiet – or loud. Because of the long wavelength of bass sound waves, it is easy to create standing waves in a room.

This can cause the bass volume to vary throughout a room as the sound waves add together – or cancel out.

The shape of your room can also affect the creation of standing waves – and a square-shaped room can be a particular problem as the walls will be the same distance apart.

So, avoid placing the subwoofer at an equal distance between two opposite walls, or it can result in the reflecting waveforms canceling each other out.

Therefore, don’t have the speaker precisely in the middle of the room – ideally, it would be best to place the subwoofer nearer one end or the other.

The main thing to check is that a drop in the bass isn’t happening around the listening area, which is not what you want. If you find this happening, you can move the subwoofer a bit. Just a few inches may do it.

This can drastically improve the bass levels in the critical listening area.

Another common way of finding the best subwoofer position for your room is to do the ‘subwoofer crawl.’

For this, you need to place the subwoofer in the primary listening position (you may need a long cable for this if it’s not wireless) and then get on your hands and knees and crawl around the room while listening to some audio content.

Then when you hear where the bass sounds the best to your ears, you can put the subwoofer there.

Another solution, especially for a large room with a few quiet areas, is a 5.2 or 7.2 setup with an extra subwoofer (or more).

7.2 Surround Sound System Layout
7.2 surround sound system layout

A second subwoofer can help level the bass throughout a room – especially in the crucial areas where people sit.

For the best results, move the subwoofer positions around your room and listen for a change in the bass levels. You are looking for consistent bass at all listening positions in the room.

There isn’t a perfect position for the second sub that will suit all rooms.

Another trick is having one person sit in the listening position and another move the subwoofers around. You may be surprised at how much difference a few inches one way or another can make.

As you might guess, the downside of a 7.2 setup is that it can be harder to set up a room with two subwoofers. The low-frequency bass sound waves from two different places could start to cancel each other out.

So, you could make the bass sound in the room worse!

Plus, it can be more challenging to wire two subwoofers because are more cables to run (again, assuming they are wireless).

And does your receiver even support two subs?

Once you get into this kind of territory, you might want to hire an expert with sound meters to test the room and properly position the subs.

However, try giving it a go yourself first. Use your ears and listen to the effect of moving the subs around.

General Speaker Placement Guidelines

So far, I have looked at the placement of specific home theater speakers.

In terms of general guidelines, you should bear in mind the following points when positioning your speakers.

Remember, it’s not the end of the world if you don’t follow them to the letter.

But, the nearer you get, the more chance you have of getting a great sound in your room.

1. Every Room Is Different

The first thing to remember is that your room will probably not be the perfect shape for a home theater sound system.

Most people will use a communal living area for their home theater equipment, so it is tough to get the perfect setup.

However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t try to get the best sound possible from your amplifier and speakers.

Many people think about the technical aspects of the amplifier and speakers – like matching the speaker impedance and amplifier power – but forget the importance of ensuring the speakers are in the ideal locations.

While you may not be able to get every point precisely right, you will still be making the best use of the space you have available.

Most people will have to make some compromises in the location of their speakers. That’s fine. Aim to do the best job you can, and it will make a big difference to the sound in your room.

Vintage Bookshelf Speakers

Once you have the speakers in the best location, you can adjust the settings of your AV receiver with volume, phase and tonal balancing.

This can help compensate for each speaker’s actual position in the room.

Most modern AV receivers will have some form of automatic room correction, which you can run using the supplied microphone.

This can be very effective, and you can still manually tweak the settings afterward to your taste if you prefer.

2. Not Too Close to Walls, Floors and Ceilings

I’ve already mentioned this for the subwoofer, but it holds true for all your speakers. Avoid placing the speakers too close to walls, floors and ceilings.

This can be difficult in smaller rooms, but you will alter the speakers’ sound if they are too close to these surfaces.

The bass will increase if too close to walls or floors, artificially changing the speakers’ sound.

Also, the sound waves can reflect off these hard surfaces and delay the sound waves reaching your listening position, creating poor clarity and stereo imaging.

However, to confuse you, some smaller speakers may actually benefit from placement on or near walls.

Some are designed to use this increase in the low end to help their sound because they are too small to get a good bottom end on their own.

Check out the information that comes with the speaker if you are unsure.

As a general guideline, the bigger the speaker, the more bass it creates on its own, and it will be more important to keep these away from the walls.

3. Avoid Corners

Try to avoid placing the speakers in corners.

This is like point 2 – except the issues are even more of a problem to the sound – because it is where the floor, wall and ceiling meet.

The corner of a room can do strange things to the sound waves bouncing around your room, especially the bass end. The bass will often appear ‘boomy’ or ‘muddy’ if your speakers are too close to the corner.

Having said that, I’m now going to contradict myself completely.

In some rooms, you can try placing the subwoofer near the corner to boost the bass in the room.

Home Theater Bookshelf Speakers

Putting the subwoofer there might boost the bottom end if you’re not getting the desired results.

Just be aware that this could also result in excessive bass, which is hard to control.

Speaker placement can be full of seemingly conflicting advice. But the truth is each room is different, and something that works well in one room may not work in another.

Experiment and listen!

4. Avoid Obstructions

Always try to ensure nothing is getting in the way of the sound reaching your ears.

You won’t get the best sound from your speakers if the furniture, curtains, and even your TV itself obstruct the sound from getting to you.

Obstructions will cause the sound waves to bounce around the room before reaching you.

Ideally, you want the sound to go directly from the speaker to your ears.

Even if your speakers are sitting on a shelf – try to move them forward a little – so the speaker’s front is in line with the edge.

Maybe even overhang them a touch. Not too much, though, or they might fall off! Half an inch is plenty.

The main thing to avoid is the speaker being pushed back into the shelf, which will ensure the sound from the speaker doesn’t reflect off the hard surface as soon as it leaves the speaker.

This can be a particular problem for your center speaker because having these on a shelf below the TV is standard.

So move the center speaker to the front edge to drive the sound directly at your listening position.

5. Try a Listening Test

Play a constant sound – like a piece of music you know well – and sit in your normal listening position. Listen carefully to the sound.

Then, move the speakers by a few inches, or change the angle they are pointing, and hear how this affects the sound.

This is easier if there are two of you – one to listen and one to move the speakers.

It may surprise you how moving the speakers by a small amount can alter the sound.

This can be especially useful when finding the correct position for the subwoofer. You have more freedom where to place the sub, so you can experiment more.

Wrapping Up

Follow these guidelines, and you will be well on your way to the best speaker placement for your surround sound system.

The main thing to remember is that they are just that – guidelines. Don’t feel that you must follow each point strictly.

Get as close as you can – depending on the dimensions of your room and the type of speakers.

The center and front speakers are crucial to a surround sound system and should receive most of your attention. Get this right, and you will be well on the way.

However, it’s easy to forget the surround, rear and subwoofer speakers.

The correct surround speaker placement is crucial to get the best out of your speaker system, so make sure they work together to give you a great surround sound experience.

Please don’t waste the potential of your home theater sound system by not giving it a chance to sound its best.

Frequently Asked Questions

This article covers quite a bit of ground, but there is always more to learn about placing surround sound speakers. Here are the answers to some common questions.

How High Should the Surround Sound Speakers Be?

In a traditional 5.1 and 7.1 speaker system, the recommendation for surround speakers is one or two feet above ear level. Since the introduction of Dolby Atmos audio, Dolby now refers to the 5-channel and 7-channel speakers as being at listener level – and suggests these should all be at ear-level for the listener. This creates a distinct separation between the listener-level audio and the Atmos height audio. However, these aren’t hard and fast rules, so you can place the surrounds higher than this. Although, in this case, Dolby recommends a height of no more than 1.25 times the height of the front speakers. These are only guidelines. You can deviate from this if your room layout is challenging.

How Far Back Should the Rear Surround Speakers Be?

There isn’t a specific distance for the rear surround speakers in a 7.1 speaker layout. However, it would be best to keep relatively close to help the immersive sound experience. The recommendation is for the rear surround speakers to be around 135° to 150° from the listening position and roughly in line with the front left and right pair.

Does Surround Sound Speaker Height Matter?

Yes, to get the best immersive experience, you want to follow the guidelines as best you can. For 5.1 and 7.1 systems, the surrounds should be from ear level to 1 or 2 feet above. For a Dolby Atmos system, Dolby recommends having the standard surround speakers at ear level (listener level) – and the Dolby Atmos overhead speakers at two to three times the height of the listener-level speakers.

Do I Need Overhead Speakers in a Dolby Atmos Speaker System?

Dolby says the overhead sound is integral to the Dolby Atmos audio experience. Therefore you must have speakers capable of creating the Dolby Atmos sound field. Overhead speakers can be in-ceiling, on-ceiling, in-wall or on-wall – or you can place Dolby Atmos-enabled modules on top of your existing listener-level speakers. DTS:X soundtracks don’t insist on having overhead speakers, so DTS:X will adapt to any speaker layout.

How to Install 7.1 Surround Sound with a Couch Against the Wall?

The easiest answer is to stick with a 5.1 surround sound system and put the surrounds at 90° to your sitting position. The rear surrounds in a 7.1 layout really should be a distance behind you, which you can’t do when the couch is against the wall. If you really want to try it, you could install in-ceiling speakers above you, in-wall speakers behind you, or maybe use bipole/dipole speakers attached to the back wall. But neither solution is ideal, and you will probably be better off setting up an outstanding 5.1 system than trying to hack a 7.1 layout.

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About The Author

Paul started the Home Cinema Guide to help less-experienced users get the most out of today's audio-visual technology. He has been a sound, lighting and audio-visual engineer for around 20 years. At home, he has spent more time than is probably healthy installing, configuring, testing, de-rigging, fixing, tweaking, re-installing again (and sometimes using) various pieces of hi-fi and home cinema equipment. You can find out more here.

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