Home Theater Setup Guide

How to set up your first home theater audio system

If you're a movie buff, kicking back in your most comfortable recliner and enjoying the latest Hollywood blockbuster probably sounds like the makings of a perfect weekend. To help take your movie-viewing experience to the next level though, you'll need a home theater setup guide to create the perfect audio system that's able to bring the sounds of your favorite movies and television shows to life. From showing you how to arrange your furniture and speakers properly to tips on choosing the necessary cables and hardware, this guide will help you set up the home theater system of your dreams. Get that popcorn popping and dim the lights because, after reading this home theater setup guide, you'll be ready to grab the remote, relax on the couch, and soak up the impressively detailed surround sound with your new home theater system.

Home Theater Setup Step #1: Selecting the Perfect Room

Deciding which room of your home is best for your home theater system setup comes down to a matter of available space and personal preference. Whether you're designing a home theater during the planning stages of a new home or reconfiguring a basement, garage, or spare room, there are some important things you should keep in mind.

For instance, you'll want a room that's quiet and allows you to control the amount of light that comes into it. You will enjoy your dream home theater system much more if you can regulate the lighting and minimize other sounds. The room should have enough space to house your speakers, cables, remotes, and hardware, but you don't want a completely empty space since the sounds will simply echo and bounce back. 

Home Theater Setup Step #2: Choosing the Best Seat in the House

One of the most important elements in your home theater system setup is selecting the perfect seat. Choose seats with low backs, as higher backs can get in the way of audio, interrupting the flow of sound and compromising the sound quality. It's crucial to place the chairs a good distance from speakers and away from the walls, as these positions can disrupt the way audio flows in your room. In order to further minimize distractions, select chairs that provide support and comfort. You don't want to put the action on pause just because a chair is giving you a backache. Look for practical seating that supports your spine. 

Home Theater Setup Step #3: Properly Placing the Speakers

Now that you've selected the perfect spot to view your movies, it's time to turn up the volume. Setting up your dream home theater system requires proper speaker placement along with sound components that give you crystal-clear listening. Whether you're stationing speakers in a large or small room, envision what your dream home theater system will look like, and who will be using the space. When positioning the speakers, you'll need to decide whether you would like to target the sound in one location for solo streaming or place several speakers around the room to ensure high-quality sound for multiple viewers. 

Your center channel speaker, which provides the majority of dialog, should be placed dead center to the main viewing seat and can be situated either above or below the screen. You don't want to miss out on a single important detail or be forced to press rewind, so placing this speaker as close to ear height as your home theater setup allows is important. 

The left and right surround sound channels are responsible for environmental sounds like the cheers and whistles of a concert crowd. For maximum impact, you want these positioned at roughly 90–110 degrees relative to your listening position — in other words, aligned on the same level as your ears. In addition, make sure to place them slightly above your head. 

The subwoofer is easiest to place. You can put it just about anywhere in the room when you set up your home theater, as long as it's close enough to the receiver. Just make sure to avoid placing it directly in a corner or a semi-enclosed space since this will result in audio that sounds overwhelmingly loud. 

For home theater system newbies who are unsure of which speakers to choose, consider a wall-mounted sound bar like Sony's HT-NT5. The system's slim three-way speakers and six separate amplifiers are specially designed to surround you in the sounds of High-Resolution Audio, with movies, television, video games, and music sounding impeccable. For a larger home theater system and a true cinematic experience, there's also the Sony HT-ST9 sound bar, which provides cinematic surround sound, powered by Dolby® True HD and DTS-HD. 

Home Theater Setup Step #4: Testing It All Out

Now that the speakers are in place for your dream home theater setup, it's time to make sure that all of the hardware, cables, and technology are in order. The right home theater hardware is essential in providing a clear, quality picture and sound that will help you follow the action of the football game or hear the highest notes of a blood-curdling scream in a horror flick. 

There are a number of systems available for streaming, including a Blu-ray Player, HD satellite box, video game systems, and AV receiver. Before poring over the owner's manual and matching colored cables, it's important to know which systems you'll be using. Most modern systems use only HDMI cables, which allow a relatively easy home theater setup. Sony's STR-DN1070 is one AV receiver option; it includes HDMI outputs, USB ports, and AV connections, so you can connect your television, smartphone, Blu-ray Player and more all in one space, preventing a cluttered mess of tangled wires and cables. For viewers who enjoy streaming services like Google Cast, there are AV receivers like Sony's STR-DN1070 that enable you to connect and stream directly to your television using a smartphone. 

Remember, it's important to take into account the size of your room when considering receivers. Those with a larger home theater space should consider a receiver with 7.1 channels or more. A receiver with more channels adds more depth to your surround sound experience, giving you a more noticeably immersive sound field in larger rooms. Those with smaller rooms are less likely to notice the benefit of additional channels, and a 5.1 channel AV receiver would meet their needs. 

If you do find yourself lost when setting up your home theater, there's no shame in asking a licensed professional for help or consulting the manual. 

Sit Back, Relax, and Enjoy

Ultimately, the most important tip to keep in mind when setting up your dream home theater system is finding the setup that works for you, your space, and your entertainment needs. Now that you've learned a little more about selecting the proper room, seating, and hardware, you're ready to sit back, relax, and enjoy. 

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