How to Position 2.1 Speakers

It doesn’t matter if you are trying to put up your new home theater system or even just your computer speakers, the real secret for you to enjoy your new audio system to the fullest is to understand the science and art of speaker channels and placement.

How to Position 2.1 Speakers

Continue reading below to discover how to position 2.1 speakers.

Importance of Proper Position of 2.1 Speakers

Tons and tons of energy are invested just to give you an amazing listening and home theater experience. Every single person, from the audio engineers to the speaker designers to foley grips, all works together to add those sound effects into films. They also contribute to recreating enjoyable and realistic sounds right in the comforts of your home.

For you to make the most out of all the energy used in the production of awesome movie scores and soundtracks, however, you also need to invest a bit of your own energy. This is why you must know how to position your 2.1 speakers correctly, so you don’t end up wasting the hard work and effort put into those films and songs.

Understanding Stereo, Audio, and Surround Channels

The simple stereo sound is the audio setup that most people are familiar with. You are listening to audio in stereo every time you use a pair of headphones to listen to your smartphone, watch TV on a set without an attached speaker or theater system, or listen to the radio.

Stereo audio is basically two audio channels, one for the right speaker and the other one for the left speaker. This is the most minimal required setup to create the illusion of sound perspective and directionality for the listeners.

When it comes to surround sound notation, the simple two-channel setup is called a 2.0 system or 2 channels without a subwoofer. The addition of a subwoofer altered the notation to 2.1 wherein the .1 signifies the subwoofer as well as the additional Low-Frequency Effects channel powering it.

The more intricate audio systems build on this 2.1 system with additional channels to form a 360-degree sound envelope around the listener.

Different from the usual 2 channel systems with hardware on the primary device driving them, just like in the case of a TV set or portable music player, a multi-channel surround sound system often requires a different component called the receiver.

This receiver amplifies and distributes the audio signals coming from the source such as the cable box or Blu-ray player to the speakers.

The consumer audio receivers today support anywhere from 5.1 up to 11.2 audio channels, 5 speakers with 1 subwoofer, and 11 speakers with 2 subwoofers respectively.

Most of the receivers right now support 7.1 and 5.1 channel surround sound. Only several Blu-ray films presently ship with audio support for something that is higher than 7.1. This is why consumers no longer need to bear the expenses of using larger speakers to outfit their home theater systems.

How to Configure 2.1 Speakers

Now that you have some idea about how 2.1 speakers function, it is time to learn the best way to configure them.

Subwoofer Placement

The first thing you need to position is the subwoofer because this is the speaker that is easiest and simplest to place. The subwoofer generates an omnidirectional low-frequency sound and for this reason, the subwoofer can be placed just about anywhere you like in the room that is convenient enough and easy enough to link to the receiver.

Just be cautious when it comes to the placement of the subwoofer. Never place it directly in a corner or within any kind of architectural detail or recessed cabinetry.

Putting the subwoofer too close to the walls as well as inside semi-enclosed spaces will only change the speaker to a more directional one instead of something omnidirectional. It also often makes the subwoofer sound too boomy and loud than its companion speakers.

In case it is impossible to avoid this kind of placement, it is strongly recommended to dial down your subwoofer to compensate, either via the interface of your receiver or at the physical speaker if possible.

2.1 Channel Placement

The right and left channels produce all audio in 2.1 channel setups, the only exceptions of which are the low-frequency effects produced by the subwoofer. All the dialogue, music, and sound effects coming from the speakers are going to be broadcast into the room coming from the front towards you.

The two main channel speakers, right and left, must be placed approximately 3 to 4 feet off the middle of the viewing screen and at around ear height with the listener. You can shrink the offsets if your screen is particularly large.

Take note that ear height for listeners will depend on their height while seated, about 3.5 to 4 feet in most cases. There is no need to adjust the height of speakers exactly for the listener’s height, but these should still be within 6 to 8 inches. Anything lower or higher and you might get an unsettling sense that the characters on the screen are hurling their dialogues from a lower or higher location.

Aside from having the speakers positioned off to the screen’s side and at the viewer’s listening height, you also need to angle your speakers inwards to the listener, also called toe-in, in contrast to having them face straight ahead or toe-out.

The recommended angle for toe-in speakers is around 22 to 30 degrees. Position your speakers accordingly to create the cone-of-sound directed to the middle of the listening area, which is often the middle seat on the couch.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to the proper position or placement of your 2.1 speakers, always remember that your goal here is optimum sound for your home theater and not to make your sound system rival that of an IMAX theater. Simply moving your speakers to the right position can already work wonders in taking your listening experience to a whole new level that you’ve never had before.