HOW TO SETUP HOME THEATER SPEAKERS

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Today I want to show you how to setup home theater speakers. We are not going to be talking about the performance of any of the components that we are using to illustrate how to set up a home theatre, but I do want to tell you what components we are using so that if you are shopping yourself and looking for options out there, these are worthwhile things to consider. So the speakers we are using today are from Jamo. They are the studio series S803 speaker system. This system is currently available on Amazon and it comes with four bookshelf speakers and a centre channel; so it is a 5.1 speaker system. It doesn’t come with a subwoofer and for that we are using a Kanto sub8.

The Kanto sub eight is also available on Amazon, click here to see it.

The AV receiver that we are using is the Marantz nr1509. If you are shopping for an AV receiver, it should be noted that the 1509 is an entry level receiver; I’m talking sub $500. It is a five dot two channel receiver and it is meant for small to medium sized rooms.

If you are looking to do a little bit more fancy home theatre type setups like Dolby Atmos and things like that, this is not the receiver to do that with.This article is about getting you up and running quickly and easily, and that is why we are focusing on a basic five dot one channel home theatre setup. Now the TV that we will be using in this example is an LG nano cell 90 series; it is an LED backlit TV. 

We’re not going to be diving too much into the television. This again is about setting up a home theatre from the TV on down to the speakers, but it is important that you know because there are features about the LG that we will be taking advantage of, but understand that there are other televisions out there that have similar features so it’s not like you have to only look at or buy the LG.

The other thing that you’re going to need in order to follow along and set up your home theatre properly is the appropriate lengths of speaker cables preferably terminated with banana plugs. You’re also going to need the requisite length and number of HDMI cables. We use generic cables and I want to stress this, you do not have to go broke buying very expensive cables, you can buy any off the shelf non named brands and it will work fine. 

Now before we get into the physical setup of this home theatre, I think that it’s important that we take just a second to define some of the terms that you’re going to encounter here and probably elsewhere in your journey. For example we will be setting up a 5.1 channel home theatre; now channel is just another word for speaker or loudspeaker, it’s all the same. So, a five dot one channel home theatre refers to the number of speakers found in that home theatre. Five representing the speakers themselves and the dot one representing the number of subwoofers. 

So anytime you hear 5.1, that’s five speakers plus one subwoofer in a home theatre. Pretty simple. Now there are other types of home theatres that are 7.1, 7.2, 9.2, there’s Dolby Atmos and those are all very exciting but that is not what we will be focusing about today.

We are talking about the entry point to home theatre which is 5.1, and in a five dot one speaker system, there are five key speakers that you need; the first being left and right main channels both speakers; now these can be bookshelves. They can be floor standing, they can be whatever speaker you want.

Installation here was two way bookshelf speakers from Jamo. They go on either side, the left or right side of your display. Now the other speaker and arguably the most important speaker in any home theatre system is the centre channel and the reason why it’s so important is because movies have a lot of dialogue and therefore the centre channel gets used 90%, of the time. It is arguably the most important loudspeaker in a home theatre system.

The centre channel goes where it sounds right in the middle below your screen pointed directly at your seated listening or viewing position. Apart from the three speakers located up front, you are going to need a left and right surround speaker. That is to say a speaker that is mounted to the left and to the right of your seated position so that you can hear all of the surround sound effects that are mixed into your favourite movies. 

Now, a few things about placement with respect to surround sound speakers. A lot of people think that surround sound speakers go behind you in a five dot one system. This is not true. Surround sound speakers and a five dot one system should be mounted above and directly to the side of your primary seated position. If you can’t mount them up high, that’s fine you can put them on stands. In a five dot one channel surround sound setup, the left and right surround speakers are actually meant to be installed directly to the sides of your listening position.

Last but not least, we have the subwoofer. And today we are only going to be using a single subwoofer. I know on YouTube and on the internet, maybe you’re running into things where people are telling you you need multiple subwoofers and more subwoofers are better. That’s not entirely wrong but it’s also not entirely true. The truth is you can have very very satisfying bass from a single subwoofer provided you set it up properly.

Now this is not going to be about subwoofer placement or setup per se. A while back I created relevant articles as regards subwoofer placement and I will link to them below and you should go check those out to get the absolute most and best performance from whatever subwoofer you have currently in your system. https://techshezzy.com/speakers/optimal-subwoofer-placement-for-home-theater/

But for the purposes of this article, we will just simply be placing it in our room and I will be showing you the basic steps in connecting it to your receiver and getting the most out of it as quickly and as easily as possible. So with all that kind of basic terminology, out of the way, let’s dive into installation. 

So once we’ve unboxed all of our loudspeakers, the first thing that we’re going to want to do is place them in the proper positions in our room. So for this example, we have put both of the larger Jamo bookshelves on stands to the left and right side of our LG TV. We’ve obviously placed the centre speaker directly below the LG and in the centre and if you don’t have speaker stands, you can provide your cabinet or media centre console if it is wide enough. 

You can potentially put your loudspeakers or bookshelf speakers on either side of the television or on the cabinet itself. And as for the surrounds, we’ve chosen to set them up in two ways just to kind of illustrate our point; but the first way is above and to the side of our seated position and the second is on top of the speaker-stands themselves, also to the side of our seated position. 

It’s really that easy, this part, this part is not meant to be complicated, and the next part isn’t either because connecting your speakers to your AV receiver is very very straightforward. First thing that you’re going to want to do is make sure that all of your speaker cables are the appropriate length to run from the back of the speaker’s themselves all the way to wherever you are choosing to house your AV receiver. 

Now since we are putting our Marantz AV receiver inside our GDI cabinet, the front three speakers don’t have very far to go in terms of length of speaker cable required. However, surround sound speakers are obviously further away so you’re going to want to make sure maybe even before you start installing stuff that you know the rough distance that you’re going to have to run speaker cable from your surround speakers all the way to your equipment rack where your AV receiver sits.

And the same thing is true for your subwoofer, you’re going to want to make sure that you have a long enough, RCA style cable that runs from the subwoofer to the back of the receiver itself. Now before we get into connecting all of our loudspeakers and various components to our AV receiver, why don’t we go ahead and make sure that everything is powered down and for extra safety, go ahead and unplug everything from the wall. You want to make all of our connections with no possibility for there to be any drama electrically until we’re ready to hit power and power everything up together. 

It’s time to start connecting our loudspeakers to our AV receiver; we’re going to start with the left and right front speakers. So we’re first going to want to take one end of our speaker cable. We’re gonna want to take the red and black ends and plug them into the corresponding plugs on the back of the speaker themselves red to red, black to black. Then take the other end of that speaker cable and plug it into the corresponding terminal on the back of your receiver. So the left speaker gets plugged into the left speaker terminal on the back of your receiver. Do the same for the right speaker. Do the same for the centre speaker as well as the right and left surround speakers.

To connect our subwoofer, we’re going to want to take our RCA cable and go to our subwoofer and plug it into the left or LFE output. Some subwoofers have stereo outputs; we’re going to want to use the left or white output in this instance and then run it all the way back to the sub output number one on our Marantz receiver.

If your subwoofer only has one output; that is to say just a sub out or LFE out, then you don’t have a choice; you just go right out of that. Now I don’t want to leave the subwoofer just yet because you may notice on the back of your subwoofer there are a number of dials and maybe even a few switches. The first dial that you’re likely to see is the level; that is referring to the level or volume control on the back of the subwoofer itself, go ahead and put the volume in the 12 o’clock position, give or take. 

WHAT DO THE CROSSOVER SETTINGS AT THE BACK OF MY SUBWOOFER MEAN ?

The next dial you may notice on the back of your subwoofer is labelled crossover. Now this may seem a little confusing but look at it this way, a crossover is the point with which your receiver stops sending bass to your loudspeakers and instead crosses it over to sending it to the subwoofer. 

Now, you may have a myriad of settings on this dial. You may see dozens of options, you may see four options. It all depends on the subwoofer you have chosen to buy. In this instance, we have a variable knob in which we can kind of set it wherever we want. The other things that you may notice on the back of your subwoofer may be auto on off or phase, go ahead and set your subwoofer to auto on; that is to say when it gets a signal or when it senses a signal, it will turn itself on, and when it’s not being used or you’ve gone to bed for the evening, it will shut itself off. So I do recommend that you set your subwoofer to auto on.

HOW TO SET UP PHASE CONTROL ON THE SUBWOOFER

As for phase, it’s probably in the zero position fancier or higher end subwoofers have a variable phase where you can kind of dial it in but more affordable budget offerings tend to have a two way phase which is either 180 degrees, or zero. Go ahead and leave it in the zero position, we will come back to that in a moment if we need to. So with our subwoofer connected to the back of our AV receiver and all of our speakers connected to the back of our AV receiver, the only thing left to do is to connect our AV receiver to our television. 

To do this, you’re going to want to take one of your HDMI cables and plug it into the monitor or video out HDMI port on the back of your receiver. These are usually pretty clearly marked, and a lot of AV receivers only have one output and many many inputs. Then you’re going to want to run that same HDMI cable into an HDMI input on your television. Now for this, I highly highly highly recommend plugging into the input on your television marked HDMI/ ARC an ARC stands for audio return channel; and all that means is that any audio coming from the TV or that you otherwise would have heard through the television speakers themselves will now be routed down to your receiver and thus come out your loudspeakers.

If you want to connect a blueray player, CD player, DVD player or anything like that, it’s pretty straightforward. If your player has an HDMI output, you’re going to want to connect the HDMI out of your player into the corresponding labelled HDMI input on the back of your receiver. So for the purposes of this example we have a blu ray player, we have simply connected it to the blu ray input on the back of our Marantz AV receiver. Once everything is connected, everything is plugged in, go ahead and plug in all the power cords to all of your various devices and power everything on.

Now we’re going to go through the basic on screen menus inside your AV receiver, in this case a Marantz nr1509. So understand that not every AV receiver has exactly the same menus laid out in exactly the same way so your experience may differ ever so slightly than what I’m about to describe but you should still be able to find the necessary menus in your on screen menu and follow along.

HOW TO CONFIGURE YOUR AV RECEIVER FOR 5.1 HOME THEATER SETUP

I’m going to take you through the steps manually but I am going to point out that if you do have an automated setup system in your AV receiver, go ahead and use that because it’s going to do it for you and that’s awesome. The first thing that we’re going to do is configure our speakers. Configuring our speakers is different from setting them up, we’ve already set them in the room but our receiver doesn’t know what we’ve essentially put in our living room so we need to tell it. 

That’s what speaker setup or speaker configuration means. So we’re going to go into that menu and we are going to tell it what type of loudspeaker we are using for our left and right front speakers; that is the two speakers on either side of the television. Now bookshelf speakers are often referred to as small. And so in this instance we would set our loudspeaker to small, but if you have floorstanding speakers capable of producing enough bass or satisfying bass, go ahead and set them too large. 

Moving on to the centre speaker, you may see an option for what kind it is; in the case of the Marantz, you have none, small or large, again, our particular centre channel in this example is small so we’re going to go ahead and set it to small. As for the surround speakers, we are also going to set those to small because obviously they are actually much smaller than our left and right mains. It’s very rare that you walk into a home theatre where the surround channels are as beefy as what you find across the front and then of course we also want to tell our receiver that we are using a subwoofer so we’re going to want to go ahead and set the subwoofer to on. 

So now that we’ve told our receiver what speakers we have, we’re going to go ahead and back out of that menu and move on down to distance. Now distance is exactly what it sounds like. It is the distance between you and your loudspeaker. The AV receiver needs to know just how far away each speaker is from you in order to make sure that the sound and all of the surround sound effects reach your ears at exactly the right time. So you may need a tape measure for this and you may even need a little bit of help. You can do this by yourself but it is a little easier with a partner. But what you’re going to want to do is from your primary listening seated position, measure roughly the distance to each loudspeaker. 

And it’s okay that the front three loudspeakers, your left, centre and right channels may all be roughly a certain distance away while your surround channels may seem closer. For example, in our room our front three speakers are roughly about 12 to 13 feet away from our seated position, whereas our surround speakers are more like eight or nine feet away. And that’s okay just because they may have a closer distance, that is to say they’re not as they don’t measure as far away. That doesn’t mean that their sound is going to be closer to you. So yes, make sure that you measure the appropriate distance to each speaker from your primary seated, listening position and do this also for your subwoofer. 

Once you’ve entered all of the distances for each of your loudspeakers in your five dot one system, go ahead and back out of that menu and the next menu that you are likely to see is going to be labelled levels. Now we are going to skip this part because this is a little bit more of a higher functionality that may require you to have a special tool that you probably don’t presently own, but basically what levels entails is you can go in and finely tune all of your loudspeakers to ensure that they are absolutely outputting the exact same volume across all five speakers and your subwoofer but to do this, you need an SPL metre. 

CROSSOVER SETUP ON AV RECEIVER

Just for the basic setup in use, know that most AV receivers have the levels set to zero across the board, go ahead and just skip by levels for now. Now below levels, you’re likely going to find the crossover sub menu. We talked about crossover briefly earlier in this article and I told you we will be coming back to it. Here it is; Now crossover remember is the point with which bass is crossed over or moved from your speakers to the subwoofer. And again, you don’t need to know really in terms of hertz what that means, just know that a lot of AV receivers default to 80 Hertz, and 80 hertz is fine. That’s a fine crossover point and it’s kind of an industry standard. 

Our bookshelf loudspeakers happen to play comfortably down to 80 hertz so we can go ahead and leave the crossover point at 80 hertz. But if your AV receiver defaults to say 100 hertz or 120 hertz, you can leave it there, you absolutely can or you can go in and select each individual speaker and set the crossover accordingly. Now for surround sound speakers which tend to be on the smaller side, we may want to use a crossover point of 100 to 120 hertz. The same is true, let’s say if you have things like the little tiny jewel speakers from say Bose. Those may not play down to 80 hertz with the same authority in which case you might want to use 100 or 120 hertz setting; all we’re doing is letting the AV receiver know that anything below 100, 120 or 80 hertz is not to be sent to our loudspeakers but instead crossed over and routed to our subwoofer. 

Now our Marantz av receiver does have another sub menu below crossover called bass settings and we’re going to go ahead and go into that because we want to make sure that the bass goes to both the subwoofer as well as to our main speakers when listening to a stereo signal. That is to say that when we use our home theatres to listen to two channel music, we want to make sure that our subwoofer is used because like I said earlier, stereo soundtracks don’t have a dedicated subwoofer feed so what we want to do is send the bass that was otherwise going to go to our main right and left speakers, we want to make sure that that bass is also going to our subwoofer so you may have to set your bass settings to LFE plus main; main in this instance is referring to our left and right main speakers. 

Now that we finished with all of the speaker setup, we need to go to the video portion of our menus and select HDMI setup. And the only thing that we’re really looking for here is to make sure that ARC or HDMI ARC is turned on. If it is in a default off position, go ahead and turn that on. And the reason we need this on is because we are using the audio return channel on the back of our Marantz receiver as well as the input, output on the TV itself, and we want sound that we are getting through our streaming services or apps on our Smart TV to be transferred from our television down to our Marantz and thus out to our loudspeakers. So we just want to make sure that ARC is turned on. 

So with ARC now enabled inside of our AV receiver, go ahead and just back out of all of the menus, but we’re not quite ready to watch a movie just yet, go ahead and grab your TV remote and enter into the menus of your television and select the audio sub menu inside your TV’s audio sub menu. 

You may have options like TV speakers, optical, HDMI ARC, things like that , we’re gonna want to make sure because we are using the ARC input output on our television, we’re gonna want to make sure that we set the audio to ARC as well. And this will make sure that when we stream using our Smart TV apps, all of the audio from the movies that we’re choosing to stream or the television programming we’re choosing to watch, or the YouTube channels we’re choosing to watch is sent down to our receiver and thus out our loudspeakers.

With ARC turned on in both the television and our AV receiver, congratulations you are done!, you have successfully installed your very first five dot one channel home theatre system in your living room.

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