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What Speakers Should I Use in a Home Theater Installation?


Find the Right Speaker Setup for Your Private Cinema

People often ask us what speakers to use in their home theater. To choose a model, we recommend you listen for yourself! There are plenty of high-end speaker brands you can trust to deliver superior sound, like Bowers & Wilkins, Paradigm, Triad, and Leon. Some audiophiles prefer one manufacturer over another; it’s ultimately up to your taste. If you’re in the Urbandale, IA area, you can hear high-fidelity sound in our Des Moines showroom.

But beyond choosing a brand, you need to know what types of speakers to install in a home theater and where to place them. How many speakers do you need in a home theater installation? Where do they go? And what is Dolby Atmos? We’ll explain it all below.

SEE ALSO: The Most Common (and Avoidable) Home Theater Problem

Getting Started: 3.1 System 

A basic home theater setup should include three speakers: a center channel speaker, a left front speaker, and a right front speaker. Then for the robust home theater experience, you’ll need to add one subwoofer. That’s what a 3.1 setup means—three speakers, one subwoofer. This won’t be surround sound yet, as you don’t have speakers at the sides or rear of the room. But a center channel speaker delivers crisp dialogue while the left and right speakers add depth to movie scenes. The subwoofer plays low frequencies, which add earth-rumbling sound effects to action scenes and goosebump-worthy bass notes to music. 

Add Surround Speakers: 5.1 System 

For the true surround sound experience, you’ll need to have left and right speakers at ear-level, horizontal to seating. These can be mounted on speaker stands, on the wall, or installed within the walls for a hidden, minimalistic aesthetic. With more sound channels, this lets audio move around the room for more dynamic results. We call this type of system 5.1because there are five speakers and one subwoofer. 

Expand with Rear Speakers: 7.1 System 

When our clients tell us that they’re looking for a luxury home theater with the best audio quality, we always recommend a 7.1 system. This includes a left and right speaker to the rear of the theater behind viewers. Now there are speakers at the front, sides, and back, covering the room in immersive sound. 

Upward-Firing Dolby Atmos Speakers: 7.1.2 System 

The ultimate surround sound installation includes Dolby Atmos speakers, which are mounted overhead and emit sound above the listener. Audio is no longer constricted to specific audio channels. Each sound is treated like an object that can ‘move’ across the room for a 3D effect. The overhead speakers are represented as the third number in speaker setups, as in 7.1.2, the two being Dolby Atmos speakers. 


Are you only looking for a small, simple setup, like a 3.1 system? Or do you want the full surround sound treatment? Reference Audio Video & Security designs and installs home theater systems with acoustic treatments, soundproofing, and smart control systems to conveniently sync all your technology. 

For professional and customized home theater installation in Iowa, contact our team here to get started today. We look forward to assisting you! 

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