How to Make Every Speaker Work With Surround Sound

How to Make Every Speaker Work With Surround Sound

Surround sound is a fantastic way to make movie nights even more enjoyable. You can use most speakers for surround sound.

But how can you make every speaker work with surround sound?

Here’s how you can make every speaker work with surround sound:

  1. Use similar speakers (or pairs of speakers).
  2. Only use passive speakers.
  3. Check the impedance rating on your speakers and receiver.
  4. Mount the speakers.
  5. Wire the speakers.
  6. Plug the wires into the receiver.
  7. Set the correct mode on the receiver.
  8. Test the speakers.

There are a few important things you should know before building a customized surround sound system.

You can use pretty much any speaker if you know what you’re doing. So, keep reading to learn how.

1. Use Similar Speakers (or Pairs of Speakers)

Use Similar Speakers (or Pairs of Speakers)

You should use identical speakers in your surround sound system.

If you’re building a 7.1 surround sound system, you can get away with a pair of different speakers in the top corners.

In truth, some home-theater-in-a-box systems use different pairs of speakers. And it can work pretty well if you know what you’re doing.

For example, the Fluance Elite 7.1 Home Theater from Amazon.com uses three different pairs. There are larger and smaller bookshelf speakers as well as floor-standing ones.

This kind of setup allows for a lot of versatility when mounting.

The sound that you get from this system is hard to match, even with the best custom home theater.

So, if manufacturers combine different speakers, you can do it too.

Nonetheless, I strongly encourage you to use identical speakers for surround sound, so the result is a well-balanced, immersive sound experience.

If you mix and match different speakers, it can throw the balance out of whack.

At the very least, use identical pairs of speakers for every side.

For example, you can use larger speakers in the front corners. The rear speakers are less important, so put them in the back.

Frankly, you don’t need a center speaker, especially if you only use the system for music. But the center speaker is still pretty useful for dialogue.

Of course, the center speaker is the odd one out, so you can use a different one.

I recommend the Klipsch R-52C from Amazon.com. It’s a large, powerful center speaker with two woofers and a tweeter.

Dialogues in movies sound crystal-clear, even in the middle of gunfire or explosions.

It’s a true high-end speaker for your home theater.

2. Only Use Passive Speakers

Passive Speakers

In case you didn’t know, there are active and passive speakers. Active speakers are self-contained because they have a built-in amplifier and typically plug into the socket.

On the other hand, passive speakers don’t have any electrical components. They just have the speaker driver and enclosure. You need an amplifier to power a passive speaker.

However, you can’t use active speakers with an amplifier. Even if you could theoretically plug them in, don’t do it.

You’ll destroy both the speakers and the amplifier in one fell swoop.

But how to tell them apart?

Passive speakers usually don’t have any wires coming out of them. You need to use your own.

Also, they don’t have any external power plug.

Active speakers typically use the 3.5 mm (0.14 in) jack so that you can plug them into your TV or computer.

Therefore, only use passive speakers for your home theater system.

3. Check the Impedance Rating on Your Speakers and Receiver

Before you plug in anything, check the impedance rating. The most common are 6 and 8 ohms.

While you can combine different impedance ratings, you can only do it if the speakers are within the amplifier’s ohm rating.

The most common rating you’ll come across is the 6-12 ohm range.

To learn more about impedance ratings, watch this handy YouTube video:

Using speakers with higher or lower impedance than what your amplifier is rated for causes issues.

The speakers won’t work outright, there’ll be distortion, and the speakers might even die.

So, technically, you can use every speaker with surround sound. Just make sure it’s within the receiver’s ohm range.

4. Mount the Speakers

Now that you checked all your speakers, it’s time to mount them.

Speaker placement is crucial for surround sound. Crutchfield explains how to place your speakers for both 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound.

If you’re using different pairs of speakers, mount them in the same places. For example, the left and right speakers should be identical.

The same goes for the rear and front speakers.

5. Wire the Speakers

Wire the Speakers

With the speakers in place, it’s time to wire them. But make sure you’re using the correct wire gauge for the distance and impedance rating.

Almost all speakers in a home theater system are happy with a 14 gauge wire. For that, I recommend the GearIT Speaker Wire from Amazon.com.

It’s made of CCA, which doesn’t oxidize. The wire is also affordable and durable enough to outlast your speakers.

Speakers use several different plugs. You can use this glossary to learn which type of plug you need for your speakers and amplifier.

Ultimately, you have the advantage of using the exact wire length you need for your custom surround sound.

Just cut the wire to the appropriate size, and plug it in.

6. Plug the Wires Into the Receiver

Plug the Wires Into the Receiver

Wiring the speakers was the easy part. Now you have to plug the wires into your amplifier or receiver.

Most use multi-channel RCA, as it’s the easiest one to work with for surround sound.

The ports are labeled, so plug the wires in accordingly. You can refer to your amplifier instruction manual if you need help.

For example, L and R are left and right, CEN is the center speaker, and SUB is the subwoofer.

If you see FR and FL, that’s the front right and front left.

I recommend the Denon AVR-S540BT 5.2 Receiver from Amazon.com. It supports five speakers and two subwoofers for an immersive surround sound system.

Plus, it has Bluetooth.

7. Set the Correct Mode on the Receiver

Amplifiers and receivers have a few different DSP modes. They essentially tell the amplifier how to power the speakers.

You need to set your receiver to surround sound. You either do it with the remote or on the amplifier itself, though it depends on the model you have.

If you’re having trouble with this step, check the instruction manual.

8. Test the Speakers

Now that everything is up and running, it’s time to test your surround sound. Turn the system and your TV on, and put on your favorite movie.

Or, even better, use a surround test like the following one:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJWL1FuOjIQ

Take your time testing the speakers. And make sure that they all work and sound equal.

If the rear speakers are slightly quieter, don’t worry. That’s normal and expected.

Troubleshooting Your Speaker Issues

There are all sorts of issues that can happen with a surround sound setup, such as:

  • One speaker isn’t working.
  • One channel or side isn’t working.
  • There’s buzzing, distortion, and popping noises.
  • Overheating.

If you’re having a problem with speakers not working at all, don’t worry. It’s usually just the wiring.

Check that it’s plugged in correctly on both the speaker and the amplifier. Also, restart the receiver just to be sure.

If everything seems all right, but the speaker still doesn’t work, try a different speaker wire. Or maybe the speaker itself isn’t working.

Try plugging it into a different port to see if it works.

If everything works fine, but you hear distortion, and the receiver is overheating, you need an upgrade.

The speakers are drawing more power than what the receiver can handle.

If the issue becomes more apparent at a higher volume, it’s the amplifier.

Either switch to less powerful speakers or get an amp with a higher wattage rating.

Final Thoughts

Now you know how to make every speaker work with surround sound.

You don’t need any special “left” and “right” speakers because any speaker can work in any position.

You just need to use passive speakers with the appropriate impedance rating.

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