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Understanding Home Theater Speakers

by Ronald Elias

There's nothing quite like great home theater speakers.

Between the convenience of a home theater being only a few steps away, to being able to watch whatever movie you want whenever you want with amazing picture and sound -- yeah, a decked out home theater is something else. At Audio Video Consultants, we know a thing or two -- or three -- about home theaters, and we love helping families get set up with their personal dream theaters.

One of the most important parts of a home theater is the audio, but we realize that not everybody has spent years auditing, curating, and designing systems for theater spaces large and small. This week we want to highlight a couple of things to be mindful of when thinking about audio for your home theater system.


Five Point What Now?

Home theater speakers come in several different designations, but the one that you see and hear most often is 5.1. Why 5? Why the point one? It's actually easier to understand than you might think.

The number in front is the number of full bandwidth channels -- and thus speakers -- that your set up has. So, in a traditional 5.1 set up, you have five channels/speakers: A center speaker, left and right front speakers, and then left and right rear speakers.

But what about the .1? We were getting there! The .1 refers to the low-frequency channel -- in other words, the subwoofer. You could even see .2, or .4 where a system has not one but two or four subwoofer channels -- those can be common for high performance theaters to help provide even bass throughout the space.


Dolby Atmos

Surround sound has been the standard for home theater audio for a while. While TVs went through SD and HD and 4K, audio has, mostly, stayed the same.

And then came Atmos.

Dolby Atmos was first used in commercial theaters, but now that same technology is available for home theaters, as well. Instead of producing sound in "channels," Dolby Atmos produces sound in three-dimensional space, putting you in the middle of your favorite movies. The biggest difference is the addition of ceiling and/or upward facing speakers, which -- hold on to your butts here -- really add to the immersion, as well as adding another .2 to the standard nomenclature. So, an Atmos theater would be 5.1.2, or something similar, to account for the left and right top middle overhead speakers. And trust us, once you hear something in Atmos you'll never want to go back.

The Difference a Room Makes

Speakers are important in how your home theater sounds, that's true. But they aren't the only thing that matters. The room your theater is in matters a lot, too!

Everything from the height of your ceiling, the construction of your walls, and even the fabric and placement of the furniture can have an effect on how sound makes its way through your room. If you've paid close attention in movie theaters -- or even regular theaters or concert halls -- you may have noticed shaped and slanted panels on the walls. These acoustic panels can be used to help tune a room to sound better -- and we can use similar acoustic panels to help make your home theater sound better, too.

Getting everything to sound just right is a process though, and one that is best left to the experts. That's why we offer professional room calibration and speaker placement services, and we can help you plan, prepare, and build out your very own home theater. Just give us a call at 610-430-8300 or head over to our contact page -- we're glad to help get your theater sounding better than ever!

Whether you have a home theater -- or are just starting to explore putting one in -- we're here to help you figure out the best solution for your needs. No matter the size or scope of the project, our expert team is ready to help you in any way we can. And, for more information about home theaters and how to make the best of your home tech, make sure to keep an eye right here on our blog page!