Best Place for Seats in a Home Theater

There are two things we really care about when we are setting up our home theaters: How things will look and how they will sound. People agonize over how high their displays are and the angles of their speakers. But what they don’t often think about is the placement of their seats in their home theater. Where you sit in the room can make a big difference in what you see and what you hear. So, how do you know the best place for your seats in your home theater?

Stay Away from Walls

The first thing you want to NOT do is put your seats directly on a wall. We see this in small rooms all the time. There isn’t a lot of room in the…room…and they need more…room…

Okay, let’s try again.

When you need a walkway and your space is narrow, you’ll be tempted to put your display on one wall and your couch on the other. This gives you space for a coffee table or a reclining couch. But it does at least three things you don’t want. It leaves almost no space for surround speakers, can cause a slap echo from your center channel, and is terrible for bass.

Even pulling your couch off the wall just a little will make a big difference in how good your system sounds. Slap echoes can make it hard to understand dialogue, being close to the wall can make the bass boomy, and having a bit of space behind your couch can make placing your side surrounds a lot easier.

This also goes for side walls. Any seat that is up against a side wall (we’re looking at you, L-shaped couch) is not going to get good audio. Moving your couch off the side walls is also important.

Stay Away from the Middle

Unfortunately, the middle of the room isn’t much better for sound. Many of the room modes (where the soundwaves overlap and either cancel out or reinforce each other) can be found near the center of the room. Again, bad for bass and hard to make things sound even across all your seats.

We find that center placement for seats tends to happen in dedicated home theaters. This is because people desperately want to have surround back speakers. Why? Because there are labels for them on their receiver and they feel they’ll be missing out if they don’t have them. That’s not how it works. Any surround back information is folded into the side surround channels when those speakers are not present. Don’t worry. You’re hearing all the sounds.

Rule of Thirds

If you’ve spent any time in this hobby, you’ve probably heard of the rule of thirds. This is the suggestion that the best place for your seats is a third of the way into your room from the back wall. It also works from the front wall, but most people prefer the back.

There are a lot of reasons for this. First, in movie theaters, when they are calibrating the sound using the SMPTE standards (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers), they sit a third into the theater from the back wall. That alone is reason enough for most home theater enthusiasts to place their seats in that location. But it also tends to be good for audio as room modes are generally not as prominent when you are away from a wall and the middle of the room.

So, What is the Best Place for your Home Theater Seats?

Most people suggest the seating location based on what is best for audio. But that’s only half the equation. There are really two considerations here – audio and video. The video side has to do with how big of a picture you want to experience. You can save a lot of money by sitting closer to a small screen rather than sitting farther away from a big one.

Our recommendation is simple – don’t put your couch on the wall or in the center of the room. Everything else is fair game. The audio doesn’t care if you are a third of the way from the front or the back wall. It’ll sound the same. Having that physically large display my feel cool and look impressive from across the room, but in use, it is all about how big it looks when you are seated in your home theater.

You may be thinking, “Well, that isn’t a specific location!” You’re correct. Too often in home theater and AV people speak in absolutes. They say, “Your TV must be X inches off the ground,” or, “Your speakers should be exactly the same distance from you as they are from each other.” These things just aren’t true.

We are giving you the option of placing your seats just about anywhere in your room. This is to empower people rather than discourage them. Too often people will think that if they can’t place their (insert home theater gear) properly, they won’t do any of it. No! Keep your seats away from the walls and the middle of the room, and you will be doing pretty well. Now, let’s talk a little more about buying the right screen size…

Where are your seats’ placed in your home theater? Let us know in the comment or on our Facebook page!

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