Can You Use Satellite Speakers as Fronts?

I don’t know if anyone else has noticed, but the economy isn’t great. Money is tight and discretionary spending is hard to come by. Well, that doesn’t stop some of us from wanting to start investing in our home theater dreams. Many people will suggest starting with bookshelf speakers and then moving them to surround positions as you upgrade later. But that’s not your plan. You plan on sitting very close to your surround speakers so you really only need satellite models. These small speakers were never designed to go at the front of your room. But what would happen if you did? Could you use satellite speakers as fronts and then move them to surround positions when you upgraded? Let’s discuss!

Of Course You Can…Carefully

Satellite speakers are meant to be placed fairly close to your seat while your fronts are designed to operate much farther away. Those satellite speakers were never meant to be played as loud, or recreate frequencies as low, as your fronts. That’s not necessarily a problem, but it does mean you have to be careful with them.

To combat the lack of bass output, you’ll need to set the crossover in your AV receiver higher than we’d normally recommend. If you are using a normal bookshelf or floorstanding speakers are fronts, we’d normally recommend 80Hz. If you are running a room correction or auto-setup program, it will probably set it much higher. Leave it there! If you lower the crossover to 80Hz, you risk damaging those small speakers. Double-check your speaker’s specs to ensure that the crossover isn’t set too low. You can adjust it higher even if the room correction doesn’t agree.

Secondly, be VERY careful with your volume. Your AV receiver may have more than enough power to reach reference levels, but that doesn’t mean your speakers will survive the process. Take care with the volume and your satellite speakers will function just fine as fronts.

One Caveat

One type of satellite speaker won’t work very well as fronts. Any trapezoidal bi-pole or di-pole speaker wouldn’t be a good option here. Those speakers have, for the most part, fallen out of favor with the home theater crowd. Mostly because Dolby is trying to pretend they never recommended them. They were designed to recreate the diffuse sound one would experience from multiple side surround speakers in a movie theater. This diffuse sound works well for a traditional 5.1 surround system (and we still sometimes recommend these types of speakers), but are no longer recommended for Atmos and object-based audio formats. If you are planning on buying bi-pole or di-pole satellite speakers, they won’t be very convincing as fronts.

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