Room Acoustics

How To Place Surrounds for Off-Center Couch

Life is full of compromises, and home theater is no different. You may be able to center your TV on the wall, but your couch? It needs to be a bit off-center. Maybe it is because of the layout of the room, maybe it needs to be out of the way of a door…it doesn’t matter. The couch is not perfectly centered on the TV and now you have an issue. You’ve got to place your surround speakers and you’re not sure what you should do. Should you place your surround speakers as recommended in relation to the TV or around your off-center couch? What to do?

Following the Rules can be Hard

A big part of home theater is making sure you get the best sound. When you can’t place everything perfectly, it can stress a lot of people out. They want the best, but they don’t know how to get it. It makes sense that the sound should line up with the image. The center should be under the TV (or over), the left and right speakers should flank the TV, and the surrounds should be placed in relation to all those speakers. Like so:

5.1 speakers
Except without all the dumb angles.

If a couch is off-center, then it will be closer to one of your surround speakers than the other. Your auto-setup program in your AV receiver can compensate for this if you place your microphone at the center of your couch rather than centered on the TV. But that’s not how most people (including us) recommend you take your measurements (for a variety of reasons).

Trust Your Brain

The real question is where do normally sit on your off-center couch? If you sit dead center to the TV, then the fact that the couch is off-center shouldn’t matter. You would place your surrounds at the recommended locations in relation to the TV and not worry that your couch is off-center and closer to one than the other.

But if you use your couch normally (sit in the center of your couch with people to either side), then you should center the surround speakers on the couch. It will sound much more natural to everyone on the couch if your surrounds are centered. The people on the side closest to the surround speaker won’t be deafened by the speaker and not hear the other. Your brain will do a good job of making it all sound natural to you even though your couch (and surround speakers) are off-center from the image.

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