What is the Correct Surround Speaker Height When You Have Multiple Rows of Seats

Some questions are academic. Few of us have home theaters that have multiple rows of seats. Few of us ever will. But we can dream! This has people thinking. What is the correct surround speaker height when you have multiple rows of seats? Do the rules for a single row of seats apply or are there different rules? Let’s discuss!

Surround Speaker Height for a Single Row of Seats

As a quick reminder, your surround speakers (the ones to your sides) should be placed directly to your sides or a little behind your seat. The tweeter of the speaker should have a clear line of sight to every ear (on their side) of the people seated. This article goes into more detail. You can also check out Dolby’s guidelines (which agree…eventually) with our recommendation.

This equates to the surround speakers being slightly elevated and directly to your sides or behind your head. Of course, you don’t want them too elevated or they will be too close to your overhead Atmos speakers to be effective.

The Logical Conclusion

The logical conclusion in this case is likely the most “correct” one. Each row should have its own surround speaker. You see this often in professional movie theaters. There will be multiple speakers on the side walls to cover the entire area.

But if you look closely, many times those speakers are not in a line parallel to the ground or ceiling. Instead, they follow the angle of the stadium seating. In a home theater, the second row of the seats is often on a riser so that the screen is clearly visible. Following this logic, in a home theater, the surround speaker for the second row would be placed higher than the surround speaker for the first row.

Aesthetic Concerns

While differing heights for your surround speakers may be “correct” based on the guidelines, it might look weird in your room. In order to have a home theater, many people have had to negotiate with their partners. Is this a hill that is worth dying on? Will it make enough of a sonic difference to justify the odd aesthetics?

Probably not.

In a movie theater, the speakers are many feet from each other and the listeners. Putting them all in a line parallel to the ground would make the speakers at the front of the theater many feet farther away from the listeners than the speakers at the back of the theater. In your home theater, you are more likely dealing with inches. Placing them all in a line parallel to the ground or ceiling so that they are at the correct height for the back row can make a measurable difference. The sound from the front row speakers would be slightly delayed and less loud for that row compared to the second row. But measurable doesn’t equate to audible.

Take Away

If you have multiple rows of seats and you want them all to have their own surround speaker, they should be at the correct height as if that were the only row of seats. This will, unfortunately, put each speaker at a slightly different height. If that bothers your aesthetic sensibility, you can place them both at the same height (the correct height for the highest row of seats). This is unlikely to affect the performance of the speakers enough that it will be audible.

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