What’s More Important for Surrounds – Angle or Distance?

There are tons of guides for setting up your home theater. We’ve got a few thoughts on the matter as well. Oftentimes, you end up having to make compromises. Most people don’t have rooms that are completely dedicated to home theater. They need to live in these spaces. This means that speakers won’t be at the exact distances and angles that are recommended by all the guides. If you are going to have to make compromises, what is more important? For your surround speakers should you care more about placing them at the correct distance or angle from your seat? Let’s discuss!

When Angles Are Most Important

Generally speaking, the number one consideration for surround speakers should be the angle over the distance. If your placement choices are too close (or far away) and the right angle against the correct distance but the angle is all wrong, go for the more correct angle. All the guides (that we trust) have a range of angles for each of your speakers. Getting your speakers inside those ranges is important so that the sounds are coming from the correct place in the room.

We’ve seen surround speakers placed in front of the listening position. The reason we were given was that the proper placement (to the side of the couch or a little behind) would put the speakers too close to the listeners. While that is certainly true, they traded compromised placement for a placement that can never give them a convincing surround experience.

Dolby Atmos 5.1.4 speaker layout

When Distance is Most Important

When we look at Dolby’s recommendations for surround speakers, the angles given are 90° to 110°. The speakers are supposed to be placed at ear level or slightly elevated (to give the speaker a clear line of sight to your ear). But what if those angles would mean that your speaker is very close to your seat? What if you could place them farther away but they’d be a little higher than recommended or maybe further behind you?

In that case, we’d recommend you go for the further placement. A slight sacrifice of the angle for greater distance would likely sound much better. The sound would be more diffuse and less overpowering for those sitting on the edges of the couch.

Take Away

Your first consideration should be getting your surrounds within the correct angle before you worry about distance from your seat. All things being equal, having your speakers at the correct angle from your seat will make the most difference in your surround experience. If you can get your speaker to a better distance without too much compromise to the angle, then you should at least experiment with the better distance.

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