There's no perfect formula for speaker placement. The size of your room, the furniture in it, and your own ears make it impossible to come up with a specific formula.
Don't put too much faith in anyone saying you absolutely have to put your speakers here or there or your theater will sound poorly. Its like saying there's only one single way you should hold a golf club. You have to listen to your ears and do whatever sounds right to you.
Centers: Its hard to say which speaker is actually the most important in a home theater. Though all speakers have important jobs, the center speaker does a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to movie dialogue. The center should generally be placed either just below or just above the screen.
Try to line-up the front edge of the speaker with the front of the television. This will avoid any refections off the top of the television's cabinet and help reduce distortions. If the speaker is placed too far behind the television or too far in front of it, our brains will see the actors on screen at a certain depth but will perceive their voices coming from a different location. This can cause some confusion and become annoying.
If you have a projector, the best speaker placement is actually right behind the projector screen. For this application, its important your screen be acoustically transparent. This means the projector screen's reflective material won't interfere with the sound coming from the speaker.
Fronts: Your left and right front speakers should be placed no less than six feet apart with the viewing screen directly in between. Each speaker channel has a slightly different audio track and putting them close together makes it harder for you to hear whats coming from where. They should also be placed about half-way up the height of the screen and aimed at the audience.
Surrounds: Surround sound speakers should be placed to either side of the listening audience and slightly elevated about 6 or 7 feet off the floor. Surround speakers are intended to compliment the front speakers, not overpower them so be sure not to aim your surrounds directly at the listeners ears.
If your home theater is especially narrow, you can simply place the surrounds behind the listeners. Depending on the shape of your room, you may not be able to mount the surrounds just anywhere. Feel free to mount one speaker to a ceiling or wall mount while placing the other surround on a bookshelf. What's important is how the speakers sound to you.
Subwoofer: Subs are easy to position because low frequencies are omni-directional. A cool effect of low frequency sound is if you place your sub near a wall, you'll get more base. Put the sub in a corner where three edges meet (two walls and the floor) and you get even more bass. These are called standing waves and aren't welcomed just anywhere, but in this case they're good to have. The drawback here is your bass can sound a bit unspecific.
Put your sub in a corner and play a good action movie. Then sit down and listen. If you have a powered sub, adjust its volume control to help control any boominess. If you aren't satisfied, consider moving the sub either away from a wall, or closer to a corner. If you're not quite satisfied with the sound of your theater, adjust your speaker placement one speaker at a time until you get a good balance.
Proper Speaker Placement
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