How to Configure a Home Theatre System

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How to Configure a Home Theatre System

Modern technology can transform every living room into a comfortable home theatre, where both the sound and the pictures meet the requirements of keen cinema enthusiasts. Home theatre systems can be bought as complete packages or as separate devices, including a television, speakers, and DVD or Blu-ray recorder, and the cables necessary to connect them. Complete packages include devices that are compatible with each other, so they give the best results. However, individual components can be purchased and configured to work together correctly. As home theatre systems are expensive and should be considered as investments, the proper configuration means that they perform at their best and viewers can enjoy them fully. When configuring the system, the devices, the connections between them, and their location play an important role. Home theatre systems are available from high street electronics shops and department stores, as well as online at sites, such as eBay.

Components of a Home Theatre System

Home theatre systems consist of a display unit, such as a television or a projector; surround sound speakers and subwoofer; and media sources, such as DVD or Blu-ray recorders. When the devices are purchased as part of a complete package, they can either be installed by a professional, who will ensure the correct configuration, or the buyer can use the instruction manual to set up the system.

Television for a Home Theatre System

The screen or television should be placed where it can deliver the best picture. Viewing the screen from too far away or too close can adversely affect the cinematic experience. If too far away, the on-screen action may be unengaging. Pixels and individual lines may be visible, if too close. The exact distance from the screen largely depends on the type of display resolution and the screen size. The screen size is measured as the diagonal distance from one corner to the opposite corner. The following table presents the recommended viewing distances.

Display Resolution

Recommended Viewing Distance


3 x screen size


1.8 x screen size

Widescreen 16:9

1.5 x screen size to 1.9 x screen size

When choosing the best site for a television, the viewing angle should be also taken into account. Plasma televisions usually have a wider viewing angle, and so are visible from more locations around the room, whereas watching an LCD screen from a sharp angle does not provide the best viewing experience.

Speakers for a Home Theatre System

Home theatres usually have 5.1 speaker systems, which consists of five speakers and one subwoofer to create true surround sound. 2.1 and 7.1 speaker systems are also available.

2.1 Stereo Speakers for a Home Theatre System

The 2.1 stereo system is suitable for smaller rooms and it consists of two front speakers and one subwoofer for low bass frequencies. The two speakers are put on either side of the television, while the subwoofer is located behind one of these speakers. For this set-up, a dedicated amplifier is also required. The receiver should have a subwoofer output.

5.1 Surround Sound Speakers for a Home Theatre System

The 5.1 surround sound system is the standard set-up used in many homes and most DVDs also come with 5.1 sound. The 5.1 system consists of two front speakers, one centre channel speaker, and two rear speakers that are put on each side, behind the listener. This system is used with an A/V receiver that has outputs for all the separate channels. The receiver decodes the signal from the DVD or Blu-ray recorder and sends it to the five speakers and the subwoofer.

7.1 Surround Sound Speakers for a Home Theatre System

The 7.1 surround sound system is similar to the 5.1 system, but it has two additional speakers at the rear in order to immerse the listener more deeply into the sound. 7.1 systems give the illusion of more space. They are also connected to an A/V receiver. 7.1 systems are used in larger rooms because of the number of speakers.

Cables for a Home Theatre System

Home theatre systems have many components, which are connected by cables unless they are wireless, for example, wireless speakers. A complete home theatre package should come equipped with all of the necessary cables, but if the buyer is purchasing separate components, they need to ensure that they have cables of the correct type and length so that there is no loss in sound performance or image quality. Proper cable management is necessary to protect the cables and to ensure that they do not cause a hazard.

Configuring the Home Theatre System

In order to get the best out of a home theatre system, the devices should be connected and placed correctly in the room. Once each device is in its designated place, the television and the surround sound speakers should be calibrated according to the room to achieve the best performance. This process can be completed either by the buyer or by a professional. The advantage of the buyer performing the task is that they can adjust the devices if they need to be replaced or moved. Some audio receivers come with calibration software that makes the task easier. The calibration takes a little bit of time, but it ensures an excellent cinematic experience.

Calibrating the Speakers of a Home Theatre System

In general, speakers require some calibration in order to perform at their best. The speakers are calibrated once they are set-up and switched on. The calibration should be done while sitting in the area where the viewer will be watching films or television. This is known as the primary listening position. The most accurate calibration is done with a sound level meter that matches the speaker levels. The sound level meter should stay at the same position during the calibration process and at the level of a typical viewer. When calibrating the speakers, the viewer should not be positioned between the sound source and the meter. To calibrate the speaker, the audio/video receiver has a test tone menu that lists all the speaker channels, for example, front left and rear right. The test tones are played in the order that they are listed in this menu and the speakers are adjusted until they all play at the same volume.

Performance of the Room for a Home Theatre System

When configuring the home theatre system, it is important to consider the room in which the system is located as this can have a great impact on performance. Rooms have different acoustic qualities that affect the sound, and the lighting affects the presentation of the film on the screen.

Room Interior and Home Theatre Acoustics

In order to test the acoustics of a room, buyers should check whether there is a ringing sound after clapping the hands. If this is the case, then the room reflects too much sound. This effect can impair the surround sound quality, but it can be reduced in a number of ways. Hardwood floors should be covered with carpet, especially in front of the speakers. In general, hard surfaces need to be balanced by softer surfaces. Bookshelves filled with books are good at absorbing the reflected sound. For more comprehensive help, bass absorbers and wall diffusers can be used to improve the sound quality.

Lighting for a Home Theatre System

While watching a film, it is important to keep the natural light in the room to the minimum as it affects the ability to see a clear picture on the screen. Rooms that have windows can be blocked with black curtains during daylight. Modern high-definition televisions provide the best picture quality if there is a bit of light behind the screen. Dimly lit lamps can be placed in the room where they do not produce reflections or glare on the screen.

Furniture for a Home Theatre System

Specialist furniture for housing the components can contribute to the sound and visual performance of a home theatre system. The correct stands or mounts enable proper ventilation, and management of the cables.

Buying a Home Theatre System on eBay

Home theatre systems can be bought as complete sets or separate components. If you choose to buy a complete package, then the devices will be compatible. These can be found on eBay by entering a phrase such as, home theatre system,, in the search box at the top of any page. If you wish to create your own home theatre system from individual components, then search for each part, such as, DVD player. You can then sort the initial search results by their price or condition. Once you narrow down the options, you should read the item description carefully and look at any photographs, so that you can purchase the best system for your home.

Home theatre systems can be large and expensive to transport, so it may be a good idea to consider looking for local sellers who may agree to allow a local collection to reduce delivery costs.


Modern technology offers many opportunities to create the best home theatre system, but without proper configuration all of the devices may not perform at their best. The configuration starts with the correct selection, connection, and placement of each device. The configuration should suit the size and shape of the room. The viewing distance is in direct proportion to the screen size. The position of the speakers depend on the number of speakers and their role in the surround sound system. Speakers and other devices should be calibrated either by the buyer or by a professional in order to ensure that the sound and vision are well balanced. Sound reflections can be reduced with carpets, books, and heavy curtains that also block natural light that may cause a glare on the screen. Dimly lit lamps behind the screen enhance the viewing experience. The best furniture for the home theatre provides good ventilation and enables safe management of cables. eBay sellers offer a range of home theatre systems.

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