How to Set Up a 7.1 Speaker System

Upgrading from a 5.1 system? Or perhaps you’re trying to decide whether a 5.1 or 7.1 channel home theater receiver is best for you.

Either way, Klipsch is here to show you how to set up a 7.1 system step by step.

The 7.1 configuration

The standard setup for a 7.1 configuration includes a center channel speaker, left and right front channel speakers, a subwoofer (Fig. A shows two locations options for a single subwoofer – or you can add a second subwoofer placed in both locations making a 7.2 system setup), left and right surround speakers and left and right rear surround speakers.

The rear surround speakers add more depth to the surround sound experience by spreading the sound across four speakers (the left and right surrounds and rears), rather than two, resulting in more directed, immersive sound.

The two additional speakers also help to fill larger rooms more completely. Plus, more and more films are being released or home viewing in 7.1 format, adding to its appeal.

How to set up a 7.1 System - Fig. A - The Klipsch Joint

Fig A. – The full 7.1 system setup.


The Center Channel

Place the center channel speaker immediately above or below the screen, directly facing the listening area (see Fig. B). If the speaker is being set on a shelf or stand, be sure that the leading edge of the speaker is flush with the edge of the stand, to maintain dialogue clarity.

How to set up a 7.1 System - Fig B - The Klipsch Joint

Fig. B – Center channel placement

The Front Speakers

The left and right front speakers should be placed at an equal distance from the screen and at least six feet apart; the left, right and center front speakers should be an equal distance from the ideal viewing position. To enhance the experience, some toe-in might be desirable. If so, be sure to identically angle each speaker and maintain equal distance from the viewing position.

How to set up a 7.1 system - Fig. C - The Klipsch Joint

Fig. C – Right and left front channel speakers.

The Surround Sound Speakers

The left and right surround speakers (shown as “A” in Fig. D below) must be placed equally to each side and slightly above and behind the viewing position. Left and right rear surround speakers (shown as “B”) should also be about three feet above (and behind) the seated listeners’ heads.

Hot to set up a 7.1 System - Fig. D - The Klipsch Joint

Fig. D – Four surround sound speakers placement.

The Subwoofer

The three most common subwoofer locations include corners, placement along a wall or beside a front speaker (which can create a better blend with the front speaker, at the cost of sacrificing overall volume).

Experimentation with subwoofer placement is highly encouraged; slight adjustments can create big differences in bass reproduction. (Read Where to Place a Subwoofer: 3 Tips and FAQ: Subwoofers)

How to set up a 7.1 system - Fig. E - The Klipsch Joint

Fig. E – Subwoofer placement.


And if the room you are working in to set up a 7.1 system does not fit to these exact specifications – it’s ok! Not everyone has a room with an open, rectangular space and perfectly placed power sources. You’re more than likely going to have to make some adjustments.

Got any suggestions on how to set up a 7.1 system or have a unique setup yourself? Share them in the comments section below.

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21 thoughts on “How to Set Up a 7.1 Speaker System”

  1. I have a 20×20 movie room, any recommendations on speaker placement with a 5.1 system? Or would a 7.1 be best? My couch is sitting against the back wall but this diagram shows couches sitting towards the middle of the room?

    1. My couch is also against the wall. My 7.1 Denon receiver allows 3 different configurations for those 2 extra surround channels. Rear, wide, and height. If your couch is against back wall then rear is out. You can go wide or height if your receiver allows it. Wide is out wider than your main left and right. Height is above your main left and right. Im using height configuration. It absolutely adds another element. And im sure any of the configurations will.

    2. @Marcel If you could move you couch up and give yourself some space between the back of the couch and the wall, that would be ideal. That room size is pretty big, so, if you can afford it, a 7.1 would be spectacular.

  2. I think the loss of the popularity of the speakers from the big sound of the 1970’s and why Altec Lansing won out was not the purity in sound or price it was advertising. I do not see the klipsch sound advertised. I think today we need to move them back into theathers. Try talking to Carmike and Marcus theaters. Those theaters are looking to take it to then next level. Also, sound stage theaters. The cadillac in chicago once had klipsch dry going back to them for a new system sale and microphones.

    1. @Jeremy Scott I don’t think anyone could say that Aletic Lansing “won out” but regardless Klipsch is going into a lot of theaters especially since we were first one of the first on the Dolby Atmos train.

  3. Any way to wirelessly add surround speakers to an existing 3.1 set up? Running speaker wire isn’t very easy in my new place.

    1. Kevin, it all depends on how much you’re willing to spend.

      EH – I hate to even say this, but Best Buy’s house brand Rocketfish has a Wireless Rear Speaker Kit. One of our customer’s had this for us to install. It worked, I didn’t think it sounded that great, but the customer was happy to not have had to run speaker wires. You would run speaker wires from your receiver to the transmitting unit. The receiving unit has a small built in amplifier. BEST BUY $99.99

      GOOD – Another option would be the SurroundCast by SoundCast. I have installed one of these before. It works the same way as the Rocketfish unit, but comes in two options. One option has a single receiver with 30 watts per channel. The other option has dual receivers with 50 watts per receiver. MSRP $ 199.99 for the single stereo receiver set

      BETTER – Yet another option would be the SubCast by SoundCast. This unit requires line level audio from your receiver. It would also require a stereo amplifier connected to the receiver. You’ll get the best sound with this option of the three presented here, but it’ll also cost more. The SubCast will transmit a stereo signal or as the name inplies can be used for wirelessly transmitting your sub output signal. MSRP $ 249.99 plus the cost of a stereo amplifier

      So, to recap the EH and GOOD options get signal from your surround receiver through speaker level connections.
      The BETTER option gets signal from your surround receiver through line level connections.
      All three options require AC power for both the transmitter and receiver(s).

      Kevin, I hope this helps you out more than confusing you.

      Just so you know, my experience with these products comes from my job as a CEDIA certified Custom A/V Installer.


  4. I have my speakers setup slightly different. I went with the THX configuration and love it! The difference being the left and right rear surrounds are placed next to each other and placed centrally in the rear of the room. Been curious about the speakers that should be used there though. I ended up using 2 center channel speakers in the back because I read it should be direct firing.

  5. Alex, I would really appreciate your advice…I have a rectangular basement that’s 14ft wide & 27ft long. I have a pair of the Klipsch RS-42II surrounds and the Klipsch Sub 12 subwoofer. These speaker sound so fantastic that I’m going Klipsch all the way with every speaker.
    1) Which Klipsch speakers would be best for the rears? Bookshelf(RB51 or 61’s or surrounds like the RS41II or 42II’s?
    2) I’m also toying with the idea of putting two RS42II’s on each side wall for really robust surround sound but I’m not sure if they would clash or compliment each other. Your thoughts?
    3) Can you recommend which Klipsch center and floors standing speakers would be best for a room this size? We’re sitting about 7 ft from the center channel.
    4) I’m also trying to decide between buying the Atmos speakers that sit on top of the floor standing or putting two ceiling speakers in. Your thoughts?
    I’m leaning towards buying the Onkyo 838 with Dolby Atmos and THX for my receiver. But I may have to get a 9.2 receiver if I double up on the surrounds…

    1. @Rick C We don’t spec typically specify room dimensions for our speakers, but Heritage speakers and RF-7 II are a little too big for any room smaller than about 3,000 cubic feet. That said, in order to optimize the acoustic performance of your room, minimizing standing waves and unwanted room modes, you should pick room dimensions that are not evenly divisible by the same number. For instance, 20’x15’x10’ (all dimensions divisible by 5) would lead to lots of standing waves and acoustic issues, while 22’ x 15’ x 13’ would be a good dimension (as an example), since the three dimensions are not evenly divisible. It is also ideal to have your front speakers firing down the length of the room, so your projections screen should be mounted on the short wall. For more information on room acoustics and design, check out Dr. Floyd Toole’s book Sound Reproduction. There are also many resources available online regarding room acoustics and design.

    1. James, there are lots of places to buy a 7.2 receiver…most audio shops will have options as well as the bigger stores like Best Buy, hhgregg, Crutchfield, etc. What speakers are you looking to get a receiver for?

  6. I wanted to know how I could separate my speakers to get the best performance on 7.1 receiver with is placed in a apartment for the best
    sound and effect performance?

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