Home cinema systems: How to set up a home cinema system
- Which? video guide, plus easy step-by-step instructions for setting up speakers with your TV
- How to get the best sound from your TV using a 5.1 home cinema system
- Set-up advice for odd-shaped living rooms
- Read our home cinema reviews of the best home cinema kits to find a Which? Best Buy that's right for you.
Our video guide shows you how to set up your home cinema system and enjoy a surround-sound movie experience at home, or you can follow the illustrated step-by-step instructions below. Also, read our expert guide on how to buy the best home cinema system to find the best system that's right for you.
Step-by-step guide to setting up a home cinema system
Attach cables to speakers first and then the amplifier (making sure it’s switched off). Doing it the other way round could short out your system.
Many receivers have an automatic station preset function. This means the receiver will search and store radio stations at the touch of a button.
However, it’s often worth manually entering the stations yourself as the automatic scan can be slow and inaccurate.
Placing the speakers
In an ideal world, we would all have a square living room with a large TV located centrally on one wall and the sofa placed centrally on the opposite side.
Unfortunately most living rooms just don't conform to the home-cinema ideal but whatever the shape of yours, follow these basic rules to get the best out of your system.
Front speakers: Ideally place these one metre to the left and right of the TV, facing the sofa.
Centre speaker: Place as near to the TV as you can – preferably directly below.
Subwoofer: Ideally, it should go in the middle of the front wall, otherwise place it in the nearest spare corner.
Rear speakers: Place these at opposite corners of the room, to the side/rear of the main viewing position. The rear speakers handle much of the higher frequencies, which give the impression that sound is coming from around the room.
Once you’ve located the surround speakers and attached them to the amplifier with cables, programme the system so that it knows how far the speakers are from the viewer using the remote control.
This is important for a realistic surround-sound experience because otherwise you’ll hear sound from closer speakers before sound from speakers further away.
You also need to set the speaker levels so it sounds as though the speakers are at the same volume. To do this, sit in the main viewing seat and set the system to fire a test tone to each speaker. Adjust the sound levels until they sound as if they’re at the same volume.
As every room has its own shape and layout, and other furniture will affect the sound, you’ll need to tinker with the position of the speakers or adjust the sound delay and volume levels.