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How to set up a home cinema system

By Martin Pratt

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 step-by-step instructions below.

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A good home cinema system can make a serious difference to your enjoyment of movies, TV shows and sports.

Littering speakers around a room and finding the right way to get everything connected up can seem like a daunting task, and there are some important things to know to do it properly.

Read on for our tips on effective home cinema setup, or dip straight into our video below.

Not bought a home cinema system yet? Go straight to our Best Buy home cinema page to find the best system to improve your sound.

Step-by-step: setting up a home cinema system


Plugging in

Attach the cables to each of the speakers first and then to the amplifier, making sure it’s switched off. Doing it the other way round could short out your system.


Tuning in

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 give the impression that sound is coming from all around the room.

Setting up

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.

Not all home cinema systems were created equal - click here to see reviews of home cinema systems from some of the top manufacturers like Bose, Samsung and Onkyo.


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