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Freestanding vs. Architectural Surround Sound Speakers

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When You Might Choose Freestanding Speakers

You’re Adding Speakers to an Existing Room

One of the key differences between freestanding and architectural speakers is installation. Freestanding speakers, whether bookshelf or tower, don’t require opening walls. If you’re upgrading an existing room and don’t want to tear into walls for built-in speakers, then choose freestanding instead.

You Prefer to Showcase Your Audio Gear

Whether you’re upgrading an existing room or building from scratch, you might still choose freestanding speakers if you love the aesthetic appeal that they add to your home theater. After all, many high-end tower and bookshelf speakers today are works of art! Still, keep in mind that large speakers—especially those placed on either side of your display—could distract viewers from the screen.

SEE ALSO: Home Theater FAQ: What to Know About Screens and Projectors

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The Basic Components You Need for a Surround Sound System

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Speakers

As we mentioned, speakers are an obvious component of any surround sound system. You have lots of choices for speaker type, from bookshelf and tower to in-wall and in-ceiling (or a combination of these). Speaker configuration is also up to you, but factors like budget and room size will help determine how many speakers can fit properly in your home theater or media room.

A/V Receiver

To drive your speakers, you’ll need an A/V receiver at the very least. An A/V receiver is the nerve center of your system. Not only does it power your speakers, but it decodes various surround sound formats. Most high-quality receivers also feature room correction technology to overcome acoustic anomalies in any space. An A/V receiver is a cost-effective alternative to separates and delivers simpler connectivity.

Processor/Amplifier

Discerning cinephiles and audiophiles who demand the very best in audio performance might want to separate the audio processing and amplification duties to separate components rather than use an A/V receiver that does all the work in one system. Processors are specifically designed for top audio performance and feature connections you might not find on receivers. Plus, because the processor and amplifier aren’t crammed together in one box, the result you get is clearer sound and more horsepower.

SEE ALSO: McIntosh MX170: Create the Cinematic Soundstage of Your Dreams

Proper Cabling

Now it’s time for connections! You’ll need speaker wire to connect your speakers to your receiver or processor and amplifier. Wire gauge will depend on the distance of your wire runs and the impedance ratings of your speakers. Also, keep in mind that you’ll need properly-rated wire for in-wall runs.

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Surround Sound: What’s the Best Speaker Setup for You?

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The Soundbar Setup

If you’re on a budget or have a small movie room, you might start with a soundbar like the Sonos Arc. The Arc has 11 drivers and can replicate the sound field of a five-channel surround system on its own. The Arc also supports Dolby Atmos signals and features two up-firing drivers to create a sense of height.

We could go on about its features, but the point we want to drive home is that it’s possible to enjoy surround sound with just a soundbar—if you know which one to look for. Still, we’d recommend pairing it with at least a subwoofer for some punching bass and a more immersive audio experience.

The Standard 5.1 Setup

5.1 might be the most basic surround setup, but it’s a step up from any soundbar-based system. Unlike a soundbar, a 5.1 setup uses separate speakers that sit around you to envelop you in the action. This configuration includes three front speakers, two surround speakers, and one subwoofer.

While the Arc is already powered, a 5.1 setup will usually require a receiver or processor/amp combo to decode audio formats and power your speakers (we’ll talk more on that in the next blog). If you choose a 5.1 system, make sure your front left and right speakers are angled inward toward the listening position, your surrounds are on either side of the listening position, and all speakers are at ear level.

SEE ALSO: Home Theater FAQ: Choosing the Best Seating Type and Placement

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FAQ: How Can You Optimize Your Home Theater Audio?

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Finding the Ideal Home Audio System for Your Dedicated Theater

Cinemas in Salt Lake City and around the country remain closed or at limited capacity, which has led to a massive surge in home theater installations. With this newfound interest come a lot of questions. What does it take to craft a stimulating viewing experience in the comfort of home? How do you know if you have the right components or design?

With this in mind, we are starting a three-part series on common home theater questions ranging from the correct flatscreen display to the best theater seating. We are kicking things off with one of the most critical components of your favorite movies: audio. From the sinister strings that give you goosebumps during your favorite scary movies to the resounding explosions that shake the ground in action movies, sound carries the narrative forward just as much as the images on the screen.

That's why it's essential to ensure your home theater has an immersive home audio system that places you in the middle of the action. Below we outline what immersive audio is and what you need to accomplish in your own dedicated theater.

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