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Home theater speaker layout - 5.1 and 7.1 recommendations from Dolby, THX and ITU

by Nyal Mellor March 19, 2013

Where do I put all these speakers in my 5.1 or 7.1 channel home theater? That's the question we tackle in this article. There are three main organizations that provide guidance on speaker placement. They are THX, Dolby and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). THX and Dolby guidance is directed principally for movie production and reproduction whilst the ITU recommendations are targeted primarily at music.

Left, center and right

  • Angular separation of left and right speakers between 44 and 60 degrees. THX recommends 45, Dolby 44-60 and the ITU 60. We recommend 45 degrees or slightly wider, tucking the left and right speakers inside the edges of an acoustically transparent screen. This gives best tracking of onscreen action to audio. Placement of speakers significantly outside the screen boundaries can sometimes result in a disconnect between sound and screen.

Two surround speakers

  • Angular separation of 110-120 degrees. The Dolby and THX recommendations are 90-110. We prefer a slightly wider separation in line with the ITU that allows for rearward localizations when required.

Four surround speakers

  • Angular separation of 60-100 degrees for sides and 135-150 for rears. Dolby and THX recommendations are 90-110 for the side surround speakers. Dolby recommend the rears be placed at 135-150 degrees whereas THX recommend both speakers be placed together on the back wall. We prefer the front pair to be level or slightly in front of the main listening position and the rear pair to be at around 135 degrees as Floyd Toole recommends in his book Sound Reproduction.

Nyal Mellor
Nyal Mellor


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