What Speakers Do Movie Theaters Use: A Guide to Setting Up Your Home Theater Speaker System

What Speakers Do Movie Theaters Use
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Home entertainment enthusiasts and audiophiles like keeping their setups to themselves, especially if they have found the perfect mix that only they must have. It’s a bit selfish, yes, but did you know that knowing what speakers do movie theaters use can bring your acoustics up to their game?

When someone mentions movie theaters, the first thing you would assume is that they use high-end speaker systems to produce the best sound possible, staying close to what the original soundtrack is meant to be. Well, the speakers used for commercial movie theaters are a bit bigger than what you are used to seeing, but they technically use the same kind of speakers that you use for your setup, albeit on a much larger scale.

What Speakers Do Movie Theaters Use?

The basic commercial theater sound system involves a series of speakers and subwoofers that are all connected to another series of power amplifiers which are then connected to the central mixing engine that allows you to manipulate of each speaker. Think of it as a lighting system where each group of lights is wired towards a corresponding switch in your circuit breaker.

Movie theaters mostly provide 6.1 surround sound, and it can even be higher than that, but the least that a theater can go for is the 6.1 playback. A mixing engine takes the place of the central console that you usually would find in smaller setups. Nowadays, digital mixing engines are used together with a computer program that configures each set of speakers for the highest quality sound possible.

From this point, audio signals are coursed through a DA card that effectively redistributes the signal to the set of power amps connected to it. The audio signal is transmitted to the different loudspeakers that are strategically placed around the room, and the subwoofers placed in front.

Most commercial movie theaters use name brand audio set-up while some prefer customizing their set of speakers to meet their acoustic requirements. So, what speakers do movie theaters use? About almost anything that they can buy, but they purchase several sets of it so that they can magnify the sound properly.

Advantages of Using the Home Theater Speaker System

Commercial movie theaters use larger speakers which means you can replicate the same sound quality as your set-up, albeit using smaller speakers and without a mixing engine. However, be forewarned that using the same setup as a movie theater will increase your electricity consumption and the cost of maintaining it is not cheap as well.

  • More Natural Surround Sound

As an advantage though, home theater sound systems have greater fidelity, and they tend to produce a more natural surround sound as compared to commercial movie theaters. This is because the area to be covered by the audio signals is smaller which means there is minimal loss accounted for during transmission.

  • Less Complex and Easy to Manipulate

Another advantage of setting up a smaller speaker system is that the controls are less complex and easier to manipulate than its bigger sibling. The technical systems used in movie theaters are actually eliminated because these same systems are available via the source components.

Setting Up the Speakers

The goal is to have the speakers surround the audience from all directions, hence the term surround sound. But there is a strategic method of placing each speaker in a way that its general position complements the other parts of the setup.

A typical 6.1 surround sound set-up includes a center channel, three loudspeakers and two surround speakers plus a subwoofer that serves as the “.1” in any setup. These are all wired to be directly connected to the main console that connects to the source components in your home theater set-up. Most of these are controlled via remote control.

  • Center Channel

The first component that you should place is the center channel as it serves as the anchor for the on-screen audio signal, as well as the dialogues. The position of the center channel in your setup is dependent on the position of the screen or TV as it should be placed just under it.

  • Right and Left Main Loudspeakers

Two of the main loudspeakers are labeled left and right which means that they should be placed to the left and right of the center channel. These speakers are designed to give listeners a more robust sonic image, and well-placed loudspeakers provide a higher fidelity sound.

  • Rear Loudspeaker

One of the loudspeakers needs to be placed at the rear for those background tracks that give you the creeps while watching suspense movies.

  • Right and Left Surround Speakers

The surround speakers are then placed to the left and right of the audience but slightly towards the rear to complement the sound coming from the rear loudspeaker.

  • Front Subwoofer

The subwoofer produces low-frequency effects and is usually placed in front together with the center channel, but some place it near the sides. The placement of the subwoofer is dependent on your preference, but it is recommended that this should be placed alongside the center channel.

Acoustics and Other Considerations

The speaker system forms the main bulk of your audio setup, but these are not the only components that you need to think about when setting up your home theater sound system.

  • Acoustics

First off, you need to think about the acoustics of the room. Home theaters are rooms typically located on the lower floors or even the basement of a house which is ideal as the surrounding soil can contain the audio signals within the room. If the home theater is above floor level, then consider using egg cartons and acoustic boards to enhance the sounds generated by your system.

  • Central Console

Another consideration is the central console. Make sure to get one that is digital with the up-to-date software and hardware, so you do not have to worry about upgrading it immediately. Digital consoles are much easier to control, and they would have software that further enhances the sound that you want to produce.

  • Wirings

Lastly, think of how you would wire the room in a way that it does not trip guests or that it is kept out of site. Some home theater setups use wireless speakers already, but this setup is subject to interference, and the quality of sound may not be as high as what you would get with wired systems.

Final Thoughts

Home theater speaker systems and commercial theater speakers run on the same principle of surrounding the audience to produce high fidelity sounds that are true to what the producers imagined the sound to be. Well-placed speakers act together to produce the surround sound effect, and it can be replicated no matter what size the room may be.

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