A practical guide to Home Theatre  Receiver Channel  Level and  speaker settings for a standard rectangular  lounge room 

                                                                   By Russell Storey  2005

Hometheatre Room Settings and Hints

1)        Keep any windows or  room doors closed when setting up speaker levels  or for serious listening

2)        Remove all  the speaker grills to set the speaker  levels or for serious listening , if you have kids cats or dogs  remove them or else you will end up
 with damaged speaker cones .

3)       The distance out from  the  front  Left  front Right  and Centre speakers should be similar but depends on the room acoustics .
 Adjacent doors  walls ceilings  windows   hallways lounge chairs pot plants will all play a role in the final position of your speakers .

4)       For example in an " L shapped  room  you may end up with the right  front speaker further out from the wall  than the left  front speaker because the right speaker is  in a corner and the left speaker has only a wall behind it and no corner wall causing reflections or corner bass boost.
In this case your home theatre receiver channel levels may end up at say at   Left Front +8 centre +7   Right Front +6 to compensate for the room shape.

 5)     The subwoofer unit can be moved further out into the room  away from walls or corners to  tighten up  the bass and reduce the  bass boom from  room generated  low frequency  harmonics . IF you play a lot of music then a direct feed from your speakers  to the high level speaker inputs of your subwoofer amp will make a radical change to the  bass in most cases .You must select subwoofer off and change the receiver  fronts and centre to the large speaker setting.
This by passes the filter in the receiver so you only have one filter in the sub unit to go through thus improving bass speed  transit response  and  dynamics

6)      As a good  initial  front  speaker position   I recommend    0.4 to 0.55 meters measured from the back or adjacent  wall  to the back of the front left / front right and centre speakers  this again  also depends on the location of  your screen or TV set .

7)       Setting up with the speakers with  a  home theatre receiver  inbuilt test test tone  can and does lead to  overall HT system sound  level  errors and
should  be used as a very basic inital setting if you do not have access to the THX DVD mentioned below

8)       I recommend using the THX  Audio noise test from the menu section of the Pearl Harbor DVD to set the levels of each speaker by ear at your chair with  the  receiver remote  control . It is quite easy with the noise test  to pick up level variations  and speaker wiring errors. You will be amazed how accurate your ears really are once you get the hang of it .

9)        Using the DVD player with  THX noise test checks the full  sound system level completely from the DVD player  through the Home theatre amp to all the individual speakers.
A Receiver generated test tone only checks the levels from the Home theatre  receiver  to the speakers  and excludes the  main reference sound source "the DVD player" .
 I have found that some DVD players  have variations in their sound levels via their  optical or analogue outputs which affects the over all levels via the  home theatre amplifier analogue or Digital  decoder stages  which in turn can and does  affect the overall  level you hear coming from the speakers which  needs to be   taken into account .

10)   HT  receiver initial speaker settings in rectangular room  

11)     Set the front speaker distance to  0 mtrs  and/ or delay to 0ms

12)     Set the front centre speaker distance to 0 mtrs  and/ or delay to 0ms

13)     Set the rear Left and right   speaker distance to 4 mtrs  

14)     Set the rear centre  speaker distance to 4 mtrs if you have one

15)     Set the rear left and right  side wall  effects  speaker distance to  3 mtrs  if you have one   

16)    Set the fronts levels with all the rear effect speakers  and subwoofer  turned off or disconnected first

17)    Spend 80% of your time to get the front  speakers  right . Check the balance of them several times  with some  quality music and DVD movies  first before setting up the rear effects or subwoofer

18)   Turn on the  subwoofer and set the  level freq and phase controls so the over all subwoofer  bass level is  less than or same as the  3 front speakers
Check the balance of them several times again  with some  quality music and DVD movies to integrate the  subwoofer speaker with the fronts so it is  assisting the over all  front  sound  stage and not dominating it

19)    You may have to reduce the level of the subwoofer when you play  music or some DVD  movies as it depends on what studio the DVD or CD was recorded in . Some DVDs sound tracks  will  be recorded louder than others you have probably noticed this already .

20)    Donít  over set the subwoofer level to much  higher than the fronts or the sub will go up in smoke

21)   If your HT receiver has a subwoofer DTS level setting in its menu  set this to +10db  and LPF to 80hz

22)   Hint  Leaving the all the fronts to 0mtrs in most cases is the best compromise  setting and sounds the best if you do not have the confidence to fiddle with the settings 

23)    Once you have spent a week or so tuning your system speakers and levels , leave it as is donít fiddle with it any more  .

24)  Re fit all  of the speaker grills when  you are  completely satisfied with your level settings and speaker positions

25)   Make a record in a book of your preferred HT  receiver settings so if you have a black out , wild storm, mate  or unknown fiddler loose the receiver settings you will then  be able to reset the  HT receiver without the need for a  packet of panadol tablets.


Enjoy the music and  movies  


Russell Storey
Stones Sound Studio   (Australia)