Let's face it: home theater systems are pretty confusing things for most people to set up. There's lots of different speakers. There's electronics. There's streaming players to hook up. There's Blu-ray players. There's all these things that can seem complicated to get right. And that's just something that comes with experience.

But there are a few things that I commonly see people doing that are no-nos. And they're not no-nos because they're going to break something, they're no- nos because they're not getting the full potential out of the equipment that they paid for. And that's no good.

Surround Channel Mistakes

So let's start with number one, the surround channels. Take for example one of our Quadpole speakers here that has a drive unit on the bottom sitting right on a surface. Well, that's a clear no-no with one of our Quadpole products like this QS8. You don't want to do that. You're going to block the sound from the bottom driver and limit 1/4 of the sound.

But the other thing that I find with surround channels is people seem to want to place them as close as they can to where their couch is or where their sitting area is. That's actually not a good idea. It ruins the immersive feel. You want to get the speakers ideally behind the listening position a little bit, even if it's a few feet.

Certainly, don't have them in front of the listening position. That's something I see very commonly. And you get the argument about, "Well, it only fits there and whatnot." We and other companies make all kinds of speakers for different applications. Find the one that's going to work to place your surround channels the best.

Believe me, it makes a huge difference. If you can hear and pinpoint exactly where your surround speaker is, if you're in a movie where you've got a natural environment, you're outdoors, there's a problem. Set it up so that you don't have that happening.

Auto Set Up

So the next thing that is a big pet peeve of mine and I'm probably going to get a lot of comments that I don't know what I'm talking about, "My system works better this way."

My personal opinion is when you first set up your home theater system, don't take the easy way out and press that auto setup button that's on the front of your receiver, get the microphone out, press the button, or go into your menu and say, "Auto set-up." I hate them. Now, it's not because they don't work in some applications. That's not what I'm saying.

What I'm saying though is that they will change and modify the intention of the design. Designers go to a lot of effort to make our speakers sound very neutral, and many of these systems will try compensating for something in the room that isn't actually the speaker's fault, and you'll end up with something that's too bright or too bass-y or not enough mid-range or whatever.

I get calls all the time. "My speakers are sounding a little bit thin. They didn't sound like that when I came to your factory to listen to them. Why is that?" "Did you use the auto setup?" "Yeah, I did because that's what the manual said."

Doing a manual setup for a home theater system is not a two-minute process. It's going to take you half an hour or an hour. I suggest doing it because A, you'll familiarize yourself with the menus and controls on your receiver, if you don't already know them. But B, balancing levels by ear is way better than any measurement system or microphone can do.
And at least, live with the system where you manually set it up for a while, and if you're not happy, sure, try the auto setup. Try it just if you're curious, but I guarantee you that in most cases, it's going to sound better without the auto-correction system running.


The final thing is subwoofers. We love subwoofers. We love bass.

Everybody loves bass, but too much bass, I think, ruins the sound of a system. Balance is the key here. You've paid money to buy a good pair of loud speakers, a good center channel, good surround channel, a good subwoofer so that they're neutral, so that they don't accentuate a certain frequency band or area.

But then, typically, people have got the subwoofer level jacked up 3 dB, 6 dB, 10 dB above everything else. Now again, if you like that, go ahead. I'm not going to stop you. But if you want to get the most natural experience, particularly with music, or music video material, concerts, get the subwoofer balanced to the rest of the speakers. It's not very difficult to do.

If you go back in our archive, you'll see a number of subwoofer setup videos and suggestions. Go and look at them. Set your subwoofer up to a pleasing level that matches the rest of the speakers and just listen. Again, if you can pinpoint the subwoofer, and it sounds like it's working really hard even if you're listening quietly to something that doesn't have a lot of bass in it, to me, that's not right and it's not the best experience you could get.

So hopefully, those are a couple of tips and things to watch for when setting up your home theater system.