Even the finest surround sound systems perform below their capabilities when you do not install them properly. In addition to an input device, surround sound systems are essentially composed of a receiver and speakers. Proper installation relates to both of these components; you must place the speakers properly and calibrate the receiver in the right way.

No matter whether you have a 5.1 or a 7.1 surround sound system, it is divisible into three basic parts: the front array, the subwoofer and the surround speakers. When you position the front array, which includes the left and right speakers and the center speaker, place each speaker at ear-level for the listening audience. To realistically portray surrounding sounds, place the rear and, if applicable, side speakers about 3 feet above ear level. Place your subwoofer near the front array, and experiment with a few different positions. To boost your bass, place the woofer near a corner; for smoother response, place it away from corners.

Next, you must configure your receiver so that the audio information your speakers receive takes full advantage of their placement. First, adjust the crossover frequency, selecting a small speaker size for each speaker. This forces the receiver to push bass to the subwoofer, where it belongs. Next, use a sound pressure level meter to adjust the relative volume of each speaker. Finally, measure the distance from each speaker to the ideal listening position, and enter the results into the receiver to calibrate delay. Some receivers come with software and a microphone that do these latter two tasks for you.

When you install your speakers to the proper positions and ensure that all your receiver's calibrations are complete, rest assured that you are enjoying optimal sound quality. By going through each of these steps, you know that your investment is not wasted on poor-quality audio due to shoddy installation of the system.