9 Mistakes to Avoid When Setting Up Your Surround Sound

Best Surround Sound Systems

9 Mistakes to Avoid When Setting Up Your Surround Sound

What are the most common mistakes to avoid when setting up your surround sound? Let’s face it, not everyone is going to be a guru when it comes to setting up AV equipment. Sure, things have come a long way when it comes to the ease of installing everything. That said, there are still some nagging issues that can arise without careful planning.

So, if you’ve been curious about some of the bigger common mistakes you’ll run into with a surround sound setup, you’re in the right place. Avoid these mistakes and you should be golden when it comes time to enjoy your home theater setup.

#9. No Acoustic Treatment

Preventing resonance build-up and trapped bass frequencies can greatly improve your surround sound setup.


Acoustic treatment goes a long way to making sure your system performs to the best of its ability. Many users don’t even consider this when designing their home theater setup. However, if you’re looking for the best overall performance in your surround sound setup, then some form of acoustic treatment is going to be necessary.

Acoustic treatment isn’t going to be solely foam panels and rock wool. You can opt for good-quality curtains, absorbent rugs, and other pleasing decor choices to enhance your audio experience. This isn’t one of the top mistakes to avoid when setting up your surround sound, but it is something to keep in mind.

#8. The Room Is the Wrong Size for the Equipment

Exciting adventure movie on a widescreen TV and living room interior
You don’t want to make your viewing experience a cramped one.


The choice of your room is going to go a long way in your overall enjoyment. Picking a room that’s too big might be bad because your speakers don’t have enough power. Smaller rooms can quickly get overwhelmed by noise, creating a cacophonous experience. Before you go out and purchase all your materials, just take some measurements.

It’ll help far more than you think, as you can plan accordingly for the right equipment. This is a common mistake, and can lead to users thinking their expensive sound equipment is an absolute lemon. Before you start spending, take a little quality time with your tape measure and plot out the room in full if you can.

#7. Using Poor Quality Cables

types of cables.
Don’t skimp on the cables for your surround setup, spend a little extra and get something from a reputable brand.

©Johnnie Rik/Shutterstock.com

Getting poor-quality cables can lead to a poor overall experience with your surround sound setup. Think about it, you’re dropping hundreds to thousands of dollars on speakers, a TV, and other odds and ends. Why would you skimp on the most crucial component of them all? You don’t have to spend a bundle to get good-quality cables.

This is one of many key mistakes to avoid when setting up your surround sound system. Poor cables can lead to spotty connections and a miserable viewing experience.

#6. Not Learning About the Equipment

Mistakes to Avoid When Setting Up Your Surround Sound
Crack open the spec sheets and do your research before purchasing components.

©Wor Jun/Shutterstock.com

This is arguably one of the worst mistakes you can make when it comes to setting up your surround sound system. Each piece of equipment in your setup is going to have a different core function. You don’t want to get the full setup running, but you’re listening to a 7.1-channel speaker setup in stereo. Take the time, read the manuals, and make sure you understand what each piece does.

A modern sound system is a far cry from the days of hi-fi systems in the 1970s. They’re still just as complicated, but they do so much more. Spending a little quality watching tutorials, reading the documentation, and experimenting with functions can go a long way towards improving movie night.

#5. Unsupported Media

dolby atmos logo sign in a movie theatre
You might have a Dolby Atmos-compatible TV, but the speakers might only support DTS:X.

©Firman Hendrianto/Shutterstock.com

Did you skip reading the manuals and product descriptions for all your equipment? You’ve got this super fancy soundbar with upward-firing speakers and full Dolby Atmos support. There’s just one problem though, your TV doesn’t have Dolby Atmos compatibility. Now you’re in trouble, and this is a key mistake many users don’t keep in mind.

Make sure all of your equipment supports the same media as a whole. You don’t want to build a system around DTS:X only to have your receiver completely lack compatibility with it. This can make any plans grind to a halt. Worse, it can mean your equipment isn’t being utilized to its full potential.

#4. Not Matching the Color Schemes

soundbars vs. surround sound: which is better?
You want your surround sound system to be part of the decor, instead of sticking out like a sore thumb.

©Vadim Ovchinnikov/Shutterstock.com

This can seem like a minor mistake, but it is a fairly common one. AV equipment comes in all sorts of colors and shapes. You’ll want something that matches the decor of your room along with matching the other components in the system. It isn’t too uncommon for some surround sound setups to use components from a set from a particular manufacturer.

Having a poorly designed visual space can break the immersion of your surround sound setup. As such, this is one common mistake you can nip in the bud before spending time on any sort of equipment or components.

#3. Getting the Wrong Screen Size

Mistakes to Avoid When Setting Up Your Surround Sound
You don’t want a screen that’s too small for your space.

©Africa Studio/Shutterstock.com

This is a massively common mistake. The television is the centerpiece of the entire surround setup after all. When you’re picking out all of the elements of a surround sound system, you want everything to fit a space. You can find information online on room size and the ideal screen size given viewing distance and angles.

Simply put, if you’re getting a screen that is too small for your room, it’s going to be a drag watching movies. Likewise, if you’re getting something too big for a given space, it might not fit in the room safely. Again, measure your room, figure out the right TV, and you should be golden.

#2. Poor Speaker Placement

Mistakes to Avoid When Setting Up Your Surround Sound
Experiment with your speaker placement to get the best possible results.


Of all the mistakes to make, this is arguably one of the worst. Speaker placement goes a long way in how you perceive your surround sound system. You can find guides online on how to place the speakers in an ideal configuration. However, this is one of those areas where a professional specializing in AV equipment can really help out.

If the speakers aren’t placed correctly, the audio is going to sound off. You certainly don’t want a Dolby Atmos mix for a film like Dune to sound off.

#1. Forgetting the Receiver

best Dolby Atmos ceiling speakers
The receiver is the heart of any surround sound setup.

©Aleksandr Stepanov/Shutterstock.com

The absolute worst mistake, and an all too common one at that. The humble receiver is often the last in the thought process for your surround sound setup. That said, the receiver is just as vital as your choice of TV when it comes to your surround sound setup.

You will want a receiver, provided you aren’t just running a soundbar. If you have multiple speakers and multiple screens, just save yourself the time and get a receiver. It is going to save you a headache, and it is going to handle all the heavy lifting once it is wired in place.

Summary of the Common Mistakes to Avoid When Setting Up Your Surround Sound

#9There isn’t any acoustic treatment to prevent resonance build-up.
#8You picked a room that was too big or small for your speakers and television.
#7Poor-quality cables were selected.
#6You forgot to learn what your equipment can do.
#5The setup was designed around media the equipment doesn’t support.
#4Your equipment doesn’t match, so everything looks off.
#3The overall size of your screen is too small for the setup itself.
#2Speaker placement was an afterthought.
#1You don’t have a receiver to drive the system and decode the signal.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you set up a surround sound system by yourself?

Absolutely, it just takes some planning to work well.

Can you play Dolby Atmos audio on a system without support?

If there is an accompanying surround mix for the audio, then sure. However, it won’t have the height component of Dolby Atmos.

Can I just use whatever components together?

You’ll want to have a receiver with enough power for your speakers, however many speakers you want, and a TV that supports all of that together. Who makes the components isn’t necessarily important, just avoid mixing and matching speakers.

Do I need a subwoofer for a true surround sound setup?

You will need a subwoofer for the LFE channel on any surround sound mix.

Do soundbars need a receiver?

Not usually, but it is recommended to have a receiver for speakers. They have their own power requirements and can’t do audio codec decoding on their own.

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