Jimmie's Guide to Home Theater Systems

Have you recently watched a movie on the "Big Screen" at a local theater? Want to create an environment in your own home that will be like that? Not only can you do that, but it's not all that hard to create one that is even better! And why is that?

The Big Screen theater has to try to provide a realistic experience for about 100 people. So it likely has 40 - 50 speakers. The "soundfield" in that environment is hopelessly muddled.

You have 2 to 9 speakers. The audience is just you and your spouse and maybe the kids. So you can literally tune the optimum sound for the living room couch. Dialog will be sharp, and special effects will be authoritative rather than just loud.

A halfway decent 50 - 75 inch TV will have a significantly clearer image than a 30 foot screen.

And the most important reason your home theater is better: You can pause the show so you can go pee or get a glass of wine or another beer!

And what are the impediments that are keeping you from doing that?

The Buzzwords, for one. 5.1 vs 7.1. vs 5.2.2. Dolby Atmos. DTS:X. HDR, 4k/UHD, HDCP 2.2. Blah, Blah, Blah.
 We can fix that.

The technical difficulty of setting up all that gear and getting it right.
 We can fix that too. HINT: It's really not all that hard. Connections are vastly simplified compared to the past (It's all HDMI cables now). And you essentially place speakers where they sound best (with a few guidelines), and the fine tuning is handled automatically by the AV receiver.

The ability to get control of the minimalistic "smart" remote that comes with a Smart TV, and get it to do exactly what you want in a halfway predictable manner.
Nobody can fix that.
 But, for Samsung TV users: do see "The Smart TV" below, under "Powering On" below for instructions on how to get CONTROL over the "always ON" TV!!

 You don't have to spend big bucks to put together a home theater system. Medium bucks will do fine. A decent 50 to 65 inch 4k TV can be had for under $400-$500. You don't necessarily need an AV (Audio-Video) receiver - you can buy a good soundbar. Indeed some soundbars come with a separate subwoofer. (A "subwoofer" is simply a speaker that handles nothing but the low notes, that is, the explosions!)

Over there on the right is an excellent book that will provide great detail on all the home theater terminology, along with its history and evolution. The book provides tips on buying all the equipment and also on setting it up, and it is updated annually. I read and re-read it during the Christmas holidays prior to setting up my system, and highly recommend it.

And lastly, the first thing you will likely want when you are finished setting up your own Home Theater system is some serious eye and ear candy! So I have included (at the bottom of the page) some selected movies that will provide just that.


The Buzzwords


4k/UHD: "4k" and "UHD" mean the same thing. These refer to the clarity of the picture. UHD means "Ultra High Definition". This became available somewhere around 2013. The "4k" means UHD, and is about 4 times the resolution of "HDTV". (Or it can mean that there are approximately 4,000 horizontal pixels.)
High Definition is 1920 x 1080 (approximately 2 million pixels)
Ultra High Definition is 3840 x 2160 (approximately 8 million pixels)

HDR: (more recently "HDR10") This is "High Dynamic Range". This means essentially the same thing it does in photography. Some cameras and smartphones can take three pictures of the same scene ("underexposed", "overexposed", and normal). The three images are then combined into one which highlights the dark areas and adds dramatic contrast to lighter areas, such as clouds in the sky. A similiar process is used for HDR TVs. The upshot is that colors and contrast are significantly enhanced, particularly in dark scenes (and they're all dark in today's movies!)

There are two enhancements on HDR: HDR10+ and Dolby Vision.
  Standard HDR is "static": The levels of brightness are set for each movie, and are essentially determined by the brightest scene. HDR10+ and Dolby Vision are dynamic. The brightness and contrast are enhanced on a scene by scene basis. Both processes send video information ("metadata") along with the video in order to do this. This is the video analogue to Dolby Atmos, which sends audio information along with audio (more on this under "Audio" below). Dolby Vision is potentially more vivid than HDR10+, although current equipment is just beginning to support the extra brightness and bit depth.
 Also, Dolby vision is proprietary - manufacturers must pay a licence to Dolby to use it, whereas HDR10+ is "open source." So TV manufacturers are divided on implementation of both formats, but the bottom line is that either HDR10+ or Dolby Vision really make your movie experience gorgeous!

Frame Rate/Refresh Rate. A decent TV should be easily capable to displaying 120 frames per second.

HDCP 2.2: This is "High bandwidth Digital Copy Protection". It is the latest version of anti-copying protection, and it affects only 4k/UHD content. You should make sure that your new 4kTV, AV receiver, and Blu-ray player all support HDCP 2.2. This is not necessary for "High Definition" or"HDTV" content.

4k "Upconversion": 4k equipment can upconvert High Definition content (DVDs or streaming) to 4k. You will need a 4k TV to actually see the 4k output. However, if you buy a "4k upconverting" Blu-ray player, it will make the images on an existing HDTV look clearer - I have seen this on my older Samsung 60" TV before replacing the TV with a 4k unit.


The numbers (5.1, 7.1, 5.2.2, etc): I discuss this in great detail - with pictures - in a bit.

Dolby Digital 5.1 or DTS 5.1. These have been the standard for movie audio for a long time. You will see one of these on almost all DVDs or Blu_ray disks. The movie soundtrack has been split into 5 channels: Front Left, Center, Front Right, Side Surround Left and Side Surround Right. Also the bass is supplied as one additional channel, sometimes called "LFE", for "Low Frequency Effects".

"Dolby Digital EX" and "DTS-ES" came a bit later, and add a back channel, mainly to provide a better effect for people sitting in the back of movie theaters. This would be "6.1" This channel is not necessary for home theaters unless one's room is quite big.

Dolby Atmos adds "height" information, by way of 2 or 4 speakers placed on the walls or ceiling. Dolby Atmos also revolutionizes the way sound is handled. It sends sound information ("metadata") along with sounds. This sound information can direct sounds to specific speakers, not just general "channels" like "Front", "Center", and the like. The sound of a helicopter could, for instance, be directed to just the 2 or 4 height speakers.

Dolby Atmos is delivered through either of these two formats: Dolby Digital Plus or Dolby TrueHD.
Dolby Digital Plus is a "compressed" format and is used by streaming services like Netflix.
Dolby TrueHD is a "lossless" high quality audio that currently is only available through Blu-Ray disks and newer Blu-Ray players.

Note that the DTS equivalent of Dolby Atmos is "DTS:X" and the DTS equivalent high quality lossless audio is "DTS-HD Master Audio".

ARC and eARC.
 This would be a good time to discuss ARC (Audio Return Channel) and eARC (enhanced Audio Return Channel).
When you connect the TV to the other equipment, you usually use the jack marked "HDMI (ARC)", as discussed in the "Setting It All Up" section below. This is the "Audio Return Channel", and allows the TV's audio to be carried back to the AV receiver or soundbar. This channel will be used when you use streaming content on the TV, whereas the Blu-Ray player usually directly connects to the receiver or soundbar and passes its audio directly to the receiver or soundbar. I mention ARC and eARC here because ARC only passes Dolby Digital Plus - the compressed audio. eARC can pass Dolby TrueHD, but eARC is only now becoming available - my older 2019 Samsung QLED TV did not have it. but the 2021 model does.
 It is for this reason that I make the statement above that Dolby TrueHD is currently available for the most part on newer Blu-Ray players that are directly connected to newer AV receivers or soundbars. If you do have a TV that supports eARC, it is also necessary to use a "Version 2.1" rated HDMI cable (also mentioned below in the Setting It All Up section). So: if you use your TV as the source for streaming services, and it supports eARC, and you have the 2.1 HDMI cable, you might be able to receive Dolby TrueHD audio on streaming services, but it's still quite unclear whether any of the streaming services actually send this Dolby TrueHD audio.
 I might add, however, that few people will likely notice the difference between Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby TrueHD.

TV specs

LCD/LED TVs: These are the most prevalent sets nowadays. Each LCD/transistor unit does not create light by itself. Instead it opens up to admit light created by a second panel which contains arrays of LEDs. There are two kinds of backlighting:

Edge-light backlighting: The array of LEDS is placed on the borders of the set on the outer edges.

Full-array backlighting: The array of LEDs is distributed across the entire screen. This provides for more even lighting, expecially for larger screen sizes.

Local Dimming: This is a further enhancement. Discrete areas of LEDS can be dimmed, providing better contrast.

"Quantum" LED TVs: This process mixes very small electronic dots among the LCDs. Each of the dots is capable of emitting a color on their own. It's called "quantum" because the dots are small enough such that quantum effects begin to ocurr - although it does seem to be more a case of "Quantum Marketing" rather than Quantum Physics - since true Quantum effects are random and true Quantum particles are unimaginably small and last for infinitesmally tiny amounts of time. Nonetheless the result is magnificent color saturation and brightness.

OLED TVs: These contain "Organic LEDs". These can emit their own light without the need of LED backlighting. These are the really high end sets.

The Numbers

The audio channels of a Home Theater system are shown as: XX:YY:ZZ.

"XX" is the number of front plus surround speakers.

"YY" is the number of subwoofers.

"ZZ" is the number of height, or Dolby Atmos, speakers.

All of these systems serve the purpose of replacing the pitiful speakers that come with any TV, even the top of the line. There's simply no room in a thin flat screen TV to house any decent speakers. So here's a pictorial sample of the most common setups. (Soundbars are not discussed):

NOTE: What you are looking at in the following images is "Jimmie's Home Theater Model". The "entertainment center" is scraps of thin wood. The "speakers" are various metal pieces; the "AV receiver" is a paper strip from a clothing label with two black screws for knobs and a QR code cutout for the screen; the subwoofers are blocks of wood painted black with a black washer on the front; and the "TV" is my old iPhone 5! The walls are painted fiberboard, and the floor is unpainted fiberboard. I even included natural wood "moulding"! Oh, and the "couch" is rolled up felt with rubber feet.

home theater 1

Here is the most simple home theater system. It consists of an AV receiver and two floor standing speakers, each of which may contain 3 or more individual speaker drivers. (I have placed the "floorstanding" speakers on the shelf at the same level as the TV). This system is no slouch; some of these floorstanding speakers can get pretty pricey!
In this system, the two floorstanding speakers handle the bass as well as all the other sounds.

This would be called a "2.0" system:

A Front Left and a Front Right speaker.

home theater 2

Here we have added a "center channel" speaker. This greatly improves dialog. If you find you are constantly enabling "subtitles" to hear what the British accent (or the mumbling) actors are saying, you need a center channel speaker!
In this system, the two floorstanding speakers still handle the bass as well as all the other sounds.

This would be called a "3.0" system.

A Front Left and a Front Right speaker.

A Center Channel speaker.

home theater 3

We add a subwoofer here. NOW we're talking about a decent home theater system! Try to get at least a 10 inch subwoofer, but an 8 inch will be fine as well. Most diagrams of home theater systems show the single subwoofer next to the front left speaker. But Klipsch (one brand of speakers) recommends placing it in the corner. This is called "corner loading" - The walls act as a "horn" to accentuate the bass.
In this system, the two floorstanding speakers may or may not handle the bass. You can set this on the receiver. Each speaker can be set as "large" or "small". (More detail on this below, in the "Setup" section.)

This would be called a "3.1" system.

A Front Left and a Front Right speaker.

A Center Channel speaker.

A Subwoofer speaker.

home theater 4

This arrangement is the same as the one on the left, except we have used some "bookshelf" type speakers. These typically won't handle much bass, but you won't need them to if you have a subwoofer. Thus they would be set as "small" (Explained in the Setup section).
NOTE: In Home Theater parlance, the Front Left, Center, and Right speakers are called the "Main" speakers, often referred to as the "Mains"

This is also called a "3.1" system.

A Front Left and a Front Right speaker.

A Center Channel speaker.

A Subwoofer speaker.

home theater 5

If you want a little extra OOOMPHA, add a second subwoofer. Klipsch suggests they be placed "assymetrically". So it might be better, say, to place one of the subwoofers next to the Left or Right speaker and pointed at an angle. Why? This helps prevent "standing waves" (areas of either reduced or excess bass)

This would be called a "3.2" system.

A Front Left and a Front Right speaker.

A Center Channel speaker.

Two Subwoofer speakers.

home theater 6

And here is the famous "5.1" system! We have added a left and a right "surround" speaker. This adds a whole new dimension to your home theater system. If a vehicle drives off to the right, you will hear the sound on the right. If a storm is approaching on the left, you will hear it first on the left. Movies will suddenly become a lot more realistic!
Most diagrams show these speakers placed slightly behind the listening area. Klipsch suggests even with the listening area. Mine are slightly forward of the listening area but further away (mounted on the wall).

This would be called a "5.1" system.

A Front Left and a Front Right speaker.

A Center Channel speaker.

A Surround Left and a Surround Right speaker.

A Subwoofer speaker.

home theater 7

Here is the same system with an extra subwoofer.

This would be called a "5.2" system.

A Front Left and a Front Right speaker.

A Center Channel speaker.

A Surround Left and a Surround Right speaker.

Two Subwoofer speakers.

home theater 8a

This is the first arrangement which includes "height" channels. This is called "Dolby Atmos" or "DTS:X". One way to get this extra sound is to use a pair of "Atmos-enabled" Front speakers. "Atmos-enabled" means simply that there is an extra speaker assembly on the top of the main speakers, pointed up so that the sound will bounce off the ceiling.

This image is zoomed in to show more detail of the speakers. But the two surround speakers are still there in this setup. You would typically not use "height" speakers unless your system already has surround speakers, because the most Bang for the Audio Buck is obtained by surround speakers. Height units add a definite extra effect, but it is less pronounced than the effect obtained by adding surround speakers.

home theater 8

Here we have the arrangement with the "Atmos-enabled" speakers and the surround units, and a subwoofer.

This would be called a "5.1.2" system.

A Front Left and a Front Right speaker.

A Center Channel speaker.

A Surround Left and a Surround Right speaker.

A Height/Atmos Left and a height/Atmos Right speaker.

A Subwoofer speaker.

home theater 9

And here it is with the extra subwoofer.

This would be called a "5.2.2" system.

A Front Left and a Front Right speaker.

A Center Channel speaker.

A Surround Left and a Surround Right speaker.

A Height/Atmos Left and a height/Atmos Right speaker.

Two Subwoofer speakers.

home theater 10

If you want to spend a little extra time, you can place separate "height" speakers on the wall above the Main speakers. This will result in better sound than having height speakers built in to the Mains and reflecting off the ceiling.
"Atmos-enabled" speakers are built for this application. But note that "Atmos-enabled" is just a technical-sounding term for a standard speaker that is simply at an angle. You can use any bookshelf or similiar speaker and angle it down. Why do this? Well, for instance, one manufacturer sells an "Atmos-enabled" speaker for $400, but a simple bookshelf speaker is $140 or so.

This would be called a "5.1.2" system.

A Front Left and a Front Right speaker.

A Center Channel speaker.

A Surround Left and a Surround Right speaker.

A Height/Atmos Left and a height/Atmos Right speaker.

A Subwoofer speaker.

home theater 11

And here is the same system with the extra subwoofer. This is what I have for my own home theater system (picture below).

This would be called a "5.2.2" system.

A Front Left and a Front Right speaker.

A Center Channel speaker.

A Surround Left and a Surround Right speaker.

A Height/Atmos Left and a height/Atmos Right speaker.

Two Subwoofer speakers.

My Own Home Theater Systems

1 Shown here is my former TV system. It consisted of a 60 in Samsung TV (2013 model), a Denon E300 receiver (2014 model), Klipsch Icon VC25 center channel speaker, Klipsch Icon KB15 Front speakers, a Klipsch SW450 10 inch subwoofer, and a Sony BDS6700 Blu-ray player. So it would have been a "3.1" system. It has been a fine arrangement.
 However, based on what I have since learned about home theater systems, I would now ask "What's wrong with this picture?"

The Left and Right speakers are in line with the TV. That can cause some sound issues due to the sound waves bouncing off the TV screen.

The Left and Right speakers are not angled toward the listening area (they are pointing straight ahead). Speakers are directional for mid and high frequencies. They will sound clearer if pointed toward the listener.

The Center Channel speaker is not in the center. Also it's not angled downward. Before I replaced this system, I corrected these problems. The result? The system was significantly improved. If you find you are constantly turning on subtitles, consider making these changes to your speakers!

I will discuss the correct way to position speakers in the next section.

Original system

2 Here's the system after a few changes. It consisted of:

The same Klipsch "Icon" series Front and Center speakers.

The same Klipsch sw450 10 inch subwoofer.

A second subwoofer - a Klipsch R-100 SW 10 inch.

Klipsch R-41M bookshelf speakers - 2 for surround (not visible in this shot), 2 more for height)

A Samsung QN65Q80 65 inch "Qled" TV

A Denon AVR740 receiver (2019 model)

A Sony UBP-X800M2 4k Upconverting Blu-ray player

The (important) changes:

The shelves for the Front Left and the Front Right speakers have been modified to protrude out about 8 inches from the front of the TV. Also these speakers are turned inward to face the center of the listening area ("toed in").

The Center Channel speaker has been tilted downward to directly face the main listening area, (by stacking two 1/2 inch thick rubber mounts underneath the back side).

The two Height speakers are the same brand and model as the two surround speakers (Klipsch R-41M). This help to equalize the output of height and surround channels. Also it saves the extra expense of purchasing "official Atmos-enabled" units for the height channel. I simply made two shelves tilted downward.

The setup still has a serious, show-stopping issue. And yes, it will stop the show! And what is that?
The AV receiver has insufficient ventilation! The first section of "Setting it All Up" has some details on how to fix it.

Current system

3 Well, here's "Version 3.0" of my Home Theater System. (I got rid of the two distracting DVD bookcases.) My system now consists of:

A new Klipsch RP-250 Center Channel Speaker. It's on the second shelf of the TV stand.

Two new Klipsch R-120SW 12 inch subwoofers!!

A 2022 Samsung 74 inch QN75QN90 TV! (That's the Dragon cave scene from How to Train Your Dragon III - 4k Blu-ray.)

The same Klipsch "Icon" KB15 Front Left and Right speakers.

The same 4 Klipsch R-41M bookshelf speakers - 2 for surround and 2 more for height)

The same Denon receiver (on lower shelf of the TV stand), and Sony Blu-ray player (right under the TV).

Placing the lights behind the TV seems to provide more pleasant viewing conditions.
 But the biggest change - home theater system-wise - is moving the Center Channel Speaker below the TV. As mentioned, it is on the second shelf above the AV receiver, and is tilted upward slightly. Placing it below the TV puts it more at listening level. I discuss optimizing the Center Channel Speaker (for clearer dialog) below.
 Note that the new stand provides a wider shelf for the AV receiver. This provides better ventilation. Also, I cut out the back panel behind the unit.

Note also that I managed to hide the speaker wires for the height speakers behind the wall. This is easy for interior walls. You simply cut a hole right below the speakers and pass the wire down the wall and come out under the moulding. This is much more difficult for exterior walls, because the insulation makes it difficult to push the wires down the wall. I did it by passing a plastic cable channel behind the wall and then pushing the speaker wire through it. The channel would only reach about half way down, so I cut a small hole in the middle of the wall and then put a cover plate over the hole. You can see these plates on either side of the TV.

Current system

Setting It All Up

 BIG TIME TIP: The bane of all electronic gear - computers, home theater systems, whatever, is that all the connections are in the back of the equipment! So consider putting your cabinet/stand on sliding casters - either smooth ones for a carpeted room or the carpeted one for hardwood/laminate floors.
 If you have hard floors, consider rolling casters! You can see them in picture 2 above, of my second home theater arrangement. The initial setup won't be the last time you have to get to the backside of the cabinet or stand. Why not? Because you might add some more gear. Even more likely is the possibility you will want to UPGRADE.
 You know you will. . .

speaker terminal

Make sure your AV receiver is not in a completely enclosed space. These units run hot! "OOOMPAH" takes a lot of audio energy! So if possible, place the unit in a fairly open area, and preferably with the cabinet back removed. There should be at least 1 inch between the chassis and each side - preferably 2 or more.
 But there are some things you can do if you have an enclosed cabinet space. As you can see in the pictures directly above, the vertical wood supports are right next to the chassis. You'll notice that my former system had the same issue. I did remove the back side of the shelf, which helped. But the only reason my former unit did not overheat was that it was only driving three speakers. In my current home theater system, all 7 of the current unit's amplifiers are being used (3 for the "mains", 2 for the surrounds, and 2 for the "height" speakers). Subwoofers don't count: they are self-powered - having their own amplifier. So only low level signals go out from the AV receiver.)
 So, for the second system, I cut out sections on each side of the vertical wood supports, and cut out a ventilation hole underneath the unit (picture on the left). (The third "version" has a TV stand with wider shelves.)

cable clamps

Make your cableing look nice. As a former electronic tech, I learned that if things look neat, they are much more likely to work properly!
 As a general rule, try to keep A/C power cords away from speaker wires and other cables. A/C can cause a noticable hum in speakers, particularly the subwoofer.
 The left picture shows an assortment of cable clamps. Also shown are some of the little wire ties that are wrapped around cords and cables of new electronic equipment. Hope you saved some from former purchases. . .

The large grey electrical clamps are handy when one or more A/C cords pass next to other wireing. As shown in the picture on the right, a couple of power cords pass along the bottom of the cabinet (the black and white wires secured by two small black cable clamps.) Passing over them are some speaker wires and a subwoofer line which are tied to one of the big grey clamps. This holds them away from the power cords.

cable clamps
TV secure

Safety (for you and your big screen TV):
If you have a 50 inch or larger TV, consider securing it to the cabinet/stand. I used a couple of thin aluminum straps and drilled holes in them. The tops are connected to the TV using the TV wall-mounting holes. The "Quick Start" guide usually will specify the bolt size for holes. My Samsung used a metric "M8" bolt. If you buy a couple nuts that fit this bolt, you can tighten the nut against the aluminum strap (the bolt will likely "bottom out", leaving some of the bolt sticking out. Without the nut, the strap will be loose. With subwoofers around, you don't want nuttin' loose!)
 Secure the other end to the back side of the stand with a couple of #8 sheet metal screws. (Pre-drill into the wood with a bit that is a little smaller diameter than the screw.)

Speaker Placement and Connections

The "Mains":
The Front Left and Right speakers should stick out from the front of the TV and should be angled inward - facing the listening area. They should be the same distance from the TV.
The Center speaker should be tilted downward (if its on top of the TV) or upward (if it's below the TV) so that it is directed toward the viewer.
All three speakers should form an arc rather than be even with each other. The distance of the three speakers from the listening area should be the same, if possible.
The wire length for all three three speakers should be approximately the same. If possible, the wire length of the two surround speakers should also be approximately the same length. Same for the two height speakers, if possible.

The subwoofer(s):
If you have one subwoofer, you will get more "OOOOMPHA" if you place it in the corner, as discussed above.
If you have two subwoofers, place them asymetrically in front of the room. (For example, have one face the listening position and the other face straight forward). Klipsch suggests that placing subwoofers in the corner accentuates the bass. Some other articles will tell you not to place them in the corner.
It's your call.

General speaker wiring:
Use 16 or 14 guage stranded wire for all speaker connections. (14 guage is bigger, but 16 guage should be fine. You can buy a roll of 100 foot speaker wire at one of the big box home improvement centers. Stranded "non-speaker" wire will do fine. It's a bit harder to tell which conductor is which, because this wire has one conductor ribbed and the other plain. Personally, I feel that it is not necessary to buy the exotic uranium-coated, quantum-tuned, anti-vaporlock stuff for 100 bucks a roll!

speaker terminal

Make sure you connect the "plus" side of the amp to the "plus" side of each speaker. Thus you might connect the copper-colored strand of speaker wire (or the ribbed side of regular wire) to the red terminals of the amp and the speaker. If you don't, the sound could be reduced because the speakers will be "out of phase" (sound waves from one side cancelling those from the other side).
 The following will make all the speaker manufacturers cringe. Speaker (and amp) terminals are hard to hand-tighten. I have tightened these terminals only to find the wires will pull out easily. Well, it so happens that many speaker terminals are hex-shaped. A wrench (in this case a 1/2 in) will fit these just fine. So you could GENTLY snug 'em up with a wrench and make a more secure connection.
 (You didn't read that here.)

Make sure you don't have any stray wire sticking out and possibly contacting the receiver chassis. When I first hooked up my system, the Denon overheated and shut down. This was due to one tiny piece of conductor laying against the chassis! If you have a soldering gun, you can "tin" the tip of the wire - just the tip, not the entire exposed wire. (The binding posts on the receiver and the speakers will be tighter if they are against the bare copper conductors).
 So, for the image on the right, the wire on the right side is tinned correctly.


"De-couple" your speakers from their stands/shelves/floor. This keeps them from transmitting sound to their supporting surfaces. So for example, use the rubber feets that most speaker manufacturers provide. Try to find some sort of soft support it they don't. There are many types of stick-on pads available - felt, rubber, and the like. For the subwoofers, if you have hard floors, place them in caster cups that have carpet on the bottom - even if the speakers have rubber feets.

Connecting Everything Else

HDMI connections:
Decide what is the "hub" of the system. If you have an AV receiver or a sound bar, that's the hub.
Connect the Blu-Ray player to the hub. My receiver is a Denon, and it has an HDMI input marked "Blu-Ray". Otherwise select any HDMI input on the receiver or soundbar.
If you have newer equipment, plug devices like Amazon Firestick or Google Chromecast to other HDMI inputs of the receiver/soundbar. If there are no HDMI inputs on the front of the receiver/soundbar, use the short HDMI cable that comes with the item. (Amazon provides this; I'm not sure of the Google or Apple devices).
NOTE: I am using the Samsung TV as the "Smart" device, rather than the Denon AV. Nonetheless the Denon AV is the "hub" - this provides the sorround sound.
And finally, connect the "HDMI/ARC" output (might be labeled "Monitor") on the AV receiver to the "HDMI/ARC" jack on the TV. "ARC" is "Audio Return Channel". It allows the TV to send its audio back to the receiver, so that it can be played through all your speakers.

Quick summary: If all you have is a Blu-Ray player, you have only two HDMI cables. One from the Blu-Ray to the AV receiver, and one from the AV receiver to the TV.

A note on HDMI cables: HDMI has "versions". So it is well to get at least "2.0" (18 GHz). "2.1" is even better, and supports speeds of 48 GHz, and will provide better audio, support upcoming HDR improvements, and also has the "enhanced" Audio Return Channel.
 And no, it's not necessary to get the exotic HDMI cables that are often sold at the electronics stores. There's even one that costs $350! Your best bet is online. Here's the ones I bought (a 3 ft and a 6 ft version).

HDMI 3 ft HDMI 6 ft

Other connections:
If the AV receiver or soundbar does not have "ARC", then connect an "Optical Digital Audio" cable from the "Digital Audio out" of the TV to the "Digital Audio in" of the receiver/soundbar.
Internet: Just about everything has a wireless connectivity built-in. The Blu-ray player, the AV unit, and the "Smart" TV. But if you can run a direct ethernet wire, it's MUCH faster! I used wireless for my former system. When I selected Netflix, there was about a minute delay before it came up. With a direct connection, as soon as I click "Netflix", immediately the "Who's watching" screen is available.

Are You Ready For the Big Moment - Power ON?

G'wan. Mash all those power buttons. You know you want to.
 But before you do:
 Recheck all the speaker wire connections in the back of the AV unit. Look closely for bare wires sticking out. I had one even despite "tinning" all the wires. It was touching the AV chassis and caused it to shut down (although I hadn't cut out any ventilation openings yet - so that may have been the cause).
 Recheck the backs of all the speakers. Make sure all the terminal knobs are tight.
 Take another peek at the HDMI connections.
 Did you put new alkaline batteries in all the remotes? Preferably Duracells or Energizers as opposed to the assorted, possibly questionable brands that come with the equipment.

Powering On (Some Tips)

In this section I will discuss main points. The details will differ depending on the brands of equipment you have selected. However, in my experience, I would have to say:
Everything you have done up to now has been the easy part. It goes downhill from here! Why? Because most of this stuff is "smart". There's lots of software making decisions that you may or may not like.
 One MAJOR HEADACHE is the default "always ON" condition for Samsung "TV Plus"!! Taming it is discussed under "The Smart TV" right below.
 Another is the set of software called HDMI-CEC. This is HDMI Consumer Electronics Control. It was introduced in 2005. If you can get it set up right, you should be able to let one of the remotes control some of the other equipment.
 Well, I had great plans of ending this article with a nice, organized list of what to do to get all this gear running properly. But my experience turned into the typical session that we helpless humans have when confronted with intelligent electronic machines. After a few days of trying countless things and countless sequences, I have managed to get my system (mostly) where I want it to be. Translation: I meekly took what the software gave me!
But I have NO idea of how I got there!
 So instead, here's the high level list of things you can do predictably:

The "Smart TV":
Set "Picture Mode" to "Movie". Some sets come from the factory with the colors maxxed out so they will dazzle in the showroom. So this is the first step - almost every article on home theaters recommends this. (And it did result in excellent video.)
All of this having been said, the "Dynamic" mode on Samsung TVs yields the most dramatic picture!
Set up the wireless or hard-wired internet. I would say that modern gear can do this automatically (I won't think about how the machines didn't seem to need my network password!)
Most sets will allow you to display only your desired "apps" (Netflix, Prime, etc) on the "home" screen.
If you use HDMI ARC (which allows the TV to use the AV receiver for the audio), it is necessary to enable HDMI-CEC. Note that many manufacturers use other names for this: Samsung is "Anynet+", Sony is "BRAVIA Link", Sharp is "Aquos Link". LG is "SimLink".

Taming the Samsung "TV Plus".
Recently I upgraded from a 2019 Samsung QN80 65 inch TV to a 2021 Samsung QN90 75 inch TV. The connections were essentially identical, so I had it working in 5 minutes.
Then I spent the next 4 hours trying to stop the automatic playing of TV content ALL the time when the "Home" screen is displayed!!.
 So here's how to stop it:

Press the Home button on the remote control.
Select the "TV Plus" app on the Home screen.
Select "Channel List".
Select "Edit" Channels. There is an option to Select All. Select "Delete".
 At this point the "TV Plus" icon will disappear from the apps list on the Home screen. (It goes to the "Source" list). But the TV is still playing other optional content (apparently "Live TV")! So it's still not stopped! The TV content is playing (above the Home Screen icons) as soon as you turn the set on.

To stop the TV from playing if you are using an A/V receiver:
Using the A/V receiver's remote, set the A/V receiver to something other than "TV"! For example, set it to "Blu-ray". The annoying TV will STOP.
  Explanation: When you are setting up your TV for the first time, plug in the HDMI cable of the A/V receiver. Usually you connect the cable to "HDMI/eARC" (might be "HDMI/ARC" on older models). This is "Audio Return Channel". When you turn on the TV, it recognizes the A/V receiver, but automatically sets the A/V receiver to "TV"! So set the A/V receiver to some other source. I used "Blu-ray". I actually have a Blu-ray player, but I don't turn on the Blu-ray player until I want to watch a DVD. When I watch streaming TV (Netflix, etc) I simply leave the Blu-ray player off. No more playing TV channels when I turn on the TV!
Will this work if you don't have a Blu-ray player? Not sure, but setting the source for the A/V receiver to anything other than "TV" should stop it.
 If you are NOT using an A/V receiver, it appears that if you have anything connected to the TV, you can select that as the source on the TV's "Source" menu, and the playing of TV content will stop. I confirmed this by contacting Samsung (by chat).

The online chat conversation was interesting.
They did confirm that selecting something else on the TV's "Source" menu will stop the playing of TV content.
I then asked what happens if the user has nothing connected to the TV (they're just using it for streaming).
The response: "If the TV is not connected with the any external source, it will only show TV". The agent said further "On the latest TV it's a default option, we don't have to close this option."
I then asked "So it appears you are saying that streaming users have no choice but to watch TV content at all times, even when just switching to various providers - Netflix, Prime, etc".
The reply: "After switching to Netflix and prime it will not appear, it's will only appears after turning on the TV and changing to the channels."
 I take all of this to mean Samsung has no intention of changing this behavior!

Helpful extra step:
From the Home screen, select "Smart Hub".
Select "Settings". . ."General".
Select "Smart Features"
Deselect "Autorun Last App".

What will NOT work:
Many sites suggest selecting the "Samsung TV Plus" icon on the Home screen (assuming that you have not yet deleted all the TV Plus channels.)
Then you are to select the "Down" position on the "Navigation Ring" on the remote.
Then you are supposed to be given the option to "Move" or "Remove" the TV Plus app.
But this option was present on my 2019 Samsung TV. It is NOT present on the 2021 model. Pressing the "Down" position only results in a display of available free movies.

The AV Receiver:
If you are using the TV as the internet-connected device, make sure the AV receiver didn't automatically connect to wireless.
Set up "Speaker Configuration". This is where you set the speakers to "Large" or "Small". These terms mean essentially just that. More correctly, you set a speaker to "Large" if it can handle bass - low frequencies, and "Small" if it handles mainly mid-range to high frequencies. Typically a "large" floor-standing speaker can handle bass but a "small" bookshelf speaker can't. If you don't have a subwoofer, you would probably want to set the Front L and R and the Center speakers to "Large", even if they are physically small. But if you do have a subwoofer, setting the Front L and R and Center speakers to "small" helps the AV unit run cooler - the majority of audio power is spent on the lower frequencies; you are literally pumping air!
Set up "Subwoofer Mode". This is somewhat confusing. Usually you can select either "LFE" or "LFE + Main". ("LFE" means "Low Frequency Effects".)

"LFE": The low frequency signals that would have went to all channels set to "small" are directed instead to the subwoofer.

"LFE + Main": The low frequency signals of all channels are directed to the subwoofer. In this case, if you have set the "Mains" to "Large", you'll hear bass from both the Main speakers and the subwoofer.

At this time, you can "tune" your system, however I recommend that you wait on this step until you have watched a few movies and positioned your speakers like you want them. I for instance tried the two surround speakers just behind the listening area. But I found that the side effects were better when these speakers were placed slightly forward of the listening area. It is well to get your speakers in positions that sound good to you prior to tuning. Why? Because if speakers are moved after you have tuned the system, you'll have to re-run the tuning program.

Tuning your Sound system:
 Most AV units have a method of fine-tuning your speaker arrangement to the room. The unit can actually measure the distance from each speaker to the selected listening area, along with setting some "crossover" frequency points.
 My Denon receiver came with the Audyssey calibration system. You set up a microphone (supplied) on the couch, so that the mic is approximately even with your ears, and then the unit sends a sequence of tones through each speaker. This is shown on the right. The Denon even has a cardboard mic stand!
 And no, our couch doesn't have blue with white stripe seats! We use a throw because we eat din-din while watching movies.

Listen to a selected section of a movie that exercises surround/height capability first. This way you can listen to the same section after you have done the tuning, to see if you like it. I might suggest the scene early in Captain Marvel where the Skrull are probing the memory of Carol Danvers. The voices of the Skrull appear to come from up/around her, as if you were in her head.

Turn your subwoofer(s) to "On" rather than "Auto", if they have this feature. "Auto" means the subwoofer turns on when it detects bass. Since this involves some delay, the speaker won't calibrate properly. Also set their volume to the "center", usually with the pointer sticking straight up, possibly marked "0dB".

Set the microphone in the center of the listening area at ear level. If it's just you and your spouse, set the mic between the two places you normally sit. (Screw the kids!)

Run the sequence of tones.

Move the mic to the left, no more than 2 feet. Run the tones again.

Now move the mic to the right of center, the same distance from the center as your left position. Run the tones again.

The Denon recommends 6 sequences. I suggest stopping at 3. This makes the adjustment more concentrated for the listening area, in my opinion.

Save the settings. The unit will now adjust its output accordingly. You can view the results - the system will show you how many feet each speaker is from the listening area, and show how it adjusted the volume of each spealer.

For Denon (and perhaps other) receivers: After the Audyssey tuning is finishes, the Denon will display a choice for what it calls "Dynamic EQ". The default is "On". You might leave it on. This causes the bass to be enhanced at lower listening volumes, which does help quite a bit. This used to be called "Bass Boost" on older Stereo units.

Now listen to the same movie section. I found it to be noticably better!. NOTE: if you still have a little trouble with dialog, see "Optimizing the Center Speaker" right below.

Reset your subwoofer(s) to "Auto" so they won't be on all the time. If the bass is a bit loud after the tuning, you can turn down their volume a bit. Most subwoofers have independent volume control. I usually run mine a little below the center position.

speaker terminal

Optimizing the Center Speaker
Tired of having to use the "subtitle" button because you can't quite make out what the actors are saying? You can eliminate this (except for the British movies or the "mumblers") by optimizing your Center Channel speaker.
 The two images below show the settings after the Audyssey setup has been run. Most of the speakers have had their volume lowered. (Negative "dB" numbers mean the speaker volume has been reduced. Higher dB numbers mean the volume has been increased.) Also the default Crossover is usually 80 Hz. This filters out the low bass frequencies below 80 Hz. So we want to do three things:

For bigger TVs, it might be better to have the Center Speaker below rather than above the TV. It's closer to your hearing level that way. Also, tilt it up a bit, so that the speaker is aimed right toward your ears.

Raise the volume on the center speaker a bit. I went from -5.0 dB to -2.0 dB, as shown in the left image. You can experiment with slightly higher volumes, such as -1.0 dB or even 0 dB.

Filter out more of the lower frequencies. Lower frequencies cause a speaker cone to move forward and backward more. If voices and dialog come through this moving cone, the voices are propagating off a moving surface, and will sound slightly wobbly. So we raise the cutoff of the lower freqencies a bit. So, as shown in the right image, the cutoff was changed from 80 to 120 Hz.

NOTE: Make sure the Center Speaker is set to "Small". (SEE "The AV Receiver" above.)

center speaker

As shown here, we went from -5dB to -2dB.

And here, we went from 80 Hz to 120 Hz. We want to use the Center Speaker to handle mid-range and high frequencies, not the lower ones.

center speaker

The Blu-ray Player:
As with the AV receiver, the Blu-ray player may attempt to connect to wireless. If you are using the TV as the connected device, then you will want to disable the Blu-ray wireless connection. NOTE: Sony makes excellent Blu-ray players. I own several of them. However they do not come with Disney Plus (in case you are interested in that service), and you can't add apps to Sony Blu-ray players, at least as of this writing - 2021.
If you bought a 4k Blu-ray player and a 4k TV, both devices may be capable of "upscaling" non-4k content to 4k. If you "know" your TV is upscaling, and the picture does not look as good as you might expect on non-4k content, try turning off the upscaling on the Blu-Ray player.

Getting Some Interesting Content to Watch

Netflix and other streaming services offer "4k" versions of many of their movies. But you will see them in 4k only if your internet connection is fast enough. It is necessary to have 25 megabit/second or more to stream 4k. You can run some sort of "Speed Test" on your internet to find out. If you are using wireless to connect to your home theater, then be sure to run the speed test on a device (preferably a laptop or tablet) that is in the same room as the system.
 DVDs: Although many articles claim that "DVDs are going away, and streaming is the only way to get content nowadays", nonetheless there are plenty of other articles which point out that the best quality audio/video is obtainable only with a 4k Blu-ray player. The author of "Practical Home Theater" concurs as well.
 I have a fairly extensive DVD collection, but most of mine are "standard" DVDs, not Blu-rays. I really did not notice a significant difference on my older 1080p "high definition" TV.
 But there is a significant difference on a newer home theater system. Older High Def Blu-rays produce a much clear picture on a 4k TV than High Def "standard" DVDs. The sound is better also, and you are more likely to get a true "Surround sound + height" experience from a Blu-ray DVD. Most standard DVDs show "Dolby Digital" or "Dolby Audio" on the back, but many Blu-ray versions of the same movie show "Dolby Digital" and "Dolby Atmos".
 Here's some selected excerpts to watch: Amazon links are provided in case you want to purchase the DVDs.

Capt Marvel

Captain Marvel, scene #3: The Krull have captured Carol Danvers and are probing her memory. Their voices appear to come out above and also on the sides, as if you were inside Danvers' head, listening to the voices. This is an especially good demo of surround and height effects!
 This link is for a Blu-ray. The 4k Blu-ray would be fine as well.

How to Train Your Dragon 2, scene #12 and scene #15. Scene 12 is the one where hicccup first enters his mom's dragon cave. The scenes here are intricate and are simply gorgeous in 4k. Scene #15, where Hiccup is flying with his mom, is also a visual treat.
 This link is for a 4k Blu-ray.

dragon 2

dragon 3

How to Train Your Dragon 3. The sequence where Hiccup and Astrid fly into the Hidden Kingdom is an utterly mesmerizing visual and musical treat.
 This link is for a 4k Blu-ray.

Twister. The whole movie is a showcase of surround and height effects. And it will dust off your subwoofers too. We watched this movie recently during one of the Pacific coast storms, and found ourselves pausing the movie more than once - just to make sure the whooshing was coming from our speakers and not outside!
 This link is for a Blu-ray.



Avatar. If you like dreamlike sequences of gorgeous scenery and imaginary creatures, there are some long sequences of Jack and his new-found Navi lady friend walking through the phosphlorescent nighttime forest. Your surround system will get a thorough workout as well during many of the action scenes.
 This link is for the "Collector's Edition" blu-ray, including an extended "Director's Cut".


2012. This movie, like Twister, is a movie-long showcase of surround sound and height effects. It's not just during the more active scenes like the incredible blast at Yellowstone. Sometimes, when the actors are inside the RV or in the big ships, you find you are surrounded by creaking and groaning noises as the vessels are being knocked about.




The Croods. This movie is full of beautiful graphics and sequences. It also has lots of surround sound effects as well. For some reason, the standard DVD looks just like a Blu-Ray in quality.
 This link is for a Blu-ray (only $2 more than the standard DVD).



Well, that's about it. I will provide future updates and links for more movies that will really showcase your new system.

And. . .If I ever get all the units to work in a predictable and consistent manner, I'll let you know what I did.
 At this time, I turn on the Denon AV receiver first, wait for it to come completely on, then I turn on the TV. I tried having HDMI-CEC enabled on the Denon. The TV would in fact turn it on when I powered up the TV, but only after displaying two separate screens indicating there is no signal from the Denon. Thus I have disabled HDMI-CEC on the Denon.
 Nonetheless, when I turn the TV off, it does turn off the Denon (with no fussing).
 Further, I can control the overall sound volume (coming from the AV receiver) with the TV remote. Sometimes it displays on the TV screen as I am changing the volume. Sometimes it doesn't.
 I turn on the Sony DVD player manually when I want to watch a DVD. I had to disable HDMI-CEC in the Sony unit. Otherwise it was being turned on automatically when I powered up the TV.
 Not too bad, I suppose. I'll keep you posted!

Helpful Links for Ordering Selected Speakers.

Want to order some of the speakers described above? Here are some links. Ordering items using these links helps support the Wracklineblog.

Klipsch r41

At the left is the Klipsch R-41M. It is shown with the cover removed. This unit makes a great surround or height speaker. I have used it for both in my setup - see the Home Theater Systems pictures 2 and 3 above, which show the two height speakers. Having the surround and height speakers match is not a bad idea, as well.
 The R-41M could be used also for the left and right main speakers as well.
 NOTE: These are sold as a pair. The price is all over the map, ranging from $125 - $165!

And the subwoofer on the right is the Klipsch R-100SW 10 inch woofer (with cover removed). You can see it on the left side of Systems 2 above. (The right side shows the older "SW450" 10 inch subwoofer.)
 You need a subwoofer! A subwoofer is for audio what HDR is for video, and can completely transform the home movie experience.
 Just one is all it takes. Place 'er in the corner to get the "corner loading" effect.

Klipsch R-41 Klipsch R-100sw
Klipsch sw100
Klipsch rp250

At the left is the Klipsch RP-250 ("Reference Premiere") Center Channel speaker (with cover removed). It has a "Tractrix horn tweeter", and two 5.25 in woofers. It's shown in Systems 3 above.
 But, as noted above in "Optimizing the Center Channel Speaker", we are restricting the low frequencies and essentially using the two "woofer" speakers as "midrange".
 Also, I have placed two rubber blocks under the front to tilt the speaker upwards slightly.

Klipsch rp250
Klipsch R-120sw

And the beast on the right is the Klipsch R-120SW 12 inch woofer (with cover removed). There's a pair of 'em in Systems 3 above. When the R-120SW speaks, it reminds me of Krishna's words in the Bhagavad Gita: "I have spoken with authority!"

Klipsch r120sw

Copyright © 2022 J.A.