Tips for your own homecinema
by Roger, responsible for the automotive division at PIEGA
WHY DO I NEED SURROUND SOUND?
You may not simply want to watch a film but truly immerse yourself info the action. To create this immersive experience the single sound of a front speaker is simply not enough.
Then while our eyes are mainly focused on the screen in front of us, our hearing permanently scans our surroundings. Our brain is capable to locate sounds and noises coming from behind very precisely and subconsciously triggers a physical reaction (a natural reflex that saved many of our ancestors from bear attacks ;-)).
This 360° sound detection is what evokes emotions and gives us the creeps at the cinema. Who doesn’t wince at the sudden sound of cracking branch in a horror film? See for yourself! Try watching a (horror) film with subtitles only, turning the sounds off. See what I mean?
At the cinema it is quite easy to create this “feeling of immersion”. The acoustic experience is generated by a sophisticated speaker set up that distributes the sounds evenly throughout the auditorium. A technique that is commonly referred to as surround sound. Creating the same immersive sound experience at home has recently become very popular.
I WANT MY OWN HOME THEATRE. WHAT DO I NEED TO CONSIDER?
First of all: There are many different ways to create your own home theatre. The set up very much depends on what you’d like to achieve and what your preferences are. It is best to follow a three-part model for the loudspeaker configuration, e.g. 5.1.2., which has proven to be an established method.
The numbers stand for:
(5.): Number of speakers around you
- two stereo speakers in the front
- one additional centre speaker right in front of the listener
- two additional rear speakers at the back
(1.): Number of subwoofers (generally one, sometimes two)
(2.): Number of in-ceiling speakers. Yes, in-ceiling!
So, the three digits 5.1.2. stand for two main speakers in the front, one centre, two surround speakers in the back, plus a subwoofer, and two in-ceiling speakers.
AND WHAT DO I REALLY NEED?
True to the saying: “Less is more”, I recommend that you put together what a home theatre should be like for you and get advice from a specialist. Here are a number of tips on how I’ve set up my own home cinema.
The two front speakers are the most important part of the set up. They release the sound of your TV and will give it dynamics and width. That’ll already ensure decent sound quality. My recommendation: think big! Premium quality floor standing speakers should be your first choice here.
Then think about the loudspeakers next to and behind you. Together with the front speakers they will be responsible to create the illusion of a car racing through your living room – and you being sat right in the middle of the action
However, the sound reproduction doesn’t have to be as dynamic as that of the main speakers. So, don’t go overboard! I opted for a smaller model of the same series and combined it with two bookshelf speakers.
In an ideal world, the speakers are positioned following this standard. And there is nothing wrong with that. But first and foremost, the set-up has to comply with your preferences and the size of your room. Make sure that your surround receiver allows for a customised speaker positioning. So even if the loudspeakers are not ideally placed within a room, the acoustic centre can be focused on your sofa by playing with level correction and signal delay. For further advice just contact your specialist dealer.
From now on it is up to you to decide on what you consider most important:
A subwoofer is responsible for creating an authentic atmosphere. The bang of an explosion, the sound of rolling thunder – all dark and gloomy noises are best reproduced by a quality subwoofer. Subwoofers can easily be upgraded retroactively, so if in doubt, try it out first. Your specialist dealer will certainly be happy to lend you one and advise on the installation.
A centre can be a very good problem solver. Its main purpose is a clear and precise voice reproduction. Although it is possible to operate without a centre, so to say a phantom centre, speech intelligibility will clearly suffer. So, if you like to watch films in their original language, but at times still have difficulties following every dialect, you should definitely opt for a high-quality centre speaker. (If you’ve seen the movie “No Country for Old Men”, you’ll know what I’m talking about.)
Integrating an additional set of side speakers will yet again improve and optimise the sound detection for a well-balanced and immersive surround sound experience.
My advice: Discuss your individual requirements and space issues with a pro, he can help finding a tailor-made solution and prevent mispurchases.
In-ceiling speakers are yet another way of improving the sound quality. They’ll allow you to perceive the acoustics of a helicopter as if it was right above your head. The same applies to any other scene, that, with the right set-up, will sound more natural.
In order to keep both, financial expenditure and construction work manageable, this is the time to contact a specialist who deals with these questions on a daily basis and can offer comprehensive advice.
With a neatly set up 7.2.4 system you’ll transform your living room into a proper cinema – a lot of fun and impressive sounds guaranteed. Now grab a bag of popcorn and get ready for some serious binge-watching!
MY PERSONAL ADVICE FOR YOU
Sound fundamentals are the key, so invest in those first and purchase the remaining components by and by. That way you won’t need to replace all your equipment in case of upgrading one.
I have had my main loudspeakers for a long time – and I still like looking at them. Style is important! So, don’t compromise on visual aspects. Speakers that have past their heydays can be used as additional rear in the back.
By the way: Surround receivers often have the same signal processing features although they come with different price tags, what’s different is the performance. So, if you don’t want to start with a 20 kg powerhouse, a set of wireless loudspeakers would be worth considering.
Roger joined our PIEGA-Team as Head Automotive in 2019. Starting as a vendor and installation technician at an electronics specialist, he’s learnt his business from scratch. He then studied audio and video technology in Vienna and has worked at BMW in Munich for ten years, where he was in charge of developing loudspeakers and audio systems. HiFi is part of his everyday life. He is a passionate engineer who likes to tweak his speakers to perfection and enjoys watching films in his home cinema several times a week.