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Monster Cable Connections: Home Theater Speaker Hook-Up: Doing It Right

By Noel Lee

 With my many years of experience in the audio/video industry, I get a lot of questions from people about setting up home theater systems. One of the most difficult things to set up in a home theater is the speaker system. First, you have to decide how many you're going to have, then, which models to buy, where to place them, what kind of cable to hook them up with and how much cable you'll need. With all the factors that need to be considered, it's no wonder people are confused.

Location Is Everything

The most common question I get concerns speaker placement. Their location in relation to your TV screen, component stack and where you will be sitting is critical to re-creating the movie experience at home. There is a complex art to arranging speakers, and several different guidelines to follow. For instance, to achieve realistic imaging, the left and right front speakers should be placed on either side and equidistant from your TV screen, facing straight out at the listener.

The gauge and quality of the speaker cable also determines how far from the screen you can place your speakers. The general rule is the shorter the cable run, the better - and more powerful - the sound. Over long runs, the signal is prone to more interference, causing loss and degradation as it travels through the cable. To guard against loss of sound quality, I recommend keeping speaker cable lengths as short as possible.

Ideally, left, center and right front speaker cables should all be the same length, and so should each of the surrounds. This standardizes the distance that the audio signal has to travel to each, ensuring full dynamic range and more natural re-creation of depth.

Final words on location: don't place speakers too close to system equipment - they are prone to acoustic feedback caused by vibration. Also, keep speaker cables away from line level or AC power cords to reduce noise and hum. If you plan speaker location carefully before hooking the whole system up, you'll have a monsterous sounding home theater.

Which Cable?

Another question people often ask is what kind of speaker cable they should use to hook up their home theater system. Here are guidelines to help you make the right choice:

  • Choose a speaker cable with a large gauge (16 or smaller, remember the smaller the gauge the larger the conductor inside) that can handle the power that today's movies and components require.
  • Buy the best cable you can afford. The performance of your cables should be at least equal to the performance level of your home theater speakers and components. Allow 10% of your home theater budget for cables.
  • Look for cables with a channel identification system (e.g. color-coding) that labels channels (left, right, center, right surround, left surround and subwoofer) and phase (negative, positive). Trust me, they are essential to organized, error-free hook-up of the many speakers needed in a home theater.
  • Make sure the cables are terminated with 24K gold plated connectors. They provide the best signal transfer and a reliable connection that won't come loose. A word of caution: never use bare wire for your connections. Over time, the copper will oxidize and corrode, making for poor signal transfer and sound.

Monster Cable's home theater speaker cables meet all of the above criteria and then some. They feature Time Correct® windings, a patented technology that allows the higher frequencies to travel on fine copper strands that are specially wound around thicker strands, which carry low frequencies, so that both signals reach their destination simultaneously. The result is dynamic, undistorted sound, and in the case of home theater, higher dialogue intelligibility.

Monster Home Theater™ speaker cables also feature side-by-side construction for easy installation and cable management. Our three-channel speaker cable set carries the front left, center and right speaker signals in one easy-to-install cable, as does our two-channel speaker cable for surrounds (or two front channels).

In addition, Monster Home Theater™ speaker cables are certified by Lucasfilm's THX division. This means that they meet stringent THX electrical and mechanical specs to ensure proper system performance and a more realistic reproduction of movies in the home. They are also a necessary component in a complete THX home theater system.

Do It Right The First Time

Proper home theater speaker set-up is key for the best movie and soundtrack reproduction. So why not lay it out right the first time? By planning your home theater environment, following manufacturer recommendations for speaker placement, and using the right cables, you'll maximize your home theater experience and hear your favorite movie soundtracks the way they were meant to be heard. Sit back and enjoy!