With the lights dimmed, a bowl of freshly-popped popcorn, and the family cuddled beneath a blanket, there’s nothing quite like the experience of watching a film from the comfort of your own couch. But to truly get that immersive cinema experience, the sound needs to be brilliant. In this blog post, we’ll walk you through the process of creating a home cinema setup that’s right for your budget, space, and viewing habits—from choosing the right soundbar, to adding deep impact bass, to creating a complete 5.1 surround sound setup.
The idea of setting up a “home cinema” may conjure visions of tangled cables drilled into walls, stacks of complicated receivers, multiple remote controls, and a price tag in the thousands. Whilst this might have been true in the 80s, getting cinema-quality sound in your home has never been easier or more valuable. (As TVs have become thinner and thinner, the sound they’re able to produce has gotten worse and worse.) And yet, the number of decisions you have to make in order to set up a home cinema that works for you can be overwhelming. With that in mind, we put together this guide to walk you through a few simple decisions you can make in order to experience cinema-quality sound at home.
1. Start with a soundbar
The single most dramatic improvement you can make to how your favourite shows, films, and games sound on your TV is to add an external speaker. The sound will be fuller, the dialogue crisper, and the bass bolder. All of our home cinema speakers were tuned by Oscar- and Emmy-winning sound engineers to ensure that you’re hearing your favourite films and shows as they were meant to be heard, by the people who created them.
For cinematic sound that surrounds you in the story, choose Arc. Arc’s upwards-firing drivers allow you to experience shows, films, and games with the precise and immersive sound of Dolby Atmos. When you’re not watching TV, you can use Arc to stream music from more than 100 music services including Apple Music, Amazon Music, and Spotify. And with a soft profile and seamless façade, Arc blends in beautifully, either mounted underneath your TV or placed on a piece of furniture. Arc automatically pairs with your remote and can be controlled with the Sonos app, Apple AirPlay 2, your favourite music app, or your voice. Shop Arc here.
For smaller rooms, consider Beam. This smart, compact soundbar does it all. It provides high-definition sound for TV shows and films. And, like Arc, when you step away from the screen, Beam can play your favourite music, podcasts, and more with rich, room-filling sound. It also has built-in support for Audible and Calm for quieter moments. It’s simple to set up, automatically pairs with your remote control, and is incredibly easy to control—use the Sonos app, Apple AirPlay 2, music apps, or your voice. Beam can be placed on a piece of furniture in front of your TV or mounted on the wall. Shop Beam here.
To make sure your TV is compatible with Arc or Beam, click here.
Cinema Tip All of our home cinema speakers come equipped with Speech Enhancement and Night Sound: Speech Enhancement: Tap the speech bubble icon on the Now Playing screen to prioritise dialogue so you won’t miss a word—even when the action gets intense. Night Sound: Tap the half moon icon to even out the sound so you won’t wake the rest of the house (or your neighbours). No more turning up the volume when characters whisper and then frantically turning it down when things explode.
2. Add a subwoofer
Adding Sub to your home cinema setup extends your viewing experience into a new dimension. With Sub, you’ll get bass you can feel.
More than just “more bass”
In addition to providing bolder bass for your shows, films, and music, adding Sub to one of our home cinema speakers actually improves that speaker’s performance. (Bear with us, we’re going to get a bit technical here.) Our home cinema speakers play high frequency sounds (like dialogue) through a “tweeter.” And they play both midrange and bass frequencies through a “woofer.” By offloading the bass frequencies to Sub, the speaker is freed up to deliver more midrange sound through the woofer. So when you add Sub, not only will you experience deeper bass, but you’ll also experience better sound from your home cinema speaker.
Bass without buzz
One of the biggest concerns we hear about with Sub is that people are worried it’s going to rattle. Sub was specifically designed to eliminate the vibration associated with traditional subwoofers. The rectangular hole at the centre of Sub isn’t just aesthetically pleasing—it eliminates rattle by allowing those vibrations to dissipate into open space. Sub was recently updated with increased memory and processing power, ensuring the best possible performance. Shop Sub here and 3.1 Entertainment Sets here.
Cinema Tip A setup with both a home cinema speaker and a subwoofer is called 3.1. The “3” represents the three channels of the speaker—left, right, and centre—and the “.1” represents the addition of the subwoofer.
3. Connect two rear speakers for 5.1 surround sound
You have a home cinema speaker. And Sub. How much of a difference can two more speakers make? Plenty. To completely immerse yourself in the drama of TV shows, the action of films, and the joy of music, 5.1 surround sound is the way to go. When you add two matching speakers (Sonos One, One SL, Move, or the new Sonos Five) to your home cinema setup, you allow the sound to completely expand to its full potential. You’ll discover new elements of songs you’ve been listening to your entire life. And you’ll find yourself completely enveloped in what you watch. You can even control whether the rear speakers provide full sound or ambient sound when you’re playing music. And, like all Sonos products, it can be set up in minutes. Want to add voice control to your setup? You only need a single Sonos One—pair it with a One SL (a voiceless speaker) to unlock voice control with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant for your entire system. Shop rear surrounds and 5.1 Surround Sets here. One of the tricky parts of adding rear speakers to a home cinema setup is where to place them. We’ve made it easy with a variety of speaker stands and mounts. Choose what works best for your viewing room here.
Cinema Tip: A setup with a home cinema speaker, subwoofer, and two rear surround speakers is called 5.1. Without the subwoofer, it’s called 5.0. The latest Sonos Arc also includes overhead speakers which would make your surround system a 5.1.2 setup.