Why Are My Surround Speakers Mostly Silent?

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Q: I have a Yamaha 7.1-channel AV receiver in my system that’s set up to power a 5.1 speaker system. Very seldom do I hear sound coming out of my surround speakers when watching movies on Blu-ray, though I do occasionally hear sounds like thunder. I have even boosted the output of the surround channels relative to the fronts, and it doesn’t make a difference. What’s going on? — Chuck Schumm / via e-mail

You can’t expect all Blu-ray soundtracks to have vivid surround sound—a Woody Allen movie, for example. But plenty of recent action movies have an aggressive surround mix that makes ample use of ambient and directional effects. If you’re screening The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and don’t hear the clang of swords swirling as the Orcs attack, there’s likely a problem with your setup.

When connecting a 5.1-channel speaker system to a 7.1-channel AV receiver, you need to pay close attention to menu options and speaker connections. It’s possible that your receiver is configured in its setup menu for a 7.1-channel speaker system instead of a 5.1 setup, and that your surround speakers are connected to the receiver’s Surround Back outputs instead of its regular Surround outputs. If that’s the case, then your setup won’t pass the regular surround channels, but only back surround information—and that’s something that only appears in movies with 7.1-channel soundtracks.

Assuming I’ve diagnosed your problem correctly, try this: Pull your surround speaker cables out from the receiver’s Back Surround outputs and plug them into the regular Surround outputs. Then go into the speaker setup menu and set the Surround Back option to Off. I’m confident that you will now be surrounded by sound.

meli's picture

Test the speaker configuration with a calibration disc or a movie disc with a test. Don't most Pixar movies have an audio configuration test?

dmineard's picture

Get into your menu system and rerun the calibration. As the sound moves from each speaker to the next it will confirm you have the speakers hooked up correctly.

I have seen it before. The last time the guy had the left front hook up to the right rear and the rear speaker hooked to the left front. Boy what a strange sound. Yours is probably not this bad but it could be you are hooked up to the wrong rear connections.

gregorygray's picture

Plug in your set up microphone to the Yamaha AVR. It should trigger the system to configure all the measurements for your speakers. I highly recommend using a boom microphone holder to get the microphone into the exact listening position, they are really not that much money at any online or music retailer. Just as said before be sure the surrounds are connected to side surround or just surround and NOT the rear surround speaker outputs. This will make a big difference my friend. One more idea for you. Read up on Bi Amping your front left and right speakers. Not sure if this helps you any... But thought I would give you my 2 cents.