Given all the choices out there for what would be called surround sound 2.0 simple stereo to the newest form of Dolby Atmos, a surround system which should show more height in the sound, a really good pair of mains (front left and right) with a pair of nice in-ceiling or well-placed surround, satellite-speakers is where it all starts. That would be called 4.0 surround sound.
The really great thing about this kind of system is that it sticks with the old tried and true stereo mains. There shall be no need for a center speaker with such fantastic stereo mains. This is the old school HIFI lover’s kind of sound; Give me an LP and a nice phono player, a vintage Dolby Digital separate, integrated amp or solid built receiver, and you have a very desirable sound. And for the real purist you can shut off the surround speakers for Led Zeppelin, Bach, or whatever strikes your liking.
Back to the surround speakers. Here are a few of the best ways to install surround speakers with the most desirable first:
In-ceiling and well placed behind listener at least as much distance between them as your mains.
In rear corners on surface mounts-this look is very old… Unless this is a dedicated theater.
Rear bookcase speakers-bookshelf speakers neatly placed into a bookshelf in rear-very neat, and very good sounding.
End Tables- a good solution if you do not mind looking at-hopefully-very small speakers on your end tables. Please turn these down, as surround speakers close to your ears will be overpowering.
Under the end tables pointing up- I use this technique a good deal. The sound reflects off the bottom of the end tables and reflects in all directions, including to your ears. You may need to run rears 3-6 db above standard level.
Behind couch pointing up- providing there is a gap between couch and wall. The sound will follow the wall up to the listener and will reflect off the ceiling for what can be a very good effect.
Up front pointing wide to the listeners. It’s not very effective but perhaps better than not, speakers with a low dispersion or in other words having a sound which is beaming (like an adjustable flashlight not on wide angle)- on spot beam.