Troubleshooting When Surround Sound Speakers Aren’t Working

troubleshooting why not all of your surround sound speakers are working is frustrating, but with a little know-how about cords and wiring you may be able to fix the problem yourself

If you’re a home theater owner asking yourself why all of my surround sound speakers are not working, then you’re in the right place. Here are some steps you can take to get your woofers, tweeters, and everything in between playing on the same team.


We’ve been there: it’s a Saturday, it’s game day, the wings are saucy and the cans are cold, but that bass bumper that should be turning your home theater into a suburban slice of Lane Stadium is just not kicking in.

It’s frustrating. Today’s complex home theater systems mean there are a lot of things that could be causing this. First, let’s knock out some obvious things so we don’t burn up more game time than we need to on this:


Start with the suspect speakers themselves. Are they really not working? Modern surround sound systems often task individual speakers with very specific jobs, so it might be hard to hear the particular mix of sound it’s playing. 

Try turning up the volume a little and listen closely. While you’re there, check to see if there are any on/off, mute, or limiting switches on the speakers themselves. Subwoofers often have volume controls for low-level and high-level inputs right on the unit.


Sometimes just by restarting the whole system and allowing everything to power-up from your main AV receiver will help to solve the problem. It’s a quick way to iron out any software connectivity tangles that might have developed with plugging and unplugging units during setup. 


If any of your surround sound speakers connect to your AV receiver via Bluetooth, this is a good time to check they are linking properly. With headphones, AirPods, smartphones, and tablets all competing for airtime, it’s easy for things to get confused.


Now let’s have a look at the ins and outs of what is connecting your surround sound speakers to the rest of your home theater system — the cables.


Check the audio connections on the affected speakers. Make sure everything is tight. Check especially for loose wiring on any speaker connections that screw down on bare audio cable and on adapters that connect different types of wiring together.


Next, let’s look at all the audio connections on your AV receiver. You need to make sure the right sort of speaker is connected to the right audio output. Subwoofers, for instance, are often “active” speakers with their own power source and need to be connected to a dedicated LFE output on an amplifier. 

As with the speakers, make sure all connections are tight and secure and that the cabling is in good shape. With a bit of luck, the problem might just be a crossed connection and pretty soon the only tangles you’ll be seeing will be in the Wahoos defense up at Blacksburg.


If not, it is likely that the problem lies in the way the surround sound capability of your home theater is set up in the software of your AV receiver and the devices connected to it. Let’s take a closer look:


Take a look at the speaker configuration in the setup menus for your AV receiver. This needs to reflect the number and type of speakers you have connected and whether each is equipped with surround sound technology. It should be run every time you add new speakers to your system. If you are not sure it’s set up right, run it again.


Next, see if the source of the music you are playing is in a format enabled for a surround sound-equipped system, typically 5.1 or Dolby Atmos audio. 

Most of the major streaming services now provide “HD” streaming, and many DVDs are also surround sound equipped. You might need to check whether your DVD player is capable of 5.1 playback.


If you are playing a regular stereo soundtrack through a system equipped for surround sound, it may only play on the front speakers of your system. To play stereo sound on your system you will need to enable an “upmixing” mode such as Dolby Surround, DTS Neural:X, or others for each particular source connected to your AV receiver or amplifier.


Finally, a useful feature offered in the speaker setup menu of many AV receivers is the ability to play a test tone on individual speakers. This is a great way to check speakers are indeed working. 

For instance, some Dolby Atmos speakers are designed to only augment sounds produced by other speakers and can often seem to be producing no sounds at all.


Things can get a bit technical beyond this point, and if Enter Sandman is still not blasting from your high-level speakers in time for the big game, it might be time to seek professional help. 

Integration issues like this can often be avoided with a professionally installed home theater. A well-planned system is not only optimized to make the most of the physical space and acoustics of your existing home, it is designed to grow with you as your entertainment needs change and grow.

A local business, Moseley Electronics knows that it’s about much more than a football rivalry or another Saturday night movie. It’s the way Richmond spends quality time with the people we care about. 

At Moseley, we are experts at integrating and automating technology from leading home theater equipment suppliers like Sonos and Sony into your home and into your lifestyle.

Click below to find out more about how Moseley Electronics can take your home theater experience to the next level.

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