If you are having trouble with your 5.1 surround sound speakers, the potential problem could lie in a number of areas. For one, you could have made a wrong connection somewhere. Secondly, enjoying full surround sound may involve a special cable that did not come with the system. Finally, it may be something to do with the programming you are watching. While many programs and movies come in full surround sound, it does not necessarily mean that full surround sound is constantly in use. This means that the problem you are having with your surround sound system may have absolutely nothing to do with your setup.
Troubleshooting 5.1 Surround Sound Speaker Problems
Sometimes the problem may have nothing to do with your surround sound. Be sure that what it is you are watching is transmitted in surround sound. Most movies are and some television shows are, but not all. Before you start rewiring your entire system, know for a fact that it is a problem with your system and not a function of the programming.
In order for your movies, cable or satellite television to be in surround sound, those components must have a connection with the receiver in your system chain. There are special cables used to transmit the surround sound through the satellite speakers. They should come with the system upon purchase, but check the contents to be sure. The connecting cable will likely be either digital coaxial, digital optical or a 5.1 channel analog cable. Check to make sure that all of the connections between your DVD or Blu-ray player, cable and/or satellite box are secure and properly attached.
Analog to Digital Settings
If your system employs older RCA stereo cables, surround sound is only possible through an intermediary setting that transforms analog signals into multi-directional pseudo-digital ones. Dolby Pro-Logic II is an example of such a setting. It can turn the signal emitted from a record player into surround sound, although it was not engineered that way. It offers, however, a good simulation. Check your system to see if Dolby Pro-Logic or other analog-to-digital settings are available or install the proper cabling to enable surround sound.
Check the Speakers and Speaker Wire
After you are sure the connections at the base unit are sound, start checking the individual satellite speakers. If they are wireless and battery powered, they may need new batteries. There may also be a problem with the wireless transmitter. If this is the case, consult the manual for any troubleshooting advice regarding the transmitter specific to the system. Wired systems require speaker cable between the amplifier and each speaker. Check the connections to make sure you have not reversed the polarity and that nothing has come undone.
Once you have checked all possible connections, adjusted any settings required to transform an analog signal into a digital signal and made sure each satellite speaker is properly powered, you should be able to locate the source of the problem. Remember, though, even movies and television that are in surround sound create ambiance by not overdoing it. It may be that you have to wait until the action picks up.