How to “Calibrate Your Living Room” for a New TV

Some simple tips to put your TV in the best light

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Just brought home a shiny new TV? Lucky you. But you can’t just plug it into the wall and expect magic. The room the TV lives in matters almost as much as the TV itself. Lights, sounds, furniture placement—they all have an impact on how you experience your TV.

Now we’re not talking about man caves or super-premium home theaters here. If you’re dropping tons of cash on rumble seats and thousand-dollar receivers, more power to you. There are plenty of installers out there who will love to help outfit your home for the ultimate experience.

This advice, however, is for everyone else who just wants to enjoy their TV without remodeling their house around their TV.

Ambient Light

When you get right down to it, a TV’s job is to deliver light, color, and sound, so anything else in the room delivering that same stuff is competition. So first remove or reduce any visual and audible distractions.

Limit the light in the room by placing the TV away from windows or sliding glass doors, properly covering them, and ensuring lights aren’t giving you any glare on your TV.

A movie theater experience is nice, but you probably don’t want a pitch-black room if you like to do other activities or chores while you watch TV. Ambient lighting is fine; it just needs to be in the right place.

Try to position lights in such a way that they’re not pointing at the TV—which will wash out the image—or directly behind you—which will make a reflection.

Keep the lights as low as you reasonably can, and put them on the sides of the room.

A room that is too bright for a TV
This is pretty much the worst case scenario for a TV: too much competing sunlight coming from the same direction as the TV you're trying to watch.

Positioning the TV (and Yourself, too)

Next is the question of where to place the TV, and that, of course, is completely tied up in the question of where to put you, the viewer.

You want to ensure you’ve got a good view of the screen. How far away should you sit? That’s a hotly debated question among AV enthusiasts, and much of it boils down to personal preference.

A general rule of thumb for ideal seating distance is to take the TV screen size (measured diagonally) and then multiply that by about 1.5 to 2. With a 50-inch TV, for example, you can sit between 6 and 8 feet from the screen.

4K Ultra HD TVs have changed that math a little bit, because the extra pixel density means you can sit up to 30 percent closer than you can with an HDTV and still enjoy the picture.

As a side note, a lot of people seem to like putting the TV high up on a wall. We don’t know why, but it’s a terrible idea. If you have to look up through a whole movie you’ll have a pretty sore neck by the end of it. Also, a TV just isn’t going to look its best at that kind of angle. A TV should live more or less at eye level when you sit down.

Ambient Sound

The last distraction you’ll want to get rid of is sound. Now, there’s no mute button for noisy neighbors and you don’t want to ruin a nail-biting dramatic scene by hearing the washing machine finishing its cycle. Try to place your TV as far away as audible interference. Also, just having a rug, curtains, and furniture in the room can definitely cut down on ambient noise.

Of course, you can always just turn the volume up.

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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