Yikes, Suround & Sound magazine reports that 50% of consumers who purchase home-theater-in-a-box buyers surround sound systems do not hook up their rear speakers because of inexperience or because aesthetic issues. We experienced this ourselves while visiting family over the holidays, with a brand new Blu-Ray center, 50" plasma home theater operating on half steam in the audio department...
The family had it professionally installed but didn't realize they had been enjoying their expensive new system without the rear speakers on the whole time. The looks on their faces after I fiddled a bit with their settings..."like night and day" they said.
Here's the other findings Sound & Vision quoted from the Consumer Electronics Association and CE manufacturers discovered:
• In a 2005 CEA study of the audio market, 23% of consumers cited their objection to running exposed wires to five or more speakers as one of their reasons for not owning a home theater. (Not surprisingly, 74% of consumers want systems with as few wires and connections as possible.)
• When home theater owners in the CEA study were asked what criteria they'd most like to improve in their systems, 34% cited "visibility of wires," ranking it first on the list along with "size of screen" and "size of room."
• A study conducted by Polk Audio in 2006 to gauge interest among audio consumers in wireless speaker technology found that the most preferred role for wireless speakers was as "home theater surround/rear speakers" — beating out wireless multi-room speakers for a second zone and even wireless subwoofers.
• In another survey conducted by Polk among buyers of its SurroundBar one-piece multichannel speaker systems, customers most often cited "solution for difficult room configuration" and "all-in-one convenience" as their primary reasons for purchase. But when asked what other reasons motivated them to buy, the top-ranked responses (aside from brand) were "all-in-one convenience" (cited by 50% of respondents), "less clutter" (50%), "less wires" (47%) and "design/appearance" (47%).
• Surroundaphobia may logically be thought to occur mostly among home-theater-in-a-box (HTIB) buyers, but it's apparently suffered even among more sophisticated A/V receiver shoppers. An older 2003 CEA survey found that 12% of surround-sound receiver owners had three or fewer speakers connected to their system, suggesting that the rear channels were simply going unused.
Other posts about hiding wires: