With audio accounting for half of the cinematic experience, you most likely want to put the very best surround sound system into your home theater setup. You must first decide on how big of a surround sound system you want to have. There are 5.1, 7.1, and 9.1 surround sound systems available for you to pick from. Here is the differences between these different setups so you can decide which one is best for your home theater.
5.1 Surround Sound
The 5.1 surround sound set up is very traditional. It is made up of the following speakers.
- 3 front speakers: left, center, and right
- 2 back speakers: left surround and right surround
- 1 subwoofer
The biggest advantage of going with this setup is that 5.1 surround sound programming is readily available. If there is a show that airs in prime time television, chances are that it also has 5.1 surround sound with it. 5.1 surround sound is also a standard in major DVD and Blu-ray movie releases.
It's the bare minimum of what you need in order to have a cinematic experience in your home. You'll get the feeling of hearing things move across the room behind you, which will feel more immersive than a typical stereo sound setup.
7.1 Surround Sound
A 7.1 surround sound setup adds two more speakers to the mix.
- Left surround speaker
- Right surround speaker
They are placed at the approximate height of where your ears would be directly to the sides of the room, and provide the ambient sounds in a scene that give you a feeling of space.
While broadcast television networks don't provide 7.1 surround sound, the sound is still mixed to the two additional speakers so that they do not remain silent. Not all Blu-ray movies use the 7.1 standard either, with the amount of releases being fairly limited to the major Hollywood blockbusters. Many audiophiles prefer the 7.1 surround sound setup because it is closer to the theater experience.
9.1 Surround Sound
There are two more speakers added to a 9.1 surround sound setup:
- Left front height speaker
- Right front height speaker
These speakers are located at the front of the room, and should be placed directly above the left and right front speakers near the top of the room. They add some vertical dimension to your sound to give the allusion of things moving up and down across the screen.
The biggest drawback to a 9.1 surround sound setup is the lack of available content right now. Your audio receiver can simulate the additional audio track for these additional two speakers, but know that unless the content was designed for 9.1 surround sound, it is not made with actual discrete tracks designed to go to those speakers for the true intended effect.
Still can't decide which speaker setup would be right for you? Work with an AV installation company, such as Metro Sound & Lighting, in your area.