surround sound system for music

If you have a surround sound system and you ever play music through it, this article is for you.

Chances are you’ve been playing music through your system all wrong.

The default settings of any AV receiver are great for movies, but for music they are NOT the best…

…there’s one thing that needs to be adjusted, and most people don’t know about it.

Read on to discover what’s easily the best way to play music through a surround sound system, and how you can use it.


  • What Is Multichannel Stereo?
  • How To Activate Multichannel Stereo
  • What Other “Sound Modes” Are There?

What Is Multichannel Stereo?

Denon receiver from jensen

The key to getting the most out of a home theatre system for music is using a sound mode called “multichannel stereo.”

This is a setting on modern AV receivers that tells the receiver to send a 2-channel audio signal to all the speakers in a room — while maintaining a stereo image.

Why you need multichannel stereo

Surround sound systems — whether that’s 5.1, 7.1, or otherwise — all feature speakers that surround your listening position. This adds an immersive audio experience to any movies you watch.

Of course, a home theatre system can also be used to listen to music.

Almost all music is recorded into two tracks. Left and right. These two tracks allow a stereo pair of speakers to create an audio image.

This audio image (or “soundstage”) creates a sense of place for different sounds. You might hear a singer in a band front and centre, while the bass guitar is slightly off to the right and the drummer is back on the left.

In other words, two speakers can deliver an audio experience that tells your ears there are lots of separate sounds happening in front of you.

Now, when you have 5, 7, or more speakers in the room you can create a more complex soundstage. This is how home theatre excites you — it tells your ears there are sounds coming from anywhere in your room.

But if you play music through those multiple speakers… and you use the default setting on your AV receiver… your system will only play the FRONT LEFT and FRONT RIGHT speakers!

diagram of normal stereo in a surround sound system

Most AV receivers, by default, play stereo through the L & R speakers.

This means you’re not taking advantage of all those beautiful speakers you have set up!

How multichannel stereo works

If you go into your AV receiver settings, you can change the way it handles stereo (2-channel) audio signals. It’s almost always called a “sound mode,” and you set it to “multichannel stereo.”

What this does is it tells the AV receiver to send the LEFT audio track to the FRONT LEFT speaker… and the same track to the SURROUND LEFT speakers as well!

(And so on with the right side.)

diagram of multichannel stereo in action

Instead of a normal stereo image up front playing from your two front speakers, you get a stereo image in the front and another one in the back. This creates an incredible room filling sound that’s more detailed and immersive. It also sounds MUCH better at lower volume levels (because you’re moving air with four speakers instead of two).

This sound mode is especially great for…

  • Room filling background music…
  • Parties and social gatherings, and…
  • Live recordings…

Among other situations.

Regardless of which, it helps you get the most out of your home theatre system!

alfresco speakers by Jensen

How To Activate Multichannel Stereo

av receiver remote control

The exact steps you need to take may vary depending on the model of AV receiver you’re using. We supply our customers with quality AV receivers from the Japanese brand Denon, so this will be specifically how to do it on their models.

Setting multichannel stereo on a Denon AVR

This can be done from the remote control that’s included with the receiver.

There are three buttons labeled Music, Movie and Game. When you touch one of these, it will change to the “saved” sound mode you picked previously.

If you want to change that saved mode, you can press it again and the sound mode will change. It will display on both your TV screen and the front panel of the receiver. Simply keep pressing (or use the UP and DOWN arrow buttons) until you see “Multi Ch Stereo” selected.

That’s it!

jensen speakers elite 303 speakers

What Other “Sound Modes” Are There?

rock band plays on stage

If multichannel stereo is a “sound mode,” there must be others right?

Sound modes describe the way your AV receiver is going to handle the audio signal it’s receiving. There’s two sound modes I recommend worrying about…

“Auto” and multichannel stereo.

Setting the mode to Auto lets the receiver pick a sound mode based on the signal that’s coming in. This is the best setting for movies because you may have Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, Dolby Surround, or another surround sound encoding.

All of those are similar in that they do the same thing, but there are slight differences (with exception to Dolby Atmos and DTS:X — those are make significant changes).

Other than that, there are a few sound modes that adjust the sound to try and enhance it for certain purposes.

These include things like “Rock Arena” and “Jazz Club” that add to the sound and try to simulate the acoustics of those kinds of shows.

If you want to learn more and play with these modes, check out the manualfor your Denon receiver and test each one out to see if you like it.

Jensen al fresco speakers for outside sound

Thanks for reading! If you have any other questions, contact us here.

To learn more, check out these related articles…

 4 Reasons To Add Atmos To Your Home Theatre

The Best Speakers For Your Outdoor Alfresco Area

3 Reasons To Have Speakers In Your Bedroom