WHAT DO THE SURROUND SOUND NUMBERS MEAN?
In this post, I’ll quickly give you the scoop on those surround sound numbers (5.1, 7.1 etc.) and how things like ATMOS and subwoofers play into them.
- What Do The Surround Sound Numbers Mean?
- A Breakdown Of Each Number
What Do The Surround Sound Numbers Mean?
The surround sound numbering convention simply tells you how many speakers you are including in your system.
Dolby and DTS are the two main companies that have created systems for placing multi-track audio around a listening space.
That way, different sounds can be heard from different locations — as if you’re “in” the movie.
These systems can be as simple as 3 speakers in the front of the room, on up to 19 speakers all over…
But more isn’t necessarily better.
The media you’re using must have all the audio tracks supported, in order to take advantage of all your speaker channels. (By media, I mean: where is your audio coming from? Blu-ray disc? Netflix on your smart TV?)
For that reason, I don’t recommend going above 7.2.4.
That’s because 9.1 audio content is extremely rare, so unless you’re committed to a powerhouse, future-proof mega-theatre… you should stick to a setup that will give you results.
A Breakdown Of Each Number
5 . 1 . 2
The first number is the number of normal-range speakers.
These will play bass, mid-range, and high frequencies. They’re meant to play sounds that are “level” with your ears when you’re seated.
“Five point one” is the most common. It’s basic surround sound with a sub (more on that below). There are three speakers in the front, and two behind (5 total). But this often bumps up to 7 normal speakers… and can stretch up to 9, 11, or more.
5 . 1 . 2
The second number is the number of subwoofers you’re using.
These subwoofers are single, powered speakers that play the subsonic bass sounds. They give you deep sounds you can FEEL. That makes them great for home cinema and party music.
Most AV receiver units can accommodate 2 subwoofers, which means you can add a second one if you want to take the sub-bass to the next level. That’s where “point two” comes in (5.2, 7.2 etc.).
5 . 1 . 2
The third number is the number of “height” speakers above your head.
That’s Dolby ATMOS and DTS:X — the newest surround sound technology. I won’t get into the technical explanation, but the simple one is that these add speaker channels that go above your head. (Hence the term “height” speakers.)
These are sounds like helicopters and rainfall.
Having them literally coming from above you is an awesome boost to the cinema experience and if you can accommodate them, I strongly recommend it.
Click here to learn more about ATMOS and why it’s well worth having in your home theatre.
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To learn more, check out these related articles…
Home Theatre Speakers vs Soundbar: Which is Best For Your Room?
The Best Audio System for your New Home!