Roberts Audio Video

Selling and custom-installing audio & video equipment since 1934

Home Theater: Surround Sound

Surround Sound

There are a variety of home theater audio 'standards'. This might seem like a contradiction in terms, but here's the basic gist of how it works.

How many speakers again? You might have already heard of '5.1' '6.1' '7.1' and possibly the daunting '10.2' surround sound systems. But what do these numbers mean? Simply put, the numbers represent how many speakers are in your setup, which must be powered by a surround processor capable of decoding the signal.

5.1 is the standard basic number of speakers required for a theater sound system. This consists of two front speakers, a center speaker, two rear or surround speakers, and a subwoofer. This setup will let you enjoy practically every DVD on the market, as 5.1 is the de facto standard of standards.

6.1 still has front, center, rear speakers, and a subwoofer, but adds a rear center channel. This channel's content is usually synthesized from the left and right rear channels, unless the movie has a 6.1 mix included.

7.1 takes the rear sound and splits it into two surround channels and two rear channels.

7.2 Take 7.1, add another subwoofer. Mix well. Serves 4.

10.2 This monster of a setup has a center, two fronts, two mid surrounds, two rear surrounds, two rears, a rear center, and two subwoofers. There are not really many (any?) releases in this format, but there are surround processors that support this setup. Impresses those who are impressed by a whole lot of speakers.