Are you ready to build your dream home theater? If so, you will want to take some time to plan how the sound system is going to be installed in the room. You probably already know about the standard 5.1 sound system, but your research may have opened your eyes and ears to potentially installing a 7.1 or 9.1 speaker system in your home theater. Before you automatically assume that more speakers will be better, understand what separates these 3 surround sound setups.

5.1 Sound

A 5.1 sound system will be the most common setup for speakers. It uses a combination of 6 speakers to provide the minimum for a full surround sound experience. The speaker's positions include:

  • Front center
  • Front left
  • Front right
  • Rear left
  • Rear right
  • Subwoofer

The subwoofer is considered the .1 of a 5.1 speaker set up since it just outputs the low frequencies. Placement of the subwoofer is much less important than the other 5 speakers, but factors must be considered such as how the bass sound will bounce off nearby walls.

Many home theater enthusiasts decide to install a 5.1 sound setup because the video content that supports 5.1 sound is incredibly common. It is rare to find a DVD or Blu-ray movie these days that does not support a minimum of 5.1 sound. Prime time TV shows often support 5.1 sound as well.

Consider 5.1 sound as the minimum for a true home theater experience. It provides the experience of hearing sound travel behind you and make your television show or movie more immersive.

7.1 Sound

As the name implies, a 7.1 speaker setup adds two additional speakers to a home theater.

  • Right surround
  • Left surround

The height of the two additional surround speakers should be at the height of your ears when sitting down to watch TV. The placement should be to the direct sides of your seating area for maximum effect.

The purpose of these two surround speakers is to give you the feeling that you are in the scene on TV. They often produce ambient sound to create this effect.

Prime time television shows will not have a 7.1 mix for their show lineup. However, sound will be sent to these two additional surround speakers. You will hear a mix of the front and rear speakers out of the surround speakers when they are not being used in the sound mix.

7.1 sound is available on Blu-ray movie releases, but the sound mix is nowhere near as common as 5.1 sound. Expect to experience 7.1 sound on the major blockbuster movies made in Hollywood. Despite the frequent lack of 7.1 sound Blu-ray releases, 7.1 sound is still popular among home theater enthusiasts. 7.1 sound helps bring the theater experience to the home, which simulates the effect of speakers along the side of the theater.

9.1 Sound

9.1 sound systems will add two additional speakers to the front of the surround sound setup.

  • Right wide
  • Left wide

These two speakers are placed between the front speakers surround speakers. The purpose is to add additional precision to the sound mix by allowing you to hear things move across the television screen and around you.

While there are not many major releases that support 9.1 sound, the speakers are still added to the mix by simulating what should be coming out of the speakers. The audio produced will not be based on a discrete audio track for a true 9.1 experience, but it will still be able to give the soundtrack additional dimension.

Contact Extreme Audio if you need assistance selecting or installing a home theater system.