What Is 7.1 Surround Sound? Do I Need It?  And Will It Work In My Room? (Originally Printed 9/12 In Our Free Newsletter.  Sign-Up Today!)


Dolby Digital

Before we delve into 7.1 and what it has to offer, let’s look back at the 5.1 surround sound that almost everyone is familiar with.  You know, the same 5.1 Dolby Digital that was first available on DVD in 1995 with the release of Clear and Present Danger.


A 5.1 surround speaker system is comprised of front left, center, front right, surround left, 5.1and surround speakers plus a subwoofer (the .1 or Low Frequency Effects channel).  In the diagram at the right, you can see that ideally the surround speakers in a 5.1 system are positioned slightly behind and wide of the main listening area.  Although there can be exceptions.  This positioning is intended to help the surround speakers offer a sense of both width and depth to the surround soundtrack.  But it also means that the surround speakers are making a compromise between best width and best depth performance.  This compromise affects the accuracy of the resulting soundstage.


7.1Which brings us to 7.1 Channel Surround Sound.  To improve on surround performance, the surround speaker duties are split into channels for width and channels for depth.  As seen in the diagram on the right, an ideal 7.1 system has one pair of surround speakers positioned wide to the sides and another pair of surround speakers positioned towards the back.  By splitting the surround duties, a 7.1 speaker system can offer much improved width and depth to the surround soundstage.


Even though 7.1 receivers like Denon’s AVR-3801 were available as early as 2001, DVD’s DTS Master Audionever had the storage capacity to hold a 7.1 soundtrack.  Fortunately, June 2006 saw the launch of Blu-Ray.  And with Blu-Ray came the introduction of multiple 7.1 surround formats, the most common of which are DTS HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD.


Is upgrading to a 7.1 channel surround system worth it; would it make a difference?  The short answer to this question is yes.  The caveat is you need to keep the quality of the components equal.  Upgrading from a high quality 5.1 system to a lower quality 7.1 system is a step in the wrong direction.  Upgrading from an AVR-3600DTS to a new AVR-3310CI (approximately an equal replacement) is likely to yield a huge return on investment.


Will 7.1 surround sound work in my room?  Even if your main seating position is against the back wall, the answer is yes!  Speaker positioning is intended to recreate a recording’s soundtrack in such a way that it centers on the action up on the screen no matter where you are sitting.  At the Cinema, people sit anywhere from front row to back.  And yet no matter where they sit, the surround effect remains anchored to the screen. The exact same principle is in play for your home.,

Article written by Matt Barber © 2009 Premier Electronic Solutions
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