Different Surround Sound Systems Explained: 2.0, 5.1, 6.1 and 7.1

Last Updated on 25 March, 2023 by Darshan Chana

Have you ever been to the cinema and felt like you were a part of the movie because of how it sounds? That’s because most theatres now use surround sound channels. But what are different surround sound systems, and how do they work?

Different Surround Sound Systems Explained

In this blog post, I’ll discuss these basics of surround sound audio and explain how they can enhance your home theatre experience. I’ll also tell you what kind of room every sound channel is good for. So, without further ado, let’s begin.


What Is Surround Sound?

What Is Surround Sound

Simply put, surround sound is a technique used to create the illusion of sound coming from all around you. It does this by using multiple audio channels, usually five or more. These channels are distributed across different speakers placed around the room.


What Do the Channel Numbers Mean?

What Do the Channel Numbers Mean

Best home theatre systems are often made up of different channels. A channel is essentially a speaker, which means that the number in the title of your sound system tells you how many speakers it has. For example, 5.1 means there are 5 speakers and 1 subwoofer (the .1 part). The number after the decimal point represents height speakers, though this part is optional.

Most music formats only need left and right channels for a good experience, but more channels add to the immersion. For instance, with seven channels, you can have the equivalent of a full-fledged cinema sound system at home. The number of channels your system has will determine how realistic the sound feels when watching movies or listening to music.


Different Types of Surround Sound Systems

Now, I’ll talk about some common sound channels. I’ll talk about the speaker arrangements and how to get the best audio out of them.


2.0 Surround Sound

2.0 Surround Sound

This is a speaker system consisting of two channels. It’s meant for general stereo audio. The speakers of this system should be placed at ear level, with no obstructions in between them and your seating area, which should ideally be in the middle of the room. It’s also good to have both the speakers facing you to avoid distractions by side echoes.

2.0 surround sound channel is ideal for small to medium-sized rooms.


5.1 Surround Sound

5.1 Surround Sound system

This is the most popular surround sound format, and it’s the best for overall audio. The system has five channels – left, right, centre, left rear and right rear – plus a subwoofer. The front left and right speakers should be placed at ear level, with no obstructions in between them and your seating area.

The centre speaker should be placed directly above or below the TV, while the left and right rear speakers should be placed behind your seating area, at about ear level. Lastly, the subwoofer needs to be kept in a corner or against a wall.

5.1 surround sound channel is ideal for medium to large-sized rooms. The channels provide an immersive audio experience that can make you feel like you’re right in the middle of the action.


6.1 Surround Sound

6.1 Surround Sound

This system is very similar to the 5.1 channel, but it has an extra rear speaker – making a total of six channels. This extra speaker adds to the immersion. The placement of the speakers is mostly the same as in the 5.1 channel. The only difference is that an additional rear speaker goes behind your seating area.

If you have a large room, go for a 6.1 channel audio system. The extra rear speaker can really enhance the surround sound experience.


7.1 Surround Sound

7.1 Surround Sound system

7.1 Surround Sound consists of seven sound channels and one subwoofer. The seven channels are three front channels, two side channels and two rear channels. The subwoofer is responsible for the low-end bass frequencies. This surround sound system is great for home cinemas and gaming systems.

This kind of surround sound is best suited for medium to large rooms. The channels create an immersive sound experience that envelops the listener. The sound might be too overwhelming in a small room and cause distortion.


Surround Sound Systems Beyond 7.1

Surround Sound Systems Beyond 7.1

The 7.1 surround sound system has pretty much been the industry standard for many years, but with the advent of 4K and HDR video, new audio systems have come out to match the improved visuals. One such system is 9.1, which adds two additional height channels to the traditional 5.1 or 7.1 setups. These new channels give extra dimensionality to sound, making it seem like it’s coming from above or all around you. Other systems include 11.1 and 13.1, which add even more height channels for an even more immersive experience.

Unless you’re making a special room just for watching cinemas, it would be best to stick with a 7.1 or 5.1 surround sound system.

Recommended Reading: Top 10 Best home theatre systems in India: Expert Picks


Importance Of Speaker Placement

Importance Of Speaker Placement

You’re probably wondering why I said that the speakers in these surround systems need to be set in certain positions. It’s because the audio channels are designed to create a specific listening environment. The front speakers are typically used to create the illusion of sound coming from in front of you, while the surround and back speakers help to create the feeling of sound coming from all around you.

This is why all the speakers must be placed in their correct positions so that you can get the most out of your surround sound audio experience.


Different Surround Sound Systems – Frequently Asked Questions


1. What’s the best surround system for listening to music?

It depends on the type of music you like. 5.1, 7.1 and 9.1 surround systems all work well with different music styles, so choose one that works best for your needs.


2. Is it a must to have the subwoofer on in a surround sound system?

No, it’s not a must, but it is recommended for the best listening experience. The subwoofer helps create deeper and richer bass sounds that can enhance your music listening experience.


3. Is there a specific surround system best suited for special occasions like parties and weddings?

The 5.1 surround system is great for such events. Why? Because you can use your central speaker as a PA (public address) system by adding a microphone to it and directing the sound towards the audience. The other speakers will help create the right atmosphere, helping them enjoy such occasions even more.


4. Do Home Theatre Systems come with surround sound systems like 5.1 or 7.1?

Yes, most of them do. Best home theatre systems are typically surround sound systems themselves, giving you a 5.1 or 7.1 audio experience right at home.


5. Are height speakers like what’s included in a 7.1.2 surround system important?

Not really. Height speakers are used to provide more depth to sound effects, especially in 3D movies. This doesn’t affect your listening experience that much, however, so you can choose whether or not you need them depending on your own preferences.


6. How does Dolby technology affect surround sound?

Dolby technology is used to create a more immersive surround sound experience. It does this by dynamically adjusting the audio channels, depending on the content that’s being played. This gives you a more realistic and lifelike soundscape, immersing you further into the movie or game you’re playing.

Recommended Reading: 9 Best Soundbars in India (2023)- Reviews & Buying Guide



Now that you know what surround sound channels are and how they work, you can decide what type of system will work best for your needs. Whether you’re looking to improve your music listening experience or want a more immersive surround sound for movies and games, there’s a system out there that’s perfect for you. So what are you waiting for? Start exploring today!

And, whatever you do, always remember that surround sound is one of the most integral parts of a home theatre system. As such, I advise that you take the time to consider every factor, so you can experience all that surround sound has to offer. For more information on setting up your home theatre, be sure to check out my other blog posts! Thanks for reading!

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