There are three main types of different surround sounds: 5.1-channel, 6.1-channel, or 7.1-channel. The numbers in the different types represents the number of speakers that are needed for that type of sound; and more doesn’t always necessarily mean better.
5.1-channel surround has six speakers, or channels, altogether – five speakers, and one subwoofer. The two most popular types of 5.1-channel surround are Dolby Digital, which many recognize from movie theaters, and DTS. The speakers with Dolby Digital don’t rely on each other to function; but many do believe that DTS produces a more accurate sound. This is the most popular type of sound for home theater systems.
As the name suggests the 6.1-channel format has one additional speaker and it’s typically placed along the rear wall. This allows for the sound to become even more diffused. The two types of 6.1-channel surround are DTS-ES, which provides a full bandwidth back surround channel; or Dolby Digital EX, which still has the rear speaker, but divides it between two different speakers.
7.1-channel surround came about with the invention of Blu-ray discs. It’s for this format of movie or show that 7.1-channel works best, as they support the newest forms of Dolby – Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio.
Types of Surround Sound Speakers
The three main types of speakers for surround sound are: direct radiating speakers, bipole speakers, or dipole speakers.
Direct radiating speakers directs the sound from the speakers directly to the listening audience. The actual speakers are typically placed at the sides or back of the room to the rear of the listeners. These speaker types are best for music, games, and movies with lots of sound effects.
Also an ideal choice for music and movies are bipole speakers. These have speakers at the sides of the cabinet, and the speakers are placed either at the back wall, so that the sound is directed towards the side walls; or they’re placed at the side walls so that the sound is directed towards the front and rear walls. While the sound is not being directed right towards the listener, it also allows for the speaker point to be unnoticeable, giving a more even sound.
Dipole speakers are another type you can choose. These also have their speakers located at the sides of the cabinet. With dipole speakers, only one speaker is actually outputting sound at a time. However, with bipole speakers both speakers generate sound simultaneously. This allows for the sound to become even more enveloping, with the exact point of sound going completely undetected.
Once you’ve determined the types of home theater speakers and sound that you’re looking for, setting up the rest of your home theater is a snap. Remember though that it’s the sound and speakers that truly make a home theater great, so if you’re unsure of which to choose, speak to a professional that will help make the choice much easier.