If you have encountered an advertisement for a home audio system in the past few years, you have probably heard the term “surround sound.” However, what does it mean? The simplest way to explain the concept of surround sound is by comparing it to the air around us. You cannot tell the direction from which the air is flowing unless there’s a breeze.
Similarly, surround sound systems produce immersive sound. You cannot tell the position of the speakers around the room just from listening to the sound output. They provide an immersive experience when watching movies or gaming.
Some first-time buyers do not know what to consider when shopping for a surround sound system. Others know what they want but cannot settle for a specific system. If so, this article is for you. Below are the must-know facts before investing in a surround sound system.
The More Channels, the Better
The number of speaker channels influences the quality of the surround sound. Most speaker channels vary from 2.0 to 13.1. However, not all arrangements can deliver surround sound. For example, you cannot get a surround sound experience from a 2.0 speaker channel arrangement.
Usually, a 5.1 speaker channel is the standard for a surround sound system. The speakers can be grouped, as in the case of a soundbar, or separately like traditional home theater systems. The latter includes five separate speakers and one subwoofer for bass. The best way to arrange a 5.1-channel system is by positioning three speakers in front of the room and two at the back.
Alternatively, you can get a 7.1 or 7.1.2 speaker channel system. The 7.1 channel system has two additional speakers to the 5.1 set-up. Meanwhile, the 7.1.2 channel system also includes two up-firing speakers. Other surround sound speaker channels include 9.1, 9.1.2, 12.2., and 13.1.
Wired Speakers Are not Superior to Wireless Speaker Systems
When discussing surround sound systems, one endless debate is whether to go for a wired or wireless set-up. In the end, buyers have specific reasons for choosing one over the other.
On the one hand, audiophiles associate wired systems with superior sound quality. Moreover, wired systems are less susceptible to signal interference, which often translates to lower latency than wireless systems. Whereas these claims are somewhat true, the disparity is often negligible. The average person will not notice any difference in audio quality or surround sound when comparing a wired and wireless system with similar specs.
Wireless speakers also have their advantages. You need not worry about cluttering your space with cables. Most wireless speakers support Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. So, you only need to sync the system components, and you are good to go.
The Size of the Room Matters
The surround sound system you buy should match the size of your living room or lounge. Using a lower speaker channel system in a large room may result in sections of the room without immersive sound when watching movies or gaming.
A 5.1 speaker channel system is the best set-up for a standard room of up to 350 square feet. Assuming the room has a regular shape, you can place one speaker in each corner and one at the front center. For larger rooms, you may need a bigger speaker channel system, such as 7.1 or 9.1.
Compatibility with Other Technologies Matters
Compatibility has become a huge decision point when buying surround sound systems. In the past, most sound systems connected seamlessly with audio and video sources. This has changed in the last few years as manufacturers look to differentiate their products.
Take the example of a premium surround sound system from Sony. The system is compatible with most TVs. However, the user experience slightly differs when using a Sony TV vs. TVs from other manufacturers.
Additionally, check whether the speaker system supports Apple Airplay 2, Chromecast built-in, and Spotify Connect. These features allow you to play content wirelessly from streaming sites like Spotify and Apple Music.
Dolby Atmos and DTS:X Boost the Surround Sound Experience
“This speaker system supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.” This is a common phrase audio equipment manufacturers use when marketing their products. However, what does it mean?
Dolby Atmos is an audio technology that makes the surround sound more immersive. Traditionally, the term “surround sound” meant perceiving sound from the front, back, and sides. However, Dolby Atmos technology added a height factor to create a full audio atmosphere. It makes it possible to place an “audio object” almost anywhere within a room. Take the example of a movie scene where a plane flies just above the ground. Dolby Atmos delivers the audio object as intended by the movie director so that you perceive the sound as if the plane just flew above you through the living room.
DTS:X technology uses the same principle as Dolby Atmos. It places audio objects in specific positions in a room as intended by the movie director. We recommend buying a surround sound system with either one or both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. However, it will cost you more than buying a system without these technologies.
Price Does Not Always Equate to Quality
It is normal consumer behavior to equate price with quality. This is a reasonable metric, considering manufacturers price their products based on the production cost. However, price is not always an objective indicator of the expected audio quality and overall user experience.
Other factors like brand popularity often influence price. As such, we recommend comparing surround sound systems using their specs and speaker channels. Usually, surround sound systems with premium features and technologies cost more, regardless of the brand. However, we cannot ignore how much a speaker system costs. We recommend setting a budget to avoid overspending. Choose a surround sound system that offers the best value at a given price point.
Summary Table of the 6 Must-Know Facts Before Investing in a Surround Sound System:
|The 5.1 speaker channel is the standard configuration for a surround sound system.
|There is very little difference in performance between wired and wireless systems.
|The surround sound system you buy should match the size of your living room.
|Voice assistants and streaming capabilities influence user experience.
|Dolby Atmos and DTS:X boost the surround sound output.
|Price is not the main indicator of a surround sound system’s quality.
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