How to Pick the Best Surround Sound System
Surround sound is designed to provide the listener with a 360-degree audio experience. This is in contrast to a typical audio setup which provides listeners with audio from a single source. For example, if you’re watching a movie on your television, the audio will just come from your TV’s speakers in front of you. For a fuller, more immersive experience, you’ll want to opt for surround sound. This means investing in multiple speakers and/or soundbars.
Types of Surround Sound Setups
There are two main types of surround sound setups. The first is a five-point-one system, which is the more traditional surround sound option. As you may be able to infer, a five-point-one system utilizes five different speakers to create your surround sound experience. The point-one refers to a subwoofer, which is used just to play very low-frequency sounds. The five speakers are placed around the room as such: front-left, front-center, front-right, left-rear, and right-rear.
You can also take advantage of a seven-point-one surround sound setup. The seven-point-one surround sound setup utilizes seven speakers placed around the room, along with the subwoofer. The speakers are placed front-left, front-center, front-right, left, right, rear-left, and rear-right. They completely surround the listeners.
Most media is mixed in five-point-one channel format, so with a five-point-one speaker setup, one channel will be diverted to each speaker for audio. As technology advances, we may see seven-point-one recordings become more popular. At this time, five-point-one mixes played on seven-point-one systems mean that the two extra speakers play identical audio to two of your other speakers.
Wireless Versus Wired
Your surround sound system can be either wireless or wired. While wireless speakers have come a long way in terms of sound quality, true audiophiles will insist that wired speakers still provide the absolute best sound quality. The benefit of wireless speakers, of course, is that you don’t end up with unsightly wires everywhere. Additionally, you’ll have more freedom as to where you place your speakers when you don’t have to run extension cords every which way around the room. For wireless speakers, you can choose either Bluetooth or WiFi connected devices. You’ll need to make check whether the device that you plan to transmit sound from is equipped to connect via WiFi or Bluetooth. This will help you in narrowing down which type of speaker you should consider for your surround sound system setup.
Should Your Speakers Match?
For a seamless audio experience, you’ll want the speakers in your five-point-one or seven-point-one surround sound system to match. Once you find a manufacturer you like, get all of your speakers from them.
The size of your speakers should depend on the size of your room. A medium-sized living room can get away with 12 to 15-inch bookshelf speakers. A large room can handle 38-inch size speakers. Most likely, you won’t need or want this size speaker. If you put them in too small of a space, they are just too loud and overwhelming.
While speakers come with cables, these aren’t necessarily the best quality ones. Believe it or not, investing in high-quality cables can make a significant difference in your audio experience. Look for cables with gold-plated connectors. While there are some cables that come with hefty price tags, you can still get decent ones (better than your free ones) for under $50.
Don’t forget to get a good quality subwoofer. Subwoofers can be wired or wireless and come in various sizes. Like speakers, you’ll want a smaller one for small rooms and a larger one for large rooms. No matter how small your subwoofer though, don’t choose one with less than 100 watts.
Your budget will seriously impact your speaker choices. Some high-quality speakers run into the thousands of dollars. Think realistically about what your budget is, staying aware of the fact that you’re going to be buying multiple speakers in order to complete your surround-sound setup. Your budget can help refine your choices.