When considering options for your home theater, you might be wondering how many speakers you need? Under most circumstances, customers choose a surround sound system.

Surround sound is the concept of using multiple speakers for theater-like sound. First available in the home in 1969, the most basic surround sound system was one in the form of quadraphonic sound. That evolved in 1982 when Dolby Laboratories introduced Dolby sound and has advanced surround sound in the home ever since. Now there are many formats available.

The most classic is a 5.1  surround sound system that includes:

  • A center channel speaker. This is placed in the middle of the front of the room. Most of the dialog from a movie or television show comes from this loudspeaker.
  • Two speakers in the front of the room. One on the left side, one on the right.
  • Two speakers behind where you sit. One left and one right. These speakers are usually installed a few feet slightly above you when seated.
  • A subwoofer. The sub is named .1 because it only reproduces the lowest part of the audio spectrum, the bass. In some systems, a subwoofer is not used when the speakers, typically the front left and right, have the capability to handle the bass.

Properly set up, a 5.1 sound sound system does a good job of putting you in the center of the sound, whether it is a plane flying overhead in an action movie or the subtle reflected sound in a concert hall.

What is 7.1 surround sound?

7.1 surround sound was introduced in conjunction with the HD-DVD and Blu-ray disks. To take advantage of 7.1 surround sound, you add two additional speakers behind you.

7.1 audio creates a more immersive surround sound experience. And it expands the ‘sweet spot’ for the sound coming from behind; more of the seating locations will enjoy the surround effects. However, the benefits of the 7.1 surround sound decrease if a room is modestly sized. In a very small room, the benefits of two additional speakers may be minimal. However, if the hesitation to go to 7.1 audio is space – for example, if you have a couch that is against the back ball – there are plenty of options to accommodate that. There is a wide range of incredible sounding in-wall or in-ceiling speakers that can be calibrated to excel in virtually any environment.

What is 7.1.2 surround sound?

The “.1” is the number of subwoofers. The “.2” refers to how many ceiling or upward-facing speakers are in your setup. By adding ceiling speakers, you continue to enhance the overall audio experience in your home theater.

What if I don’t have room for all those speakers?

If you are limited on space or have accessibility challenges for the speaker wire, we recommend a high-end soundbar. You will sacrifice a bit of performance, but it’s still a really good option.

If you are a music enthusiast and want to have a dual purpose listening room, you might consider going with a 2-channel system for your home theater.

Need a little inspiration for your home theater?

Here are a few of our favorite theater projects:

If you want the best sound in your home theater, let us help! Drop by our showrooms to experience surround sound systems first hand.


Updated: Jan 2018.