The Science Behind Surround Sound

How surround sound works, what makes it superior, and why you should have it in your home

how surround sound works

The world of entertainment AV solutions has seen some incredible innovations. The latest virtual reality headsets are no exception, and much of their success has to do with sound.

Sound quality has continued to improve over the last 40 years, seeing drastic changes with the invention of surround sound. While the history of surround sound can be traced back to the 1940’s, the surround sound we enjoy today didn’t make its appearance until 1976 with Dolby’s four-channel technology.

How Surround Sound Works

Simply put, surround sound works by sending information through multiple audio channels to speakers set up at specific locations around a room.

The four-channel technology (known as “quadraphonic” sound) that began the new wave of surround sound attempted to encode information from four channels and merge them into two. This created a more complete sound than the sound from two speakers on either side of the screen (called “stereophonic” sound).

Quadraphonic technology continued to improve with the creation of Dolby Digital and DTS (Digital Theater Sound) in the early 1990s. This type of surround sound sends a digital audio signal through the channels, producing a sharper sound and the flexibility to add more speakers.

The most common surround sound setup is referred to as 5.1. In this configuration, a left and a right front speaker, a receiver in the middle and two surround speakers on either side create the surrounding audio effect. There is also the option to create 6.1 surround sound by adding a speaker at the center back of the room and 7.1 surround sound by adding two speakers at the back (one on each side). The .1 part of the equation refers to the channel that sends low frequency sound to the subwoofer.

Whatever the setup, the key element is a receiver. The receiver takes all of the encoded audio in a DVD or Blu-ray and decodes it, sending signals to each speaker and providing clear sound from all directions to the “sweet spot” in the middle.

The Benefits of Surround Sound

Surround sound has essentially made movie watching an experience rather than just an activity. It makes the audio much more realistic and gives it greater depth. If a particular sound is supposed to come from behind you, then it can actually come from behind you through a side or rear speaker.

Surround sound not only improves the experience with movies but also sports games and video games. If you can’t be present in the stadium at your favorite sporting event, at least you can feel like you’re right there through surround sound technology. The same is true for video games. Surround sound pulls you into the game and makes you feel like you’re in the middle of the action.

How to Achieve the Best Surround Sound at Home

Surround sound used to be a novelty in homes, but it has become very affordable and common for the average family in the past 15 years. Now you have the option to buy a Blu-ray player with a built-in receiver and speakers to create a 5.1, 6.1. or 7.1 system in your home theater room. If you already have a Blu-ray player without the receiver, you can buy a separate receiver, speakers and subwoofer.

To achieve perfect sound, the speakers need to be placed in just the right positions around the room. The placement can often vary depending on the size of the room and how the furniture is set up. Installing surround sound in your home is not an easy task, so we recommend getting help from an qualified AV professional, especially if you don’t have experience with AV equipment installation.

Texadia Systems is one of Houston’s fastest-growing system’s integrators, and our team of experts can help you find the perfect AV solutions for your home. We’ll help you choose the right equipment and professionally install it to create the best home theater experience possible. Contact us anytime to learn more.