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5.1 Surround vs. 7.1 Surround: Which is Best for Your Home Theater?

by Ann Ferguson

Three women dancing to sound system

Do you dream of a sweet sound system? One where you feel like you're a part of the action of every movie or in the front-row seat of your favorite concert? Of course, you do! Who wouldn't?

But as you research audio systems, you come across an age-old battle: 5.1 surround vs. 7.1 surround — which system is best for your home? While you might think that the higher number is the favored contender, there's more to it than pure size. So before you declare a winner, discover the differences in each system and how your sound will benefit!

What is a 5.1 Surround System?

Blue 5.1 surround system

A 5.1 surround system is a speaker system that contains left, right, and center speakers with two surround speakers and a subwoofer for five total speakers plus a subwoofer. Typically, you'd place the left, right, and center speakers in the front of the room with the two surrounds on either side of the listening area. This way, you'll have an immersive experience that you can enjoy in whichever room you place it in!

And if you're looking for a system you can set up yourself, this system is ideal because it has fewer wires you have to figure out.

What Are the Pros & Cons of a 5.1 Surround System?

Along with the easy setup, there are other pros of a 5.1 surround system that you may prefer. For instance, you'll find that a 5.1 system has:

  • A vast array of different options to suit your home
  • Basic channel configuration
  • Provides solid theater sound
  • Easily matched with more content (5.1-based movies and music are more available)
  • Delivers low-frequency effects through the subwoofer
  • Supports Dolby Digital and DTS
  • More troubleshooting is available if you need it

However, the drawbacks of a 5.1 surround system are that it doesn't have setup precision or finely tuned sound. And if you have a larger room, a 5.1 won't provide good sound and makes it difficult for everyone to hear the audio well.

What is a 7.1 Surround System?

Red 7.1 surround system

A 7.1 surround system has all the components of a 5.1 system but with two additional rear surround speakers. This makes for seven speakers overall, not including the subwoofer. With the addition of the extra speakers, you can improve the setup of a 5.1 by placing the additional speakers behind you for a completely different experience.

This way, you add more depth to your sound and make dialogue and front-side sound effects sound like magic!

What Are the Pros & Cons of a 7.1 Surround System?

With two additional speakers, a 7.1 surround system offers different benefits than a 5.1 surround system. While they both provide an immersive audio experience, you'll find that a 7.1 system has:

  • Detailed sound with maximum channels
  • Additional amps to improve audio quality
  • Enhanced sound for larger spaces
  • Supports bi-amping when re-assigning amplifiers
  • Maximum configuration and customization options
  • Supports Dolby True HD, Dolby Digital Plus, and DTS HD Master
  • More control over your sound

So, if you're looking to tweak every aspect of your sound, a 7.1 system provides what you need. But there are a few drawbacks. The biggest one is that the 7.1 system is useless in a room smaller than 350 sq. ft. The rear surround channels will dominate the front channels.

But even if you have enough space, a 7.1 system won't come in a complete kit, has fewer online troubleshooting available, and has less compatibility with other audio systems.

Which System is Best for Me?

Deciding which is best for your home theater setup depends on your personal preferences. But it also depends on your room size, the furnishings, and your ideal listening position.

While you know that a room 350 sq. ft. or smaller is ideal for 5.1 systems, the furnishings in the room also make a huge difference in your sound. Hard materials like tables, desks, cabinets, and wood or tile flooring will reflect sound and ruin the effect of the extra speakers in a 7.1 system. But if you have soft surfaces like bookshelves, couches, and carpeting, you'll prevent sound reflection and keep your audio in tip-top shape.

Pro Tip: Remember that a 7.1 system requires more space behind the listening position for the rear speakers.

Find Your Sweet Sound

People intently watching TV

Now that you know more about which system is suitable for your home, it's time to find your sweet surround system. Finally, you can say goodbye to mediocre sound and ascend to new audio heights when you check out our catalog at Toton’s TV!

But if you're still not sure which surround system is best, contact our team! We'll help guide you to your dream sound system!