5.1 Surround Sound System Buying Guide
Behind The Scenes Details
Guide To Selecting 5.1 Surround Sound For Your Home Cinema Setup
Choosing the 5.1 surround sound system is equal in importance to choosing a 4K TV that is right for your media room. It's the 3rd dimension in your cinematic experience.
Content producers & directors work hard to capture the story visually and use sound to evoke emotional responses & mood, thus elevating the experience dramatically.
A 5.1 surround sound system surrounds you with deep thunderous bass as an explosion happens on the screen and subtle sound effects skittering and tapping behind you in a suspenseful scene. For music, it's being purely enveloping you by the song itself.
Hearing & Feeling The Sound Makes The Difference
Experiencing the sound of an airplane coming from behind you to landing in front of you in the opening scene of the movie Die Hard adds a true 3rd dimension to your media room cinematic experience.
Play the video & notice the lack of sound from the rear.
Since you don't hear it - much less feel it - you aren't aware of what you are missing in the content your watching. Surround sound actually envelops you into the storytelling as well as into the action on the screen.
To achieve this, you need a 5.1 surround sound system with 5 speakers:
Front Left Center Front Right
Side Left Side Right
and a .1 Subwoofer for deep bass
(where 'feeling' the action comes from).
747 Landing at LAX - Die Hard
3 Alternatives For Your 5.1 Surround Sound System: Soundbar w/o & w/Rear Speakers, Separate Speakers
Note: How you arrange your media room speakers has a big impact on how your surround sound system sounds. Proper speaker placement can elevate an average-sounding system to an ideal media room experience.
Best - Separate Speakers
The best surround sound is with 5 separate speakers and a subwoofer (5.1) ! Part of this is because each speaker can be identical, thus uniform sound comes from all the speakers. EnjoyMyTV recommends this option.
Dialog is clearer and easier to understand through a separate speakers because a soundbar can't clearly reproduce the lowest frequencies of the male voice (a common sound bar issue).
A soundbar encapsulates the left front, center and right front speakers into a single speaker enclosure, thus compromising the overall quality of the sound, both in depth and in spatial aspects.
The main reason for going the soundbar route is if the 4K TV is in a cabinet with no room to add left front & right front speakers.
This type of soundbar has directional capabilities that steer the side surround audio signals to bounce off the walls simulating side surround speakers.
This of course requires the room to have both side walls roughly equally spaced from your viewing/listening position.
Deficient - Soundbar w/No Surround or TV Speakers
Whether you have a soundbar w/no surround or have stereo speakers or just use your TV speakers (worst), you are NOT getting the depth of the sound effects & enveloping audio the producers of the content used to truly engage you in their story telling.
2 Attributes Needed In Choosing Your Surround Sound System: Speaker Type & Price
Our 5.1 Surround Sound System selections include the 5 Key Must Have Attributes you need.
The major benefit of this expert winnowing is that you can now focus your time on just 2 attributes in choosing your 5.1 system:
Speaker Type - the key decision to gain the ideal 5.1 surround listening experience for you
Price - our recommended separate speakers have a wide price range covering all budgets
Recommended - 5.1 Separate Surround Speakers - Wireless & Wired
Wireless Speakers - no need running wires to each speaker. The amplifier is in the subwoofer.
Wired Speakers - requires running speaker wire to each speaker. The amplifier receiver needs a location
5.1 Soundbar w/Wireless Rear Surround Speakers
Each speaker or rear receiver has to be plugged in a power outlet.
5.1 Soundbar w/Virtual Surround Speakers
Speaker Wire, HDMI Cable & Stands for Speakers
Behind The Scenes Details
All 5.1 Surround Sound Attributes - from 'Must Haves' to 'Who Cares'
The 5 'Must Have' Attributes The EnjoyMyTV Selected 5.1 Surround Sound System Has:
HDMI Port - for connection to the 4K TV, which allows the 4K TV to send audio & remote control signals to the 5.1 System
ARC (Audio Return Channel) - sends stereo & 5.1 Dolby Digital audio to the 5.1 sound system from the TV via a HDMI cable.
This enables HDMI inputs as well as streaming apps on the TV to send their sound signal to your 5.1 sound system. eARC - supports Dolby Digital Plus & other multi-channel audio formats.
CEC (Consumer Electronics Control) - enables TV remote to mute, adjust volume & power cycle the 5.1 sound system as
well as send play/pause, select/ok & up/down/left/right controls to attached devices via a HDMI cable.
Soundbar w/Wireless Side Speakers - no need to run wires to each speaker. They do need to be plugged in for power
The separate systems that are wired do in fact require wires to be run to each speaker. Cost of lower priced options
Wall / Stand Mounting - each speaker can be both wall mounted as well as placed on a stand
7.1 Surround System Has One Advantage Even Though Most Content Is Just 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio
There is one advantage to setting up a 7.1 surround sound system even though there is little 7.1 content to access. A 7.1 surround system takes the 2 side channels of 5.1 sound and steers the mono sound aka the duplicate sound in both side channels and outputs them to the 2 rear speakers in a 7.1 setup. For most content, there is little to be gain here except for that 747 landing at LAX at the beginning of Die Hard!
Promoted Capabilities/Distractions That Have NO Bearing On Sound System Selection for Media Rooms:
Digital Optical Output used to send digital audio to receivers, et al - has limited capability. Use HDMI-ARC instead
Digital Coaxial Input are on receivers, et al. No 4K TV has digital coaxial output but audio/video receivers (ARVs) do
Dolby Digital Plus, DTS are more channels of sound, less compression of audio signal, use case is home theaters
Dolby Atmos adds 3rd dimension of sound via 4 ceiling speakers. Not worth it: only 10% of Netflix 4K content has Atmos
eARC (enhanced ARC) supports higher bandwidth audio formats Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD, DTS.X & DTS Master