Surround Sound Channels Explained: 2.1, 5.1, 7.1, 9.1, and More!

Imagine you have decided to set up a surround sound system, and you are going to run across numbers 2.1, 5.1, 7.1, 7.1.2, 9.1, etc. As you see them again and again, you may begin to realize what they actually are. What is meant by the different speaker channels?

When it is about the surround sound channels, the first number destine the number of main speakers. The second number destine the number of subwoofers, and the third number destine the number of “height” speakers.

Let’s get acknowledged about the details of the different speaker systems and what their channel structure actually looks like. For getting the sound setup you are looking for, click any of the links.

What Do The Numbers in Speaker Channels Mean?

The First Number (ex: The “7” in 7.1)

Numbers in Speaker Channels

The first number of any speaker system configuration destines the number of principle speakers in the setup.
When it is about the main speakers, we refer to the front left, front right, center, and various surrounding speakers.

The Second Number (ex: The “1” in 2.1)

Number of Subwoofers

The second number of any speaker system configuration destines the number of subwoofers in the surround sound setup.
It is common to see a 1, which means there is one subwoofer in the setup, but you may come across a two now and then. While most surround sound systems could work great with one subwoofer, some people prefer the sound of two for their unique rooms.

The Third Number (ex: The “2” in 7.1.2)

Number of Height Speaker

The third number of any speaker system configuration destines the number of “height” of a speaker.
If two numbers are not enough, you may come across numbers like 7.1.2 or 9.1.2 in the home theater product search. While these numbers seem pretty complex, it simply gives room to define “height” speakers in the home theater surround sound system. Height speakers are usually located in the home theater room ceiling, but they could also be upward-firing speakers.

Stereo System: 2.0 and 2.1 Channel Speaker System

The 2.0 Surround Sound System

2.0 Surround Sound System

There will be two speakers beside your TV in this system – one to the left side and one to the right side. Your speakers will be powered by a well-manufactured receiver or even by an amplifier. Sometimes, the speakers are active, and they do not require a different power source. There will not have any subwoofer, and speakers, which would be compatible with any TV, DVD, and mobile devices, like phones and laptops.

The 2.0 stereo system is a basic stereo setup, which has no surround sound and is used to listen to music. It may be a start to a home theater, and it helps keep things simple in this type of setup. It could give a better sound than the tiny speakers that TVs come with, so there is nothing wrong with this simple setup.

The 2.1 Surround Sound System

2.1

2.0 stereo sound system could give the home theater a better sound compared to the two-speaker setup. You could have your left and right speakers on each side of the television. With the addition of one subwoofer, you could add bass and depth to the home theater sound system.

There are no surrounding speakers. For that, this setup is still pretty basic. But if you add the subwoofer, it will provide a more complex experience. You could hear lower frequencies better. You could enjoy a clutter-free home theater without those wires running everywhere!

Many soundbars are 2.1-channel setup. This setup is used to enjoy movies, TV, and music.

The 3.1 Surround Sound System

3.1 Surround Sound System

The 3.1 sound system is one kind of four-channel sound system with three main speakers and a subwoofer. The speakers have a left, a center, and a right speaker positioned accordingly. It would help if you positioned your subwoofer on the floor in the center of the setup; however, carpeting or hardwood can affect the sound. So please be attentive.

To reproduce dialogue, this addition of the center channel speaker is commonly used. While effects, music, and other stereo sounds will use the left and right speakers. The 3.1 system setup is still focused on only sound in the front and has no surround sound speakers. This feature is a great setup to create cinematic sound.

The 5.1 Surround Sound Systems

5.1

This 5.1 home theater system is a true surround sound system, and it is probably the most common home theater configuration. You must have seen it mentioned very frequently when browsing home theater products. Home theaters of any shape and sizes rely on a 5.1 surround system for a better audio experience.

It has six channels, including five principal speakers and a subwoofer. Three speakers are located in the front. One in the left. One in the center and one in the right. Two surround sound speakers are in the back of the room—one on the left side and one on the right side.

While there are so many configurations for this setup, the ideal setup is with the front left and front right speakers. It might be a 22-30 degree angle from the center speaker/TV. And the surround sound speakers need to be at a 90-110 degree angle from the center speaker or the TV.

 For delivering surround sound, the 5.1 surround sound is the most common format. People could easily use it in everything, from DVD to movie theaters and TV. Many laptops and desktops come with a 5.1 sound card, which is accessible with this surround sound setup.

7.1 and 7.1.2 Surround Sound Systems

The 7.1 Surround Sound Systems

7.1

A 7.1 surround system has all of the elements of a 5.1 channel system and adds two more back speakers. It is an eight-channel system and is generally used in home theaters. In any 7.1 home theater surround system, the addition of two speakers in the rear gives a full experience of rounded sound because the two sides surround speakers would not be liable for both back and surround sound.

Location of the speaker for the original six channels of a 5.1 surround system, but the two back speakers should be placed ideally at a 135-degree to a 150-degree angle from the center channel for an optimal surround sound experience.

The 7.1.2 Surround Sound Systems

This configuration may seem complex when looking at the numbers, but the 7.1.2 surround system means a 7.1 surround sound setup. It has an additional two celling or upward-firing speakers. This setup is generally created with the help of Dolby Atmos if you want to learn more new things about the Dolby Atmos 7.1.2 speaker configuration and setup.

This surround system is best to use on a flat ceiling made of drywall or plaster. The height of the ceiling shouldn’t be more than 14 feet. This system is a higher-end experience of home theater.

This technology has become more common in home theaters. It gives a top-of-the-line, realistic, and immersive home theater experience. It also creates a dome of sound in the home theater. As long as the receiver is Dolby Atmos compatible, it could achieve this configuration.

The 7.2 Surround Sound Systems

7.2

The 7.2 home theater surround system is becoming a more wide surround sound speaker layout. Nowadays, more receivers are supporting this configuration. It has all of the elements of the 7.1 surround sound setup. But if you are adding one more subwoofer for a receiver to support this configuration. It will need two subwoofer outputs.

Some people are happy with one subwoofer. Other people use the 7.2 set up to balance bass in home theater. It is better than instead of loud or soft bass in different places of the room. The bass is equally distributed, and no matter wherever you are sitting, you could get the same bass experience.

If you love bass and you want to invest in an additional subwoofer, the 7.2 home theater surround system would be the best choice for you. Be careful; your neighbors could get annoyed with too much bass sound.

The Ultimate Experiences of 9.1 and 9.1.2 Surround Sound Systems

The 9.1 Home Theater Surround Systems

9.1

Any 9.1. home theater system is a ten-channel surround sound system. It includes nine speakers and one subwoofer. In addition to the components, it includes a 7.1 home theater surround system. The 9.1 surround sound also has two front-height speakers. The front-height speakers need to be placed on the front side of the room. Place it above the left and right main speakers. Remember that it needs to be about three feet above your left and right front speaker and face directly at the listener for the optimal sound.

This system is a very high-end home theater surround sound setup. It isn’t as typical as 7.1, 5.1, or lower. Highly dedicated home theater gurus use this. But you may achieve it by slowly adding components to the home theater system.

Consultants or experts could do this work properly. But there are many components and specs to be considered to set up this type of system properly.

The 9.1.2 Home Theater Surround Systems

This 9.1.2 home theater surround system has a slightly different setup than the 9.1 home theater system. While you may think that you’ll be adding two ceiling or upward-firing speakers to the 9.1 surround system configuration, you’re going to have two wide front speakers instead of two front-height speakers – in collation to the two ceiling speakers.

The total staff has left and right front speakers. One center speaker. One subwoofer. One left and one right front wide speaker. One left, and one right surrounds the speaker. One left and one right rear speaker. One left and one right ceiling speaker.

You could check out more information about the Dolby Atmos 9.1.2 speaker from google. This setup could create the immersive, high-end dome sound experience that the 7.1.2 had but adds a tier of sound with the left and right front roomy speakers.

Are There More?

You might be thinking that the setups we reviewed are enough to satisfy any home theater. But there are more options available for home theaters. So if you have not found the perfect setup for you, do not fret. Let’s talk about those new setups.

The 4.1 Surround Sound System

4.1

This 4.1 home theater surround sound system is another roomy configuration, and it includes one front left, one front right, one rear left, and one rear right speaker with one subwoofer. It is a five-channel setup. It could not include the metaphor center channel speaker.

The 6.1 Surround Sound System

This 6.1 home theater surround sound configuration is like a 5.1 surround system but includes an additional speaker. This additional speaker needs to be located in the center rear of home theaters. It helps to adjust another dimension except going to a full 7.1 surround sound setup. It could create a more realistic sound experience and makes for a roomy and fuller sound in home theater with only one collation.

In place of investing in two rear speakers, you’ll start with one and get a great effect on your money. Many people start with one and end up adding another later to move up to the 7.1 setups. But others see the addition of one back speaker as unimportant.

Surround Sound

The 10.2 Home Theater Surround Sound System

THX is the developer of the 10.2 home theater surround sound system. The running slogan for the setup is “twice as good as 5.1”. The configuration of this setup includes seven front channels: Left and right side speakers, height speakers, front speakers, and center front speakers. There are three surround speakers, including a left, a back, a right, and two subwoofers.

This surround sound system is the best way to set up a home theater. Some of the products are currently sold to accommodate this aspect. Only the most dedicated home theater experts will pursue this surround home theater sound system.

The 13.1 Home Theater Surround Sound and Beyond

The Dolby Digital Plus system supports this surround system up to 13.1 and many other surround sound configurations as 12.2, 22.2, etc. While these surround sound setups are difficult. They are rare in home theater. But they are fun to research and learn about, and there’s nothing wrong with dreaming of the possibilities!

Best Seller List of Surround Sound Systems:

SaleBestseller No. 1
49 Reviews
iLive 5.1 Home Theater System with Bluetooth, 6 Surround Speakers, Wall Mountable, Includes Remote,...
  • System includes 6 surround speakers: subwoofer, front left & right, surround left & right and 32" sound bar; Bluetooth wireless allows straightforward wireless pairing of Bluetooth enabled devices
  • 5.1 channel surround sound ready; Voice prompts announce speaker functions and make Bluetooth pairing easier (wireless range - 60 feet)
  • LED function indicator, pairing indicator, and power indicator; Master volume control
  • Wall mountable sound bar and satellite speakers (hardware and instructions included)
  • AC/DC power adapter, remote, mounting hardware/instructions, optical audio cable, 3.5mm to RCA audio cable, and 3 RCA stereo audio cables included
SaleBestseller No. 2
3,135 Reviews
VIZIO V-Series 5.1 Home Theater Sound Bar with Dolby Audio, Bluetooth, Wireless Subwoofer, Voice...
  • America's #1 Sound Bar* - VIZIO has been filling homes with truly immersive audio for over 10 years, and our sound bars just keep getting better. We are proud to provide our customers with top-tier audio products that bring movies, shows, podcasts, music, and more to life like never before. (*#1 Sound Bar Brand in 1H 2022 Source: The NPD Group/Retail Tracking Service, U.S., based on units, Jan. - June 2022 combined.)
  • Optimized for 4K HDR content with Dolby Audio 5.1 - Bring out the best audio performance from your 4K HDR content with Dolby Audio 5.1 when connected through HDMI.
  • Loud and Clear - The 96dB sound pressure level and 50Hz – 20kHz frequency range deliver dynamic and accurate Sound.
  • DTS Virtual:X - Enhances any content with room-filling, floor-to-ceiling virtualized 3D sound.
  • 5” Wireless Subwoofer - Place the wireless subwoofer anywhere in the room to add deep booming bass.
SaleBestseller No. 3
1,971 Reviews
Klipsch Black Reference Theater Pack 5.1 Surround Sound System
  • The Klipsch reference theater pack delivers a superior acoustic performance while keeping an incredibly minimal footprint
  • Klipsch's exclusive Tractrix Horn technology and aluminum Tweeters deliver the cleanest, most natural sound possible. The down-firing wireless subwoofer is designed to deliver room-filling low frequencies without requiring too much floor space
  • To complement the easy placement of the wireless subwoofer, each satellite speaker has a keyhole mount and a threaded insert for maximum mounting flexibility
  • The reference theater pack brings the Klipsch cinematic sound into your home with an incredibly minimal footprint
Bestseller No. 4
2,038 Reviews
Vizio V51x-J6 36-inch 5.1 Channel Home Theater Soundbar System (Renewed)
  • Low-Profile Design and Brilliant Clarity with 6 Full-range Speakers
  • Powerful 5" Wireless Subwoofer and Bluetooth Music Streaming
  • Complete Immersion with Discreet Volume Adjustable Surround Speakers
  • Optimized for 4K TVs with Dolby Audio 5.1 and HDMI (Cable Included)
  • Control with TV Remote using HDMI, Audio Cables Included for Easy Setup
Bestseller No. 5
927 Reviews
Yamaha YHT-4950U 4K Ultra HD 5.1-Channel Home Theater System with Bluetooth
  • Your purchase includes: 1 AV receiver, 5 speakers, 1 Sub-Woofer and Speaker wire
  • Dimensions: AV Receiver – 17” W x 6” H x 12” D | Four Speakers (each) – 4” W x 6” H x 4” D | Center speaker – 10” W x 4” H x 4” D | Subwoofer – 11” W x 11” H x 13” D
  • Technical specs: HDMI – 4 | Standby Power Consumption – ≤ 0.2 W | Frequency Response – 28Hz/25kHz
  • Bluetooth for streaming all your favorite music and podcasts. No wireless functionality
  • Easy setup with Yamaha YPAO room optimization and flexible speaker placement options, including virtual cinema front
SaleBestseller No. 6
2,158 Reviews
Sony HT-S40R 5.1ch Home Theater Soundbar System
  • Feel every note with a 600W power output
  • Get the best seat in the house with 5.1ch real surround sound
  • Rear speakers deliver powerful surround sound to complete your home cinema experience
  • Effortless setup with easy color-coded connections
  • Wireless connectivity for music streaming
SaleBestseller No. 7
5.1 CH Surround Sound Bar with Dolby Audio, Sound Bars for TV with Wireless Subwoofer, Dolby Digital...
  • 5.1-CHANNEL SURROUND SOUND EXPERIENCE - Fully enjoys the thrill of DOLBY DIGITAL PLUS with the newest 5.1 Surround sound Engine, DSP technology, and impressive 400W of total system power. Dolby Audio adds room-filling excitement with floor to ceiling virtualized surround sound experience. Immerse yourself with 360° room transforming sound that adapts to your environment with included wireless rear speakers, taking TV, movies, and music into a whole new dimension.
  • IMMERSIVE NEXT-GENERATION BASS - The premium sound bar with 16” wireless subwoofer blends seamlessly into your living room or bedroom. The robust and dynamic bass grabs your attention in every room corner down to 50 Hz. Unleash powerful bass to turn your living room into an IMAX theater. Enjoy remarkable clarity and room-filling 5.1 surround sound with Dolby Audio to create a realistic audio experience like planes flying overhead and rain falling from above.
  • OPTIMIZE ENTERTAINMENT WITH UPGRADED EQUALIZER MODE - Personalize different equalizer modes: Music, Movie, News & 3D mode, and more advanced setting by using the Smart remote control for hearing and feeling every musical, explosion, dialogue, and detail with transparent and ear-pleasing loudness up to 120 dB. The remote also increases or reduces Treble and Bass Levels based on your sounding preference. So, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the best budget 5.1 surround sound system!
  • ADVANCED CONNECTIVITY & CONTROL - Our 5.1 sound bar adopts Bluetooth 5.0 & DSP technology to ensure faster transmission speeds and stable connectivity up to 50 ft with low consumption from your Smartphones, Tablet, PC and other Bluetooth-enabled devices; You may also connect the sound bar to TV, Projector, Computer, XBOX, PS5, Amplifier, and more via HDMI ARC, RCA, or Optical input connection. All cables are included. You may control the sound bar using your TV remote in ARC input mode.
  • ALL ACCESSORIES INCLUDED, EASY TO SET UP IN MINUTES - The 5.1 sound bar is ready to be used right out of the box! The surround sound system must only be plugged into separate wall outlet with no cable between each speaker. Press the button on the back of the speakers until the light stops blinking. Ensure all speakers have a solid red light on the back to remain connected. All accessories are included. Premium HDMI Cable, Optical Cable, RCA Cable, Smart Remote, and mounting kits are all included.
Bestseller No. 8
218 Reviews
Bose Lifestyle 650 Home Entertainment System, works with Alexa - Black
  • As main components, your purchase include: One Console, 4 OnmiJewel side speakers, One Omni Jewel center speaker, One Acoustimass wireless bass module, universal remote control, 2 wireless receivers, One ADAPTiQ headset and Owner’s guide
  • Dimensions (”): Console – 15.98 W x 2.56 H x 10.16 D | Omni Jewel Side speakers (each) – 1.84 W x 5.77 H x 1.84 D | Omni Jewel Center speaker – 21.34 W x 1.9 H x 1.84 D | Bass module – 11.61 W x 12.8 H x 11.61 D | Wireless receivers – 6.54 W x 1.6 H x 3 D
  • Wires length: 6-foot IR emitter, 5-foot optical cable, 6-foot HDMI cable, 5-foot power cord, 20-foot center speaker cable, 20-foot wireless surround speaker cable, and 20-foot front speaker cables
  • Front and center speakers have a wired connection, while the 2-rear speakers connect to a wireless receiver and AC power mains. The rear speakers and bass module connect to the front module wirelessly
  • Supported Audio formats - Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, DTS, Multichannel PCM. Video Source compatibility - Support for six 4K/60 video sources (HDMI 2.0/HDCP 2.2)
SaleBestseller No. 9
2,370 Reviews
VIZIO M-Series 5.1 Premium Sound Bar with Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, Bluetooth, Wireless Subwoofer, Voice...
  • America's #1 Sound Bar* - VIZIO has been filling homes with truly immersive audio for over 10 years, and our sound bars just keep getting better. We are proud to provide our customers with top-tier audio products that bring movies, shows, podcasts, music, and more to life like never before. (*#1 Sound Bar Brand in 1H 2022 Source: The NPD Group/Retail Tracking Service, U.S., based on units, Jan. - June 2022 combined.)
  • Low-Profile Modern Design - Seamlessly blends into any environment and ingeniously attaches to select VIZIO M-Series TV stands for quick, clean tabletop or wall-mount installation.
  • Immersive Performance - Experience immersive, cinematic 3D surround sound powered by Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.
  • Advanced Connectivity & Control - The latest HDMI eARC connectivity enables state-of-the-art 4K Dolby Vision pass-through to the TV and lets you control the sound bar using your TV remote.
  • 5.1-Channel Sound - Experience a powerful room-filling, surround sound experience.
Bestseller No. 10
480 Reviews
GEOYEAO Sound Bars for TV, 2.2 CH 32 inch 3D Surround Sound Home Theater System with...
  • 【2.2ch Sound Bars for TV】 It has a configuration of 2 inches x 2 tweeters + 2.25 inches x 2 woofers. This sound system combines a speaker with one chassis on each side and dual subwoofer dedicated to deep bass. Achieved a sound channel exceeding 2.1ch. (Suit for Amazon Fire, Sumsung, Hisense, Insignia-smart tvs.)
  • 【Stable treble + deep deep bass】 The treble speaker can enjoy clear sound that is easy to hear. Two subwoofers that handle the bass are luxuriously built-in which produces a realistic and elegant sound. No matter you connect projector, computer, gaming system, television or use it in the bedroom, kitchen and office, you’ll get Cinema-Quality Surround Sound.
  • 【Bass / treble adjustable + 10 DSP modes】 Equipped with an equalizer setting function that can change the frequency characteristics of the audio signal. You can customize the soundbar to your liking for various situations. With a built-in DSP, you can switch between 10 different EQ modes.
  • 【Can be placed horizontally, vertically, or hung on the wall】 The split design that can be used as a soundbar or as dual tower speaker on the left and right sides of the TV. You can use it according to the atmosphere of the room. In the case of the integrated type, it will be a powerful "horizontal style sound bar" with 830*100*75 mm(L*W*H). It also can be mountable to the wall. Our sound speaker equipped with mounting kits.
  • 【Connect to any device】 Upgrade your home audio by connecting entertainment devices such as projectors, TVs, PCs, DVD players, and wireless Bluetooth device like iphones, iPads, and Android phones to the sound bar.

FAQs

Question

Are any Home Theater Surround Systems, which have an even number of speakers?

If you need an even number of speakers, you will want to go with a 2.0 stereo system. You will find one 5.1 home theater surround system, one 7.1 or 7.1.2 surround system, and one 9.1 surround system. The 2.0 stereo method has two parts. One 5.1 surround system has six channels, 7.1 has eight channels, 7.1.2 has ten channels, and 9.1 also has ten channels.

What is the best number for a home theater speaker channel?

The aptitude number of home theater speakers channels depends on your room. Especially the size. If you have a little room, you will want to go with a smaller number of speaker channels, and it will optimize a bigger room with a huge number of speaker channels.
However, a small room could benefit from speakers placed in the front, the sides, the back, and on the ceiling (unless it’s a particularly low ceiling). Typically, you will get a good sound with a large number of speakers optimally placed everywhere in the room, based on the size.

Conclusion

Once you know what you are looking at, you will realize that surround sound channels are not all that confusing. I hope this article was helpful to you! I spent several hours researching and testing to find the best speakers out there for the best price!

-our editorial board has reviewed this article and has been approved for publication according to our editorial policy.

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Last update on 2022-11-17

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