What is it?
Surround sound is a technology that creates an immersive audio experience by using multiple audio channels to reproduce sound from different directions around the listener. The goal of surround sound is to replicate the spatial distribution of sound in a way that makes the listener feel as if they are surrounded by the audio, adding depth, realism, and a sense of presence to the listening experience.
The most common format for surround sound is 5.1 channels, which consists of five main speakers and one subwoofer (the ".1" part). These speakers are strategically placed around the listening area to create a multidimensional sound field. The five main channels are typically labeled as follows:
1. Front Left (FL) and Front Right (FR): These speakers are positioned in front of the listener, to the left and right of the screen or listening area, respectively.
2. Center Channel (C): Placed in front of the listener, often just above or below the screen, the center channel is responsible for dialogues and sounds that are meant to be directly in front of the audience.
3. Surround Left (SL) and Surround Right (SR): These speakers are usually placed to the sides or slightly behind the listening position, creating ambient and spatial effects, such as background noises and environmental sounds.
4. Subwoofer (LFE): The subwoofer is responsible for low-frequency sounds, such as deep bass and special effects, providing a more dynamic and impactful experience.
In addition to the 5.1 format, there are more advanced surround sound setups, such as 7.1 and even 9.1 configurations, which include additional speakers for an even more immersive experience.
How can we use it?
The uses of surround sound are many. As depicted in the picture above, we can use it when we are viewing a movie or playing a video game, to achieve the effect of feeling like we are in the midst of the action happening on the screen in front of us, rather than just being a passive observer. If someone has to surround sound as part of their home theater, they are most likely utilizing the Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, because it has been and continues to be the standard for such systems. Whenever a person is hosting a party, they can use surround sound to play a music playlist for all to hear, whether they are in the living room, the dining room, or even in the backyard. Movie theaters also use surround sound in their film screenings, so that movie-goers sitting in the back or on the far ends of the theater can hear the action and dialogue occurring on-screen just as well as any movie-goer who is sitting closer to the screen.
Surround sound is commonly used in various entertainment systems, such as home theater setups, cinemas, and gaming environments. It is especially popular for watching movies, as it enhances the cinematic experience by immersing viewers in a three-dimensional audio environment that complements the visuals on the screen.
To fully enjoy the benefits of surround sound, audio content must be specifically encoded or mixed in a way that takes advantage of the multi-channel setup. Many modern movies, TV shows, and video games are produced with surround sound in mind, allowing users to experience the full potential of this audio technology.
Surround sound is what it sounds like, it is sound that surrounds the listener through the utilization of multiple speakers producing the same sound in synchrony, but from different positions around the listener.
Is there a standard system?
Yes, if someone has a surround sound system as part of their home theater, they are most likely utilizing the Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound system, because it has been and continues to be the standard for such systems. The designation “5.1” comes from the fact that there are five main speakers involved: 3 placed in front of the user, from left to right, and the last speakers are placed on either side of the user. A sixth smaller speaker, the “.1” of the system, joins the 3 up front, but it can go wherever the user wants it to be. A common addition to the six-speaker set-up is a Bose soundbar 500, into which the speakers can be plugged.
The differences between surround sound and spatial sound
At first, glance, surround sound and spatial sound might seem synonymous. They both utilize multiple speakers to surround the listener with sound. However, there is one key difference between the two systems. The surround system is not as “smart” as the spatial system. It will only surround the listener as long as the listener is stationary. Even in the example of the party, where a network of speakers was set up throughout the party, if one of the partygoers is only close to one speaker playing the music, they will notice a difference from the times when they are within range of three speakers playing the music. The spatial sound system allows for there to be a movement away from any of the speakers because only the speakers that are closest to the face of the consumer will be playing at any given time and the movement of said consumer
will determine which speaker(s) are producing audio at any given time.