Building your 5.1 Surround Sound System

Are you researching surround sound speakers? Is your head swimming yet?

It’s okay. We’re here to help you cut through the abundance of information out there. Let’s review the basics first, because once you have a grasp on the basic components, customization is easy.

speaker

Speaker

If you’ve explored both soundbars and HTIB options, and decided that purchasing individual components and speakers is for you, here’s what you’ll need for a 5.1 surround sound system:

  • A/V Receiver
  • Subwoofer
  • Front Left and Front Right Speakers
  • Center Speaker
  • Left and Right Surround Speakers

The 5.1 designation refers to the number of speakers (5) plus the subwoofer (the .1). Other common packages are 6.1 and 7.1 surround sound. These add one or two additional rear surround speakers, respectively.

Okay, you want to create a 5.1 surround system, so now what? 

Think about your primary use for the system, as  well as your room size and décor. One common rule of thumb: audiophiles should focus more of their budget on the front speakers, where stereo sound is focused; movie buffs want to distribute the budget equally throughout the system for surround sound effects.

And size may or may not matter here. Some of the newer petite, mounted or shelf speakers offer sound comparable to mid-range floor speakers. We recommend that you listen to the speakers you find appealing style-wise, and see what sounds good to you. Use music – or a movie –  that you know well, so you’ll know when the sound is truly impressive.

After you’ve chosen a speaker style – a decision that incorporates your personal style as much as your sound requirements – you’re just about ready to make a purchase.

While it might be enticing to piece together a system, hunting for great deals on each component, you will get the best sound from matched speakers. What does that mean? Matched speakers are specifically designed to work together and complement each other, providing you with the widest range of high-quality sound. They won’t muddy the sound or drown out each other.

There are two ways to ensure you buy a matched set:

  • You can buy a speaker package, guaranteeing a matched set from one manufacturer.
  • You can purchase individual components and read the fine print to make sure they work together (one way to make this process smoother: stick with one brand and try to stay in the same generation, instead of mixing and matching older and newer models).

Don’t forget to buy a subwoofer, too. 

Your subwoofer should match your speakers, but in size and sound compatibility only. You can buy any brand that works with your system, as long as it helps achieve your sound goals.

One final note on matching.

Once you have a matched set of speakers, it’s important to remember that – as with your subwoofer – you have flexibility with the brands of your components. When buying pieces like AV receivers, DVD and Bluray players, and gaming systems, look for components with the features you want, rather than simply buying within one brand.

*Image source

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