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Chapter 2. Surround Sound Formats > Choosing a Surround Sound Format

Choosing a Surround Sound Format

Surround sound, in the broadest sense of the definition, means being encompassed by sound. This can be accomplished with as few as two speakers and as many speakers as you can imagine. Typical home theater systems consist of between five and seven full-range speakers and a powered subwoofer, but the possibilities are bounded only by your space and budget. Surround sound physically surrounds the listening area and attempts to put you, the listener, in the center of the action. With speakers firing towards you from all directions, surround sound creates an environment that can easily make you believe you are experiencing the movie firsthand. When you have forgotten reality, surround sound has succeeded in its mission. When you watch a movie and look over your shoulder to see what that sound is behind you, you have truly realized what an integral part of the movie-watching experience surround sound is.

Surround sound is not a recent innovation. Movie theaters began using four-channel surround sound in the early 1950s as a way to enhance the movie-going experience. Films generally used several speakers across the front of the soundstage and at least one speaker in the rear of the theater. Filmmakers continued to try different methods to realistically create the illusion of three-dimensional sound, to create a realistic experience that captivated the audience.


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