What Is 7.1 Surround Sound?

Updated: September 05,2022

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The simple answer to the question "What is 7.1 surround sound?" is that it's a type of sound system used to create a more realistic and exciting soundscape. It’s an immersive audio experience enveloping you in sound from all directions, including from above and back.

Still, it's essential to keep in mind that this type of sound system tends to be expensive. Since it’s a technology that’s new on the market, not all devices support 7.1 surround sound, and the offer of media recorded using this technology is still limited. So, read on to learn more about this audio system, which situations it works best in, and what its alternatives are.

7.1 Surround Sound Definition

Consisting of eight speakers placed around the audience, 7.1 surround sound creates an immersive listening experience. The system is designed to recreate the feeling of being in a movie theater or in a video game setting, with sound coming at a person from all directions.

7.1 Surround Sound Quality

Generally, 7.1 surround sound offers premium audio quality for a home theater. Moreover, many people consider it the best option when listened to through headphones. So, the answer to your "Is 7.1 surround sound any good?" question can be summarized as: it definitely is.

Just remember that not every device is compatible with this surround sound system (we’ll cover this aspect in a bit). 

Comparison of 7.1 Surround Sound System and Stereo

If you're looking for a truly immersive audio experience, 7.1 surround sound offers superior sound quality compared to stereo and envelops you in sound from all directions. It's an audio technology typically used in movies and video games for a premium surround sound effect.

And it’s due to a considerable difference in the number of channels, we ascertained in our 7.1 surround sound vs. stereo comparison. 

Whereas stereo sound has two channels (left and right), 7.1 surround sound has eight channels - one center speaker and seven "satellites". Thus, it allows for a more realistic and three-dimensional soundscape. That's why it's preferred for home theater systems.

However, stereo sound is popular for music recordings since most music has been recorded using this technology. For further reference, please take a look at the following table.

  7.1 Surround Sound System Stereo
Channel system Multichannel Two channels
Number of speakers 8 2
Sound effects Sound field Two tracks
Best for Movies Music

7.1 Surround Sound and Gaming

We learned that the 7.1 system is perfect for movies, but is 7.1 surround sound good for gaming? In general, the realistic sound could be an amazing boost for people playing certain games while being downright disadvantageous for others.

For example, these sound systems are excellent for flight or race simulations. But the surround sound experience doesn't benefit shooters since the game engines use stereo systems, which means the 7.1 system would be disadvantageous to competitive shooters. 

Whichever type of gaming you’re into, your best bet is to pick from an impressive selection of gaming speakers for personal computers

Besides surround sound speakers, you can also opt for a 7.1 surround sound headset if you want a great gaming experience.

7.1 Surround Sound Headsets Advantages

There are various benefits that 7.1 surround sound headphones provide compared to the surround speakers of a home theater system. Below are the most significant ones:

  • Excellent value for money: Headphones provide most benefits of a home theater system at a lower price.

  • Setup convenience: You don't have to deal with placing front and rear surround speakers for a full surround sound experience, you just need to put on your headset.

  • Versatility: 7.1 surround sound headphones are compatible with multiple devices, including computers, tablets, gaming consoles, and phones, besides home theaters. Best of all, you can take them with you and listen to fantastic soundscapes wherever you happen to be.

All in all, to make the best of these advantages, look for headsets with 7.1 surround sound software.

7.1 Surround Sound and Music

Before diving into the matter, let’s recap that stereo comprises two channels, while the 7.1 sound system has eight surround channels.

Most music is recorded in mono and mastered in stereo, which is why it sounds best when listened to in stereo. While you can try to stream music in surround sound, this usually makes the audio louder without improving clarity and often causes sound distortion.

So, the answer to the "Is 7.1 surround sound good for music?" question is, regrettably, a big no.

How To Place 7.1 Front and Rear Speakers

The speaker layout should follow the recommended pattern in order for the listener to be completely ensconced in the 7.1 surround sound. Also, keep in mind that installing a home theater system with eight channels provides much better results in large rooms than in small to medium rooms.

Various placement strategies work in situations that involve several speakers. Yet, the most common 7.1 surround sound system placement for realistic sound is the following:

  • There is one center speaker
  • A subwoofer goes in front of it, on a surface that’s lower than the center speaker
  • Two speakers that are front channels go forward and slightly to the sides
  • Two extra channels (speakers) are to the left and right of the listener
  • Finally, two additional speakers are to be placed diagonally behind the listener 

If you’re new to this, you can learn how to connect speakers to a TV in our comprehensive guide.

Once you’ve installed the 7.1 sound system, you should pay attention to which TV shows and movies have been recorded and engineered specifically for this system. In that regard, watch for the DTS-HD Master or DTS Dolby TrueHD audio label of the motion picture for the best sound reflection. 

7.1 Surround Sound Alternatives

Alongside the 6.1 surround sound system, the 5.1 is the most common alternative to the 7.1 version. So what are the main differences between 5.1 and 7.1?


Offering two additional speakers to enhance sound quality, 7.1 surround sound systems build on one of the previous configurations, the 5.1. Thus, 5.1 systems contain five speakers and one subwoofer, whereas 7.1 systems have seven speakers and one subwoofer.

The standard 5.1 system setup has three speakers in front of the room (in the center, to the right, and left) facing the listener and two surround sound speakers in the back of the room.

If you’re still unsure as to which option better suits your needs, be sure to read our 5.1 vs. 7.1 in-depth review to learn more about the similarities and differences between these systems. 


Compared to the 5.1 surround sound system, 6.1 features one additional rear speaker behind the listeners.


Soundbars are a better choice for smaller or medium-sized rooms where space is an issue since they're sleek and simple. Another plus is that they are affordable.

7.1 Surround Sound Supported Devices

The majority of Blu-ray and PS3 devices support 7.1 sound systems. Although most DVDs, Blu-ray disks, and games are still only produced in 5.1 audio, a growing number of Blu-ray discs have 7.1 sound capabilities. In line with that, it’s a good idea to invest in a device which is 7.1 compatible.

7.1 Surround Sound Pros and Cons

Now that we have explained various aspects of this home theater system, let's see what the main 7.1 surround sound pros and cons are.


  • The system fills large rooms with immersive sound.
  • Provides a fantastic home theater experience.
  • The 7.1 surround sound system is an upgrade from the traditional 5.1 system, delivering a fuller and richer sound by adding two speakers behind the listener. 


  • The price tag tends to be hefty.
  • The system isn't suitable for small rooms since audio quality can get distorted and diffused.

Bottom Line: What Does 7.1 Surround Sound Mean

Whether watching a movie or playing video games, you’ll find that 7.1 surround sound is a thrilling way to enhance your audio experience. However, remember that this system is best suited for larger rooms and may not be ideal for smaller spaces as there will be inadequate sound fidelity. 

Additionally, 7.1 systems can be pretty expensive, so be sure to do your research before making an investment.


What Is Better: 5.1 or 7.1 Surround Sound?

An upgrade from the traditional 5.1 system, 7.1 surround sound provides a fuller sound by adding two speakers behind the audience. It’s excellent for creating a more immersive experience, whether you’re watching a movie or playing a video game.

Does 7.1 Surround Sound Do Anything?

Many people ask “What is 7.1 surround sound?” and are curious about what it actually does. 7.1 surround sound provides a rich sound experience for people watching movies or playing games. Still, it's not that great for listening to music.

Is 7.1 Surround Sound Needed for Gaming?

Even though 7.1 surround sound isn't necessary for gaming, it provides an excellent gaming experience for flight and race simulations. For shooters, though, it can turn out to be unfavorable.

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With a degree in humanities and a knack for the history of tech, Jovan was always interested in how technology shapes both us as human beings and our social landscapes. When he isn't binging on news and trying to predict the latest tech fads, you may find him trapped within the covers of a generic 80s cyberpunk thriller.

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