Even with the popularity of 2.1 and 7.1 surround sound set ups, by far the most well known and best selling are 5.1 home cinema systems. For those new to home cinema this term is used to describe the speaker quantity and set up. A 5.1 home cinema system consists of two front speakers, a single centre speaker, two rear ‘surround’ speakers and the subwoofer which is the ‘.1’ part.
The system was first used in movie theaters in the early 1990’s, but it wasn’t until the late 1990’s when movie fans could replicate the stunning surround sound effects that could be heard in the newer multiplexes in their own 5.1 home cinema system. The 5.1 set up is fairly straightforward with the two front speakers providing most of the sound effects, the centre speaker providing the speech, the two rear speakers providing the exciting surround sound effects and the ‘.1’ subwoofer providing all the lower bass sounds to complete the overall package.
What to consider before you buy a 5.1 Home Cinema System
If you are looking to buy a 5.1 home cinema system, the first thing you need to consider is the positioning of the speakers. The front three and subwoofer are not normally a problem as they will surround your television (try and keep your centre speaker as close to the screen as you can though so the speech appears to be coming from the mouths of the characters), but the rear speakers can sometimes present a problem. As long as you have somewhere to either mount them on the wall, or position them (if you are using stands or have tall speakers) you just need to consider where the speaker wires are going to go.
You can invest in a system with wireless rear speakers if running cables will be difficult, but most of the time, the cable is quite thin so can easily be hidden under carpets, or along or under skirting boards. 5.1 home cinema systems are also not surprisingly more costly that a 2.1 system, but the difference is often not that great.
Why buy 5.1 Home Cinema System?
It is no coincidence that 5.1 is considered the standard for home cinema. The basic set up fulfils all the requirements of surround sound, and whilst a 7.1 system improves on this further, a 5.1 system is easier to set up and is more cost effective. It also substantially improves the experience over a 2.1 system as the rear surround speakers are able to provide a more reliable surround sound effect, and the centre speaker only has to deal with one thing – the speech – leaving the front left and right speakers to do their thing with all the other audio. With a 5.1 set up you can also fully appreciate how the film maker and movie studio wanted the film to sound – most DVDs are optimized for Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1 and Blu-ray discs for Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master audio in 5.1.
Latest 5.1 Home Cinema Systems
If you are looking for a surround sound system, then a 5.1 home cinema should be your starting point. There are plenty of very good systems available now starting at well under £200, which is fabulous value for money for such entertainment value, and it is one of those purchases you’ll never regret.