What is the difference between wiring for a 5.1, 6.1 and 7.1 surround sound system?

Perhaps you have been overwhelmed by the different types of surround sound packages out there and you are not sure which one to wire for.

  • What do all of those numbers mean?
  • What really is the difference between 5.1, 6.1, 7.1 surround sound?


What Do All Of Those Numbers Mean?

Each number represents the total number of speakers in the surround sound system.

For take an example:

5.1 Surround Sound

5.1 surround sound is pretty much the industry standard for pre-wring a family room or keeping room in your home. It would consist of:

(1) Center Channel speaker that you hear the characters talking through. (This is often placed on top of , above or below your TV set or projector screen.)

(2) Front channel speakers for left and right audio. (These are placed on either side of your television set or projector screen.) Imagine hearing all of the back ground music through these as well as the sound effects of a helicopter or ambulence heading your way.

(2) Rear channel speakers for left and right audio. These are used for sound effects in the background.

As regards the “.1” in a 5.1 system

This simply is for the LFE
channel (Low frequency effects) . This is otherwise known as a subwoofer that gives you the bass for your sound effects. (This is best placed in a corner of the room perhaps under a table or behind a potted plant.)

6.1 Surround Sound System

6.1 Surround Sound Layout

6.1 Sound System

Everrything is the same as the 5.1 system, except…

In a 6.1 sssssurround sound setup there is an additional rear center channel speaker for sound effects.
(The 6.1 system was a fad that hasn’t really caught on.)

7.1 Surround Sound System

7.1 Surround Sound Layout
7.1 Sound System

This has become the industry standard for dedicated home theater rooms.

Everything remains the same for the 5.1 surround sound.
Now instead of a rear center channel speaker like the 6.1 setup…

In a 7.1 sound setup there are (2) additional surround channel speakers for left side and right side audio. These are centered between the front left and right & the rear left and right speakers.

Which Surround Sound System Is Best For Me?


Well it depends on a few things…

Was your home pre-wired for surround sound?  If not now is the time to decide how we are going to wire your home. A lot of it has to do with the size of your room and the amount of wall space available. The industry standard for a typical room is 5.1.

On the other hand If you wanted to use 6.1 or 7.1,  in this instance you would have to physically run the wires for these extra speakers. (If you have an accessible unfinished basement we can help you with this.)

In smaller rooms it just isn’t practical to use a 7.1 system.

In todays  open area rooms there usually isn’t even a place to hang the extra (2) surround channel speakers. I personally would consider a 7.1 system only if you were looking at a dedicated home theater room that has the depth and wall space  required.

Who knows what they will come up with next to simulate a real life experience while watching a movie?

If you have any questions about wiring your home please feel free to ask me. If you would like to experience a 5.1 surround sound system you are welcome to visit us in our showroom and try 3 different set ups that we have.


Designing & installing Atlanta Georgia surround sound systems
in  Atlanta, Marietta, Dunwoody,  Roswell, Lawrenceville, Norcross, Duluth, Suwanee, Dacula, Winder, Auburn, Flowery Branch, Statham, Bethlehem, Buford, Sugar Hill, Braselton, Jefferson, Canton, Cumming, Hoschton, and Gainesville GA.


F. Cheshire
Home Theater Consultant with ADS Home Technologies
(770) 561-3178