Klipsch speakers next to a wood shelf and a plant

How do Surround Systems Work?

How do our surround sound systems work?

Die hard movie fans truly enjoy surround sound. Nothing adds to the movie-watching experience quite like multiple speakers surrounding and enveloping you inside the movie itself. But how does a home surround sound system recreate this experience? The easiest way to explain it is to work backwards.

If you have a standard 5.1 surround sound system, then you have five primary speakers, and one subwoofer. Of these five speakers, one is a center channel speaker, which is designed to sit horizontally at the center of your display and deliver dialogue, a pair of vertical left and right speakers, a pair of surround speakers, and a subwoofer sitting on the floor for bass. However, it is important to understand that no matter how great your speakers are, they require something more to optimize performance.

The thing that makes surround sound really shine is your audio video receiver or preamp. This piece of electronics sends the correct audio signals to the correct speaker so that your center channel plays the center channel information, and the left surround speaker plays what it’s supposed to as well.

But how does your receiver know what to do? It receives information from your source material, whether it’s a Blu-Ray disc, cable TV program, video game, etc. Encoded along with the video information is an audio track that’s designed to tell your receiver where the different audio signals are supposed to go. As long as your playback device and your receiver know how to decode the information, everything works.

Of course the first step is creating the surround sound information. This is done by people. Most surround sound isn’t recorded when a movie is produced. Instead, audio engineers sit down with all of the recorded audio and decide which sounds should be reproduced by which speakers. Without the experts doing all this work in the beginning, the rest of the system breaks down, and you don’t have a surround sound experience at home.

What's receiver do you recommend to power your Klipsch surround system?