Recently, I came across an old 6.1 channel surround sound receiver and picked it up out of shear curiosity. I have always wondered why Dolby Laboratories would go to the trouble of creating a supposed newer, better surround sound (than 5.1) and then rapidly come out with another to replace it? Is it that it was that bad or that they just had poor timing of when to launch one and then the other? Being a home theater nut (as you will no doubt realize by reading my blog, my book and reviewing my surround sound diagrams) I felt compelled to find out.
Here are my findings based upon a Sony 100 watt per channel 6.1 channel surround receiver. I tested with Star Wars Episode III (Revenge of the Sith)….
First off as expected, since having already figured out about two years ago how to create a rear center for my own 8.1 channel surround sound, there is much more sound to be heard behind you. When I say behind you I do mean behind you and not sort of behind you but really off to the left or right of you just slightly. There is no doubt there is sound to be heard from the left and right rear speakers. Now I can officially confirm that yes, there is a reason for a rear center speaker.
With 6.1 I found the entire surround sound to be impressive. As cool as it is to have a 7.1 channel surround sound system, the fact is there really is seldom anything even if faint to come out of those extra speakers…7.1 never caught on like 4.0 and 5.1 did. Had it been that significant, receiver manufacturers would have stopped production of 5.1 receivers, but they haven’t. Why is this you may ask? One reason is the additional cost (although it is not that much more now that it is no longer a new technology). Most movies are still encoded in only 5.1 surround sound, not 7.1 so that means your receiver is attempting to simulate some sound here to the side speakers causing very little sound to come out of them. Another reason is because not everyone wants another pair of speakers in their living room, especially a pair that requires one on the left side and one on the right side (this gets in the way of furniture and a walkway). Lastly there is the additional speaker wire to deal with. How do you plan to hide all this extra wire?
6.1 creates a much more realistic sounding “you are there” environment because most of the time there should be sound effects behind you. Connecting a rear center channel speaker to a 6.1 channel receiver really does make things much better. Since you cannot purchase a new 6.1 channel receiver you either take your chances buying one used or get a new receiver that is either 5.1 or 7.1 (unless you can afford the Dolby Atmos surround in either a 9.1 or 11.1 channel format).
There is a better way…..why not hook up with my instructions your own 8.1 channel surround sound? My 8.1 is my personal favorite for best overall surround sound without going overboard with say for instance my 22.4 channel surround sound (although it is really awesome). I plan to test out a whole new surround sound setup (13.2) in the coming months and if it works like I expect it to I will write about it soon.