The history of surround sound prior to Premium Audio

Do you know your history? Your history of surround sound that is? Don’t worry, Premium Audio is here to help! Today we will go over the history of surround sound prior to Premium Audio.

Originally when watching a film we used the speaker(s) built into our televisions. I remember those days and sound was, as you can imagine, not very good. Then we started hooking up a receiver to the tv and using the left and right speakers (like we would for music) for listening to movies. This was a dramatic improvement as the clarity was much better do to having larger speakers and the ability to adjust the tone.

Eventually receivers had a simulated surround sound referred to as “matrix surround” which was different but I would not say better than just plain stereo sound from the left and right speakers. The idea was that it would create some distance and make the speakers appear further apart.

Then Dolby Laboratories (Dolby Labs, Dolby) came up with a major improvement in how we watched movies and it eventually evolved from there to what we have today as options. The surround sound they came up with was called Dolby Pro-Logic.

Dolby Pro Logic (aka 4.0)

With this we had a left front and right front speaker like you would use for listening to music with. They also introduced the center channel which we now know to be the most important speaker of all for any film we watch since 70 to 80 percent of all sound in a film comes out. Pro Logic also introduced a pair of rear speakers. One was on the left and the other on the right. They did not think there would be much sound there so they made them in mono (meaning same sound out of each speaker instead of stereo).

Dolby Digital (aka 5.1)

This added a powered sub woofer into the mix and separated the rear speakers from mono to stereo. To this day, over 20 years later, this is still the industry standard for surround sound. Nice job, Dolby. This was a game changer in how we listened to movies.

About the same time as Dolby Digital came out there was a competitor who arrived on the scene; DTS.


DTS made their version of 5.1 and it was in some ways better since the center was easier to hear. Their surround sound was best with any films that were heavy on dialogue instead of action. Movies are now encoded with this along side Dolby Digital 5.1. Movie theaters are also setup to play movies back in this format as well.

Over the years Dolby created other surround sound formats to bring music up to the same level as movies so that you could recreate the concert setting in your own home (complete with different tones and incorporating all five speakers at varying volumes). For the focus of this posting I am not going to go into this and will instead stick to movies and how it pertains to them.

Somewhere along the way the manufacturers of receivers decided to help differentiate themselves from their competitors by coming up with their own versions of surround sounds. This was mostly for music. Sony did come up with a movie format that is still offered on their models called SDDS. It was so successful that movies are encoded with it and movie theaters are setup to play back the films with it.

Dolby 6.1

This is a great surround sound and is my personal favorite that they made. Too bad they quickly replaced it. This surround sound adds a rear center, which I believe is crucial to action films.

About this time Premium Audio came to be.

Dolby 7.1 and Dolby 7.2

This replaced 6.1, yet 5.1 is still being made, not really sure why! This removed the rear center and replaced it with a pair of side speakers. These were to be placed to the left and right of where you sit and were to be aimed directly at your ears (and placed at ear level).

Later they also offered 7.2 which adds a second powered sub. With two subs running simultaneously it sounds even better. For this to work they have you place them both up front (one on the left side and the other on the right).

Premium Audio started posting about different surround sound formats exclusive to them. This started with the book: “Customize Your Home Theater: 5.1 channel to 15.2 and everything in between.

Dolby Atmos (9.2)

This was created because we are not really watching films currently in a 3 dimensional sound field. The reason for this is because in a film we can see visually that there is height and not just distance in the room, yet we have no way of perceiving the sound coming from a higher elevation. To fill this void of sound they created a second pair of speakers above the left and right front speakers just for that purpose. These speakers are to be placed at or just about at ceiling level.

Dolby Atmos (11.2)

This surround sound added onto the original Atmos format to make it even better. This one added a rear pair of speakers above the left and right rear speakers already being used. These speakers are to be placed at or just about at ceiling level.

  • Premium Audio takes it to a whole new level creating surround sounds that are “Way beyond home theatre” with 17.2, 19.2, and 21.2 channel surround sound.
  • It took awhile, but Premium Audio released their improvements to Dolby Atmos with 22.4 channel surround. This involves eight ceiling height speakers and four powered subs instead of only two.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *