When buying a home theater sound system, or even computer speakers, often a number corresponds to the system. Commonly it’s 2.0, 2.1, or 5.1. But what does that mean?
Essentially, there’s a number, and then a period, and then another number. So what does it all mean? Well, it’s pretty simple actually. The number before indicates the total number of speakers that are not subwoofers, AKA the speakers which cover the high ranges (like tweeters, or full range speakers). The number after the period is the number of subwoofers. Pretty simple, but to help clarify I’ll go through some common examples.
Format: [Number of Non-Subwoofer Speakers].[Number of Subwoofers]
In this setup, there are two speakers, and no subwoofer. Often this is found in budget computer speakers, and is usually not found in home theaters. One speaker plays the left channel, the other plays the right.
This is the same setup as above, except with a subwoofer. The subwoofer plays the lower frequencies, or “bass” from the audio. Since there is only one subwoofer, it plays both left and right low frequencies. A common example of this is more premium computer speakers, or a small home theater with a sound bar, and a subwoofer.
This setup is the most common. It offers one subwoofer, and five other speakers. Those five do various things. One will be in the dead center, playing the center channel. Then there’s one on the left, one on the right, and one in the back left, and a final speaker in the back right. This offers true “surround sound” and is often found in home theaters.
Our final example is slightly more complex. With two subwoofers, it has left AND right bass channels, and the same speaker setup as 5.1, with two more thrown in. These two cover the side left, or side right channels. The more speakers you add, the more surrounding the sound is.
There’s really not much to it. Just knowing the format is the essential part, and it’s surprisingly easy. As you add more speakers, however, it gets more complex and enhances the surround sound effect.
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