Expert Guide: How Does a Dolby 7.1 Surround Sound System Work?

Your options are quite diversified when it comes to adding realism to your home cinema system. However, there are specific systems out there that seem to dominate the market. Whether you have been in an actual cinema or you look for top-rated policies on the market, you are probably aware of the popular Dolby 7.1 system. So you’re probably wondering: what makes it special? How Does a Dolby 7.1 Surround Sound System Work?

In this article, we are going to answer those questions and more, such as: How many channels are in a Dolby 7.1 surround sound system and what do you need to do to take advantage of all of its capabilities? Here is a comprehensive guide on how to benefit from it.

How Many Channels Are in a Dolby 7.1 Surround Sound System?

To keep it simple, there are eight channels in such a system. While the classic six-channel system dominated the market for a while (5.1 systems), the new technology comes with a couple of extra channels.

The arrangement is relatively similar. Practically, just like the classic 5.1 system, the 7.1 alternative comes with the front left, front right, and central sound, as well as the subwoofer. The difference is in the surround sound.

A classic 5.1 system mixes rear effect and the surround sound into two channels only. On the other hand, the 7.1 system splits it, so it has two extra speakers. Sounds and effects are sent to the surround channels, as well as some new rear surround channels, which the 5.1 system lacks. The result? Incredible. The Dolby official website clearly states the benefits of such an upgrade.

If you go to a store and you ask for a Dolby 7.1 surround sound system, you might get a bit confused, though, as there are two different configurations out there. Generally, surround speakers come on each side of the watching position, while the rear speakers go behind. You might find a different setting that involves the surround sound speakers on the sides and two front height channels located above the ones in the front.

While not so popular, another configuration implies two wide channels placed between the side channels and the front ones.

You are free to come up with your configuration and style too. However, given the way sound is transmitted through the channels, the system recommended by the manufacturer is probably your best option.

Sofa and a home theater

Considering a Dolby 7.1 surround sound system – What to know

The pros of a Dobly 7.1 surround sound system are quite distinct. Most important, given more channels, you have a richer sound, not to mention hearing every small detail. The design quality is worth some attention, too, as 7.1 systems are much more advanced and durable than 5.1 systems. Some systems come with a receiver – not all of them. The thing is you will need one. While it might be an extra expense, the good news is you can easily upgrade the system if you decide to.

Nothing is perfect, not even the productive sound system. On a downside, these systems are much pricier than 5.1 configurations.

It is worth noting that a Dobly 7.1 surround sound system will not work in any room. If you plan to install it in a small apartment and speakers are too close to each other, the sound becomes a bit unfocused. It feels muddy and low in quality, especially as you need some distance to achieve the rich sound you require – not just between speakers, but between speakers and the listener too.

So, what should you ask yourself before spending your money?

  • The size of your room – ideally, it should be more significant than 300 square feet, or the sound can become problematic.
  • Future upgrades – if you see yourself upgrading in the future, a 7.1 system is a plus, as long as the receiver is compatible.
  • Listening position – for a 7.1 system to work, you need some room behind you.
  • Furnishings – hard and flat surfaces are less efficient than soft furnishings in terms of sound. Bookshelves make an excellent option, for example.
  • Wires – wires will add to the sound quality, which is excellent if you do not mind seeing them around. Otherwise, a wireless system will do, yet it represents a compromise on sound quality.

Uses for a Dobly 7.1 Surround Sound System

Interior with home multimedia system

There are multiple reasons wherefore a Dobly 7.1 surround sound system makes such a good option. Home entertainment is one of them. Whether it comes to the latest games on the market or actual music, you will be surprised by the effects you can achieve.

According to Axiom Audio’s post on 7.1 surround sound systems, a home cinema almost asks for this configuration. More and more movies are now configured for 7.1 surround sound systems. The first major release to implement it was Toy Story 3 in 2010, yet most recent releases have turned it into a standard.

When it comes to music, audio freaks will inevitably want a quality system to display every instrument and add to the richness. It is just part of the game. Just like professional headphones provide a richer sound than those headphones you can buy from petrol stations, a Dobly 7.1 surround sound system will come up with higher quality than a 5.1 alternative.


As a short conclusion, most people ask themselves – how many channels are in a Dolby 7.1 surround sound system? The Master Switch makes it evident in this post, comparing 7.1 versus 5.1. There are eight channels, and if placed correctly, your speakers will add to the final result.

Sure, while this technology seems to be the ultimate standard these days, there are more ways to improve it. Plus, there are more sophisticated configurations, such as 9.2 or 11.2 – you can quickly figure out how many channels they have. These days, you can even find 9.2.4 systems, which come with four additional speakers in the ceiling.

Put, the 7.1 configuration leads to today’s standards and represents a future proof investment.

Related Article: Detailed Guide On How To Hook Up Surround Sound To TV With HDMI