Common Surround Sound Formats
In case you hadn't figured it out by now, surround sound is named as it is because the sound literally surrounds the listener. While there have recently been significant leaps and bounds in this technology there was a huge gap in time between the introduction of this technology and the significant improvements we have seen in recent years. This is especially true when the evolution of sound technology is compared to how fast the world of video has evolved over the last three decades.
There are many different formats on the market today. This can be confusing for many consumers though the good news is that most devices that interpret the formats do so automatically. In other words, you won't need a PhD in terminology in order to enjoy the latest blockbuster hit to come out on DVD with your surround sound system. You will however need a good AV receiver and even better speakers in order to get the maximum enjoyment from your home theater and surround sound system.
If you are simply curious or like to know a little about a lot, then you just might find some of the following explanations for common surround sound formats to be useful. Dolby Digital AC-3 is by far the most commonly seen surround sound format. It is a 5.1 channel format (this means five speakers plus one subwoofer). This is what most DVDs will include and some programs that are found on digital cable or satellite channels will have this type of surround sound as well. You can use Dolby Digital for older mediums that do not include surround sound in their format, as surround isn't required in order to use the system.
Pro Logic is a system used by Dolby in order to translate or decode the signals from other mediums such as old videocassette tapes or television broadcasts. This is becoming widely known for its ability to take two speaker sounds and turn them into shockingly realistic surround imitations.
DTS is the largest competitor for Dolby when it comes to sound. DTS is this company's answer to Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound. This is mostly seen only on DVDs.
DTS-ES is the above-mentioned company's answer to Dolby's 6.1 surround system (this is 6 speakers plus 1 subwoofer). Of course DTS is also going to have their own answer to Pro Logic and that answer would be DTS NEO:6, which is said to produce great imitations of surround sound from existing 2 channel mediums very much like Pro Logic.
You may be wondering why we went through all of this information and the primary reason is so that you know there is a difference and you purchase equipment and DVDs that are compatible with one another. Failure to do so could result in a sound that is less than desirable. Most systems will at the very least support both Dolby Digital and DTS, however, you should make sure that you are aware of the format your system requires from the start in order to make the proper decisions when purchasing.
Much like anything in life the proper formats and surround sound system comes down to a matter of choice. The more speakers (such as you would find in the 6.1 or 7.1 surround systems) will present a great quality of sound than fewer, however poor quality speakers can completely ruin the beauty of the sound of your surround sound system. Your speakers should be your single largest investment when it comes to building your ideal surround sound system.
There are many things that go into creating not only the perfect surround sound system for your home but also the perfect surround sound set up. Do not get so caught up in researching these systems online that you neglect to walk into your local stores and actually hear the sound systems you are considering for purchase. There is noting like hearing the quality of the sound to help you make your final selection.