Best 7.1 Surround Sound System – Ultimate Review
The 7.1-channel surround audio system has been around for two decades and has become the absolute standard for home theaters. But if you go up to the luckier-sounded 7.1 surround system, the cinematic audio experience is delivered through seven speakers and a subwoofer. What this more extensive set does to the audio ambiance is substantial, and the improvements to the directionality and continuity of the sound are immediately noticeable.
You should consider 7.1 surround sound systems when:
You want more immersive home entertainment experiences. 7.1-channel surround sounds offer much more efficient use of space than 5.1. The 7th channel in 7.1 systems is dedicated to low-frequency effects (LFE), enhancing bass content that you feel in your body (and not just hear in your ears). This makes 7.1-channel surround sound feel like an upgrade from 5.1; the resounding 7.1 surround system delivers the cinematic audio experience through seven speakers and a subwoofer.
What this more significant set does to the audio ambiance is substantial, and the improvements to the directionality and continuity of the sound are immediately noticeable. Note that these are complete systems rather than mixed-and-matched speakers.
Here’s an overview of 7.1 speaker setups in general:
The 7.1-channel surround sound system brings 7.1 speakers and a subwoofer to maximize your entertainment experience. 7.1 is simply an upgrade from 5.1, with seven total channels of surround sound bringing you more depth and clarity in your A/V than ever before — including that low-frequency effects channel (LFE), dedicated just for bass content that you feel in your body (and not just hear in your ears). 7.1-channel surround systems can be bought as complete packages or speaker by speaker, making it possible to outfit any room. Many A/V receivers today come with the ability to decode 7.1-channels of surround sound via either analog or digital connections, so 7.1-channel surround sound is easy to achieve with today’s technology.
Note that 7.1-channel surround systems are backward compatible, so if you have an existing 5.1 setup in your home theater, 7.1. It was already possible that connecting both the 7 . 1 speaker system delivers a more lively and more dynamic audio ambiance than 5.1. the ones that were not, you will still get an excellent 7 . 1 speaker system that delivers a more robust and more dynamic audio ambiance than 5.1. Home entertainment experiences improve dramatically when 7 speakers are installed, including the 6th channel for bass content (LFE). Digital connections are also available on newer A/V receivers, making it easier to get this expanded speaker configuration up and running.
Since the 7.1 surround sound system is 7 speakers and a subwoofer, 7 . 1 surprises the listener with its clarity of noise coming from all around. 7 . 1 speaker system delivers a more vibrant audio ambiance than the 5.1 speaker system.
Best Overall 7.1 Home Theater System
- This Bundle Includes: 2 Klipsch RP-8060FA Floorstanding Speakers (1065792) + 1 Klipsch RP-504C Center Speaker (1065810) + 4 Klipsch RP-500M Bookshelf Speakers (1065807) + 1 Klipsch SPL-120 Subwoofer (1065966)
- Klipsch Reference Premiere Dolby Atmos Home Theater System
- Reference Premiere Speakers with 12-inch Subwoofer
- Surround Sound Dolby Atmos Klipsch Home Theater System
- Legendary high performance Klipsch sound featuring Spun Copper Cerametallic woofers and Titanium LTS Vented Tweeters with Hybrid Tractrix Horns
If you want the absolute best in 7.1 surround sound, then there is only one name you need to be looking at, and that’s Klipsch. They make the best surround home theatre packages we’ve ever heard, and this one—a 7.1.2 system anchored by the gigantic RP-8060FA floor standing speakers— is out of this world. The audio quality is rich and sumptuous, with enough power behind it to rattle the walls of your cave. Compared to other systems from the likes of Aperion and Martin Logan, there’s simply no contest. The 7.1.2 system on offer here is undoubtedly expensive, but it’s worth the money.
The most significant negative is that we cannot tell the duration of this bundle. Klipsch has a particularly aggravating tendency of cycling their packages constantly, and it is pretty challenging to identify exactly which one you want with the unfavorable product names.
Although a comparable system from the company will nearly always be accessible, it will not be this precise system that is genuinely remarkable. We combined the Denon AVR-X3700H pulse punching receiver to extract the finest from those enormous speakers of the Dolby Atmos modules. This combination is very recommended.
- 7.0 Speaker System - Perfectly timbre matched tower speakers, surrounds & rear surrounds and center channel all designed to encapsulate you with every sound effect the way the artist intended
- Commanding Floorstanding Speakers - Dual 8" woofers produce clean powerful bass, with woven-glass midrange drivers accentuating precise vocals, while the Neodymium tweeters produce high frequencies with captivating clarity for an enhanced soundstage
- Detailed Surrounds - Designed for placement beside or behind the listener, these surround speakers utilize your room's acoustics to reflect sound for a multi-directional home theater experience
- 2-Way Bookshelf Speakers - Enveloping surround sound providing outstanding precision and clarity, allowing you to soak up all the dramatic impact your movies and music can deliver
- Precision Crafted Cabinets - Acoustically inert, engineered with MDF wood to create a warm, distortion-free sound
The Fluance Reference Series is technically a 7.0 system rather than a 7.1. But at this price, you could quite happily spend another grand on a good subwoofer and still be ahead of the game. The Signature Series is an upgrade to the old Reference Series, and it’s a real jump in quality. Be aware that it costs roughly $460 more than the previous model, meaning this combo isn’t as budget-friendly as we’d like.
The reference series was excellent for music, but not necessarily home theater –in other words, they were great for day-to-day living room listening but didn’t have enough oomph for larger spaces or critical movie watching. Suppose you aren’t going to listen critically.
The biggest downside is that we cannot say how long this package will be available. Klipsch has a singularly irritating habit of regularly cycling their boxes, and their unfriendly product names make it very hard to nail down exactly which one you want. While there will almost always be a comparable system from the company available, it won’t be this exact system, which is outstanding. We’ve paired it with the pulse-pounding Denon AVR-X3700H receiver, which will extract the best out of the Dolby Atmos modules embedded in those massive speakers. It’s a highly recommended combination.
- FEATURES: Featuring flexible speaker solutions, DTS:X, and Dolby Atmos support, the STR-DN1080 delivers mighty, cinematic surround sound that perfectly adapts to you, and your environment.
- VIDEO: The 4K pass-through feature allows data to pass through the receiver without compromising image quality, and is HDCP 2.2-compatible. By supporting High Dynamic Range (HDR) signal pass-through, you can enjoy the incredible jump in image contrast and brightness it brings.
- SURROUND SOUND: This Atmos Home Theater Reciver features several audio decoders and supports a variety of hi-res formats. Experience full 360-degree surround sound with the phantom surround back speaker setting. For smaller rooms with only 2 speaker settings Virtual Surround with S-Force front surround is ideal.
- VOICE CONTROL: With Google Home, you can voice control Sony's audio products. You can turn up the volume, skip to the next track, or stop the music, all without lifting a finger.
- BUNDLE INCLUDES: Sony 7.2 Dolby Atmos Wi-Fi Network AV Home Theater Receiver with Sony SSCSE Dolby Atmos Enabled Speakers , Sony SSCS5 3-Way 3-Driver Bookshelf Speaker System, Sony SSCS8 2-Way 3-Driver Center Channel Speaker, Sony 10-Inch Active Subwoofer, and Sony SSCS3 Stereo Floor-Standing Speaker (2-Speakers)
The Sony STR-DN1080 7.2 package is quite unusual. In most cases, the speakers come first, and the receiver is almost an afterthought. But in this case, Sony has built a package around their excellent STR-DN1080 AV receiver. While the speakers aren’t exceptional in their own right, they pair exceptionally well with this receiver.
This review was made possible by our partnership with Unique Home Theater. Check out their website for more fantastic deals on high-end gear!
Sony STR-DN1080 7.2 Channel 4K AV Receiver With Wi-Fi & Bluetooth
I’m reviewing the 6100ES instead of 6300ES because it has airplay support. It’s been two years since I bought my last receiver, so I felt it was time to upgrade. I had a Yamaha RX-v1800, which has been good to me; however, the subwoofer started acting up, so it needed replacing, but at the same time, I wanted an upgrade in terms of functionality. This includes Airplay support, 4k/HDCP 2.2 HDMI pass-through for future-proofing purposes, multi-zone audio via power amp inputs and wifi connectivity, etc. It also doesn’t have DTS 2.0 decoding, which is not supported by my 5-year-old Infinity speakers either.
The first impression out the box was that this thing was heavy! Solid build quality throughout with high-grade materials being used to construct this beast, including aluminum/steel chassis, nice weight stainless steel buttons, and a nice smooth rubberized volume adjustment wheel.
I ran the manual setup wizard with 2 channel stereo to bi-amp my front left and right speakers, subwoofer output via LFE input on sub-pre-out connector along with HDMI audio set to bitstream for all sources except TIVO, which was set to PCM instead. This is because I wanted the best possible sound quality out of this receiver as it supports both high-bitrate Dolby true HD and DTS-HD master audio codecs. After that, I configured the wifi connection through the receivers menu section, which wasn’t difficult at all
4. Axiim 7.1 WM Series – Top Wireless 7.1 System
The Axiim 7.1 WM Series is a true wireless speaker set that consists of four different pieces: the main controller/base station (WM2), one front surround speaker (WM1a), two rear surround speakers (WM1b), and one subwoofer (WM10). The whole works are connected via a single ethernet cable in order to stream uncompressed 5.x/7.x surround sound – and it’s the first time we’ve ever heard about a fully wireless speaker set like this.
Axiim claim that it will take less than five minutes to set up the WM Series, and we believe them: connect the ethernet cable, make sure all speakers are charged (indicated by small blue LED lights), download the free app (iOS/Android), follow onscreen instructions; bam! You’re done. Axiim says only one person is needed to get everyone into the action with their new system, but we suggest having another human nearby in case you need extra help taking screenshots of each step along the way.
5. Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro 7.1 DTS-X/Atmos – A Soundbar That Can Do 7.1 Audio
- With 70+ years of audio excellence, transform your living room into a state-of-the-art movie theater with 360° Dolby Atmos surround flowing around, above and beyond you. Like cinemas with speakers located around you, SHOCKWAFE Pro 7.1.4 SSE duplicates the same experience, courtesy of 2 rear surround speakers (Wired) & Spatial Surround Elevation (SSE) technology. Created with our flagship Shockwafe Ultra SSE’s DNA, Winner of Best Dolby Atmos Soundbar Battle (hosted by Brian Tong, Ex-Cnet host)
- Experience a whole new level of surround performance with our exclusive SSE Technology. Featuring 3 advanced audio processing engines working in harmony to enhance directionality, enlarge spaciousness & unlock extra details of any audio soundtrack. Envelop your home theater with up to 7.1.4 channels of uncompromising moving audio that flows all around you. Unleash the full dynamics of your audio experience with 105dB of room filling sound.
- TWO 2-WAY REAR SPEAKERS (industry's 1st!) produce spacious and dynamic surround sound. Each of them (connected to sub via RCA wires) is constructed with a tweeter that reproduces high frequencies with captivating clarity, and a full-range driver that delivers surround effects with power and precision. Simply put, the surround sound performance from simulated/virtual 2.1 or other 5.1 channel surround soundbars does not come anywhere close to this.
- The main soundbar unit features upgraded high performance speaker drivers. The signature front surround effects tweeters deliver a 35% wider soundstage. Our newly-designed 8" down-firing wireless subwoofer delivers tight, room shaking low frequencies that enhances the impact of your home theater. Bass effects are fired onto the floor surface and distributed equally in all directions across the entire room for maximum immersiveness.
- All units sold since Aug '19 can receive Dolby Atmos surround via TV’s eARC when streaming with TV’s smart apps like Netflix (Note: not all TVs can output Atmos. Refer to your TV brand’s audio output specs). Enjoy advanced connectivity with Dolby Vision, 4K UHD pass-thru and High Dynamic Range (HDR). Connect up to 6 devices via 1 HDMI ARC, 3 HDMI, 1 Optical and 1 Coaxial inputs. The 52-key backlit remote allows seamless control of sources, DSP modes, individual channel and room size optimization
The Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro 7.1 DTS-X/Atmos is a soundbar that provides a solution to getting good surround sound from a single cabinet without compromising much on the power or audio quality at all. It’s equipped with eight speakers and two powerful subwoofers for incredibly full and rich sound, making it one of those models that could easily pass as a soundbar explicitly designed for a high-end home cinema system rather than a stand-alone unit.
This product has 4.0 out of 5 stars on Amazon from over 100 reviews – click here to see them – so it already seems pretty well-liked by its users. One reviewer said this about how good it sounds: “It does one thing in spades, play music and play it well.”
We agree that this model offers excellent value for money, but we need to mention that you probably wouldn’t buy this model unless you really want the best of the best in terms of sound quality. It’s expensive compared to some other models on this list, so if you just want something cheap and cheerful to improve your TV audio a bit, then maybe look at another option. However, for those who demand absolute top-notch sound quality and don’t mind shelling out a lot of cash for it, we recommend checking out this Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro 7.1 DTS-X/Atmos review.
6. Polk Audio Signature 7.1 System – A Super-Simple Home-Theater-In-A-Box
The Polk Audio Signature 7.1 System is a complete home theater speaker system, where everything you need to build a great surround sound system for your home is included in the box. It’s been put together with experts from other AV manufacturers, so all the different components have been chosen and tuned to work well together, which results in a simple but good-sounding system that should appeal to folks on a budget.
It includes six speakers, four small satellite speakers, and two larger center channel speakers. The subwoofer has dual ports that allow it to be placed up against a wall or in an enclosed space without losing too much low-end response, so even if there’s not enough room behind your sofa for the subwoofer to fit, this won’t be a problem. This is quite impressive considering the price of this system, and it gives you value for money with an excellent level of sound quality.
Of course, there are still better systems out there if your budget stretches a bit further, but we don’t think they’ll offer much more than what’s on offer here. We’d recommend pairing this system with the new Xbox One or PlayStation 4 as the receiver (or perhaps even as both), as these will provide plenty of power to drive such a system and give you some decent audio options like streaming from online services, CD playback and so on. There’s no HDMI connectivity in this Polk Audio Signature 7.1 System, though that would have been hugely surprising at this price point, and it’s worth bearing in mind that you won’t be able to pick up the bass frequencies as clearly with this kind of system compared to one with separate speakers for each channel.
The Polk Audio Signature 7.1 System has great sound quality and offers really good value for money. It’s an HTIB (Home Theater In A Box) and is a complete package, so if you’ve only got a couple of thousand dollars to spend on your home theater needs, we can’t see anything beating this at the price-point.
- 7.1 Speaker System - Expertly timbre matched 7 speaker system with a powerful 10" subwoofer that will surround you with every brilliant nuance the way the artist intended
- 3-Way Floorstanding Towers - High frequency tweeters, dynamic midrange, and subwoofer come together in a precision crafted enclosure to suppress distortion and provide an accurate response
- Dynamic Surrounds - Remarkable reproduction of the finest details, the Elite Surrounds are a highly accurate and intensely musical system with broad frequency response and low distortion
- Powerful Cinematic Experience - With a 10-inch Powered Subwoofer pumping out room shaking bass for a truly immersive experience bringing your movies and music to new depths
- Precision Crafted Cabinets - Boasting a classic woodgrain finish, the engineered MDF wood cabinet ensures a natural, distortion-free sound offering a pure listening experience
The Fluance Elite Series is not the best speaker system available. It does, however, offer some of the most exciting sounds you can get for your money.
The five speakers are capable of producing clear and dynamic audio that fills even large rooms with ease. The bass, in particular, operates at exceptional levels without the need for an amplifier.
And if all this wasn’t enough, they also happen to look fantastic – sleek black cones on silver bases make them a smart option for any living room or office space.
Bottom Line: The Fluance Signature Series sets a high standard for what affordable speaker systems should be like – but the Elites are more reasonably priced, without sacrificing too much in the way of sound quality.
The ELITE series is a step up from their previous speaker systems, and they have continued to knock it out of the park with this one. The speakers have a charming design that would look great in just about any home office or entertainment center. This set offers some excellent audio for both movies and music. The bass kicks hard on these speakers and can rattle some (if not all) of the cones if you crank it up loud enough.
With the variety of speakers produced by Klipsch, it is not surprising that they have appeared on this list several times. The package they currently offer in the 7.1 RP-250 is really welcome. The RP-250 range combines (obviously) numerous speakers with a key wrinkle. A separate wireless kit is supplied in the R-110SW sub, which is not slouched. Our makes it much more versatile and almost any other wired system on this list. This means you don’t have to connect it to the receiver directly. Since only Sonos and Axiim packages have wireless subwoofers, that’s a lot.
What are the drawbacks? Finally, we believe that alternative systems offer greater overall sound quality. The cheaper Fluance 7.1 Series does, in our opinion, a better job. This does not mean, however, that the Klipsch should be considered and we suggest you go to your Marantz SR6014 receiver if you do. It boosts the Klipsch system excellently and at a fairly inexpensive price as well.
9. JBL Bar 9.1
- 820W Output power
- Built-in Dolby Atmos and DTS: X decoding
- With detachable, battery powered surround speakers you can enjoy real surround sound without the wires
- Experience deep bass with a 300W, 10" powered subwoofer
- Ultra HD 4K Pass-through with Dolby Vision
JBL’s in the realm of surround sound systems are some kind of dark horse, but their Bar 9.1 is one method to correct that. It provides a full nine audio channels with a sound bar plus two satellite speakers and a subwoofer. We enjoyed the punch of the music, particularly download, and it was amazing how the speakers were translating it in depth. Contrary to the more expensive Sonos Surround Set, complete DTS:X and Dolby Atmos access are provided. If you are part of the former, the Bar 9.1 is an excellent alternative.
The difficulty is that it doesn’t do enough to take the competition ahead. The Nakamichi Shockwafe is priced the same way, but Dolby Atmos does better and sounds the general surround. Indeed, we observed that Bar 9.1 is probably the least successful in positioning and realism among the options for a sound bar in this list. That is a pity, but the Bar 9.1 is not a good second choice.
7.1 versus 9.1 versus 11.2
Assume you’ve already completed the installation of your 7.1 surround system. That is your initial configuration. What if you wanted to go even further? What, you were under the impression that we’d just stop at seven? No way, man. For truly monster bass, you can upgrade to a second subwoofer, converting the system to a 7.4 system arrangement (where the number following the ‘point’ indicates that the subwoofer is being used).
Simple enough: practically all receivers will be able to broadcast audio to two subwoofers, and all you have to do from there is plug the subwoofers into the power supply. It is also possible to divide larger-format surround systems into separate zones (different rooms).
It is possible to equip your kitchen with a pair of stereo speakers and a subwoofer (2.1), while keeping the remaining 5 speakers and the second subwoofer in your main room to function as a conventional 5.1 – both zones would be supplied by the same 7.2 receiver. You’ll be able to “keep up” with the movie while making dinner or talking on the phone in this manner. That is something you could consider doing.
However, let us suppose you desire to go much bigger. It is worthwhile to look into 9.1 and above. In order to accomplish this, you must make use of what are known as matrix sound channels.
All you need to know about the seven discrete channels (plus one sub channel) on the back of your receiver is that they all carry their own independent signal, whereas a matrix channel actually blends some of this audio, assisted by the surround sound codec to convert it for use with a height speaker. Because that is what 9.1 and 11.1 (or 9.2 and 11.2, if you have two subwoofers per) are supposed to sound like. They entail the use of high-pitched speakers.
7.1 surround sound has 8 sound channels. It uses the same 6 speakers as above, plus an extra two side speakers. The extra two speakers add more depth to the surround sound experience. As it uses more speakers, 7.1 surround sound is more expensive and is only suitable for large rooms.
DTS:X vs. Auro3D
The three major surround sound firms are Dolby, DTS, and Auro3D. You know, complex software applications that take a sound source and employ unique algorithms to generate a realistic surround sound experience. While each company has a wide range of codecs, you only need to care about three. We’ll go through them one by one.
The most prevalent. Everyone has heard it if they’ve been to a movie theatre in the last five years. To blend the sounds together, it uses location programming tactics to place each one obscure, preset positions around the room by mixing them amongst the speakers.
Several things are required to get Dolby Atmos running. You’ll need height speakers (preferably four), speakers tilted upwards to project audio from the ceiling, or modules that sit on top of existing speakers. In either case, you’ll need more speakers than a standard 7.1 system to fully utilise this. If you don’t have the capacity or funds for Dolby Atmos, your 7.1 system can still use other Dolby codecs. And Dolby calls their systems 7.1.4 or 9.2.4. These are basically 11.1 or 13.2 systems with four extra-height speakers. Let the numbers inspire you.
Dolby Atmos is unique in that it requires height speakers to function. DTS:X, however, does not. It’s a software codec that works with any speaker arrangement. While it lacks the placement capabilities of an entire Dolby Atmos system, even a basic 5.1 system may produce a fantastic image. You don’t even need extra hardware: the DTS codec is often available as a software update for receivers.
Having height speakers helps a lot. Regardless, this is a highly helpful codec. Almost all modern receivers include Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, so you shouldn’t have to choose. Several of our picks for the best 5.1 speaker systems feature DTS:X and are ideal for compact spaces.
Even though it’s been out for a while, it hasn’t managed to compete with Atmos and DTS:X. Unlike Dolby’s codec, Auro-3D is all about the channels. It’s what you want if you have room for multiple-height speakers and a fantastic speaker called the Voice Of God in the ceiling immediately over your listening position. You don’t need this to utilize Auro-3D, but you do need a 9.1 system. Auro-3D is simply outstanding.
We think it’s on par with Dolby’s codec, if not better. But it’s still a dark horse in this race. If you wish to try it, more and more receivers provide it as an option, generally as a paid upgrade. Marantz’s SR8012 is a good example.
Is the surrounding sound 7.1 making a difference?
That depends on several aspects, including the existing system. When you have a typical 2-speaker stereo system, you will hear the sound changes, whether they are 5.1 or 7.1. It depends on the quality of the system and the room that you need to space the extra speakers correctly if you convert from a 5.1 System to a 7.1 system.
Is surround 7.1 the finest sound?
When it comes to audio and sound environments, most things are subjective. Theoretically, 7.1 is better than 5.1, because the sound is more like a full home theatre with more channels and more speakers, the sound being roughly 360o.
Is the ambiance better than 7.1?
This is largely according to personal preferences, like all audio items. Dolby Atmos does not always mean “better” to add overhead sound and other improvements to existing surround sound systems of 7.1. Some favour one, some prefer the other.
What’s the finest surround 7.1 layout?
In essence, you want to put the 8 speakers in this position:
Speakers to the left and right: 23o before the listener.
Surround speakers: position the listener on each side of the ear
Center speaker channel: location to the listener.
Subwoofer: the exact position is not crucial, on the floor.
If you have a soundbar configuration, this is normally about the same position as the center channel speaker. Further speakers are positioned according to what type of speaker they are.
Does 7.1 surround sound have Netflix?
Oh, yes, no. Some sound content is typically 5.1 in surround sound format. Unfortunately, there seems to be no list available from the moment this post is written in order to know which material is activated. All you can do at the present is open the contents, then switch the audio formats to surrounding sound.