A Buying Guide for Surround Sound Speakers

Like if this guide is helpful
A Buying Guide for Surround Sound Speakers

Surround sound speakers project audio effects across an exceptional range of frequencies from several angles, making them ideal for complete immersion in music, movies, and other sound media to enhance the listening experience. The effect of being surrounded by sound is achieved by strategic placement of several speakers, often referred to as satellite speakers, around the room. Systems vary by number of speakers and drivers, as well as by many brands and manufacturers. Once correctly installed, providing it is not misused, a good quality surround sound system will last for several years.

About Surround Sound Speakers

For electronic entertainment media such as television programmes, films, computer or console games and music, sound, transmitted by a speaker, is a key element of the experience. By strategic placement of a series of separate speakers around a room, a listener can literally surround themselves with audio effects; this system is referred to as surround sound. Surround sound speakers are commonly comprised of any number of wide-range speakers. The term 'range' refers to the different frequencies emitted by the speaker, with higher frequencies producing higher pitched sounds. Speakers will vary in shape, size, power, and cost, resulting in a speaker or system to suit every use, taste, and budget. These assorted speakers are placed around a room and connected to the input device or source, for example, the television or hi-fi. Some speakers may not be suitable for some input devices; always check speaker specifications before making a purchase.

Choosing Surround Sound Speakers

There are many factors that might influence a buyer's decision in selecting the right surround sound speakers. Surround sound speakers can be purchased individually as required, or, more commonly, in packs or systems. Speakers are manufactured in a variety of styles and colours, and so the visual aesthetics of a system may have some role to play in a buyer's decision. Finally, the broad range of surround speaker systems available for purchase facilitates a spectrum of prices, from very affordable, second-hand speakers to expensive, top-of-the-range systems. Read reviews of brands and particular speakers before making a purchase, and compare prices from several sellers to find the most competitive price.

Driver types

A manufacturer or seller will sometimes describe speakers in terms of the drivers it contains. A driver is the sound-producing component of a speaker, and is categorised by the frequency of its output. The drivers most commonly found in household speakers are described in the following table.


These drivers reproduce the highest frequencies, or high pitched sounds. For example, female voices and musical melodies can be heard through a tweeter.


The mid-range speaker caters for mid-range sound frequencies, including voices, music, and other sound effects.


Woofers are low frequency speakers. A good quality woofer can produced sounds at very low frequencies with perfect clarity without the need for a subwoofer.


The subwoofer is a speaker specifically designed to enhance bass notes at very low frequencies, adding rumbling depth to audio output.


Some drivers are designed to reproduce a wide range of sound frequencies. Integral speakers in televisions and computers are sometimes full-range drivers. Full-range, or wide-range drivers are more complex and expensive than limited-range drivers.

A speaker may be described as 'n-way' speakers, dependent on the drivers it uses, with the n representing the number of drivers. For example, a two-way speaker will feature a tweeter and a woofer, whereas a three-way speaker will include tweeter, mid-range, and woofer drivers.

Number of Speakers in a System

The number of speakers contained within a surround sound system is usually denoted by two numbers: the first indicates the number of speakers that are included, excluding the subwoofer, and the second number, following a point, represents the number of subwoofers in the system. For example, a 2.0 system comprises two wide-range speakers, whereas a 10.2 system contains ten wide-range speakers and two subwoofers. The following table describes some of the more popular configurations in more detail.


Although it is sometimes argued that true surround sound must feature a minimum of three speakers, multi-directional sound can be achieved through as few as two speakers: a right and a left speaker, or stereo speakers. The 2.0 configuration is the most basic surround sound system.


Featuring two wide-range speakers and a subwoofer configuration, 2.1 systems are a more affordable alternative for buyers who require high quality, dynamic sound, but who do not have the budget or space to facilitate true surround sound systems.


A 5.1 speaker system is the most popular surround sound in a home environment, featuring a wide-range central speaker, with four satellite speakers: front left, front right, back left and back right, as well as a subwoofer. This configuration produces the full range of sounds, from rumbling bass notes to subtle, softer tones from all angles for an exceptional audio experience.


The additional satellite speaker in a 6.1 system is placed at the back of the room to balance the centre speaker in 5.1 or similar arrangements.


Other multi-speaker systems will usually feature one central speaker and a balanced arrangement of satellites, and may include one or more subwoofers, as described by the corresponding numerical configuration.

The most important factor when considering how many speakers to buy is the size of the room in which they will be placed. In a small bedroom or lounge, a 2.0 system will be adequate to achieve the surround sound effect, although the subwoofer in a 2.1 system will enhance the bass effect. In a larger living space, a 5.1 system might be ideal, whereas public venues may require either more speakers, or a smaller number of speakers with greater power. Bear in mind that too many speakers might may a room feel cluttered; more speakers does not necessarily mean better sound quality. Regardless of the number of speakers, it is essential that they are balanced when in place, i.e. the same number of speakers are on the left and the right, so the sound is heard as the producer intended it.

Speaker Placement

It is important to carefully consider the location of surround sound speakers to create a balanced audio environment. The form factor of a speaker may determine its placement options.


As the name indicates, bookshelf speakers are designed to sit on a shelf or other flat surface. While these are the most common speakers, a listener can experience sound reverberations as the speaker vibrates against the shelf.

Floor standing

The tall shape of floor standing speakers optimises sound depth, with the bass sounds reverberating along the floor while the higher frequency sounds are emitted at an ideal height, near the listeners ear. Floor-standing speakers are often a more expensive option, and require more floor space than the alternatives.


Satellite speakers are typically mounted on a bracket or stand to allow greater flexibility in their placement around the room. A variety of fixtures enable satellite speakers to be fitted to walls or ceilings, making them an ideal solution for the surround sound experience.

Sound Bars

Slim and unobtrusive, a sound bar, is a stereo speaker unit, so named for its shape. With the top-end models comprising an amplifier, wide-range speakers and a subwoofer, a soundbar offers a dynamic audio with varied depth, producing high quality sound. Typically fitted to televisions, a sound bar emits sounds in various directions from a series of integrated speakers, offering a space-saving alternative to surround sound. Different makes and models allow for an assortment of input connections; some brands manufacture wireless soundbars.

Input Devices

Surround sound speakers are designed for a variety of uses, including televisions, hi-fi systems and mp3 players. Confirm that the available connections or ports are compatible with the required input devices. The necessary connection cables may not be included as part of the sale, so check before making a purchase.

Used Speakers

Purchasing used speakers enables a buyer to obtain higher quality products on a more modest budget. Clarify that speakers are in good working order, as any reduction in sounds quality should seriously reduce the value of the speaker. Any damage to cables renders the equipment dangerous; always replace any damage cables immediately. Damaged speaker grill or fabric can be easily replaced by purchasing speaker repair parts or kits.


Surround sound speakers enable a listener to be in the centre of dynamic audio by strategic placement of a number of speakers around the room. Surround sound speakers vary by brand and model to reflect a wide range of drivers and form factors, and to facilitate assorted input devices. Consider the room size and placement of speakers to achieve a balanced sound. Compare sellers and individual items to acquire a quality product at a competitive price.

Have something to share? Create your own guide... Write a guide