Surround sound is created by surrounding the listener with three or more speakers, so that the audio comes from different locations around the room and creates a realistic effect. Speakers for generating surround sound are often sold as complete sets, and this offers the best listening experience as the speakers are compatible with each other. However, it is also possible to buy components of surround speaker systems individually from eBay. This option is often preferred by advanced audiophiles who know the features of the speakers well and want to build their own premium sound system.
Surround sound speakers are used as a part of a home theatre system where they accompany a television and media player to deliver a cinematic experience, or as part of a home stereo system for listening to music in an immersive environment. Surround sound speakers can also be connected to a computer. Before buying surround sound speakers, it is helpful to be familiar with the different types of speakers and their main features so that an informed choice can be made.
Types of Surround Sound Speaker
Surround sound speaker systems have an array of variations as they differ in the number of speakers used: each speaker has a specific role. When shopping on eBay, in order to choose the most suitable surround sound speakers, it is important to know the role of each speaker. They are categorised as centre channel, front, and rear, and there is also the subwoofer. The speaker systems are labelled as 2.1, 5.1, and 7.1, where first digit refers to the number of speakers and the ".1" represents the subwoofer. The most popular speaker system format is 5.1,, which is compatible with most devices.
Centre Channel Speaker
The centre channel speaker is often regarded as the most important speaker in the surround sound system because it is responsible for delivering the majority of dialogue in a film or the most significant parts of an music track. It has a wide frequency response range so that it can generate an array of sounds. The centre channel speaker faces the listener directly. Usually it is wider than the other speakers in the system to provide a broader soundstage. Centre channel speakers can be magnetically shielded so that they do not distort the picture when too close to an older CRT television set. However, this is not a problem with modern, flat screen televisions. Often, a standard speaker can take the place of a centre channel speaker, although specialised speakers have a better quality.
A surround sound system usually has two front speakers on the left and right of the centre channel speaker. Front speakers have a wide frequency response range as they reproduce most of the sound effects and music of a soundtrack and have to be able to generate both low and high frequencies. If the speakers are used mainly for watching films, then a less expensive model can be purchased. However, for the best music playback, it is worth investing in high quality, expensive front speakers.
The rear, or surround, speakers, are placed behind the listener. They are responsible for reproducing surround sound effects and music. In a typical 5.1 format, there is one rear speaker on the left and another on the right, while the 7.1 system has two rear speakers on each side. As they do not convey the main sound or music, they are used less, although they do have to have a wide frequency response range. When on a budget, the rear speakers can be less expensive because the difference in quality is not as noticeable as with the centre channel speaker.
The subwoofer is quite different from the other speakers as its main task is to reproduce low bass sounds. A good subwoofer can make a huge difference to the sound quality. The subwoofer is usually quite large and shaped like a box because this shape allows it to reproduce quality bass sounds.
Main Features of Surround Sound Speakers
There are some features that are found in all surround sound speakers. When choosing a speaker on eBay, the frequency response range and tonal balance should be considered, along with the sound formats, connections, and the speaker's size.
Frequency Response for Surround Sound Speakers
Frequency response describes the quality of the audio and refers to the number of vibrations per second that a sound makes. The human hearing range is between 20 Hz and 20 kHz, and sounds out of this range are inaudible, although they can sometimes be perceived by the body as vibrations. The human ear hears the frequencies between 1000 and 3500 Hz, while human speech is in the range of 200 to 8000 Hz. While the human ear cannot distinguish major differences in the higher end of the frequency response range, it can discern lower sounds that have the frequency response of 30 Hz, 40 Hz, or similar. At the lower end, even small differences are significant. Therefore, when buying speakers on eBay, the first number in the frequency response range should be as low as possible.
Tonal Balance for Surround Sound Speakers
The tonal balance of surround sound speakers is one of the most important features. The tonal balance refers to the balance between the audio coming from the speakers. The frequencies of bass, treble, and mid-range sounds should be balanced correctly in order to achieve the best quality of sound. If the speakers are out of balance, it is possible to detect the source speaker. The main charm of the surround system is that the listener cannot detect the source of the sound because the audio is immersive. The right tonal balance can be achieved if the speakers are bought as a set from a single manufacturer who has matched the tones of the speakers.
Surround Sound Formats
There are two standard formats for surround sound: Dolby Digital and Digital Theatre Systems (DTS). Dolby Digital is more widespread than the DTS and it is also known as the 5.1 channel format. It uses five main channels for music and dialogue and one low frequency, bass channel. DVDs and high-definition television broadcasts use Dolby Digital as standard. DTS is similarly a 5.1 channel format, but it is not compatible with as many devices because it is not recognised as standard. Some extended sound formats, such as 6.1, 7.1, and 8.1, are also available and they require more speakers. They are created both by Dolby Digital and DTS and some of the variations are called Dolby TrueHD, DTS-ES, and DTS-HD Master Audio.
Connecting Surround Sound Speakers
The speakers in a surround sound system should be connected to each other with high quality cables.. Sometimes the cables provided with the speakers may be of a basic standard. The best cables have gold connectors, which are known for their great conductivity and top braided wires. However, buyers may also consider wireless speakers.
Size of Surround Sound Speakers
The size of the surround sound speakers depends on the size of the room and the free space available in it. Larger rooms usually benefit from larger speakers that fill the space with sound. These models can be out of place in smaller rooms. The size and the sound quality of surround sound speakers are usually not correlated, as small speakers can also provide good quality sound. The largest speakers are floor standing. They are tall and take up lots of space. Smaller, bookshelf speakers are mounted on furniture or walls. As a rule of thumb, all of the front speakers, including the centre channel speaker should be roughly of the same size and placed at the same height, ideally the ear height of the listener.
Surround sound speakers are used as a part of a home theatre or stereo system. They create a realistic audio effect by immersing the listener in sound. Surround sound speakers can be bought on eBay as complete sets or individual pieces that can create an custom-made system. When bought as a set, they are more likely to have the correct tonal balance because they were adjusted by the manufacturer. Other features to bear in mind are their frequency response, sound formats, connections, and size.
Typical surround sound systems consist of a centre channel speaker and two front speakers that are responsible for reproducing most of the audio and sound effects. They are supported by rear speakers and a subwoofer, a large speaker that reproduces low bass sounds. There are many speaker configurations available from the simple 2.1 to the common 5.1 and more advanced 7.1 channel systems. All of these systems can be purchased conveniently from eBay.