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Surround Sound

Surround sound is a multi-channel audio playback format consisting of at least three speakers (left, center and right) but more commonly consisting of five or more. The first Motion Picture shown publicly with multi-channel sound was Disney’s Fantasia in 1941 but the first commercially successful multi-channel formats would not come about until the early 1950s with the four-track CinemaScope and Todd-AO’s six-track format. While the cinema has had the largest influence on surround sound technology, it is in the home of consumers where we see the largest growth of commercial success. Today, surround sound playback systems typically consist of 5 speakers and a subwoofer which makes up a “5.1” system, similar to that found in movie theaters. A 5.1 system utilizes forward left, right and center channels, two surround channels that are commonly placed behind or to the left and right of the listener(s) and a subwoofer (the “.1″”). Dolby Digital surround encoding could be found on Laser Disks as early as 1995, soon to be followed by the DVD revolution most recently. Today, DVD-Video, DVD-Audio and several other surround sound formats (including cable and VHS) have found their way into the homes of consumers.

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