Back to Basics: Surround Sound Speakers

I probably don't need to convince you that HDTV is a spectacular viewing experience, with astonishingly lifelike images. But to enjoy all the benefits of HDTV and DVD, you need a multichannel surround sound system.

Let's face it - TV speakers are better than they used to be, but most of them still aren't great. Some video displays don't even have speakers. To maximize the impact of home theater, you need an audio system that literally surrounds you with great sound - from the most explosive action-movie mayhem to the subtle ambience of a gentle rainfall or rustling leaves.

Equipment Essentials Aside from source components like a DVD player or an HDTV tuner, you need two es sential things for home theater surround sound: an audio/video or "digital surround" receiver and a multichannel speaker system.

An A/V receiver is your home theater's control center, providing amplification for the main speakers, volume control, source selection, decoding for Dolby Digital and DTS surround sound, and other features.

Most home theater speaker systems come in a 5.1-channel configuration, with speakers for the left and right front channels, two more for the left and right surround channels, a center-channel speaker, and a powered subwoofer. (The subwoofer channel contains bass frequencies only, hence its ".1" designation.) You'll also find receivers and speaker packages for 6.1- and 7.1-channel systems, which have one or two back surround channels for speakers centered behind the listening position. But to keep things simple, we'll stick with the popular 5.1-channel setup.