What’s The Difference Between 5.1 And 7.2 Surround Sound?

One of the very important considerations when planning a home theater receiver purchase is whether to opt for a 5.1- or a 7.1-channel solution.

It is a decision that has significant financial implications, but not only. As we will see in this short guide to 5.1 vs. 7.2 AV receivers, both options have their advantages and disadvantageous.

These depend not only on what you are after in your home theater audio set-up, and therefore on your own personal preferences, but also on the source components and outputs you plan to connect to your AV receiver.

The 5.1 AV Receiver

The 5.1-channel receiver is representing the basic solution for surround sound. It is delivering all necessary channels for a proper surround sound setup the front left and right channels.

It is carrying the majority of the soundtrack, the center channel necessary to properly anchor the dialog within the soundstage, the two left and right surround channels necessary to create the surround effects and ambiance.

It also represents the ideal home theater receiver for the small to the medium-size home theater room. It is capable of delivering a perfectly immersive sound stage.

Moving to a 7.1 solution in the smaller environment would hardily yield any benefits in terms of 5.1 vs 7.2 surround sound experience. 5.1 AV receivers may still be used in the larger home entertainment room. 7.1 AV receiver solution still is used as a 5.1 speaker setup.

The 7.2 AV Receiver

A 7.2 surround sound receiver includes two additional back surround channels as further explained in our multi-channel speaker’s system guide here. The difference between 5.1 and 7.2 surround sound systems include a second subwoofer output.

Note however that some 7.2 systems are actually nothing more than 7.1 multi-channel home theater receivers with a second subwoofer output wired internally in parallel with the first.

7.2 surround sound setup helps deliver a more realistic surround sound field in medium to large home theater environments and it is adding more depth to the surround experience. The result is a fuller and more immersive soundstage in the larger home theater room.

The Bottom Line

A 5.1 AV receiver is perfectly adequate to deliver excellent surround sound performance. It represents the ideal solution for the small to medium-size home theater room. The 7.1 AV receiver is one of the more suited to fill the larger home entertainment environment.