Surround Sound Systems: 5.1 or 7.1?

I’m going to be in the market for my first surround sound system. I was wondering if you know if what I’m looking for exists. I’m looking for a surround sound system that can be expanded to more speakers. Like a system that is a 5.1 surround that has ports to add an additional two speakers to make it a 7.1 surround. A kind of modular surround sound system. I’d love to get the 7.1 right away but if I can save some money right away with a 5.1 and maybe in 6 months or so add a couple speakers that would be the best.


– Bill Russell
Bismarck, ND

Most modern receivers will down mix the source to match the speaker configuration you have. If your source is a 7.1 movie, and you have only a 3.1 system (Front LT/RT/Center/Sub) then the receiver will mix the surround content into the front speakers. You will need to configure the receiver to use only the speakers you have. If the receiver is equipped with an auto-EQ system such as Audyssy this will be done automatically.

There are movies today with 7.1 content, however most are still in 5.1, and your room will be the biggest determination on whether or not 7.1 is feasible. Unless you have the proper location to mount all 4 surround speakers then 5.1 is the better choice. If you are planning on building the system incrementally then focus your efforts on the center channel and subwoofer(s). You can always use smaller fronts now, and move them to the back when you purchase larger speakers.