If you’re new to home theater audio, you’ve probably discovered that the topic is more complicated than many people expect it to be. That’s why last month we started a series on the Home Theater Installation Orange County blog, Understanding Home Theater Sound Types. We covered some of the basics of terminology, and then we covered some of the most popular 5.1-channel formats.

This month we’re back for more! Today we’ll start out by explaining several of the most popular 7.1-channel formats.

7.1 Defined

7.1-channel systems add two additional speakers to the 5.1-channel setup. So where 5.1 includes five primary speakers (front left/center/right and rear left/right) plus a subwoofer, a 7.1-channel system adds a “middle” left and right. These additional speakers create an even more immersive experience.

Blu-ray discs have more space for audio, so many commercially-produced Blu-ray releases include 7.1-channel audio in one of several formats. Some video games and much of modern streaming media also supports 7.1-channel audio.

Now that we have the basics out of the way, here’s an explanation of two of the most common formats.

Dolby TrueHD

Dolby TrueHD gets its name from the fact that it offers lossless, uncompressed audio in 7.1 channels— in other words, “true HD.” This level of quality and format matches exactly the channel quality and distribution you experience when you go to the movie theater. You’ll get better, more exact audio effects with Dolby TrueHD than you will with some other formats (especially those with only 5.1 channels).

DTS-HD Master Audio

DTS-HD Master Audio does basically everything Dolby TrueHD does. It’s a competing technology from the brand DTS. While it delivers lossless performance, it’s not truly lossless thanks to DTS’s “lossy core.”

Conclusion

The reality is that any modern equipment can handle either type, and you’ll likely never hear a difference. Both are great options if your system is set up for 7.1-channel output.