We live in a world where more and more media is easily available, it comes in many different formats and we view, listen and play this media on a huge variety of equipment.
Much of this media brings with it the ability to enhance our experience by utilising surround sound. DVD films and sophisticated computer games come to life when you place yourself in the centre of a surround sound system producing the illusion that you are actually part of the action.
Since the 1960's, music lovers have enjoyed stereo sound. The concept is based on the fact that we have two ears and each can pick up independent sounds. By creating music which has different sounds played through the left and right speakers it became possible to improve the audio experience. Sounds became 'wider' and it was possible to create the illusion of movement through sound.
In the 1980's another dimension was developed by companies like Dolby. Not happy with simply being able to move sound from left to right, cinema's began providing 'surround sound' with audio coming from in-front and behind as well. This placed the listener in the centre of the sound and film makers were quick to capitalise.
It did not take long before 'surround sound' found it's way into our homes. Television sets and personal computers are now common place with setups ranging from four to seven speakers designed to utilise soundtrack standards like Dolby 5.1 and 7.1.
Most speaker configurations now conform to the 5.1 standard. These use five speakers and a sub woofer. The sub woofer produces the bass tones and enables smaller speakers to be used for the rest of the setup. The speakers are arranged around the listener in the configuration of front right, front left, rear right, rear left and centre front. The advantages offered by surround sound are huge. Film makers can now create sounds that appear to be behind the listener, these sounds can be moved through 360 degrees around the listener and are very life like. In computer games it is possible to hear the footsteps of an assailant coming up behind you.