What happened to 7.1 Speakers systems

Discussion in 'Computer Audio' started by echelonone, Feb 5, 2011.

  1. echelonone

    echelonone n00b

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    The title says it all: What happened to 7.1 Speaker systems? With all the sound cards and motherboards out there/continuing to be produced with support for 8 channel/7.1 surround sound, why have all the computer speaker manufacturers ceased to produce the relevent systems?
     
  2. Sycraft

    Sycraft [H]ardness Supreme

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    They just aren't that useful. You find that you don't get a whole lot better surround with 7 speakers as opposed to 5 and they cost more. Also "5.1" has become the term people look for since that is what home theater is.

    For that matter, surround sound in general on PCs is struggling a bit. There aren't many 5.1 PC speaker systems. 2.1 is what is popular these days it seems because it is cheap. People will spend $1000+ on 3 monitors, another $1000 on graphics cards, and then $50 on cheap 2.1 speakers. Makes no sense to me but people don't care about sound for some reason.

    If you want 7.1 these days, you have to get a home theater system. Nearly all receivers support 7.1 (or more in some cases) so doing it isn't a problem, you just have to buy enough speakers.

    I don't think it is really ever going to take off though. Movies are pretty much all still mixed for 5.1. Even though Blu-ray supports 7.1 and sometimes they even have a 7.1 soundtrack, almost all are just upmixed 5.1 tracks, it is rare they really do a 7.1 mix. Games of course don't have any issue since they can generate their sound for any arbitrary number of speakers, but it just means there aren't going to be a lot of 7.1 systems since 5.1 is all you need for home theater.

    As a practical matter I find that for a computer, there is little benefit for 7.1, you are better off with a good 5.1 system and just doing a good job positioning it to give a good sound field. You don't start needing more speakers unless you have a larger area to cover with sound, and that isn't the case since PCs are kinda one user devices. Personally I choose to spend my money on a higher quality 5.1 system, rather than a 7.1 system (and I have a receiver that supports it, as well as extra amplification).
     
  3. Bad ConNecTioN

    Bad ConNecTioN Gawd

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    7.1 systems make sense in LARGE rooms. In an office type setting or similar PC room, you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference between a "standard" 5.1 and 7.1 setup, for many reasons...some of which the other poster listed above.

    As for surround sound and PC speakers....not that common because of the setup hassle. Also, most people can't justify dropping $300+ on speakers...which is comparatively cheap when looking at real home theater stuff. There does seem to be a wave of premium 2.0 and 2.1 stuff hitting the market. That might drive interest more upscale, which might bring some new 5.1 offerings to the scene. As it is, you're pretty much limited to Logitech or Creative if you go the PC speaker route. With your own receiver, you could use any speakers you wanted.
     
  4. echelonone

    echelonone n00b

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    I own 3x 7.1 surround sound systems and I can tell the difference. Hell I'm currently looking into buying a 9.2 system made by Onkyo to go with my 82" 3D HDTV Digital TV.
     
  5. 450

    450 [H]ard as it Gets

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    How big are the rooms with 7.1?
     
  6. echelonone

    echelonone n00b

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    Well without taking a tape measure I would guess at least 12x20'
     
  7. ValeX

    ValeX 2[H]4U

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    I dropped down from 5.1 to 2.1 recently and love it...I just don't have the space to properly space out so many satellites, let alone 7.1!!!

    I'm too much of a perfectionist, it's much easier to perfectly place two speakers than seven.
     
  8. Compddd

    Compddd [H]ard|Gawd

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    I use a 5.1 Onkyo system with receiver hooked to my GTX 580 via HDMI, works beautifully
     
  9. Bad ConNecTioN

    Bad ConNecTioN Gawd

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    That's a decent sized room. My office is probably 10x8, if not smaller. You'd be hard pressed to discern the difference between a 5.1 and 7.1 setup, which is why I don't think they are all that common for PC use. Most people have their PC confined to a smaller area then the typical home theater setup.
     
  10. Sycraft

    Sycraft [H]ardness Supreme

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    Also depends on how close and focused the speakers are. For example my PC is actually in a reasonably large room, but the speakers are only in a small part of it (my bed is in the rest) and they are all focused right on me. As such I get a really good sound field, and more speakers probably wouldn't help it all that much. Also if you get better speakers, with good dispersion, they have a better sound field as well.

    Now for something like my living room, where things are not only larger but more spread out, 7.1 could be useful. The sound can't be focused on one seat, there are many that need to be covered. I'd look at adding side speakers, if there was the ability to do so (there isn't because of the room layout).

    As to the original poster if you have the kind of money to spend on multiple 7.1 systems, then for your computer you should just get a home theater setup. Don't get computer speakers, get a real HT setup, you'll be happier and of course 7.1 is an option if you want it.
     
  11. Kil4Thril

    Kil4Thril 2[H]4U

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    I'm Happy with 3.1 on my computers. Being in a living room type setup, there is nowhere to place surrounds. The 3.1 gives me full experience without resorting to something gaudy for little gain. My HT however......:D
     
  12. Treyshadow

    Treyshadow [H]ard|Gawd

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    Real 7.1 needs lots of space to breath. The vendors realized that and that is why you don't see many of them.

    Easily need a 15x21 space at the smallest to make 7.1 sound like it should. Also HTiB systems should never be 7.1
     
  13. Tudz

    Tudz [H]ardness Supreme

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    Ditto for me. I used to use a 5.1 set up for a while and I could never get it sounding right with positioning and acoustics. I regret buying it because I could have got a pretty good 2.0 or 2.1 set up for the same price.

    When I do set up a home theater room in the distant future I'll probably go with a really good 2.0 set up with some nice floor standing speakers.
     
  14. Bad ConNecTioN

    Bad ConNecTioN Gawd

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    I guess it depends on uses. However, I love 5.1 for gaming and movies. Music obviously, doesn't need the extra channels...and if your an audio geek, then its probably a better idea to get a nice 2.0 or 2.1 system.
     
  15. OFaceSIG

    OFaceSIG [H]ard|Gawd

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    All i Heard was 9.2... buzz word buzz word buzz word buzz word... lol Someone REALLY wants us to know about his setup.
     
  16. TheOneKnownAsMe

    TheOneKnownAsMe [H]ard|Gawd

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    LOOK GAIZ, I HAZ AN BIG E-PEEN!!!!!

    At least, that's what I read.

    Anyway, the reason for 7.1 setups being in the minority seems to be diminishing returns at a larger cost, just simply isn't worth it.
     
  17. jslater25

    jslater25 Limp Gawd

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    When I tried using my 6.1 receiver, I found there were few movies that actually had the setup for 6.1. Seems even today, most movies tend to have multiple versions of 5.1, but few have 7.1 and even it's extremely rare to find a movie with the formatting necessary for true 9.2.

    Just because a receiver will play sound in 7 or 9 speakers doesn't mean that you are getting true 7.x or 9.x sound.
     
  18. Sycraft

    Sycraft [H]ardness Supreme

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    That's because there aren't decoders for that in cinemas. The only format that basically every cinema has (aside form analogue) is Dolby Digital. Almost impossible to find a theater that doesn't have a DD decoder on their projector. It is printed in between the sprocket holes on the film. Well that's only 5.1 (and is fixed at 320kbps for film). Many also have DTS, which is actually shipped on a separate CD and then sync'd to the film via time code. It is actually different DTS from the home setup, but again, 5.1 channels.

    The only major 7.1 system for theaters was SDDS. It wasn't 7.1 like at home though, it has 5 speakers in the front, and two surround since we localize sound more accurately in front of us and cinema screens are very large. Didn't catch on much though since theaters had to be refitted to use it and there was no decoder for home.

    Digital projection theaters can support the newer formats with 7.1 or more channels (Dolby is pushing a 14 channel spec) but that doesn't mean they do. They'd have to be rewired and have their speaker configuration changed to actually support it, so even if they have the decoders they may still well be a 5.1 setup.

    Because of this, most movies are mixed for 5.1. That's all DVD setups at home support, that's what most theaters support, so why bother with anything else?

    This may change as time goes on, maybe as cinemas go digital they'll elect to retool for higher numbers of channels, and if they do maybe sound engineers will elect to mix for higher number of channels, but I wouldn't bank on it. While more speakers do sound better, more real, the gains are incremental. You can hear the difference between 5 channel surround sound and 10 channel surround sound for sure, but it is not the massive difference between 2 channel stereo and 5 channel surround. It rather reaches the point of just not worth it for most consumers given the costs of more speakers.

    True, though that depends on what you mean and what you want. There is no such thing as a 9 channel setup for movies right now, however that doesn't mean it can't make some use. The speakers can be setup as either height speakers or as wide front speakers. The data is then gotten by matrix decoding. Dolby ProLogic IIz and Audyssey DSX are two systems that do it.

    How useful that is is something that is rather up for debate. You are correct that you are not getting discrete source channels, but that doesn't mean that the speakers can't offer something. Somewhat similar to Dolby ProLogic II. You take a stereo sound source, but matrix it up to surround. It can work reasonably well.

    In terms of subs though, that is actually more useful. The .2 is a misnomer in that I am not aware of any setup where the subs are actually addressed as independent channels. The receiver sends all the bass sound to both subs.

    Why do it then? Well it is one of the more effective ways of dealing with the problems of eigenmodes in rooms. If you have two separate subs in different locations, it can help smooth out the bass response a great deal. In fact there are gains to be made even with 3 or 4 subs, in particular for largeish rooms. So for high end setups it is often desirable to have multiple subs not for volume, but for better response.

    Well this often gets called ".2" (or .3 or .4) to designate the more subs, even though they aren't really separate channels are are all functioning as one large bass transducer.
     
  19. jslater25

    jslater25 Limp Gawd

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    Well said. I have forgotten so much about audio (it's been a couple years since I last paid much attention to it; when I was trying to determine why my Yamaha receiver wasn't playing the 6th discrete channel), so it's nice reading over something like what you wrote.

    To be honest, I thought that many cinemas were actually encoded for 22.1. I recall reading about that at one point and the number really stuck out.

    Regarding Dolby Digital, if a DVD comes encoded with Dolby Digital, shouldn't it be able to play the discrete source channels for 5.x, 6.x, and 7.x setups?

    Seems like all the stores have been selling 7.x receivers as the rage for several years now. What makes them better than 5.x if they don't have discrete channels?
     
  20. jakebot

    jakebot [H]Lite

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    if i really wanted to run 7.1 instead of 5.1 i would but a small 2 channel amp and do it up.
     
  21. styckx

    styckx Gawd

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    I used to own a 7.1 system and generally found it useless compared to a 5.1. ie: No real difference.

    The only thing it was cool for was using a winamp plugin that spun the music clockwise around the room and the vocals counter clockwise around the room.

    Then I went on the wagon and 7.1 became useless for that too. :D
     
  22. Michael Scarn

    Michael Scarn [H]Lite

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    Unless I was single living in my own house, I would never bother with something like a 7.1 or even 5.1 for a computer setup. Too many people to piss off. Headphones are cheaper, smaller and better for more things I've found. On the other hand, I wouldn't mind a nice 3.1 setup. I've just been spoiled with nice headphones for music and games, and seeing as I don't watch too many movies, no need for an outstanding speaker setup. 2.1 setups are perfect for 99% of the computer population.
     
  23. Sycraft

    Sycraft [H]ardness Supreme

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    What makes them better is people spend more money on them :). Seriously, stores like 7.1 because people think it should be better and so spend money on it, not because it is useful.

    So no, there is no way to get 7.1 discrete from Dolby Digital, it does not have a 7.1 spec. Dolby Surround EX matrixes in a back 6th channel, but again, not discrete.

    Now in terms of using those extra two speakers with 5.1 content, one of three things can happen depending now hat options a receiver offers and what the user chooses:

    1) The sound is outputted in strict 5.1 format and only 5 of the surround speakers are used. The surround back speakers have no sound transmitted to them.

    2) The sound is outputted in 5.1 format, and the surround back speakers receive a copy of the sound that the surround speakers do. This would be kinda like what you see in theaters, with multiple speakers being on one surround channel (all the speakers down a wall of a theater are on one surround channel). All speakers are used, only 5 channels are placed.

    3) The sound is matrixed up to 7.1 format, based off of phase data. This is what you get with something like Dolby ProLogic IIx. It can process the 5.1 signal and use the information to generate 7 channels of sound. It isn't the same as having 7 discrete channels, but uses all the speakers and moves the sound among them, it isn't just a cloning.

    So you can make use of 7 (or more) channels if you set things up right, but your source material is still going to be 5.1 in most cases.