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Understanding Surround Sound and Sonos

  • 10 December 2019
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Understanding Surround Sound and Sonos
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This article will help clarify what surround sound is, and answer some common questions about using Sonos surround sound setups. So if you’re wondering: Why don’t I hear anything from the rear speakers? How do I make surrounds louder? My surrounds aren’t working? Or something of that nature, this thread might be for you.

 

What is surround sound anyway?

Surround sound is TV and movie content that surrounds you with the audio based on how it’s intended to be heard. When talking about 5.1 audio, surround sound is dedicated mixing for six channels. You’ve got the front left and right channels, along with the front center, and the rear surround channels as well. When it’s working correctly, you should hear the audio mixed for each specific channel play out of that side.

 

Surround sound does not mean the front and rear speakers are mirroring the same audio. We’ve heard some requests to make a mode or setting to allow this in the future, but don’t have any announcements around doing so.

 

What should be playing out of those channels?

Audio that is already mixed into 5.1 channels will play from each channel as intended. Most audio comes out of the front channels, especially dialogue and the audio for what action is happening on screen.

If the source you’re playing isn’t in 5.1 already, your Sonos home theater speakers will perform an audio up-mix of the stereo signal to create a simulated surround sound. This means you’ll still hear most audio out of the front channels, but the rear left and right speakers will play what we determine to be ambient audio. This is most obvious in action scenes and with movies that have intense soundtracks.


Turning up surrounds:

If you’d like to get more out of your rear channels, you might just need to turn up the sound. You can turn up the TV level on the settings described in the article here ‘Set up Surround Sound with Sonos Home Theater speakers’

 

What about surrounds for music?

Sonos doesn’t currently support any 5.1 music formats, but you do have settings for music playback when using a Sonos 5.1 system. For music, you can set your system to play Full or Ambient sounds out of your rear speakers. This setting is found and explained in the article here ‘Set up Surround Sound with Sonos Home Theater speakers’


Having your system set to “Full" will have the rear speakers mirror the front channels for any music sources (including music library, Spotify, TuneIn, AirPlay 2, etc.). Anything coming from HDMI-ARC or Optical connections (TV) will still sound the same as if it’s on Ambient.


For most things Home Theater and Sonos, including troubleshooting tips and suggestions, check out our Home Theater Megathread here.


13 replies

Hi all,just to say I am half proud owner of the full Sonos Surround System,my main issue is with the diaolg sound coming from the Beam,if I increase the volume the effects coming from the overall speaker is too loud,if I decrease the volume,the dialog coming from the Beam is bearable audible even with the Speech Enhancement On,unlike other soundbars Beam is struggling with the speech/dialogue and effects coming from the Beam,I wished there was a setting allowing to increase the dialogue while the surround effects left at the same level.

Userlevel 5
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Hello

It should be explained in detail what night mode and speech enhancement are doing because even with 5.1 audio there is very very little difference.

Userlevel 2
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Surround sound does not mean the front and rear speakers are mirroring the same audio. We’ve heard some requests to make a mode or setting to allow this in the future, but don’t have any announcements around doing so.

 

+1 for this request!

If the input is only stereo, which a lot of content still is, it seems a bit of a waste to have the rear speakers sat there silent.

I know my hearing isn’t as great as it was, the option of having more support from the rear or, seeing as the option is already in there and working for music, full rear mirroring, seems like a nice option to have.

what should I buy if buying the surround sound system? I have a sonos one now. What else do I need?

what should I buy if buying the surround sound system? I have a sonos one now. What else do I need?

 

For a complete 5.1 surround system, you need fronts, surrounds, and a Sub.  For fronts you can choose the Beam or the new Arc.  For surrounds you need two Ones, two One SL’s, a One and a One SL, two Fives, or an Amp with your own speakers.  Then a Sub.  

 You can also use the Amp for the fronts, but a single Amp cannot cover the front and rear channels.

So I just need another ONE and  beam

So I just need another ONE and  beam

 

Yes, and a Sub, if you want one. 

So I just need another ONE and  beam

 

Yes, and a Sub, if you want one. 

I have the Sonos Beam and I am about to purchase two of the Ikea Sonos Speakers. Will I be able to create a Surround System or will I need to purchase the Sonos Sub. Bit unhappy at the fact Sonos have brought out a GEN3 Sub but bumped up the price by £100

Userlevel 6
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A Sub is an addition to the surround produced by the front Beam and rear Symfonisks. You could try a system without one first.

Cheers. I will give that a shot and look at purchasing the Sub

 in the Future

what should I buy if buying the surround sound system? I have a sonos one now. What else do I need?

I might look at some of the products by BlueSound.  Their Vault is amazing, their Playbar 2 is full and rich, pulse-sub sounds great and their Powernode 2i Amp designed with BlueSound’s sister company (NAD) provides clean power and the flex 2i wireless speakers are very nice.  I know this is a Sonos site but these items are very close in nature to what Sonos offers though at a higher price point.  Either way if you listen to much music the Vault is a great option to rip and store media and wirelessly transfer it to the speakers Through the Powernode Amp you decide to get.  I’m thinking of running this side by side with the Sonos Arc, pair of Ones I have, grabbing a Sonos Amp & using the Sonos Sub I have with my Sound bar and seeing which system I prefer. 
Best of luck!

Userlevel 2
Badge +5

Surround sound does not mean the front and rear speakers are mirroring the same audio. We’ve heard some requests to make a mode or setting to allow this in the future, but don’t have any announcements around doing so.

 

+1 for this request!

If the input is only stereo, which a lot of content still is, it seems a bit of a waste to have the rear speakers sat there silent.

I know my hearing isn’t as great as it was, the option of having more support from the rear or, seeing as the option is already in there and working for music, full rear mirroring, seems like a nice option to have.

+1!  I don’t understand why the options for music (full or ambient) don’t apply equally to stereo TV input.  That would make the system infinitely better IMO

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