Surround Modes

 Today’s audio/video receivers come with a mind-boggling amount of features and thick owners manuals, which can be intimidating. Few people I know have the patience to read these cover to cover. Personally, I’d rather read a 4 year old magazine in a doctor’s waiting room. One section that is worthwhile to read is the one that covers the different surround sound modes. Choosing the correct surround mode for your movie or TV show is important for unlocking the potential of your home theater system.

 When you play a DVD or Blu-Ray disc, you’ll often have a choice of surround mode in the audio setup menu of the disc. Some people just skip going into the audio setup and just play the movie. Sometimes this deprives them of getting true surround. It’s important to choose the right surround mode. Although this is no substitute for your particular receiver’s owner’s manual, here is some basic info on some of the surround modes:

 Synthesized modes eg. Concert Hall, nigh club, stadium, etc.

These are not true surround modes but are synthesized inside you’re A/V receiver. To our ears, none of them sound good and should be avoided.

 All channel stereo

This takes the stereo signal from a stereo music source, such as CD, radio, or stereo TV and uses all the speakers in your system. If the music sources doesn’t have true surround, this can sometimes be useful.


If your movie or TV track is stereo only and not surround, this can often provide a very convincing surround effect. Dolby Pro Logic takes real information from the tracks and sends some of it to the rear speakers. Whenever I watch a movie that is in stereo, I use this. For music, it often works well. However, you’ll need to experiment.

Dolby Digital Surround

Dolby Digital Surround, originally called AC3, made its debut with DVDs. This is a true surround mode with 5 discrete channels, which utilize compression. This is a good choice when watching movies. Besides DVDs, Dolby Digital surround tracks can also be found on cable and satellite channels for movies and TV shows. Even though Dolby Digital isn’t the latest surround format, it can still sound excellent.


DTS was also introduced with DVDs and is a competitor to Dolby Digital Surround. Often, it can sound a bit better than Dolby Digital surround due to its higher bit rate. If you get a choice of either Dolby Digital surround or DTS, we recommend using DTS.

Dolby True HD

This surround format for either 5 or 7 channels is currently only available on Blu-ray discs. It is the same quality as CD. As such, it offers best surround audio quality currently available.

DTS Master HD

This is the competition to Dolby True HD and also offers spectacular sound. Usually, a blu-ray disc will offer one or the other.

We have listed some of the surround formats in order of quality with the last ones being the best. If you’d like to discuss this further, feel to give us a call.