Multi-Channel Home Theater & Everything You Need to Know

Is multi-channel home theater really that better than a stereo system or a soundbar? What are the benefits of upgrading your existing stereo system to a home theater? Are home theater systems worth it? In this article, you will find the answers to all these and other related questions. Keep reading and find out everything you need to know about multi-channel home theaters. 

Basic Terminology

Before we dig deeper into the magical world of home theater systems, you need to become familiar with some basic terms related to sound reproduction, speaker systems, and sound formats. 

Stereo sound

Stereo sound (aka two-channel audio) is the most popular and most common type of audio. It’s still used for both music and movies. With stereo sound, you have two channels – left and right. Good two-channel audio recordings are supposed to create a 3D multidimensional audible perspective. In other words, even two-channel audio is supposed to make the impression that the sound comes from various directions, but that rarely happens. You can, at best, feel the depth and width of the soundstage, but you can’t really experience the surround effect. It rarely feels like you’re in the center of the action. That’s why we have surround sound.

Surround Sound

Surround sound (or multi-channel audio) is a technique used to enrich audio, give it depth, and make sound reproduction more lifelike by using multiple speakers (audio channels) surrounding the listener. With this kind of channel configuration, you can actually hear the sounds coming from all angles. It’s designed in a way that puts you in the center of the action. With surround sound, you are not just a passive listener – you are much more involved. You are practically a participant. 

Stereo System

A stereo system (we are referring to a speaker system) is a system that consists of two speakers – left and right. This system is designed to reproduce stereo recordings.  Most TVs also have two small speakers built inside and can reproduce sound in stereo. Stereo systems can be enhanced by adding a subwoofer (or an LFE channel) to the existing 2.0 (left/right speaker) system. That way, you can improve the reproduction of low-frequency tones and make the overall sound quality much better. 

Stereo speaker systems are great for both – music and movies. Having a stereo system for movies is definitely a better option than using your TV speakers – even affordable speaker systems (like those Edifier systems) will deliver louder, clearer, more detailed sound with a better balance and wider soundstage. 

Stereo speakers can be active or passive. Active speakers are those with internal amplification – they don’t require any additional equipment for power supply. You just connect them to your TV (or some other audio source), plug them in, and you’re ready to go. 

Passive speakers require at least one additional piece of equipment. Because they don’t have built-in amplification and don’t have any analog or digital connections (only speaker wire), you need at least an integrated amplifier. All the audio sources (TV, Blu-Ray player, DVD player, etc.) connect to the integrated amplifier. Integrated amp processes all the sound, amplifies the signal and sends it to passive speakers

Instead of one device, you can choose to use separate units – preamp and power amp. In this case, the preamp is used to connect sources and process the sound, and a power amp (aka stereo amp) is used for amplification. If the preamp doesn’t have digital inputs, then you also need a DAC to connect digital sources (the entire audio chain looks like this: AUDIO SOURCE – DAC – PREAMP – POWER AMP – SPEAKERS). 

Audiophiles will argue that you should use separate units for the best sound, but it all depends on your taste, preferences, available space, and of course, your budget. 

Soundbar

A soundbar is a great alternative to a stereo system. Soundbars can be more or less complex – they can have two, three, or multiple channels (multiple built-in speakers grouped in three, five, or more channels). Some soundbars can even simulate height effects and reproduce various surround sound formats.

What all soundbars have in common is that they are compact, fairly slim, easy to install, and set up. They can be a good choice for relatively small rooms or when dealing with certain space limitations.

Most audiophiles would argue that a high-end soundbar can never sound as good as a pair of high-end speakers (especially when combined with a good subwoofer). Regardless of that, even an affordable soundbar will sound much better than your TV. So, if you don’t have a lot of space available, but still want to upgrade the sound, using a soundbar is a viable option.

Multi-Channel Home Theater System

If you’re trying to achieve the best movie-watching experience, a multi-channel home theater system is your solution. It is a system made of multiple speakers (and subwoofers) located around the listener (sometimes even above the listener). 

Speakers in a Multi-Channel Home Theater System

A home theater system consists of at least 5 speakers – FRONT LEFT and RIGHT, CENTER, and SURROUND LEFT and RIGHT. Most people choose to add a subwoofer (LFE channel) to this 5-speaker setup to improve the bass reproduction. This speaker layout is classified as 5.1 (5 speakers, 1 subwoofer) and it’s the most common setup. 

5.1 is the most common home theater layout

5.1 is the most common home theater layout (source – Dolby)

A multi-channel home theater system can be much bigger. You can add more speakers or even more subwoofers to the system. For example, you can add one subwoofer to your 5.1 system and create a 5.2 system. Or you can add two speakers behind you (SURROUND BACK/REAR LEFT AND RIGHT), and create a 7.2 system.

7.2 home theater system

7.2 home theater system (source – Yamaha)

You can even add one right behind you and two between the front and surround speakers (one between FL and SL, and the other between FR and SR). And that’s all just one dimension – all these speakers are in the same plane (at your ear level).

huge home theater system

If you have enough money, space, and nerves, you can make a huge home theater system and really create an unforgettable experience (source – Denon)

Besides adding speakers around you, you can also place the speakers above you and create a hyper-realistic 3D soundstage. You can add one, two, four, or even six height channels above your listening position. You can install them in your ceiling, or you can mount them on the walls and direct them towards your listening position. 

5.2.2 home theater

5.2.2 home theater – 5 speakers around you, two subwoofers, and two speakers above you (source – Yamaha)

If drilling holes in your walls or cutting the ceiling is not an option but you still want to experience height effects, you can try Dolby-enabled speakers (aka Dolby speaker modules). Dolby-enabled speakers are basically small up-firing speakers that you put on top of your existing speakers (on top of your FL/FR and/or SL/SR). They emit the sound towards the ceiling. The sound then reflects off the ceiling and comes to your listening position from over your head. That way, they create height effects. The problem with Dolby-enabled speakers is that you really have to calculate the angles and find the right spot for them. Even if you find the perfect position, the effect can hardly be the same as the effect created by real height speakers. 

The working principle of a Dolby-enabled speaker

The working principle of a Dolby-enabled speaker

Dolby-enabled speakers on top of your front speakers

You can place Dolby-enabled speakers on top of your front speakers, surround speakers, or even rear surround speakers

Parts of a Multi-Channel Home Theater System

Up until now, we have only discussed the speakers. They are a very important part of every home theater system, but they are not enough. Besides the speakers, you’re going to need a source that supports the appropriate surround sound format that matches your speaker system. It’s kind of pointless having a 5.1 system if the source supports only stereo output. 

Luckily most of today’s Blu-ray discs and most online streaming platforms support at least 5.1 surround sound (usually Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital Plus). A growing number of Blu-ray discs contain multiple multi-channel audio recordings including those with height effects (Dolby Atmos and DTS:X). Even some streaming platforms support Dolby Atmos (Netflix for Premium users, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, Disney +, Vudu).

Popular streaming services and supported surround sound formats

Popular streaming services and supported surround sound formats

Besides the source, you also need a device that can process all those audio tracks and supply the power to all the speakers in your system. That device is called AVR (AV Receiver). Depending on the size of a home theater system you want to build, you will need a more or less capable receiver. You will also have to consider speaker wattages, required amplification, and numerous other features.  For a small and less demanding home theater system, you can find an affordable receiver for $500 or less. If you’re building a larger system, maybe a system with height channels, you are probably going to need a higher-end AVR.

Some audiophiles prefer having separate components not just for music, but also for movies. If that’s your preference, you may want to try using two units – surround sound processor and surround sound amplifier. It’s basically the same thing as using a preamp and power amp for your stereo system. 

So, to recap – in order to get surround sound, you need a source (or sources) that supports surround sound, you need an AVR (or AV preamp and AV power amp) that’s capable of delivering the sound to all the channels in your system, and you need your speakers. It goes without saying that you also need all the interconnects and speaker wire. And, of course, you need a TV or a projector.

Types of Multi-Channel Home Theater Systems

You can categorize home theater systems in different ways. First of all, you can make a difference between wired and wireless home theater systems. The most obvious difference between the two is the lack of speaker wire and the lack of AVR. That makes wireless systems more convenient, but you should have in mind that they are never completely wireless (the speakers still have to be plugged in). Also, if you compare the sound output of the same-priced wired and wireless systems, you will notice that a wired one usually delivers slightly better performance. 

Furthermore, you can make a difference between HTiBs and custom-made home theater systems. HTiBs are designed for those who don’t really want to spend time looking for the perfect match. You will get all the speakers and a matching AVR in one box and you’ll just have to connect everything. In some cases, you will also get all the wire and maybe even a Blu-ray player. HTiBs are usually budget-friendly and their performance is on par with the price. If you are trying to achieve high-end performance, you will have to make it on your own. You will have to look for the speakers you like, and then for the right kind of AVR for those speakers. This option is more expensive and requires much more time, but you’ll also get better performance. 

You can also make a difference between true surround sound systems and virtual surround sound systems. True surround sound systems come with a dedicated speaker for each channel. Practically all wired systems deliver true surround sound. Wireless systems, on the other hand, often deliver virtual surround sound. That means that you don’t get a separate speaker for each channel. 

Wireless systems often include just a soundbar and a subwoofer. The soundbar can replace three front channels (FRONT LEFT/RIGHT and CENTER) as well as some additional channels. Some soundbars, for example, can have two side-firing speakers that are supposed to simulate surround sound effects. Some even have upward-firing speakers that simulate height effects. So, theoretically, a combo that includes just a soundbar and a wireless subwoofer can be classified as a 5.1 or even 7.1 wireless system.

In some cases, you will get a soundbar, wireless SUB, and two wireless satellite speakers. In these cases, soundbars replace just the front three channels. Wireless systems rarely have a dedicated speaker for each channel, but even that is possible (Enclave Audio, for example). 

Surround Sound Formats

We’ve already mentioned some surround sound audio formats like Dolby Digital 5.1, DD+, and Dolby Atmos. In order to experience surround sound, the media you are using (a Blu-ray disc for example) must have one or multiple surround sound audio tracks stored on it.  Blu-ray discs often support two or three mandatory surround sound formats (LPCM, Dolby Digital 5.1, or DTS 5.1). Besides those mandatory formats, Blu-ray discs may have one or multiple optional formats (DD+, Dolby TrueHD, DTS HD, DTS HD Master Audio, Dolby Atmos, DTS:X). 

Different surround sound formats support different number of channels, so if you have a big multi-channel home theater system (something bigger than 5.1 or 5.2), and you want the best possible experience, you should check what optional surround sound formats are supported. If you, for example, have height channels and want to experience object-based surround sound, you need media that supports Dolby Atmos or DTS:X. And, naturally, you also need an AV receiver that supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.

Always check supported surround sound formats on the back of a Blu-ray disc

Always check supported surround sound formats on the back of a Blu-ray disc

To find out more about surround sound audio formats, check out one of our previous articles

Everything You Need to Know About the Installation of a Multi-Channel Home Theater System

To quickly sum things up, to experience surround sound, you need a media (source) that supports surround sound, you need an AVR, and you need speakers. 

Assuming that you already have all the necessary elements, let’s see what you need to know about the installation. 

First of all, you need cables to connect all your sources to the AVR. Depending on the number and type of sources you want to connect, you are going to need HDMI cables, optical cables, coax audio cables, RCA cables, etc. To connect your speakers to the AVR, you’re going to need a speaker wire. Choosing the right length, gauge, and type of speaker wire can be confusing, but don’t worry – we have you covered. Read one of our previous posts and learn everything you need to know about speaker wire. 

Before you start wiring your system, you have to place your speakers. Some general instructions regarding the speaker placement come with both – your speakers and your AVR. You just have to follow those instructions.

Once you buy the right speaker wire and place your speakers, you have to run the wire from your AVR to all the speakers in your system. But you can’t just leave the wires hanging around– you need to hide them. You can read about different ways to hide speaker wire here.

When you’re done connecting the speakers, you can perform the initial calibration. Most of today’s AV receivers come with calibration microphones. All you have to do is connect the mic to your AVR and run the calibration software (whether on your phone or on the AVR). The software will do the rest of the job. Once the calibration is over, you can start enjoying surround sound. 

How Big Should Your Multi-Channel Home Theater System Be?

That depends on multiple factors. The most important ones are your room size, your room purpose, and your own preference. 

If you have a small or medium-sized room with your TV located some 10ft away from the couch, and if you don’t have a lot of free space behind the couch, 5.1 or 5.2 would be an ideal speaker layout. You can also try installing two height channels and build a 5.1.2/5.2.2 system. 

Larger rooms may require a larger system or maybe just larger speakers. For smaller rooms, you can use bookshelf speakers as your FL and FR channels. For bigger rooms, using large floorstanding speakers is a much better idea. 

Your room’s main purpose also plays an important part. If the room you want to install your home theater in, is your living room, then adding too many speakers can make it look messy and overcrowded. You are not going to use that room just for movie watching, so setting up a compact home theater system is probably a better idea. If you’re building a dedicated home theater room or an entertainment room, then you can add as many speakers as you want (or as many as your AV receiver supports). You can make a huge 9.2.4 system, or something even bigger. You can use height channels or Dolby-enabled speakers, you can have more than 2 subwoofers, etc. 

In our experience, most people are perfectly happy with their 5.1 systems. 

What Are the Advantages of having a Multi-Channel Home Theater?

All the advantages of having a home theater system can be summed up in one syntagma – better performance and a more immersive movie-watching experience. That’s what having a home theater system is all about. That’s why people buy it and why they love it. The performance you get from a good-quality surround sound speaker system is not even comparable to what you can get from those two tiny speakers inside your TV or from a pair of bookshelf speakers. Or from a soundbar that simulates surround sound. 

Home theater brings your watching/listening experience to a whole new level. 

What Are the Downsides of having a Multi-Channel Home Theater?

Well, the biggest problem with home theater systems is that such kind of performance improvement comes at a certain price, and the price can be pretty high. Even an affordable home theater system with a matching AVR and all the accessories can cost more than $1000. If you want a high-end system, the price can go well over $10,000 (even over $100,000). Building a multi-channel home theater is a big investment and requires some serious considerations and planning. 

Furthermore, installing a home theater system also requires a lot of time and planning. You have to think about wiring and find a way to hide the wire (run the wire across the attic and through the walls). Installing it can be even trickier than finding the speakers you like and the AVR that can drive those speakers to perfection.


However, once you buy the speakers and set them up, you will understand that it was worth the hassle. The moment you experience surround sound, you will know that having a home theater is absolutely worth it. Even a cheap and tiny home theater system will make a huge difference compared to your TV speakers. 


Bottom Line

If you ask us, having a home theater system is a must. It is a pricey investment, the installation is fairly complicated and time-consuming (or money-consuming if you opt for professional installation), but the final results are going to blow you away. You can hardly imagine the kind of improvement that you can get. Surround sound truly changes the way you enjoy movies.

If you decided that a multi-channel home theater is the right thing for you, and you’re now looking for some suggestions, the next section of our article is the best place to start your search. We’ve gathered our favorite systems and made a small selection of the best home theater systems for different budgets and different room sizes. Check it out and see if there’s something you like.


1. Best Compact and Cheap 5.1 System – Klipsch Black Reference

Klipsch Black Reference

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AVR recommendation: Sony STRDH590

Sony STRDH590

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Klipsch Black Reference is a fantastic multi-channel home theater system for small rooms. The system consists of 4 tiny satellites, center channel, and a wireless subwoofer (comes with a wireless transmitter that you can connect to the sub out on your AVR). 

All the speakers feature Klipsch’s iconic spun copper woofers and Tractrix horn tweeters. The satellites are two-way speakers (3.5″ woofer x1 and .75″ tweeter x1). The center channel has two 3.5″ woofers and one .75″ tweeter. All the satellites and the center channel are wall-mountable. The subwoofer has a down-firing 8″ woofer and a down-firing bass-reflex port. 

The satellites can handle 50W continuously (200W peak), the center channel handles 75W continuously (300W peak), while the power output of the subwoofer is 50W (150W peak). Speakers’ impedance is 8 Ohms. The sensitivity of the center channel is 94dB (2.83V/1m), while the sensitivity of each satellite is 91dB. The max acoustic output of the subwoofer is 108dB.

The system delivers very clean and natural output with impactful lows, balanced and articulate mids, and fairly consistent highs. You may notice some brightness at high volumes, but it’s not ear-piercing or harsh. 


2. Best 5.1 System Under $1000 – Polk Audio T-Series 5.1 System

Polk Audio T-Series 5.1 System

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AVR recommendation: Denon S650H

Denon S650H

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Like the previous one, Polk Audio T-Series is a 5.1 system, but significantly bigger. It can be categorized as a budget option since it’s priced under $700. Add a decent AVR, and you can have a great home theater system for less than $1,500 (maybe even less than $1,100). 

The system consists of two T50 floorstanders, two T15 bookshelf speakers (surround channels), one T30 center channel, and one PSW10 subwoofer.

Each T50 has one 6.5″ woofer, one 1″ tweeter, and two 6.5″ passive bass radiators. Each T15 is a 2-way speaker and has one 5.25″ mid-woofer, .75″ tweeter, and a front-firing bass reflex port. T30 center channel has two 5.25″ mid-woofers and one 1″ tweeter. The subwoofer has one front-firing 10″ woofer and a front-firing bass-reflex port. 

All the speakers have 150W peak power output. The sensitivity of T30 and T50 is 89dB, while the sensitivity of the T15 is 90dB. PSW10 has 50W RMS and 100W peak. It handles frequencies from 40-160 Hz. The crossover is variable (80-160 Hz).

T-series home theater system sounds much more expensive than it actually is. The sound output is very immersive, very clean, and almost flawlessly balanced. The sub blends perfectly with the speakers and creates an incredible atmosphere. 


3. Best 5.1 System Under $2000 – ELAC Debut 2.0 5.1 System

ELAC Debut 2.0 5.1 System

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AVR recommendation: Denon AVR-X4700H

Denon AVR-X4700H

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Looking for more premium performance? Debut 2.0 home theater system is a perfect entry-level high-end system. It’s not exactly cheap but it’s worth it. If you want to improve your experience and build a more immersive system, you can expand it by adding ELAC Debut Atmos Modules (ELAC Debut A4.2), ELAC on-wall speakers (Elac Debut 2.0 DOW4.2), or ELAC in-ceiling speakers (IC-D61 or IC-DT61). Our recommended AV receiver for this system is Denon AVR-X4700H (max speaker configuration 9.2 or 7.2.2 or 5.2.4). For a larger speaker system, try some more capable AVRs from Denon’s X series or Marantz SR or AV series. 

ELAC Debut 2.0 system consists of two F6.2 floorstanders, two B6.2 bookshelf speakers, C6.2 center channel, and ELAC SUB3010 (which is a 10″ subwoofer). 

All the speakers feature ELAC’s new cloth dome tweeters with wide-dispersion guides and aramid-fiber woofers. They also all have new and improved MDF cabinets with reduced vibrations. Bookshelf speakers and center channel have front-firing bass-reflex ports, which eliminates performance issues when the speakers are wall-mounted. 

The floorstanders have three 6.5″ woofers and one 1″ tweeter. Their impedance is 6 Ohms, the sensitivity is 87 dB (at 2.83V/1m), and the max power input is 140 W. Floorstanding speakers are ported – each has three rear-firing bass-reflex ports. Each B6.2 bookshelf speaker has two drivers – one 6.5″ woofer and one 1″ tweeter. The max recommended power input is 140 W. The center channel is optimized to work with low-power AVRs so it has slightly higher sensitivity than the bookshelf and floorstanding speakers (88 dB) and has a slightly lower max power input (120 W). 

The included subwoofer has a 10″ front-firing paper cone driver. On the back of the sub, you will only find a power input and a pair of RCA inputs. It has no physical controls. To control the volume, cutoff frequency, EQ controls, etc. you have to use the ELAC SUB Control 2.0 app (Android/iOS). The subwoofer’s RMS power output is rated at 200W (400W peak).

ELAC Debut SUB Control app

ELAC Debut SUB Control app

ELAC Debut 2.0 delivers a powerful and enjoyable surround sound experience. The subwoofer adds a fantastic bass foundation to your movies and creates an effect that you can hear and feel. The floorstanders and center channel work in perfect synergy to deliver dialogs and music. The surround channels create a nice sense of space.


4. The Smartest Wireless Multi-Channel Home Theater System – SONOS 5.1 (SONOS ARC, SONOS SUB GEN3, SONOS ONE SL)

SONOS ARC

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SONOS SUB GEN3

SONOS SUB GEN3

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SONOS ONE SL

SONOS ONE SL

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We couldn’t end this article without mentioning at least one wireless home theater system. We have a few favorites in this category – SONOS, Nakamichi, Bose, JBL, Enclave. Each of these wireless systems has its advantages and disadvantages. Nakamichi, for example, delivers the best sonic performance, but it’s not that wireless (only the subwoofers are wireless). Bose looks very high-end, it has numerous advanced features, it sounds great, but it’s quite difficult to set up, and it’s not the most reliable. JBL Bar 5.1 is perfect for small rooms and apartments. 

For the purposes of this article, we have decided to talk about SONOS. SONOS speakers are, at least in our opinion, the easiest to set up, the most reliable, and one of the most feature-rich wireless speakers on the market. 

They are not too expensive (the price of the suggested system is $2,000). The SONOS system may not sound as great as some $2,000 wired system, but the performance is still more than satisfying. Have in mind that SONOS ARC + SONOS SUB (GEN 3) + SONOS ONE SL is not the only possible combo. Instead of SONOS ARC, you can use SONOS Beam (which is smaller and cheaper) and, instead of two ONE SL speakers, you can use some larger SONOS speakers (like SONOS Five). The best thing about SONOS wireless systems is that you don’t have to buy the entire system at once. You can build it gradually – buy SONOS ARC/Beam first, and add a subwoofer and surround speakers later.

SONOS Arc is the upgraded version of SONOS PLAYBAR. It looks much better than the PLAYBAR and it’s more versatile. It has two inputs – HDMI eARC and optical. It also has one Ethernet port and supports wi-fi connection (but lacks Bluetooth). You can control it with your TV remote, with your voice (Alexa built-in), or you can use the SONOS S2 app. The app is also used for all the initial settings, multiroom integration, music streaming, and many other things.  SONOS Arc also features Apple Airplay2. 

Arc has 11 drivers arranged in 7 channels (FL, FR, C, two side-firing, and two upward-firing drivers). It features support for all the most popular surround sound formats (Dolby Atmos included). 

Combined with the 3rd generation of SONOS SUB and two SONOS ONE SL wireless speakers, Arc delivers a well-balanced sound and quite an immersive listening experience. The system is super-easy to use and very reliable. Like other SONOS soundbars, Arc features special DSP modes like Night Mode and Speech Enhancement mode. 


This was our selection of the best multi-channel home theater systems. Hopefully, our article helped you realize why buying a home theater system is a good idea. If there are some unanswered questions, feel free to leave us a comment and ask whatever you want. As always, we encourage you to share your experience with home theater systems and send suggestions.


FAQs

Q: How does multi-channel audio work?

A: The movie you’re watching comes with a few stored surround sound audio tracks. You have to select the right audio track (the one that matches your home theater system). The audio gets sent from the source to your AVR. The AVR processes the sound, decodes the soundtrack, and sends the appropriate (and amplified) signal to each channel (each speaker). The speakers then produce the sound and create an immersive surround sound experience.

Q: What is a multi-channel format?

A: A multi-channel format (aka surround sound format) is a type of audio format that combines multiple audio streams (one for each channel) into one audio track. 

Q: What does a multi-channel receiver do?

A: It receives audio signals from the connected sources, decodes them, splits the signal into two or multiple signals, amplifies them, and sends those amplified signals to the corresponding channels (speakers). 

Q: What is a multi-channel home theater system?

A: It is a system of speakers designed to work together and deliver surround sound. Naturally, besides the speakers, you also need a source that supports surround sound and a matching AV receiver. 

Q: How many channels can audio have?

A: The number of channels that an audio signal has varies depending on the format. Some surround sound formats can carry a staggering number of channels. For example, Dolby Atmos theoretically supports 24.1.10 channels.

Q: What does 2-channel audio output mean?

A: It means that the audio track carries two separate streams for two separate channels/speakers – left and right.

Q: How do I choose an AVR?

A: Finding the right AV receiver is a tricky business. First of all, if you already have the speakers, you have to look for an AVR that has at least the same number of audio channels (or even more channels, in case you want to expand the system in the future). Then, you have to find the AVR with the right power output. In other words, you have to match the amp’s/AVR’s output to the speakers’ power requirements. You should also be looking for something that allows you to connect all of your sources – you need an AVR with the right number of inputs. 

The above-mentioned features are the most important. Once you find the AVR with the right number of channels, right power output, and right inputs, you can look for other stuff. Depending on your preferences and future plans, you may want to look for an AVR with Bluetooth or wi-fi support, maybe an AVR with multiroom capabilities, an AVR that comes with auto-calibration tools, an AVR that has preamp outputs for all the channels, or Zone 2 and Zone 3 outputs, etc. 

Q: Can I connect two receivers/AVRs/power amps together?

A: If your AVR has preamp outputs, you can use those preamp outputs to connect it to another amp/AVR. That can come in handy in certain scenarios. Let’s say that you have an AVR that’s not powerful enough to drive two demanding floorstanding speakers that you want to use as FL and FR, but the AVR has preamp outs for FL and FR. Let’s also assume that you have an integrated amp that can deliver much more power than your AVR. Instead of connecting those large floorstanding speakers to your AVR using speaker outputs, you can connect those preamp outputs on your AVR to the inputs on your integrated amp, and then connect your speakers to that integrated amp. 

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