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Is Surround Sound Worth The Trouble and Cost?

written by: •edited by: M.S. Smith•updated: 9/22/2009

Listening to a movie at home isn't as simple as just having a TV speaker anymore - you can have lots of speakers buffeting you with sound from all over. But is surround sound really worth the time it will take and the cost? Here's what you need to know to help you decide.

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    What Do You Watch?

    5th Element 

    What you watch affects whether surround sound has a value for you. If you mostly watch television shows in stereo in the bedroom, surround sound might not be of much need. The same goes for watching DVDs or even Blu-ray discs. Action films for sure can benefit from the explosions wrapping around you. But if romantic comedies are your thing, the lack of surround sound isn't going to undermine your enjoyment. Track what you watch over a few days, look at the list and see just what your viewing patterns are. Then you can decide appropriately.

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    Texas Aspirations, New York Space

    Klipsch S-1 Synergy Surround Speaker 

    Surround sound requires more than just a pair of speakers at the front with a center channel for dialogue - you have to have satellite speakers that can be placed at the sides of the listener to create the needed ambience. The physical reality of a room directly affects whether putting up such speakers are possible. The room will answer whether there's a wall on either side that can be used to mount them or whether they'll have to be put on speaker stands. And what about the wiring going from these surround speakers back to the amplifier or audio system being used? Will it be going under carpets, around baseboards and on walls? Even if wireless surround speakers are available, what about the power plug that will have to go to the wireless receiver and the wires going from it to the speakers?

    Atlantic Satellite 77305018 2 Speaker Stands 

    And what about the costs for getting all these speakers lined up - the costs for the speaker stands and the wiring and all the home improvement stuff for keeping everything in place on the walls, etc.?

    As you can see, having surround speakers does more than just take up space, it requires the room to be adapted to their use. Is this something that can be done in your living room or bedroom or den? Will the wiring cause complications with pets and children? Will your significant other get annoyed at the idea of cables running up walls? All of this must be taken into account and decided upon first.

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    What About The Cost for Surround Sound Products?

    Yamaha YHT-391BL Home Theater in a Box 

    Having surround sound can be fairly inexpensive or extremely costly. Note that "fairly inexpensive" means different things to different people in today's economy. Starting from scratch means getting a HTIB (home theater in a box) that comes with all the speakers. Replacing an amplifier for a new one that has multichannel sound is a given if you're going to go that route - since you can't "add" surround sound to an amplifier that doesn't have one - and that will cost a significant amount, depending upon the brand and the features. Even just adding extra speakers alone to an existing home theater system (be that a center channel and surround to a pair already in place for stereo) can cost a little or a lot. You'll have to decide what your budget will allow and proceed accordingly.

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    But I Want It!

    Of course all the arguments in the world mean nothing if you want surround sound - you'll find the reasons and ways to get around mundane problems of space and budget. And maybe that's good - surround can really pull you into the viewing experience and add a lot of enjoyment to what's being watched. Which is the whole idea behind a home theater anyway, right?

    Related links

    Finding the Best Inexpenswive Surround Sound Systems

    How to Hide Surround Sound Speaker Wires