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Surround Sound Decoding Chart

By

Tara W.

Tara W. has worked for Crutchfield since 2004. She writes about whole-house music and video gear, and works on Crutchfield's video team.

More from Tara W.

Surround format Number of channels Types of channels Type of media with which the format may be used
Dolby® Pro Logic® 4
  • 2 discrete, full-bandwidth channels (front left and right)
  • 1 matrixed, full-bandwidth channel (center)
  • 1 matrixed, limited-bandwidth channel (surround left and right)
  • stereo and Dolby Surround-encoded VHS movies and broadcast TV programs
  • can be downconverted from any Dolby Digital source
Dolby Pro Logic II 5.1
  • 2 discrete, full-bandwidth channels (front left and right)
  • 3 matrixed, full-bandwidth channels (center, surround left and right)
  • 1 subwoofer channel via Pro Logic II's bass management
  • stereo and Dolby Surround-encoded VHS movies and broadcast TV programs
  • stereo music
  • some video games
Dolby Digital up to 5.1
  • 5 discrete, full-bandwidth channels (front left and right, center, surround left and right)
  • 1 discrete LFE channel (subwoofer)
  • all DVDs
  • some broadcast HDTV
  • some satellite and cable TV
  • some video games
DTS® 5.1
  • 5 discrete, full-bandwidth channels (front left and right, center, surround left and right)
  • 1 discrete LFE channel (subwoofer)
  • some DVDs are DTS-encoded
  • some CDs are DTS-encoded
DTS Neo:6 up to 6.1
  • 2 discrete, full-bandwidth channels (front left and right)
  • 3 or 4 matrixed, full-bandwidth channels (center, surround left and right, and back surround)
  • 1 subwoofer channel via DTS Neo:6's bass management
  • most audio sources connected to a Neo:6-capable receiver
Dolby Pro Logic IIx up to 7.1
  • 2 discrete, full-bandwidth channels (front left and right)
  • 5 matrixed, full-bandwidth channels (center, surround left and right, and back right and left surrounds)
  • 1 subwoofer channel via Pro Logic IIx's bass management
  • most audio sources connected to a Pro Logic IIx-capable receiver
Dolby Pro Logic IIz up to 9.1
  • 2-7 discrete, full-bandwidth channels, depending on audio source (front left and right, center, surround left and right, and back right and left surrounds)
  • 2-7 matrixed, full-bandwidth channels, depending on audio source (front right height, front left height, center, surround left and right, and back right and left surrounds)
  • 1 subwoofer channel (discrete, or via Pro Logic IIx's bass management, depending on audio source)
  • most audio sources connected to a Pro Logic IIz-capable receiver
Dolby Digital EX 6.1
  • 5 discrete, full-bandwidth channels (front left and right, center, surround left and right)
  • 1 matrixed, full-bandwidth channel (back surround)
  • 1 discrete LFE channel (subwoofer)
  • some DVDs are Dolby Digital EX-encoded
  • regular Dolby Digital 5.1 DVDs can also be used with a Dolby Digital EX decoder
THX Surround EX™ 6.1
  • 5 discrete, full-bandwidth channels (front left and right, center, surround left and right)
  • 1 matrixed, full-bandwidth channel (back surround)
  • 1 discrete LFE channel (subwoofer)
  • can decode any Dolby Digital or Dolby Digital EX source
  • can be used to enhance Pro Logic, Pro Logic II, DTS, or DTS-ES decoding
DTS-ES™ 6.1
  • 6 discrete, full-bandwidth channels (front left and right, center, surround left and right, and back surround)
  • 1 discrete LFE channel (subwoofer)
  • some DVDs are DTS-ES-encoded
  • regular DTS 5.1 DVDs can also be used with a DTS-ES decoder
Dolby Digital Plus 7.1
  • 7 discrete, full-bandwidth channels (front left and right, center, surround left and right, and back left and right surround)
  • 1 discrete LFE channel (subwoofer)
  • some Blu-ray discs are encoded with Dolby Digital Plus
  • can be downconverted for playback on a 5.1-channel system
Dolby TrueHD (lossless) 7.1
  • 7 discrete, full-bandwidth channels (front left and right, center, surround left and right, and back left and right surround)
  • 1 discrete LFE channel (subwoofer)
  • some Blu-ray discs are encoded with Dolby TrueHD
  • can be downconverted for playback on a 5.1-channel system
  • as a lossless format, offers sound that's "bit-for-bit" identical to the original recording for more detailed, accurate surround sound
DTS-HD™ 7.1
  • 7 discrete, full-bandwidth channels (front left and right, center, surround left and right, and back left and right surround)
  • 1 discrete LFE channel (subwoofer)
  • some Blu-ray discs are encoded with DTS-HD
  • can be downconverted for playback on a 5.1-channel system
DTS-HD Master Audio (lossless) 7.1
  • 7 discrete, full-bandwidth channels (front left and right, center, surround left and right, and back left and right surround)
  • 1 discrete LFE channel (subwoofer)
  • some Blu-ray discs are encoded with DTS-HD Master Audio
  • can be downconverted for playback on a 5.1-channel system
  • as a lossless format, offers sound that's "bit-for-bit" identical to the original recording for more detailed, accurate surround sound
Dolby Atmos® 5.1.2 and up
  • 5 discrete, full-bandwidth channels (front left and right, center, surround left and right, and back left and right surround)
  • 1 discrete LFE channel (subwoofer)
  • 2 in-ceiling speakers or Dolby enabled upward firing speakers that reflect sound off the ceiling
  • some Blu-ray discs are encoded with Dolby Atmos soundtracks
  • creates a high, deep soundstage with a more "3D" sound than conventional surround setups
  • scalable to accomodate different setups
  • Dolby recommends a 7.2.4 system for the best experience

Learn more about surround sound formats

Last updated March 09, 2016
  • Jay from Clyde, NC

    Posted on 4/26/2015 2:56:11 PM

    DTS:X needs to be added to this list. Yes, there are still some unknowns about this format, but it deserves mention since DTS formally announced it and some major manufacturers have already signed on to include DTS:X decoding in upcoming product releases this year. It will compete with Dolby Atmos as a rival immersive sound format.

  • Dale Drzwecki from Middlebury Ct.

    Posted on 2/22/2016 5:00:05 PM

    Help, After reading your article on surround sound formats,I will need some help in designing a new system for our family room.(needs vs. wants.). We have a very large open space that includes a small kitchen,overall size approx. 20'x30'. I currently have large opening in the wall that would house a 40' dag, TV on the long wall. I also have a large record collection of opera and 70ish music. My coal,if $'s allow, is to create a system that will work seamlessly for all music/video formats,current and with some luck, the future. Both my wife and I are retired and plan to stay here for a while, so I see this as a good investment. We enjoy music mostly,with some TV programming and are just entering the WI/ Fi domain with tablets and smart phones. Hopefully with your help and guidance to navigate through the maze if option,will get to our goal. Thank you in advance. dale& Carolyn

  • David Brown from Crutchfield

    Posted on 2/23/2016 8:58:13 AM

    Hi Dale, Sounds like you've got a plan! I've forwarded your question to our team of advisors. They're experts at helping folks find the right system for their needs. Someone will contact you via email to help you out. Good luck!