Movie surround sound is meant to draw viewers into the experience -- to add a richer, deeper interaction between the movie and our minds. And sometimes it's designed to be a loud, rumbling and powerful noise that surprises us or gets our hearts pumping. No matter what music or effects are tumbling out of the speakers, surround sound is an integral part of the movie experience, and a must for a home theater.
The best is 7.1 surround sound, which uses eight channels of audio to envelop you in a bubble of sound. The left, right and center speakers attack from the front, while four extra surround speakers are positioned to your sides and rear. The eighth channel is solely dedicated to bass from the subwoofer. As of 2010, home theater actually had an advantage over real theaters when it comes to sound. "Toy Story 3" was the first film to ship to theaters with 7.1 audio support [source: Flynn]. But more than 200 high-definition Blu-ray movies, by contrast, are available with 7.1 audio [source: Blu-ray Stats].
Surround sound systems come in a number of forms. You can buy a home theater in a box, which comes with an entire speaker system and a receiver, or you can opt to purchase more expensive speakers as a set (or individually) and handpick a receiver to tie the entire system together. The speakers are important -- they pump out the sound, after all -- but our next component, the home entertainment system, is responsible for handling all the high-definition audio and video we need our home theater to process.