5.1 vs. 3.1 vs. 2.1 for movies


Junior Member
I will soon be setting up one of the above as my main system. It will actually be .2 as Ill be running 2 subs, but that isnt very relevant to the discussion. I dont watch many movies, have never even seen a movie on a 5.1 system (or any HT setup), and although I am thinking I will watch more movies if I have a nice 5.1 system (Im hoping to be “blown away” by the spatial sound effects), I probably wont as I seem to lose interest in most. Nevertheless, I am intrigued (nearly 30 years later) by 5.1.

The main problem I see with 5.1? Its probably the main problem for most people. Dealing with the rear speakers, mostly the fact they need to unaesthetically occupy space and have wires going to them. In my situation, I cant think of a way of incorporating them that is pleasing to the eye. But I think I can live with that if 5.1 truly is a step up from 3.1 or 2.1. Ive run 2.1 and it seems plenty fine, darn good way to watch a movie. But then Ive heard how important the center channel is, that the majority of the front sound comes from the center speaker. But 2.1 by itself seems quite good, conversations are clear and everything is in stereo.

To those who have run 3 channel and 2 channel on movies(plus sub or subs), how much added benefit does a center chanel add to a stereo setup? I dont see adding a center channel as that big of a deal or unaesthetic. And to those who have run 5 channel, 3 channel, and 2 channel, (plus sub or subs) is 5 channel really that much better than 3 or 2 (plus sub or subs).

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Junior Member
I run a 4.1 system (no center channel). Over the years, I've done everything from 2.0 to 7.2. If you're watching mostly dramas and comedy, 2.1 is fine. But if you watch action or sci fi movies, the rear channels can really enhance things. 7.2 was even better, but given how seldom we watch movies, 4.1 is fine. I'd hate to do without the rear (actually side) surround speakers.


Post Whore In Training
I have (ostensibly) a 7.1 system at home, but I only have 2.1 hooked up at present (I'm down a pair of speakers and the other speakers just aren't connected). At some point I may get everything hooked up again, but I need to finalize the line-up.


Senior Member
I'm running a basic stereo set-up with our video and we're pretty happy with it, especially since I discovered that some sources were set up for 5.1 (presuming a middle channel that didn't exist) and I switched it over to stereo. Location of dialogue has improved immensely. Our TV room has no place to put a 5.1 system let alone 7.1. They joys of an older home!