Surround Sound Vs. 3D Sound – Which is Best and Why

If you have been on the market for home theater speakers recently, then you have probably noticed the term 3D sound. This article is a detailed comparison of surround sound vs. 3D sound to determine which is better.

Surround sound is a type of technology that enables you to be in the center of the action since you can hear things from your front, back, left, and right. However, with 3D audio, you will also hear additional sounds from above and below.

Also read: Surround Sound Vs. Stereo

Surround Sound or 3D Sound

So what is 3D audio, and what is surround sound? In this article, we will discuss what these two are and what their advantages are.

Surround sound vs. 3D sound Compared

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Both have their pros and cons and indeed, in regards to sound quality and experience, the 3D sound is much better than surround sound.

Nevertheless, the restrictions, constraints, cost, and difficulty of implementation do hurt 3D sound’s chances of being implemented. Below is a table accounting for the pros and cons of each.

General Audio ChannelsListening ExperienceCommon Use CasesCost of Implementation
Surround SoundLeft, Right, Front and BackGoodMovie and Home TheatersLower
3DSoundLeft, Right, Above, Below, Front and BackBetterGaming and Virtual RealityHigher

Surround sound – what is it?

Surround sound was introduced in the 1940s in theaters through the Disney movie Fantasia. Since then, it has slowly been adopted by the theaters.

Most (if not all) contain one of the certain variations of surround sound to provide complex audio systems and a better listening experience.

So how exactly does surround sound make the listening experience better?

Currently, there are many surround sound formats, with 5.1 and 7.1 being the most common ones.

The 5.1 setup involves three front speakers, one on the left, one on the right, and one on the center, with the other back left and right speakers for a total of five speakers, hence the name.

The 7.1 format includes five speakers on the front, one left, one center-left, one center, one center-right, and one right. Additionally, the 7.1 format also has two back speakers for a total of seven speakers.

This multiple speaker setup is made so that you’ll hear audio coming from all around you. Unlike the one or two-speaker setup, this will provide you with a more immersive experience. 

Because surround sound is so immersive, it is usually implemented in theaters where everyone can hear the sound coming from around them.

This sophisticated sound setup not only gives you an immersive experience but also offers you a richer, more realistic, and fuller audio experience.

3D Sound: What is it?

3D sound is a much better sound experience compared to surround sound.

Although movie theaters have started to adopt the technology to entice moviegoers to keep returning, the 3D sound is usually used by gamers, especially those using first-person games such as shooting games and racing games.

Unlike surround sound, which provides you sound from your left, right, front, and back, 3D sound ups the game by adding above and below. It means that the listening experience feels like the sounds are coming from every direction.

You may hear a person creeping up your back and know that he’s coming from your left, or the dog barking in the distance is actually from the neighbor’s house.

The main goal of 3D sound is to recreate the sound and make it as realistic as possible. The way you hear sounds in the real world is what 3D sound aims to recreate.

If the newlywed couple a house away is fighting again, you will not need to go out and look to know where the sound is coming from.

It is what 3D sound is all about, making you have a sense of direction while listening. That is why using 3D sound in first-person games is so popular, as it can help you scout an enemy or help an ally.

Hearing the rustling grass as you walk will not only make you gain an advantage while gaming, but it also feels like you are in the world itself.

While the 3D sound is prevalent in gaming, it is also used on virtual reality devices and some movie and home theaters. However, there are things to be noted with 3D sound. Although it is much more immersive, it is also harder to implement.

Unlike surround sound, which puts you in the front of the action, 3D sound tries to put you into the action relative to your position. This added complexity would mean that if ever theaters implement this widely, each moviegoer will need to hear different sounds relative to their exact position.

While surround sound focuses on the crowd, the 3D sound is different for every user to provide a more personal experience. It is why 3D sound is much harder to implement in movie theaters compared to personal gaming devices.

However, some audio engineers opt to sacrifice a bit of that personal experience to deliver a 3D experience to a crowd still.

Three Most Asked Questions About Surround Sound and 3D Sound

Is Dolby Atmos 3D sound?

Dolby Atmos is a surround sound technology. Developed by Dolby Laboratories, Dolby Atmos improves on other surround sound technology by adding the height factor. So basically, in a way, it is 3D sound.

What is the difference between 3D audio and 8D audio?

8D audio is primarily used in music by panning sounds from left to right. Unlike 3D audio, it is not made to give a realistic feel, but it does focus on delivering a panning effect, making it sound like you are inside a party or a club.

Is 7.1 the same as 3D audio?

No. 7.1 surround sound is a surround sound technology, not a 3D audio technology.



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