Wherever you are, just stop and listen for a moment. Be alert to all the sounds you’re hearing. If you’re outside in a city, or in the country, there’ll likely be a multitude of sounds impinging on your ears from every direction. Even if you’re in an office, you’ll notice the familiar ambient sounds—the background whir of the air-circulation system, the tapping of keys on computer keyboards, distant muffled city sounds (unless the windows are open), and so on.
We’re all surrounded by sounds much of the time, and that’s the idea behind the purpose of surround sound speakers in a 5.1-channel home theater or multi-channel music system: to create a sense of immersion in a sound field, with some degree of focus on directional aspects of particular sounds.
It might seem logical in a home listening environment to position direct-firing speakers in the surround speaker locations at the sides and rear of the room. However, the nearby surfaces in typical rooms—the walls, floor, and ceiling — are relatively close to us, so with direct speakers, the sounds don’t have much opportunity to reflect from different surfaces, which isn’t how ambient sounds reach our ears in real life listening.
The design which makes the best surround speakers is one in which a group of drivers facing different directions disperse the sounds towards all the surfaces in the room. The resulting reflections reach our ears from many directions, which is a pretty good simulation of how we hear ambient and multiple sounds in real life. Axiom’s QS8 and QS4 surround speakers use top and bottom-mounted woofer/midrange drivers and two angled tweeters to scatter surround channel information in every direction in your home theater or listening room.
And what’s amazing is that the best surround speakers “disappear” as sources of sound, leaving you immersed in a strikingly realistic sound field.
Sometimes, soundtrack and recording engineers will intentionally “hard-mix” a direct sound to a particular location—say, a crow cawing in a tree to the left side/rear. The Axiom QS-8s will still recreate that hard-mixed directional cue within the ambient outdoor sound field with no loss of directional accuracy. Try surround speakers with multiple drivers: it’s a big step up in home theater and music reproduction.
Get handy set up tips for getting the best surround speakers sound.