5.1 > 7.1 Is it worth the aggro?

Having upgraded the surrounds on my 5.1 system from B&W DM600s3 to Nautilus SCM1 (lovely improvement, by the way), I’m now wondering whether to use the 600s to soup up the system to 7.1.


  • Mrs Ebor will be deeply unimpressed with ‘more bloody speakers in the sitting room’.
  • The 600s probably won’t match well with the SCM1s, either sonically or aesthetically
  • I’ll have to buy more cable and run it around the room (no option to chase it into the walls or underfloor, unfortunately)
  • I’ve gone through my Blu rays and, aside from the 4K discs which are predominantly Atmos, I was surprised how many were ‘just’ 5.1


  • My amp can do 7.1, so no expenditure needed beyond cable and time
  • 7.1 will be 39% better than 5.1 (or will it?)
  • All my Atmos discs will sound much better in 7.1 than 5.1 (or will they?)

I’m struggling to justify the outlay in time and energy. Thoughts?


Can you fit 7.1 “properly” in your room, ie sufficient space to implement the ideal arrangement with side speakers/ rear speakers.
I suspect unless you have sufficient 7.1 material to exploit it, 5.1 fully optimised (good speaker positioning, dialled in correctly with measurements, correct levels to each other etc) will perform better.
An extra sub might bring more :slight_smile:
We started watching deathly hallows part 1 yesterday evening, the swirling around effects with “just” 5.1 are really good. And ours is probably not setup optimally. (Speakers in the lounge where they fit not where they should ideally be, and auto setup on the denon with the supplied mic, very little post fettling.)

Good question.

The SCM1s are positioned well for 5.1 (i.e. about 120 degrees, as per the usual advice). They would become the SBL and SBR channels. There’s room to mount the 600s more or less in line with the main listening position, so they’d be the SL and SR ‘sides’.

I set the 5.1 levels and distances accurately and recheck them periodically.

The short answer is that I could get some cheap twin core cable and give it a go with the 600s just stood on furniture rather than wall-mounted to get an idea of how it might sound, but opinions from others are even quicker and cheaper!


Bi-Amp the front channels instead if supported.

Number of channels in no way equates numerically like that! 7.1 simply fills in surround better. I suspect that how noticeable will depend hugely on the shape and size of the room, and how far the speakers are from you, how reflective or otherwise is the room, and even the type of speakers . In particular, if the room is acoustically near dead, as often aimed for with home cinema use, more channels would likely be far more noticeable than in a lively room. If you want it numerically, my guess is that other than with sound effects aimed at utilising specific of the 7 channels, the range might be 15-30% better in terms of completeness of surround effect in a dead room, and 2-4% in a lively room.

When movie watching (in a room that somewhere midway between r dead and lively I use 7.1 and better than 5.1, because it is an awkward shaped room with otherwise a tendency for gaps in sound location But then the amp has 7 channels anyway, and the surround speakers are very basic not costing a lot, ditto cable, as in films it is only fill-in ambient sound or special effects.

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It was intended as humour, aimed slightly at those with a more mathematically rigid mindset.

@Mr.M Front channels are already bi-amped. It’s a nice trick, especially with current-hungry speakers. I’ve still got the option to expand to 7.1.

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I thought so, however my response is the same!

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Sure - the room’s more dead than live, lots of soft furnishing so 7.1 might not be totally pointless.

I’ve looked on other forums for similar questions, and it doesn’t look like it’s a no-brainer that 7.1’s better than 5.1. I think I’ll get some v cheap cable and do a temporary rig-up so I can ‘suck it and see’.

Thanks for your thoughts - I’ll let you know how it goes.


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I saw the benefit of going 7.1 - just more immersive. But then we do enjoy a lot of UHD and Blu-ray Discs with 7.1 mixes - as ever, a lot depends on what you’re feeding your system


I moved from 5.3 to 7.3 and it was a small difference, not life changing. I did have good wide dispersion surrounds in good locations before. A bigger upgrade from utilising a Mini DSP from the LFE out to time align and EQ the subs (I am using an AV2)

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