What is PCM 5.1 Surround Sound? (Answered!)

If you're looking for a new audio system, you've probably come across a lot of numbers, words, and dots in your search. When there is little to no explanation, it can be difficult to understand what you're looking at. So, to answer the question, PCM 5.1 surround sound is required.

PCM 5.1 is a surround sound layout. PCM is a digital audio recording technology that converts analog to digital audio. When PCM is used in surround sound applications, it converts to LPCM.

PCM is the fundamental format of all digital audio. It's available on Blu-Ray, CDs, DVDs, home theaters, and other formats. You get both the conversion and the surround sound layout with PCM 5.1. If you want to learn more about these facts and others, keep reading.

Is PCM 5.1 Surround Sound? (Find Out The Answer Here!)
Is PCM 5.1 Surround Sound? (Find Out The Answer Here!)


PCM is the standard for digital audio on your computer, TV, and other devices. When you look at your TV's audio settings, you usually have two choices:


  • Default
  • PCM

PCM, on the other hand, is merely a conversion technology. Why is it necessary to convert analog to digital sounds? Digital sounds are easier to manipulate and work with. As a result, users prefer digital sounds to analog sounds.

Users are introduced to the world of 5.1 surround sound when they use PCM 5.1. But what exactly is surround sound?


Depending on the content being converted, the desired quality, and how the information is stored, transferred, and distributed, PCM analog-to-digital audio conversion can be complicated. A PCM audio file is essentially a digital representation of an analog sound wave. The goal is to as closely replicate the properties of an analog audio signal as possible.

Analog-to-PCM conversion is accomplished through a procedure known as sampling. In contrast to PCM, which is a series of ones and zeros, analog sound moves in waves. To capture analog sound with PCM, specific points on the sound wave generated by a microphone or another analog audio source must be sampled.

The amount of the analog waveform sampled at a given point (referred to as bits) is also included in the process. More sampled points, combined with larger sections of a sound wave sampled at each point, result in greater accuracy on the listening end.

In CD audio, for example, an analog waveform is sampled 44.1 thousand times per second (or 44.1 kHz), with 16-bit points (bit depth). In other words, the CD audio digital audio standard is 44.1 kHz/16 bits.

Recommended:  How To Use Two Headphones On PC And Mac? [The Easy Way To Do It]
PCM 5.1 Explained
PCM 5.1 Explained


Surround sound is a system that entails recording and playback. This system provides a nearly realistic experience or environment for both home and movie theaters. Surround sound is classified into three types:

  • 5.1 channel surround sound
  • 6.1 channel surround sound
  • 7.1 channel surround sound

One of the most common surround sounds is 5.1 channel surround. It can be found on televisions, home theaters, and other devices. Dolby Digital and DTS are the most popular 5.1 surround sound systems. Furthermore, experts refer to 5.1 surround sound as authentic surround sound; experts refer to 6.1 surround sound systems as multi-speaker systems.

It sets the standard for the other types to follow. It is also the most budget-friendly option when you’re in the market for one. 

7.1 channel surround is one of the best surround sound experiences you can get in the market. On the flip side, it costs a lot more than many people are willing to pay for when upgrading their audio system. 


Surround sound is distinguished by the large number of speakers and subwoofers used in the layout, according to experts. A 5.1 surround sound setup, for example, includes five speakers and one subwoofer. The following are the specific speakers and subwoofers found in a surround sound system:

  • The main speaker
  • Satellite radio receiver
  • A mixer or an equalizer
  • Subwoofer

Please keep in mind that experts do not consider 2.1 to be true surround sound. However, there is the issue of a soundbar that attempts to cross that line and achieve something more significant than a portable audio system.


Yes, PCM 5.1 is a surround sound format. It does, however, have some flaws. Keep reading because this article will go over those flaws in detail.

PCM 5.1 is similar to Dolby 5.1; the difference (detailed below) is minor but critical to the longevity of your audio system. Nonetheless, both of these digital audio recording technologies can produce comparable results; the difference is that one is slightly better than the other.

If you notice PCM 5.1 on your TV audio settings, don’t panic, it’s okay. It’s perfectly normal, and it should work out for whatever reason you choose to enable it. If you don’t like the effect, it’s giving, and you can also disable it and move on to get a more preferred surround sound system. 

Recommended:  How To Improve A Car Audio System? (Complete Guide To Follow)

Alternative Video: Is PCM 5.1 Surround Sound?

Is PCM 5.1 Surround Sound?


Now that that's out of the way, let's look at what makes PCM 5.1 fall short of Dolby Digital. Dolby has become a household name when it comes to getting the best audio system. Dolby Atmos rocked the world of surround sound.

Nonetheless, PCM 5.1 and Dolby Digital are technologies that are similar. The only distinction is one of distance. Remember that PCM converts analog to digital sound. The only catch is that the digital sound is uncompressed. Dolby Digital, on the other hand, offers a compressed digital sound capable of fitting all surround sound audio information into your preferred choice. It could be a Blu-Ray or DVD.

Because PCM is uncompressed, it tends to consume more bandwidth space during transmission. Dolby Digital, on the other hand, provides less bandwidth space during transmission. Due to the lack of compression, only two channels are available, which are not authentic surround sound.

Fortunately, thanks to PCM 5.1, you now have the option of incorporating surround sound into the original PCM. Regardless, if PCM and Dolby Digital were compared, Dolby Digital would win because it is a more advanced technology.


PCM, or pulse code modulation, is the digital representation of analog signals. This means that in the case of surround sound, all digital surround formats are eventually decoded as PCM.

Pulse code modulation can also be found in stereo signals such as digital PCM from a CD player transmitted via fiber optic or digital coaxial cable.


PCM is a digital audio format that is used in CD, DVD, Blu-ray, and other digital audio applications. It is also known as linear pulse code modulation when used in surround-sound applications (LPCM). A CD, DVD, or Blu-ray Disc player can read a PCM or LPCM signal from a disc and transfer it in two ways:

  • By retaining the digital form of the signal and transmitting it to a home theater receiver via a digital optical, digital coaxial, or HDMI connection. The PCM signal is then converted to analog by the home theater receiver so that it can be sent through the amplifiers and to the speakers. Because the human ear only hears analog audio signals, the PCM signal must be converted to analog.
  • By converting the PCM signal back to analog form internally, and then transferring the re-created analog signal to a home theater or stereo receiver via standard analog audio connections. In this case, the stereo or home theater receiver does not have to perform any additional conversion for you to hear the sound.
Recommended:  Which Is Better Between Bitstream Vs PCM For Audio? (Detailed Comparison)

Because most CD players only have analog audio output connections, the PCM signal on the disc must be converted to analog by the player. Some CD players (as well as almost all DVD and Blu-ray Disc players) can, however, directly transfer the PCM audio signal via the digital optical or digital coaxial connection options.

Furthermore, most DVD and Blu-ray Disc players can send PCM signals over an HDMI connection. Check the connection options on your player and stereo or home theater receiver.


PCM 5.1 surround sound can be enabled on your audio devices. What is the significance of surround sound? Because of the five speakers and one subwoofer system that users can have in their audio system layout, it is considered surround sound. Dolby Digital, on the other hand, is superior to PCM 5.1 due to its compressed state.

PCM 5.1 Surround Sound
PCM 5.1 Surround Sound

FAQs About PCM 5.1 Audio

Is PCM better than Dolby?

If your only source of entertainment is the television speakers, the PCM setting is the best choice because it lacks compression. When you use the Dolby Digital setting with your stock setup, you'll notice muffled tones and reduced audio clarity.

What does PCM mean in the context of surround sound?

Different types of digital audio recordings are referred to by the terms Pulse-Code Modulation (PCM) and Dolby Digital® technology. The traditional method for converting analog audio to digital audio is PCM.

Is PCM good sound?

People would argue that PCM is inferior to Dolby Digital in terms of technicality because it has fewer channels. However, the reality of this comparison is quite different. You must decide whether you want uncompressed or compressed audio when choosing between PCM and Dolby Digital for sound quality.

Barry Moroney

Hi, Barry here. I'm a tech writer and blogger. I write about the latest technology, gadgets, and software. I also provide the best how-to and guides on the latest sound systems. I'm always excited to share my knowledge with others!


Recent Content