The assortment of products make it hard for the buyers to select the right surround system for them. So, here is a little comparison between a 5.1 surround sound system and a 7.1 system that should help you recognise their differences and help you choose the right one for yourself.
A 5.1 surround sound system contains front left and right speakers, a centre channel speaker, surround left and right speakers and a subwoofer. This surround sound system is adequate enough for a normal sized room. If the manufacturer of the 5.1 surround system is good at what they do, you will be able to enhance your home theatre setup.
A 7.1 surround sound system will truly bring the cinema experience into your home. These systems are how surround sound home cinema systems are meant to work. You get all the speakers that you would with a 5.1 plus surround back left and right speakers when selecting a 7.1 surround system.
As you can tell, the main difference between a 5.1 channel and a 7.1 channel sound system is that one essentially has two more speakers than the other. In this case, the 7.1 has 7 speakers and 1 subwoofer. These two channels (Surround Back Left & Right Speakers) make a whole lot of difference and are what makes a 7.1 system superior to the 5.1 systems. The second difference between these two types of home theatre sound systems is that 7.1 can provide a higher volume than the 5.1.
However, this does not mean that people who own a 5.1 system are at a huge disadvantage. If you setup and configure your system carefully, you can get great sound from your 5.1 home cinema system as well. In addition, 5.1 systems require lesser effort and time to be arranged or wall-mounted.