First of all, what is 7.1? Well, 7.1 is a speaker layout and sound format used for surround sound. It expects seven normal speakers and one subwoofer (bass) speaker, and these are set out roughly in a circle around the listener, with three at the front, two at the sides and two at the back. Quite a few computers and Hi-Fis now support this layout. But, it's not 3D. Because all the channels are at the same height, it's hard to make sounds appear to come from above or below.

3D7.1 is a speaker layout that is designed to work with the kit needed for a 7.1 system. All you need to do is move your speakers into new locations, and use software (like Rapture3D) that knows how to handle them. 3D7.1 was invented by Simon N Goodwin at Codemasters and there's an interesting paper on it at

If you're worried about the trouble of moving your speakers into these locations because you also want to listen to films, you might be interested to know that 3D7.1 is designed so that 5.1 material played directly over a 3D7.1 system will play successfully. 7.1 played directly over a 3D7.1 system would sound pretty odd as the two rear channels would appear in the "rear centre high" and "front centre low" speakers, but there aren't that many films mixed in 7.1 yet, and you probably have an option to downmix the 7.1 to 5.1.

The Layout

If you want to measure out the angles and elevations accurately, they're specified here in degrees, angle measured horizontally, anticlockwise from the front centre (around to the left) and elevation is measured upwards (positive) or downwards (negative).

7.1 Speaker Position3D7.1 Speaker PositionAngleElevationUsed in 5.1
Front LeftFront Left High51+24Yes
Front RightFront Right High309+24Yes
Front CentreFront Centre00Yes
SubwooferSubwoofer  Yes
Rear LeftRear Centre High180+55No
Rear RightFront Centre Low0-55No
Side LeftRear Left Low129-24Yes
Side RightRear Right Low231-24Yes