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1.4.8. Multichannel Audio

An audio channel is a single path of audio data. Multichannel audio is any audio which uses more than one channel simultaneously, allowing the transmission of more audio data than single-channel audio.
Audio was originally recorded with only one channel, producing "monophonic," or "mono" recordings. Beginning in the 1950s, stereophonic recordings, with two independent channels, began replacing monophonic recordings. Since humans have two independent ears, it makes sense to record and reproduce audio with two independent channels, involving two speakers. Most sound recordings available today are stereophonic, and people have found this mostly satisfying.
There is a growing trend toward five- and seven-channel audio, driven primarily by "surround-sound" movies, and not widely available for music. Two "surround-sound" formats exist for music: DVD Audio (DVD-A) and Super Audio CD (SACD). The development of these formats, and the devices to use them, is held back by the proliferation of headphones with personal MP3 players, a general lack of desire for improvement in audio quality amongst consumers, and the copy-protection measures put in place by record labels. The result is that, while some consumers are willing to pay higher prices for DVD-A or SACD recordings, only a small number of recordings are available. Even if you buy a DVD-A or SACD-capable player, you would need to replace all of your audio equipment with models that support proprietary copy-protection software. Without this equipment, the player is often forbidden from outputting audio with a higher sample rate or sample format than a conventional audio CD. None of these factors, unfortunately, seem like they will change in the near future.