This general term refers to the use of multiple loudspeakers (and associated mixing intended for these loudspeakers) in the creation of immersive spatial listening environments for audiences or individuals. The term is most closely associated with technological and artistic developments in cinema sound, with the production, encoding and playback of digital soundtracks extended from historical frontal spatial configuration to surround the audience in a 360° field. There are a number of commercially competing alternatives in technological standard in this area, and developments are now increasingly becoming incorporated for use with home entertainment systems. With the development of the audio DVD from the CD, some electroacoustic practitioners are exploring opportunities that may exist in domestic listening situations, as well as fixing elements of live or pre-determined spatialisation as it might be experienced in the concert hall for home listening.
The term may also be used by some to more loosely refer to any technical or experiential spatial arrangement of sound beyond stereo.