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This paper presents a systematic framework for the analysis and design of circular multichannel surround sound systems. Objective analysis based on the concept of active intensity fields shows that for stable rendition of monochromatic plane waves it is beneficial to render each such wave by no more than two channels. Based on that finding, we propose a methodology for the design of circular microphone arrays, in the same configuration as the corresponding loudspeaker system, which aims to capture inter-channel time and intensity differences that ensure accurate rendition of the auditory perspective. The methodology is applicable to regular and irregular microphone/speaker layouts, and a wide range of microphone array radii, including the special case of coincident arrays which corresponds to intensity-based systems. Several design examples, involving first and higher-order microphones are presented. Results of formal listening tests suggest that the proposed design methodology achieves a performance comparable to prior art in the center of the loudspeaker array and a more graceful degradation away from the center.