Thursday, April 19, 2012

Home Theater and Surround Sound

Home Theater System Common Surround Sound Formats Surround Sound Possibilities Surround Sound Speakers Home Theater System For a while, I have been dying for a home theater system. You see, I have a friend who has it all. He doesn't buy stuff to impress people – he just loves high-tech gadgets and has the money to spend on them. He has been working on his home theater systems gear for about three years now, and it is really coming together. He actually has the best home theater speaker system that I have ever seen, and his tv is not shabby either. He has one of those new widescreen TVs – not the newest ones, but the ones from a generation before. It is still extremely high resolution, and although it takes up a huge portion of the room, it is worth it. I have been saving up for the most perfect home theater system that I can find. You see, just for once I wanted to have the best one. My friend always has nicer stuff than I have. He wears better clothes, he drives a better car, and of course he has a better home theater system. He knows all about theater home system design as well. You see, and he is an acoustic engineer professionally, so he loves really high-quality audio gear. I know what TV I want to get, but I can't quite decide on home theater audio systems. What kind of home theatre system should I get? Part of me wants to get one of those over the top, extremely high powered home theater systems. I want to be able to turn up the sound as loud as I want and scare the neighbors. Another part of me, however, thinks that I'm getting too old for that. Rationally, I think it would be better served by a home theater system with flat-panel speakers. I have heard that that kind of home theater system delivers the best sound quality, which is kind of the whole point. The really tough thing is that there is nowhere I can try out a home theater system before I buy it. Oh sure, I can try it in the store, but the acoustics of the store have nothing in common with the acoustics in my house. How will I know if the home theater system will play the way I want it to if I don't get to listen to it inside? Oh well – sooner or later I'll make a decision. Common Surround Sound Formats In case you hadn't figured it out by now, surround sound is named as it is because the sound literally surrounds the listener. While there have recently been significant leaps and bounds in this technology there was a huge gap in time between the introduction of this technology and the significant improvements we have seen in recent years. This is especially true when the evolution of sound technology is compared to how fast the world of video has evolved over the last three decades. There are many different formats on the market today. This can be confusing for many consumers though the good news is that most devices that interpret the formats do so automatically. In other words, you won't need a PhD in terminology in order to enjoy the latest blockbuster hit to come out on DVD with your surround sound system. You will however need a good AV receiver and even better speakers in order to get the maximum enjoyment from your home theater and surround sound system. If you are simply curious or like to know a little about a lot, then you just might find some of the following explanations for common surround sound formats to be useful. Dolby Digital AC-3 is by far the most commonly seen surround sound format. It is a 5.1 channel format (this means five speakers plus one subwoofer). This is what most DVDs will include and some programs that are found on digital cable or satellite channels will have this type of surround sound as well. You can use Dolby Digital for older mediums that do not include surround sound in their format, as surround isn't required in order to use the system. Pro Logic is a system used by Dolby in order to translate or decode the signals from other mediums such as old videocassette tapes or television broadcasts. This is becoming widely known for its ability to take two speaker sounds and turn them into shockingly realistic surround imitations. DTS is the largest competitor for Dolby when it comes to sound. DTS is this company's answer to Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound. This is mostly seen only on DVDs. DTS-ES is the above-mentioned company's answer to Dolby's 6.1 surround system (this is 6 speakers plus 1 subwoofer). Of course DTS is also going to have their own answer to Pro Logic and that answer would be DTS NEO:6, which is said to produce great imitations of surround sound from existing 2 channel mediums very much like Pro Logic. You may be wondering why we went through all of this information and the primary reason is so that you know there is a difference and you purchase equipment and DVDs that are compatible with one another. Failure to do so could result in a sound that is less than desirable. Most systems will at the very least support both Dolby Digital and DTS, however, you should make sure that you are aware of the format your system requires from the start in order to make the proper decisions when purchasing. Much like anything in life the proper formats and surround sound system comes down to a matter of choice. The more speakers (such as you would find in the 6.1 or 7.1 surround systems) will present a great quality of sound than fewer, however poor quality speakers can completely ruin the beauty of the sound of your surround sound system. Your speakers should be your single largest investment when it comes to building your ideal surround sound system. There are many things that go into creating not only the perfect surround sound system for your home but also the perfect surround sound set up. Do not get so caught up in researching these systems online that you neglect to walk into your local stores and actually hear the sound systems you are considering for purchase. There is noting like hearing the quality of the sound to help you make your final selection. Surround Sound Possibilities In case you are wondering why so many people make the investment in surround sound equipment, systems, and speakers there are many reasons for many different people. When it comes to surround sound, just as with many other things in life there is no one size fits all answer though for the most part the answer wouldn't be because Mr. Jones has one (well maybe for some it would but for the most part it has more to do with wanting the system for a specific reason). There are a few common reasons that people decide to invest in surround sound and home theater systems and we will explore a few of them over the course of the next few paragraphs. Perhaps you will find the inspiration to get a surround sound system of your very own. I will start with my very own personal reasons. First, when I was growing up my father was the manager of our local cinema. I spent many nights sleeping in the office and watching movies from the projector room and those are some of the fondest memories of my childhood. I will never forget watching The Return of the Jedi the night before it was released in the projector room with my father and a few members of the theater staff but there was nothing compared to watching the movies inside the auditorium. What was different? The sound. There is not enough that can be said about the quality of sound inside a theater and in days long past it simply couldn't be imitated at home. However technology has been evolving over the course of the last ten years that is allowing us to bring the same quality of sound into our homes for a reasonable price. That is reason enough for me-to relive fond childhood memories. Another excellent reason for bringing a surround sound system into your home is not so much for watching movies or enjoying the big screen as for the enjoyment of video games. Whether you are playing in the World of Warcraft or one of the many other wonderful worlds that have been created for online gaming enjoyment you will find that surround sound is a beneficial tool in keeping your character alive and intact. These games provide important clues that place you in the center of action with knowledge of what is going on around you if you take advantage of the audible clues, hints, and tips that are provided through ambient surround sounds. If the reasons above aren't enough to convince you to take a trip over to the bright side of the entertainment room, then perhaps the enhancements that surround sound provides to music will do the trick. Imagine hearing your favorite music with a fuller and richer sound, with the nuances completely defined and obvious to the ear. There is so much that can be said about the difference that surround sound makes (more with some types of music than others) and yet not enough that can be said about it. If you enjoy live recordings, imagine the ability to become a part of the crowd as the ambient sounds of being there fill your room. It's truly an amazing effect for music. As you can see there are many reasons to bring the wonders of surround sound into your home. I hope this article has shed some light on ways that it could improve your multimedia enjoyment and possibly given you some ideas for expanding your current use of your surround sound system. Surround Sound Speakers When you are building a home theater or surround sound system for your home there are many things that must be considered in order to create the best possible system and solution for the space you have in which to create it. We live in a world where floor space and real estate are premiums and we only give them up begrudgingly. It is very true that the best speakers on the market (even today) are generally stand speakers and they occupy a tremendous amount of prime real estate within your media room or home theater. For this reason we are seeing technological emphasis placed on improving speaker design and making them smaller more now than at any other time in the history of speakers. This is good news for you as a consumer since it means that there is both emerging technology in these smaller speakers and that you will see lower price in the race to create the best small speakers on the market. For many consumers this offers a win-win situation that is too tempting to pass when shopping. It is important however that you remember to see, or in this case hear, for yourself the quality of these smaller speakers before you make the rather sizeable investment that a good set of surround sound speakers will require. The good news for those of you are experiencing a little bit of sticker shock over the price tag is that speakers should be the largest investment you make in your total surround sound system by far. They are the most vital components to the overall sound and your entire investment will be wasted in your other equipment if you do not have superior quality speakers in your system. While the number of speakers will increase the quality and depth of the sound and the overall surround experience, good quality is more important than greater numbers, you can always add more speakers to your collection later. I do urge you to purchase the entire set together if possible however, if you can only purchase 6 (remember there's a subwoofer involved as well) rather than 8 at first, then I recommend that you do that rather than going with inferior quality in order to get two more speakers. If you do not purchase your speakers as a complete set you need to make sure that the speakers you purchase later are compatible with the speakers in your surround sound system. In most cases this isn't a problem if you purchase the same brand and style however if there has been a significant passage of time or shift in technology it could prove problematic. A typical set of speakers for a 5.1 channel surround sound system will include two channel speakers (front left and right), one front center channel speaker, two rear channel speakers (rear left and right) and a subwoofer. A 6.1 channel surround sound system adds one more speaker in the center rear and moves the rear left and right speakers of a 5.1 system to the side left and right respectively. A 7.1 channel surround sound system will add an additional rear speaker and have one on each side rather than one in the center. The sound is the most important feature of any surround sound system and there are many things that go into creating the perfect sound. When it comes to home theaters and surround sound systems the only way to know for sure that you will be getting what you want for your space is to listen to the sound. You may find that what sounded like sound nirvana in the sound room doesn't ring so true in your living room. Make sure that the store or website from which you are purchasing has a liberal return policy on components and speakers-especially speakers as they are the most costly components of your surround sound system and the most expensive to replace.

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