Tech Tuesday – Surround Sound and how to get it, Part 2
Here we have part two of how to get Surround Sound into your Home Cinema, The AV receiver.
OK, we have discussed the easy option two weeks ago when we talked about Home theatre in a Box (HTiB). But there is another way. This way gives more flexibility plus may sound better too.
This is the way of an “AV Receiver” and “Speakers”.
An AV Receiver is much like a Stereo amplifier that you may find in your old Hi-Fi set up.
That is not to dumb down the importance of the Receiver. It is actually the brains of the out fit. It processes all the audio and video signals from a vast range of inputs (DVD, Blu-Ray, satellite, cable) and then can transmit the video to the display, and the audio to the speakers.
Did you notice that I mentioned VIDEO then? This was a test. Modern receivers are very good at handling both. They will take all the information and send it out for you. Upscale the image if necessary. It is a way of simplifying the already complex connections in a home cinema system.
They are called receivers not because they receive the audio and video, but it is because they have a built-in radio tuner. Not that many home cinemas actually use this functionality. But it is there. And for this reason it is called a receiver.
The AV Receiver will have lots, and we mean many inputs and output on the rear of the unit. The devices send audio to the receiver may send it through stereo analog (red and white connections) Optical or Coaxial (digital) or even HDMI. Which ever you choose the receiver will have a hole for you to stick it into?
Here is a diagram showing you the rear connections on a typical receiver. It will help you decipher the mass of connections…
The AV Receiver will process the sound and send it to your 5.1 (or even 7.1) set up.
While there are many factors to consider when choosing a receiver for your set up. One of the most important ones is its surround capabilities. Many of the receivers available today are capable of 7.1 sound output. Meaning that they can produce surround sound over 7 satellite speakers. They will still do 5.1 if you want, but you always have the option of adding more speakers to heighten the surround experience.
Although even nowadays actually 7.1 sound tracks aren’t very common, the receiver will matrix the 5.1 signal over the extra 2 speakers.
You may also come across a receiver that has a 7.2 capability. This means that an extra sub woofer can be added to the sound system. Why would anyone want 2 sub woofers? Well, it can happen that in a large room the bass sound has flat spots and by having another sub woofer in a different position actually adds beef to the LFE and give a better overall experience.
Ted s. talked last week about different types of surround sound. Dolby Digital and DTS being the most used in the DVD market. But now we have Blu-Ray we have lossless Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HDMA (Master Audio). So that is another thing to look out for on an AV receiver. Even if you are not thinking of getting into the whole HD thing yet. It is probably a good thing long term to look for these on a receivers spec sheet.
An AV receiver need to be able to accept these over HDMI and decode the data, then pump it out to the speakers.
The receiver should also be able to provide Dolby Pro Logic II and DTS Neo:6. These are technologies that take stereo signals and process them into a pseudo surround sound. Most TV shows are filmed in stereo, so you can get a lot more out of say a football game with the crowd behind you than you can out of plan old stereo. It’s no where near as good as true 5.1 but it is still 100% better than your TVs speakers.
Well, that’s the sound side dealt with. Now to the video I mentioned earlier.
It has always been historically that a receiver would handle just the sound but it has become increasingly fashionable for these magical little boxes to be able to handle the video signals too.
I know we can send the video directly to the display but it is much cooler to press DVD on the receivers controller and it switches all the audio over to the correct settings for both video and audio. We then want to watch TV, we select TV/Cable on the receiver and off we go.
While there are many factors to consider when choosing a receiver for your set up. One of the most important ones is its surround capabilities. Many of the receivers available today are capable of 7.1 sound output. Meaning that they can produce surround sound over 7 satellite speakers. They will still do 5.1 if you want, but you always have the option of adding more speakers to heighten the surround
We haven’t got to worry about different connections on the TV. This also cuts down on cable clutter. We would only need 1 HDMI coming out of the receiver to the display. That’s a good thing right?
As you can see from the above image with everything going into the receiver it is a lot less clutter and therefore easier to use. Don’t panic if any of your sources do not use HDMI to connect. Undoubtedly the receiver will have a suitable connection to use. Either component or composite.
How do we know a good one?
OK here are some questions to ask the salesperson when buying in the shop, or to simply ask yourself when buying online…
What is the sound output (5.1, 7.1 etc)?
What is the sound quality like for Music as well as Movies?
Does it offer upscaling of video inputs?
What is the power rating of the amplifier?
Will it fill my room with sound?
Have you got a AV Receiver? Did you find this article helpful? Then comment below…