Surround Sound Systems
A surround system adds much
more than loud music and movies to your home theater. Immersing the viewer
in the movie-watching experience, this audio system is called
“multi-channel” because individual speakers deliver specific channels
of sound. The effect comes from front and center, the special effects come
from the rear and the bass tones are delivered through the
subwoofer: The result: You’re in the middle of the action, and the
reality of the movie is heightened.
A surround system includes at least five speakers (up to seven), and optional subwoofer
or two and a receiver. All components have to be wired through the receiver, and
the speakers should be installed in the best positions for the room in
which you will be watching movies.
A receiver integrates a processor, amplifier and tuner into one chassis.
Pick a receiver that has Dolby Digital and DTS, about 85 to 100 watts per
channel. Prices can vary. If you wish to take it one step farther, you may
purchase separate processors, amplifiers and tuners. This gets more
pricey, but you may choose the exact specifications you wish and have the
components only doing one function, the function they were designed for.
Dolby Surround creates four channels of information: front left,
“phantom” center (created by left and right), front right and rear
surround. There is a greater separation in channels if you move up to
Dolby Pro-Logic, which also incorporates a dedicated center channel but
still has the same signal in both rear speakers. Dolby Digital (also
called Dolby 5.1) adds stereo rear surrounds as well as a dedicated
subwoofer channel (the .1 in 5.1). Recently Dolby introduced 6.1 & 7.1
surround. In this setup, Dolby incorporates an additional two
"back" speakers to totally engulf the listeners in the movie
watching experience. Individuals may also choose to do a 5.2,6.2 or 7.2
surround system, which is simply incorporating a second subwoofer. You must have a Dolby Digital receiver
(or amplifier) to accurately decode the signal, because Dolby Digital uses
its own encoding process.
In a Dolby Digital surround-sound system, you have two front speakers
(left and right), a center channel, two rear surround speakers (left
The center channel produces approximately
80 percent of all the sound heard in an average movie, carrying much of
the dialog as well as music and some effects. Place this speaker either
directly on top of or directly below your television. The left and right
front speakers should match the center channel and mounted an equal
distance from the center channel, pointed toward the listening area.
|Surround speakers ideally should be placed
above and only slightly behind the listening position. A subwoofer is
optional but highly recommended for a true movie experience. Almost all
Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks now have a “.1 LFE” (low-frequency
effects) track designed specifically for a subwoofer. Subwoofers are
typically cube-shaped, with large single woofer pointing either directly
at the ground or directly at the listener. Standard subwoofers are usually
placed in a corner of the room. “Powered” subwoofers are subwoofers
with their own onboard power amps. Movies have more low-bass information
than music, so subs are particularly effective in a home theater.