Why Surround Sound? If you are one of the many people around the world who hasn't yet switched to surround sound or a home theater system of some sort you may be wondering what the big fuss is all about. Can it really make that much of a difference to watching the television? The answer to that is that unless you have difficulties with your hearing, surround sound can make a marked impact on your overall movie viewing, computer gaming, and music listening experience. There is nothing like being in the center of the action and surround sound puts you in just that spot. You can hear the sounds the victim hears in your favorite crime drama from the same direction from which she hears those same sounds. You are literally in the middle of the action right along with her. Your heart will beat right along with subwoofer as anticipation builds (courtesy once again of the surround sound system) in your favorite suspense thriller. It's almost indescribably the way in which surround sound enriches the movie watching experience for even the most casual of movie watchers. I will be the first to admit that I'm notorious for knitting or reading while watching television or movies and only looking up when something captures my attention-generally something I heard or a flash on the screen. This means that sound actually makes me pay attention to what is going on in the movies that I am listening to. I have noticed a marked difference in my interest in movies and television shows since adding surround sound to our home theater system. More and more often I am noticing that scarves and such take twice as long to accomplish and I blame it entirely on the superior sound that is part and parcel to our surround sound system. You may not be someone who watches all that much television or even that goes to the movies all that often. If computer games happen to be your thing then you are going to love what surround sound can do for you. In case you've forgotten that little bit about it placing you in the center of the action, this works wonders in game and provides important hints to you as to what is going on around you. You can hear the bad guys (or merely the other side) as they attempt to sneak up on you and know where they are coming from. You can hear the hoof beats in the distance or hear the fires burning in barrels off to your left. You can hear the starships flying by as if you were right next to them in the middle of it all. It's truly an amazing boost to game reality and to the fun of gaming. For music lovers, you can feel as though you were sitting right in front of the orchestra or on the front row at a concert for your favorite band. If you are playing music that is recorded live you will really enjoy the feeling of being in the middle of the crowd without the smoke and other fumes that might otherwise detract from your good time. Whether your first love is video, movies, games, or music surround sound has a way to make each of those experiences even more enjoyable in the comfort of your home. Surround Sound Basics The importance of surround sound is often overlooked when it comes to building and creating home theater systems. You should never underestimate that power that sound holds over all of our television, movie, and sporting event watching experiences. Movie sound tracks are often used in order to create drama, heighten suspense, and even to enhance moods or themes within the movie. Surround sound is for more than mere movies and television however. This great type of sound also serves to bring great depth to our favorite music Surround sound gets its name from the fact that you are literally surrounded with the sound. This is a vast improvement over the typical two speaker systems in the days of old (oddly enough not all that long ago). Surround sound works to imitate the ambient noises that we often hear during the course of the day. This is often done for the purpose of art imitating life. By hearing the roll of thunder from every side rather than merely the left or the right we are experiencing the real beauty of surround sound and enjoying the more realistic effects it lends itself to. When you are looking into surround sound systems for your home or home theater you will come across some terminology that may seem foreign and unfamiliar. Surround Sound 5.1 indicates a system that uses five speakers and one subwoofer in order to deliver the sounds. This sound is often referred to as Dolby Digital. A new term that has been cropping up more and more often in movie circles is THX. This is known as surround sound 6.1, which involves the use of 6 speakers and a subwoofer. The center speaker in this system should be located in the center behind the listener in order to add yet another layer to the sound. Surround sound 7.1 adds yet another speaker to the mix in order to create an even more authentic sound. The more speakers in your surround sound system, the more realistic the sound will be and the better able you will be as an audience member to find your place within the action. In order to get surround sound you need more than a set of speakers. You will first need a receiver in order to 'receive' and process the information and send the digital signals and sounds in the direction they should go. If you are building a home theater you will want to make a good receiver a key investment in your overall system. This is an important component as sound is vital to a true 'movie going' experience, which is what a good home theater is meant to imitate. A good receiver is essential not only for a good home theater but also any surround sound system that you wish to install (many people use these exclusively for gaming as well and they are quite effective for this particular purpose). When it comes to gaming, surround sound can identify your location in the action of the game. This works much like it does when watching movies. The more speakers you have in your system the better able you will be to identify from which direction actions, sounds, and such are being made. In games this can provide important clues that those with lesser sound systems will miss out on. Talk about an edge? While the main purpose of surround sound is to simply enhance the entertainment experience I can think of very few better things to invest in when it comes to either a home theater or the ultimate gaming computer. Do your homework on the systems that are available and remember that good quality speakers are essential in carrying out the sound properly and you should plan to make a sizeable investment in both the speakers and the receiver or other sound components (if you decide to go that route for even better quality sound). Whatever you are using it for be sure that you play around with the sounds to find the best level for your personal enjoyment of your surround sound system. Pieces Parts Components and Sound If you are in the market for a surround sound system I'm sure you are trying to learn as much as possible about options before you reach the buying stage. One thing to keep in mind is that there are many options and most of them will come down to a matter of taste when all is said and done. There is no right or wrong component or process when it comes to buying a surround sound system only what does and doesn't work for you and the space you have available. You will find throughout the process that there are many parts, pieces, and components that you may purchase for your surround sound system and even more prices for those individual items. Ultimately the decision comes down to how much of a sound snob you are. Seriously. I must admit that my personal preference is for the most possible sound saturation and the most realistic possible sound as possible. For this reason I am more interested in buying the components as individuals rather than a simple AV receiver. This does not mean that an AV receiver wouldn't be perfectly adequate (especially in relation to the size of my rather small media room) but that I prefer the added control over the sound that individual components provides. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you which will work best for your situation as your tastes and requirements will also play heavily on which decision is best for you as will your budget. Some people do not place nearly as much emphasis on sound as I do and most people have budget constraints that make individual components seem like a bit of overkill. However, if you spend, as much time as I do submersing yourself in experiences that require sound, then you will find that the investment in these components may be well worth every penny. You will pay a few though and should understand that now. If you want to build a fabulous surround sound system you will need to start with the preamp or processor. This will be the heart of your sound system and works as a surround processor, AM/FM radio, amplifier, and preamp in one. This piece of equipment receives the signals and then sends them on their merry way. Amazingly enough the information always seems to find its way where it should go-assuming of course that everything is plugged into its proper channel. The tuner allows you to receive and process AM/FM radio signals, XM or Satellite Radio, and some High Definition signals as well. The amplifier adds power to the sound or as its name implies, amplifies it. This allows the sound to 'reach' across the room so that everyone in the room is touched by it. These components each achieve functions individually that a good quality AV receiver can accomplish. The difference is always in degrees and depth. The AV receiver allows some of the functionality of each but doesn't quite match the control and nuances that can be achieved with any one of the pieces individually. The average consumer doesn't need that sizeable of an investment in equipment, money, time, or space in order to achieve excellent theater quality sound in their home theater system and that is the important thing to remember. If you are hoping to imitate a 'theater' experience in an average size room, chances are you will never need anything more than a decent AV receiver and an excellent set of speakers. The more speakers you have in your surround sound system, the better the quality of the sound will be. However, better quality speakers will trump marginal quality equipment any day while marginal quality speakers can still ruin the sound of even the best quality AV equipment. The best advice I can give you when purchasing equipment for your surround sound system is to make sure you put your money in your speakers and sort the rest out afterwards. 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 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. Proper Surround Sound Setup If you are in the market for a brand new surround sound system I'm pretty sure you've been a little baffled by all the options, bells, whistles, gadgets, gizmos, and price tags on the market today. Trust me, you are not alone. One of the most baffling things to many potential surround sound system consumers is where on earth should you put all the speakers. I intend to answer that question and a few more over the course of the next few paragraphs and hope that you will read along. The first thing you need to understand is that there are several different types of surround sound systems. The industry standard and most common is the 5.1 channel surround sound system. This set up calls for the use of five speakers plus one subwoofer in addition to the receiver. The five speakers are the front speakers which include a left, right, and center speaker and the left and right surround speakers that are located to the left and right from the rear. You should also have a subwoofer located behind you in order to create the 'bass notes' of sound. The next two types of surround sound systems include the 6.1 channel and 7.1 channel system. The primary differences in these are the addition of one additional speaker for each. You will be glad to know that most receivers will accommodate the 8 total speakers of a 7.1 channel surround sound system but you may want to check in order to be certain you can upgrade if you chose to buy a 5.1 channel system for the time being. The addition of speakers when you upgrade change the layout of the speakers in your home. The more speakers you have, the greater sound you will enjoy, however, the better the quality of your speakers, the better quality your sound will have. In other words don't go with lower quality speakers in the beginning in order to have more speakers, as you will be shooting the quality of sound you can experience in the foot. It is better to buy fewer speakers in the beginning and add to your system over time in order to receive better quality. When it comes to the placement of the additional speakers if you upgrade to a 6.1 channel surround sound system you will move the speakers currently in the left and right rear to the left and right side and place the new speaker in the center back. If you then upgrade to the 7.1 channel surround sound system you will move the speaker that is in the center to the rear left and place the new speaker to the rear right. This allows you to be literally surrounded by the sound in order to maximize your listening experience. Of course this is only a recommendation and it is entirely up to you what will work best within your home and according to your tastes and wants in a surround sound system. Not everyone hears music or sound the same and the experience for each will vary greatly from one person to the next. For this reasons it is also a good idea to be sure you have listened to the system in a store before deciding on one and bringing it home. This is a wise decision regardless. I also recommend taking more than one CD or DVD for the listening process in order to make sure the quality is consistent through different mediums. While the setup of your system is very important to the sound experience it is quite difficult provided you follow the directions (you didn't forget to read those did you?). Whether this is your first home theater or surround sound system or one of many upgrades you've made along the way I'm sure you will agree that the sound is far superior to the two speaker systems of days not that long ago. Bringing Theater Quality Sound Home If you are one of the many people around the world who loves the sound quality of watching movies in theaters but hates the hassles (crying babies, people talking, cell phones ringing, etc) of actually going then I hope you are seriously contemplating the value that a home theater or surround sound system could bring to your movie enjoyment. In fact, a good surround sound system cannot only improve your overall enjoyment of blockbuster hits but also your favorite music and video games as well. Surround sound is far more than a tool for watching movies at home, it is an entirely new way to look at and listen to your television in general. You do not have to begin your home theater or surround sound experience with a top of the line piece of equipment. It is quite possible to start small with a surround sound system and build a better system as you go. In fact, I seriously recommend that people invest heavily in speakers from the beginning and sacrifice the number of speakers in favor of better quality speakers. In addition to this there are many box kits out there that are designed for almost any budget on the market. You can find box kits for everything from basic surround sound systems to home theater in a box. If you are seriously considering the enjoyment this can bring into your home there is no time like the present to start checking out your options. I never recommend simply walking into the store and purchasing the first kit you find though you are certainly welcome to do just that. I feel that you might walk away from the experience a little jaded however and highly suggest that you go to a local retail center that has sound rooms set up in order to listen to the many options that are currently on the market and compare the sound and the quality of the sound within those items in your price range. I suggest that you start on the low side and work your way up rather than starting at the high end and working your way down. When you find the quality of sound you are most comfortable with, this is the system I recommend you go home and research. Compare prices online to see if you can find any major values and bargains. The Internet is usually full of good deals for consumers that are willing to sort through many companies that market online. While the Internet is the land of opportunity for some, I also recommend that you take the lowest price you find online to your local retail store and see if they can match it or throw in a few perks to sweeten the deal. You could find some interesting deals by doing this and it costs nothing to try and could save you money in the long run. The point is to get the best system your money can buy (without sending you to the 'poor house' in the process). Once you have decided on the system you want all bets are off when it comes to finding the best price. We live in a consumer driven marketplace and as a consumer you do have control over where your money is spent and whether or not you are willing to pay the price of spending your money elsewhere. You know the quality you expect, as you've listened and compared in the stores, and you know the price that you are willing to pay for that quality. Most consumers are learning this fact and willing to make concessions in order to compete with those companies that operate online. See what your local retailers can offer you and if they can't match what you've found online you should be willing to go with the online service. This is a great way for you as a consumer to know what you are getting and feel as though you've gotten a good deal in the process. More importantly you get to bring the theatrical experience you love so much into your very own living room. Now the only kids crying over your movie will be your own. Budget Friendly Surround Sound A good home theater and surround sound system for your movie enjoying pleasure is a rather large investment for the common movie buff-at least if you are purchasing a really high quality system for your home theater or media room. This isn't to say that you cannot find decent surround sound systems for small spaces that come with much lower price tags than you will ordinarily find on the market. In fact, there are many ways in which you can buy a decent surround sound system for a small room even if you are limited by budget constraints. Second Hand Systems Buying second hand from Ebay carries some degree of risk but a reputable seller is often a good place to start. There are some people who simply can't stand to have technology that is 6 months or even 6 days for some matters, old. Their loss is your gain as you can score a really nice surround sound system, speakers included at amazingly low prices if the bidding works in your favor and you know a little about brands and quality. Pawnshops and electronics consignment stores are other good places to find bargains on this particular sort of equipment. Buy Boxed Sets I'm typically opposed to box sets when it comes to electronics as there have been many instances in the past where these were merely a method of pawning off inferior goods on an unsuspecting public. However, big names such as Bose have gone over to the dark side so to speak and are beginning to offer box sets of surround sound speakers at surprisingly and amazingly reasonable price tags. There are cheaper brands than Bose, don't get me wrong, I use them as an indication of the wide variety and standards you will find in surround sound speaker systems that come in box sets today. The good news is that you can get really good prices on speaker systems such as this if you are willing to shop around. Compare Prices It really does pay in this day and age to do just that. Even if you have a favorite retailer chances are that you could get a better price through them by doing a simple search online and looking for a lower advertised price. If not, it might be worth your while to go with the Internet provider this time and save your money for DVDs and music with which to enjoy your new surround sound system. I also recommend seeing what local competition has to offer; you'll be amazed at some of the wonderful bargains you can find by walking into a store on any given day. I know that stores like Circuit City have great bargains on featured items during the week in order to boost sales. You never know when one of those items might be an outstanding surround sound systems or a phenomenal set of speakers. Wait it out If you have your heart set on one surround sound system and nothing else will do, then it may be in your best interest to wait until the price drops. In electronics terms that often means waiting about 6 months or until the next consumer expo event (this is when all the new technology is introduced, which makes all the existing technology drop its prices in order to seem more appealing). Both of these options may seem unappealing but can mean very real and very significant savings on your part if you are willing to wait in order to get what you really want. Not only does this give you time for the prices to decrease but also for the size of your savings to increase. While shopping on a budget isn't always the preferred method it is very possible to get a decent home theater or surround sound system for your home even if you are working within the limits of a seriously impaired budget. Surround Sound for Meager Budgets Buying a surround sound system or home theater on a budget doesn't have to be mission impossible. In fact, it is quite easy to work with almost any budget when purchasing these systems in today's marketplace. The thing you have to remember is that you do most often get what you pay for and the higher quality systems are going to cost more money. It is often difficult once you've experienced the difference in sound quality of the higher end surround sound systems to make the decision to purchase one that fits within lower budget requirements but you can get sound quality for a lower price and stay on budget if you shop very carefully. The first thing you need to do is set priorities. If you are looking for a surround system, then focus on that rather than flitting back and forth between home theaters and surround sound systems. You will do much better economically and quality wise to go with a surround sound system rather than a home theater in a box sort of kit in the same price range and the only major difference is that a home theater kit in a box often comes with a DVD player. The sacrifice usually lies in the speaker when you purchase a kit such as this for your home. You can not only save money by purchasing the surround sound system as a stand alone system you can get better quality in both the sound system and the DVD/DVR if you purchase them separately rather than together. You can find speakers and components for surround systems in all kinds of price ranges. You want to make sure that if you are purchasing a box set for your surround sound system that it has all the parts and components you will need in order to get theater quality sound. These sets and systems can be found at amazing prices in large retail chains around the country. If you are willing to wait for sales you can even get better prices on them. Set a budget before you begin shopping however and do not allow yourself to be talked into something that is outside your budget. There will always be temptations to spend more when it comes to electronics. That bigger screen, the larger subwoofer, the better amplifier-there's always one more temptation to get your dollars. The thing you must be prepared for is not only to try to get the best quality and greatest functionality for the least amount of money but also to stay within a certain budget limit in order to accomplish your goal. If you overspend now, it will result in delays for upgrades or additions later on. Another thing you can do in order to stay within budget is to purchase a 5.1 surround sound system with 6 speakers (5 plus the subwoofer) that can expand to a 7.1 speakers with the addition of speakers over time. This allows you to expand and improve your system in time but gives you a good starting point, provided that you have good quality speakers. There really isn't enough that can be said about the budget friendliness of a system that can be upgraded and expanded over time. If you get a nice base system it is possible that you will be able to change the speakers over time as your budget becomes more flexible and electronics friendly (you will need to check and make sure as to matters of compatibility however). Despite the high price of many surround sound and home theater systems, it is quite possible to own a system of your very own and greatly enhance your home television viewing and sound experience greatly without going to debtor's prison on the process. Take the time to compare prices, learn what you absolutely need and what you can live without, and start small, then build up to a better system rather than going into the buying process with an all or nothing attitude. You just might find that you have a far superior system over time with half the investment others have made in theirs. Upgradeable Surround Sound There are many great and not so great surround sound and home theater systems on the market today. With so many from which to choose how on earth do you know what to look for in order to get your money's worth? The answer to that just might be easier than you have imagined. The thing to remember when it comes to technology is that it is constantly evolving. This means that it is in your best interest to find a surround sound or home theater system that is upgradeable. In fact, I would say that this alone would be my number one requirement when purchasing a home theater or surround sound system in today's market. If you purchase an AV receiver that has room to expand as technology for sound advances then you have the foundation for building an even better system over time. If you can find a good deal on an AV receiver that is also THX certified then you are setting the stage for an outstanding system once you have everything in place. While speakers are extremely important you can buy the 5 speakers plus subwoofer that you will need for a 5.1 channel surround sound system at a reasonable price and make plans to purchase better speakers in time. You want to make certain that the speakers you buy are some that you can definitely live with as you save for even better speakers in the future but buying a set for now that has a decent quality of sound rather than stretching your budget for those that are better means that you can save your money and in time buy an even better set of speakers for your surround sound system or home theater. The really good news is the speakers you like today that are just out of your price range will be priced lower this time next year. Of course, there will be even better speakers on the market by that time. If you save your money over the course of the next year in a year you can upgrade to a far superior system even while you've been enjoying the system you currently own the entire time. Imagine how much more pleasure you will receive from your investment once you've made an upgrade? Another great thing to think about when it comes to upgrades is that they are not an all or nothing proposition. You can upgrade one piece at a time and never have to go without in order to achieve excellent sound quality that simply keeps getting better. While I know on one hand that sacrifice is good for the soul I'm never too thrilled about giving up things that bring me pleasure in order to get better things later. Doing things this way I get to have great sound while I'm saving for even better sound in the future. It's like having your caking and your neighbors cake too! As you wander through the aisles of your local electronics store and check out all the options that are available be sure to take the time to look at things you will wish to make plans for in the future. Be sure that the components you buy today are in line with the things you'd like to add to your surround sound system in the future and don't lose sight of the ultimate goal by overspending on a starter set. The AV Receiver The surround sound receiver is an important piece of equipment that is more commonly referred to as the AV receiver. AV in this particular instance refers to audio and video. In other words, the receiver receives all this information and then plays traffic cop directing it where it should go. If you purchase an all in one sort of AV receiver you will notice that in addition to conducting traffic this particular tool wears many hats when it comes to effectively running your home theater or surround sound system. The receiver functions in the capacity of a switch for all audio and visual information that comes into your home theater system. This device takes all the source information and data and literally switches (or translates if you will) that data into pictures and sound. Without something to operate in this capacity it would be impossible to have a home theater system as the information couldn't be properly filtered and translated into the areas in which it needs to go. Surround decoding is yet another task that the AV receiver performs with grace. Surround sound is encoded onto the discs that we play in our theater or sound equipment. The most common type of encoding is designed for 5.1 channel surround sound systems such as Dolby Digital or DTS receivers. There are others that exist but the vast majority of DVDs are designed and encoded for the above mentioned 5.1 channel systems. As if these weren't enough the AV receiver also works in the capacity of a signal processor. Common signals that are processed by the receiver are the following: THX post-processing, bass management, digital audio decoding, and simulated soundfields. If at all possible and budget friendly to do so you should really take the effort to find an AV receiver that is THX certified. The requirements to meet the minimal certification standards make a system that meets those standards an excellent investment for your home theater or surround sound needs. Amplification is yet another of the many tasks performed regularly by your AV receiver. This is an important task to your surround sound and the overall 'theatrical' experience of viewing movies on your home theater. You will probably be wise to check with your retailer about how much amplification you actually need in your home theater, as there are many mitigating factors that affect that number. Among some of the mitigating factors are: ceiling height, square footage of the room, flooring material and other things as well). While more power is good in most situations there are times when it is simply too much for your system to handle. This is one reason that many people opt to buy ready-made box kits for their surround sound and home theater needs. Last but certainly not least, the AV receiver actually works as a tuner for AM/FM radio. Don't be too shocked and awed by all the jobs that this one little device does, just remember this when you see the sticker price and think to yourself how much more you would pay if you were buying a separate device for each of these functions. We should all be grateful to the person who invented this particular contraption and be glad to pay the price we are paying for the amazing sound that is produced. 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 Gaming Blows the Competition Away In the worldwide realm of online gaming surround sound is becoming an important tool for obtaining and maintaining an edge over the competition. Sound provides important clues to things that are taking place around us, this is no different in the cyber world and made possible through the use of emerging technologies and the copious use of surround sound technology and equipment. The good news for gamers is that you do not have to have a computer room or home office that is filled with speakers and surround sound equipment. If your computer has a sound card that is set up for surround sound, there are plenty of headphones on the market that support this sort of sound setup. In fact, this is becoming a growing industry in the realm of computer gaming and simply increasing the quality of sound as computers are more and more often used as media centers rather than mere portals to the World Wide Web and all ports of call in between. We are demanding more and more from our personal computers today than ever before and savvy professionals are consistently creating software and hardware that meets our growing demands. Video and sound cards that support real time gaming action and better than real life quality sound are certainly only a few of the ways in which computer technology is improving at the speed of light and yet they are often the points where that evolution is most noticeable. It's nearly impossible to tell whether or not the rate at which computers are evolving is the hardware makers trying to keep pace with the software creators or the other way around. Either way it means more realistic and action oriented, real-time games are hitting the market without bogging down the systems or overtaxing the technology that is currently in place, provided of course that you are upgrading at least every two years in order to keep pace with emerging technologies. If you haven't checked out some of the top of the line PCs of today you really should check out all they can do. Don't go to your local Wal-mart and see the best of their best, as it is not going to be a good indicator of superior quality computing. You should instead go with online companies such as Alienware and check out their top systems. The functionality and speed at which these systems operate is simply staggering. The lowest end laptop that they offer can outperform my home PC on any given Sunday and probably with one processor tied behind its back. Add to this type of functionality the addition of surround sound and you have a system that is well worth drooling over (not that I would drool-ever). Regardless of whether you are easily impressed by technology it is quite difficult not to be impressed by the rate at which the technology of sound is improving-particularly when it comes to surround sound systems that are available for both home theaters and computers in the market of today. Whether you use your personal computer for gaming or media viewing and manipulation there is a lot of entertainment that a good sound card (with surround capabilities) and a nice set of surround sound headphones can add to your overall sound experience. Check out the options on the market today and compare them with what is in your computer at the moment. You just may be blown away by the competition. Speaker Quality Speaks Volumes There are many pieces, parts, and components to a home theater system. One of the most important when it comes to achieving the overall 'movie going' experience is surround sound. While there are many pieces of equipment for the average home theater that can be purchased over time, surround sound is typically one component that needs to be purchased together if possible, at the very least it is wise to purchase the speakers as a set rather than mixing and matching quality and sounds. Just as the surround sound system is one of, if not the most important components in a good home theater system, the speakers are the most integral and important component of any decent surround sound system. You can skimp on some aspects of quality in amplifiers, receivers, and even tuners but if you skimp on the quality of your speakers it will not matter how much of an investment you've made in everything else because the sound will be inferior. People define their movie going experiences differently. For some, it is the smell of freshly popped popcorn that defines the experience and others find that the dark colors and the sweet smell of the syrup from the soda fountains is part of the experience (some things simply can't be imitated easily at home). There are many however, who find that sound is what sets the theater apart from home movie viewing and the one thing that keeps them coming back despite the interruptions provided by other patrons with cell phones, hungry children, or frequent trips to the restrooms. The one thing that sets a theater apart for many people is one thing that we now have the technology to bring into our homes. Even better is the fact that the price tag on this particular technology is decreasing as competition, supply, demand, and technological advances increase. There is never too much to be said about how quickly the newness of electronics expires in order to be replaced by something newer and better next year. I remember a time when DVD players were priced well over $300 for the most basic of models. You can purchase them now for a mere $30 if you can find a decent sale and those models have more features than the originals. Can you imagine how little surround sound systems will be selling for an a few short years? We are already seeing significant price drops in the box systems that are being sold on the market today. Gone are the days when these systems were merely the off brands trying to generate some sells by offering a low price and questionable quality. The boxed surround sound systems of today are carrying well-known names as their brands and providing some pretty stiff competition to those who aren't willing to offer the box sets when it comes to price. That being said, you will want to take the effort to listen to any system you are considering before you buy it. It takes no small investment of time and energy in order to set up a surround sound system and while there are no guarantees that a system will sound the same in your home or apartment as it sounds in the store having a clue as to any problems before getting it home and setting it up will save both time and money in the long run. If the speakers you buy aren't adequate quality for the system you have purchased the sound will disappointing to say the least. My favorite scene for testing the sound quality of surround sound systems is the first 10 minutes of the movie Top Gun. Buy the DVD and take it with you whenever you try out systems for your home. If you find one set or system that blows you away with the quality of sound you should seriously consider that for your home theater and surround sound system. Space Saving Surround Sound Solutions Space has become the final frontier when dealing with many things on this planet rather than off. In our homes, space is often a premium, particularly that oh so valuable floor space that is always inviting something to occupy it. The good news is that they surround sound systems of today have gone a long way towards conquering the old dilemma of needing too much prime real estate in your living room, media room, or home theater. While floor speakers still offer a superior sound in many cases over the satellite speakers that have traditionally been on the market technology is evolving and the quality of these smaller systems is rapidly catching up to the quality of their bulkier predecessors. It seems that retailers are growing savvy to a problem that is rapidly becoming a worldwide problem, especially in the age of modern technology. People have more stuff and yet we seem to have less space in which to put all that great stuff. For this reason, there has been a recent trend of making things smaller, slimmer, stream lined, and most importantly when it comes to surround sound systems, portable. The invention of wireless speakers for surround sound systems that can sit on shelves or be hung on the walls is one of the greatest advances we've seen in sound technology in the last few years. Even better is the fact that competition is fierce in this particular market which actually works to keep prices lower than they would be if there weren't so many companies competing for your business. If space is your biggest limitation when it comes to purchasing a surround sound system for your home, you no longer have to put off enjoying the theater quality sound you've desired for your movie viewing pleasure. You can now have the best of both worlds: sound and space, and live with the results. The quality of these smaller surround sound systems is quite good if you take the time to know what you are getting before you buy. In addition to the great space saving ability of these smaller systems, you can also find some real bargains if you opt to purchase a 'home theater in a box' or surround sound systems as a set rather than individual components. I've always been one to shy away from the box sets from fear of inferior quality (which has been true in the past). I'm proud to say that I am now a convert as I have watched even my favorite brands (and quality that I trust) leap into the box system market. I have also noticed the much nicer price tag associated with purchasing systems rather than buying individual components and the savings are significant. In other words, these systems are not only saving space but are also saving money. You can't really argue with that kind of a deal when your limitations may have been limited to money and space in the past. If you happen to be worried about power you really shouldn't. Quality is still important in your speakers, it will always be of monumental importance but you will not need nearly the amplification in a small room that a larger room or theater would require. This means that these smaller systems really are ideal for the space that you have. When space is your limitation we live in a world where creating more space is next to impossible now and really will be impossible in the future as the amount of space we have is finite and the population continues to grow and take up more of that valuable space. Our best bet is to learn to maximize and utilize the space we have. Making speakers smaller, more easily portable (by being wireless), and allowing them to hang on walls or sit on shelves rather than occupying valuable floor space we are making the most of what we have and are still able to enjoy some of the good things in life we desire. Selecting the Right Speakers When it comes to your surround sound or home theater system, the quality of your speakers can really make or break the overall experience. Good quality speakers are one of, if not, the most important components when it comes to your home theater and surround sound system. You need to take action from the very beginning in order to make sure that you are not getting substandard speakers for your entertainment system whether your surround sound system is going to be used for your television viewing, home theater, music enjoyment, or to enhance your gaming experience on your personal computer the quality of the speakers will have a huge impact on how much you enjoy your system. The problem is that most people do not even know where to begin when it comes to selecting and purchasing speakers. There are a few guidelines you can follow when making your decisions about speakers that will help you make better buying decisions in order to get higher quality speakers (budget allowing of course, though I recommend putting off the purchase until you can save up enough rather than purchasing inferior quality because it is within your price range). There are many different types of speaker systems. Speakers that have received THX certification are generally your top of the line speakers. They will have very little distortion and a nice clear sound. If you can get your hands on a set of these and they fit within your budget constraints I highly recommend going with speakers that are THX certified. The sound, however should be the ultimate deciding factor when selecting speakers and quite frankly you will have to hear the sound for yourself in order to decide which sound you prefer. Speakers, like anything are always a matter of preference. You can hear many different speakers and some people find that they all sound alike while others feel that the amount of distortion in some is simply unbearable and still others simply blame poor quality music on the sounds they hear in the speakers. The fact is that there are different determinations for quality and everyone has their own preferences and things that are important to them when listening to music and things that they feel can be sacrificed. I happen to be a bit of a sound snob so sacrifice isn't a word I like to hear when it comes to sound quality. There are some things you can do in order to insure that you are getting a good quality set of speakers for your surround sound system. First, you should listen and make sure that the high sounds do not seem distorted or as though they were being made inside a tin can. You should also check that the midrange sounds are clear and resonant. You should also make sure that the speakers are not trying to do the job of the subwoofer, it is there for a reason and has a job-other speakers in the set shouldn't be trying to do it (if they are, it typically indicates problems with the subwoofer). Blend is important in a set of speakers. You do not want one speaker overpowering the others. If the music sounds too shrill or the middle range notes are overpowering, this is probably not the system for your needs. It is recommended that you try the sound systems you are considering with different types of music and mediums (particularly if you will be using your surround sound system for a home theater or gaming system in addition to music). I always recommend the first 10 minutes of the movie Top Gun to check out sound when it comes to home theaters. You should also bring a copy of your favorite CD (as that is what you will probably listen to most on your system) and perhaps a few other CDs that show a variety. Listen to how different sounds are made on the system and choose according to the best overall system in order to have the most adaptability within your surround sound system. Professional Installation or Sweat Equity? One of the biggest debates that arises when purchasing a decent surround sound system or home theater is whether or not to handle the installation yourself. For that question the answer is completely relative to the level of complexity of your system and your understanding of physics and electronics. Many of the box kits on the market today are simple to install and could be done fairly quickly (in the course of a couple of hours or an afternoon) even by rank amateurs such as myself. If you are purchasing a massive home theater or surround sound system that has very rigorous requirements in order to guarantee the type of sound you paid good money to receive it might be in your best interest to make the investment of a professional installation. It is important to remember that home theater kits come in all shapes, sizes, and price ranges. The fact that you could easily install a $500-$2,000 kit doesn't mean that a home theater that costs in excess of $20,000 is as simple of a matter to install (though at that price I firmly believe it should be self installing). The point is if you've paid that kind of money for a home theater or surround sound system you want to make sure that you are absolutely getting your money's worth on the listening end. A professional installation is one way to make sure of that. Installation is expensive in some cases as everything that has the word professional in front of it. One thing you can do in order to curtail that cost to some degree is shop around and compare prices, you might find one retailer that is willing to throw in free installation in order to make the sale. If the cost of professional installation makes up the difference between the lowest offer elsewhere go for it, you will have saved money and still managed the professional installation that truly is in your best interest. Another thing you will want to do is find out whether or not self-installation might nullify any warranties. There are occasions where this is the case and you do not want to risk your warranty on a $20,000 surround sound speaker system in order to save a couple of hundred dollars on installation up front. There is a lot that can be said over the power of saving money, however, there are some risks that simply aren't worth it. For me, this is one of those risks. There is simply too much that could go wrong to operate without a warranty. While there is some degree of satisfaction that goes along with doing things for yourself there are times when the process is nothing more than an exercise in futility. If you must install yourself (and some of us simply can't resist the urge) then you should take care from the very beginning to closely follow all instructions for installation and operation in order to get the best possible results. The problem is that too many of us never bother reading the instructions until we are stuck and at that point it is sometimes way along in the process to have to start completely over-trust me, I've been there on this one. If you are one of many people around the world who has purchased a box set of surround sound speakers or a home theater kit you should find that the installation process is simple and straightforward and shouldn't require professional expertise in order to accomplish. Consider yourselves lucky in this and get to work. Pretty soon you will be enjoying theater quality sound from your surround sound system whether you are listening to music, movies, or the latest game. Whether you choose professional installation or not I wish you the best of luck building your new surround sound system and many hours of happy listening to whatever is on the deck for today. Playing the Name Game When it comes to speakers for your surround sound system there happen to be all kinds of models, makes, and brands on the market. You will find vast variations in quality and price among the multitudes. With so many from which to choose it is often difficult to know which brands are reputable, which represent good quality, and which are merely treading water when it comes to the wave of home theater and surround sound quality on the market today. We all have budget constraints however and for that reason some of us find that it is preferable to have a better quality of sound than merely watching the television or listening to the flat radio tunes coming from our existing home stereos. There happen to be some decent brands and makers of speakers in all price ranges. The quality will be distinctly different in lower price ranges than in the high end. I have a preference for Bose speakers. I find the sound created by these speakers is superior to other similar products and am perfectly willing to pay the price that comes along with this sort of quality. That being said, I have had the occasion to find some excellent bargains on Bose surround sound systems in the past quite by accident. If I can find those bargains (some as low as $500 for the set, which is a bargain when you consider the fact that some of their sets begin at $2,000) when not actively searching for a bargain, it is quite possible to get an excellent price when you are seeking just that. Everyone is different and tastes will vary greatly from one person to another. There are many other wonderful makers when it comes to surround sound systems that offer products that are ideal and provide excellent sound quality in small places. These are great for small budgets that happen to live in small apartments or have small media rooms in their homes. Logitech has some excellent surround sound systems that actually sell for less than $100. They also have systems that sell for considerably more. The best thing you can do is listen to systems in stores, then compare prices on the Internet for bargains among the brands you feel are within your budget and your tastes. Panasonic actually has a good 5.1 channel surround sound home theater that is very reasonably priced at around $350 (depending on where you are purchasing of course). It makes for a good basic home theater for the average family and that is what most of us require. Other great brands of surround sound speakers for an average sized room will include: JBL, which offers some basic speaker sets; Yamaha, which offers basic to mid-range quality speaker systems; KLH, which offers very basic budget friendly surround sound systems, and Athena Technologies, which has a pretty nice mid range surround sound system on the market at the moment. This of course is by no means an exhaustive list of choices on the market but a good place for budget aware shoppers to begin searching for their perfect surround sound set of speakers. While I mentioned some specific brand names in this article, it is important that you do not get caught up in the hype of the 'name game'. There is much that can be said about having a good name in an industry but consumers often pay the price that is associated with that name when in the checkout line. I am a huge fan of Bose and realize that a large part of the sticker price I pay is for the brand of the name. This does not mean that there aren't some excellent quality speakers on the market that will cost less and be made by manufacturers I've never heard of. Check for warranties and take a risk if you like the sound of a little known speaker company. You could have just discovered the company that will topple Bose from its comfortable spot at the top of my personal speaker-buying list. How much is Too Much? The question that many consumers or would be consumers of home theater or surround sound systems must ask themselves is how much should I spend on a home theater system. The problem with that question is that there isn't an answer that is appropriate for every potential buyer. While there are many who honestly and firmly believe that if you are making the investment in your home and the entertainment value within your home you should really consider how much time you spend there and how much value a system such as this will actually add to your perception of the time you spend in your home. I did tell you that there really isn't a simple answer. The long and short of it is that you only need to find a system that you believe will enhance your perceived value of your movie viewing, television viewing, music listening, or game playing experience. I say start at the low end of the spectrum and listen to the various systems and devices on the market until you find one that you feel will be a vast improvement over your current situation and that should be the system that satisfies you. Do not move up in price range once you've found a system you like or you will wind up spending more money than you could have spent and been just as content. I was once a true believe in the philosophy that everyone should buy the high-end equipment and that name brands were important. The truth of the matter is that there is a level of quality that is often paid for but it is noticeable to me only if I have heard better than what I am hearing. This means that I am perfectly content with the system I choose as long as I do not encounter something better. I guess it's kind of like dessert. I'm content with my chocolate cake until I see someone walking by with chocolate truffle cake with raspberry sauce and ice cream on the side. It made my chocolate cake look a little less fulfilling if you know what I mean. We often experience this problem with electronics. There is always going to be some fantastic system just beyond our reach. I say make the investments where it matters (in surround sound systems this would be the speakers) and find contentment with the knowledge that the sound you are purchasing is a vast improvement over the sound you had before. On the other hand if only the best of the best will do for you, you can easily pay well in excess of $50,000 for a very high end home theater and surround system in your home (plus the price of installation of course). There will always be those who are willing to spend more and those who haven't enough to spare. We live in a world of the haves and have not's the good news is that even if you aren't one of the few privileged 'haves' there is probably a decent surround sound system in your price range if you are willing to take the time to really look for one and make the effort to save your pennies, nickels, and dimes in order to get one once you've found it. Those things in life that are really worth having are those that are worth making sacrifices in order to receive. How much is too much? More than you are willing to pay. Haste Makes Wastes of Time and Money It's a jungle out there, especially when it comes to the wonderful world of electronics and electronics components. The competition is fierce among industry leaders and there are wide gaps in prices and quality from which to choose. Even among the private sector there are such variances in price and quality that it is difficult for most to make truly informed decisions when purchasing a surround sound system or a home theater. One of the best things you can do for your search is grab a few sound intensive movies, a favorite CD or two and head out to your local retail sales center for electronics. Best Buy may not always be the best place from which to buy but they generally have a good selection of surround sound systems and home theaters that you are able to test out and compare with one another. It's always a good idea to try before you buy and taking an afternoon or a Saturday to browse through your options is good investment of a day if you ask me. By listening to the different systems you can get a feel for the features that you prefer, those you don't care much for one way or another, and those you would rather do without. This list will be extremely valuable when it comes time to narrow down the systems you would like to further investigate from those that simply aren't best suited for your music and sound requirements. There is nothing wrong with identifying what you want and making efforts to get it. In fact, it's a savvy decision on your part if you ask me. Once you have a list of the systems you like and a few reasons why you like each system it's time to begin comparing prices. The Internet is probably the best way to do this. You can use prices that compare prices among major competitors and see what others are charging for these items in comparison with what your local stores are charging. If you are feeling up to bargaining you can try to arrange for your local store to match the online price. This works with some stores and not with others. It's a toss up even with the larger chain stores as to whether or not they will acknowledge prices received online as a 'competitors' price in order to meet it. It's worth a shot if you prefer the convenience of shopping locally; otherwise if the best price is online (even after shipping and insurance) then your best bet is to make the purchase online. There is no magic formula when it comes to purchasing home theater and surround sound equipment other than to make sure you are pleased with the quality of the merchandise. If you listened and made notations about your likes and dislikes, chances are that you have just purchased a sound system that you like, which means you should be thrilled with the fantastic sounds coming out of your brand new speakers for quite a while to come. Taking your time in the beginning in order to make sure you get the system you really want and will be happy with is well worth the wait when compared to the price you pay for haste and purchasing a system with an inferior quality of sound. Excellent Example of Electronic Evolution No one had a clue during the early days of television the incredible impact that this device would have over people and their daily lives nearly a century later. I can hardly believe the difference between the television offerings of my childhood and the vast number of quality shows, channels, and information that is available by simply turning on the television. In addition to that, the quality of sound that can be achieved through the simple act of adding a receiver and surround sound speakers to your television is day and night when comparing before and after. I do not think for one second anyone could have possibly anticipated the global impact that televisions have introduced. Add to that the entertainment value and the fact that we are now using our televisions for much more than simply watching and you have opened up a whole new world of entertainment. Surround sound not only works wonders with movies and (some) television shows but is also an excellent enhancement for video games and even music. Televisions are also being used for more purposes now than ever before. With each generation of video game system there are new features added that require more from the televisions and speaker systems we spend so much of our time enjoying. From the days when people first gained the ability to check their email on their television sets, the technology seed has been planted for greater things to come. Each year new televisions and new surround sound and home theater systems hit the market with amazing success among consumers. We all want more sound, better pictures, and more functionality from a piece of technology that is not yet a century old. It's amazing the progress that has been made already and the rapid rate at which this technology continues to evolve. Surround sound is only one example of the great possibilities that exist in the entertainment industry, it simply happens that this is one piece of the technology puzzle that enhances so many other of the things that we enjoy so much on a daily basis. From gaming to music to movies, all are enhanced by the technology and premium sound that a good surround sound system with high quality speakers can provide. When purchasing speakers for your surround sound system, be sure to make sure that they are THX certified in order to assure that you are getting top quality speakers for your surround sound system or home theater. You will find as you sort through the various surround sound systems in the market today that there are many options available to you. I hope that you will take the time to find the one that you like best and keep an open mind when you bring it into your home. It is important to remember that you may find the system doesn't sound as good in your home as it did in the store (acoustics are going to be different). If this is the case with your system, make a note of the differences that you find troublesome, and return the kit to the store, then ask for recommendations on systems that might work better in your home. You should also include things like the size of the room, the types of walls and flooring you have (all of these things affect the acoustical quality of your room). Most importantly, make the most of the advances that technology has allowed and enjoy. DIY Surround Sound The debate of whether or not to install your own surround sound system has fallen on deaf ears and you have decided to tackle this delicate task for yourself. Good for you. The thing is you aren't really too certain about where to actually begin this delicate procedure. At this point, I'm assuming that you have purchased either a home theater kit or surround sound system for your home and are preparing to begin the actual installation process. A good place to start is by reading the instructions and owners manual that most likely came with either the kit you purchased or each of the individual components. The thing to remember with a surround sound system is that nothing will work without the speakers and they will only work for their intended purpose if they are positioned properly. However, you need to make sure that the other components are in place before beginning to work with the speakers. I recommend, particularly if this is your first system that you go with a simple AV receiver, if you've already purchased a tuner, amplifier, and all that other great stuff it is no problem, just a little more involved as far as processes go. The installation of each of these devices is often as simple as finding a space for them and plugging everything into the proper slot. The good news is that most systems have the 'slots' well labeled for just this purpose. Once you have the receiver hooked up you should begin placing speakers. If you went with the basic 5.1 channel surround sound system you should have 6 speakers including the subwoofer. This is a good system to begin with and (if you purchased your AV receiver wisely) will leave room for growth and expansion in the future. I will begin with instructions for the placement of the 6 speakers for a 5.1 channel system and expand those instructions to include the others later. With a basic 5.1 channel surround sound system you will have five speakers and one subwoofer. The placement of the speaker is important when it comes to placing the ambient sounds that are found in movies in the proper location in relation to the action onscreen. Three of the five speakers belong in the front. One speaker in the center and one each on the front left and right-the two remaining speakers belong behind you to the left and right (one left rear; one right rear). While this isn't an overly complicated concept you'd be amazed at the number of people who have their surround sound systems improperly set up. With the 6.1 channel system you will move the rear left and right speakers to the side and place one speaker to the rear and in the center. If you then upgrade from a 6.1 to a 7.1 channel surround sound system you will move the speaker that is in the rear to either the left of the right and install the additional speaker on the opposite side and to the rear. If you are going to make the investment in a home theater or surround sound system please take the time to insure that the pieces and parts are properly located and installed in order to get your money's worth out of the process. Now it's time to sit back and enjoy your new sound system. Demystifying Surround Sound Terminology Just in case you've been reading around and researching the many terms and topics that concern surround sound and the many surround sound systems on the market today, I thought it might be a good idea to explain some of the terminology that is floating around. First of all there are many initials names and numbers floating around when it comes to surround sound technology and equipment, it's no wonder that many of us mere mortal consumers are more than a little confused by it all. Hopefully the information you find below will prove helpful as you weave through the wired jungles of modern sound technology. The first and probably most common thing you will see in these circles is Dolby Digital. While there are many complicated definitions of this term the one that will matter most to you, as a consumer is that right now it is the leading format on the market when it comes to processing the digital data that your system will need to process. There are better brands such as DTS when it comes to musical sound for this function but the vast majority of television broadcasts and DVDs are optimized for Dolby. Speaking of DTS, at the moment they are Dolby's primary competition. While most items you find on the market such as DVDs are viewable in both DTS and Dolby you need to make sure that they system you purchase whether Dolby or DTS can read both formats for those times when your favorite flick just might not be enhanced for both. Now perhaps the most confusing of terms when it comes to surround sound systems would be 5.1. It looks so innocent just sitting there but most people are ready to pull out their hair when they realize that it really stands for a system that includes 6 speakers rather than five. The ".1" in the name refers to the frequency of the subwoofer (or Low Frequency Effects-LFE), which is .1. Despite the existence of 'better' systems on the market today, most movies are optimized for this particular set up so this will be of the most value to you with the current products on the market rather than spending more for systems that the DVD makes haven't yet caught up with. DTS ES refers to a format commonly referred to as 6.1. In this format there is one additional speaker moved to the center rear of the configuration and the two-rear left and right speakers are moved forward. And THX EX 7.1 is what happens when you add yet another speaker. There aren't too many films at the moment that use this particular format some notable exceptions would be the Star Wars movies. This means that movies haven't really caught up to the technology of either of these systems but they are on the market and some people simply must have them. I recommend going with a superior 5.1 channel surround sound system for the time being and adding speakers when there are more reasons to do so. This list is by no means exhaustive but will give you a basic overview of the information that is relevant to you as you look into the various surround sound systems on the market today. You shouldn't have to weed through volumes of confusing terminology in order to find out that the system you are interested in actually has 6 speakers rather than 5. My hope is that you can go in armed with basic knowledge that will help you make an informed buying decision. Cables Wires and Chords Galore One thing that often gets overlooked during the process of purchasing pieces, parts, and components for your surround sound system is the importance of cables to the overall sound of your system. It makes absolutely no idea to buy top of the line speakers and excellent quality components only to use substandard el cheapo cables with which to connect them to one another. Unfortunately we see this every day and it causes problem with the quality of the sound that leads over time to a total and complete dissatisfaction with the quality of sound your system provides. There are other considerations when it comes to cables such as aesthetics, which will also affect the price when it comes to your system. I strongly encourage you to seriously consider what level of cabling and wires you can and cannot live with before you purchase your surround sound or home theater system, as both tend to be very wire and cable intensive. There are however things you can do to tame the tangle before it overtakes your home and one of my first recommendations is to seriously consider the value that going wireless would add to your system. Wireless speakers eliminate the need for a good portion of the wires and cabling that are typically part and parcel of the lot when it comes to good sound systems. Going wireless for me is far preferable to drilling holes into the walls and running the wires through and having a rat's next of speaker wires overhead in my home is simply not an option. Of course everyone has different priorities when it comes to their surround sound or home theater systems and some people aren't all the considered about wires and cables. If you are not one that bothers then that is no problem either. Unfortunately the wires and cables in a home theater or surround sound system are not limited to the speakers alone and while going wireless for the speakers is often financially feasible it's an entirely different ball park to go wireless for the whole kit and caboodle. For this reason there are all kinds of nifty tips and tricks for taming a mess of wires and keeping things organized and tidy behind the scenes. Among my favorites are these new power strips that allow you to color code and label which cord goes where. These strips are also great because they offer surge protection for your costly electronic equipment. In addition to having the power strips labeled and organized you can purchase PVC piping and run all the cords down one tube in order to reach the power strip. You can also paint the tube in order to blend in with your wall if you are concerned about the aesthetics of the tube. I personally like this option for keeping all the chords in one spot rather than having them run haphazardly along the back of your other electronic components. It simply looks neater and more organized and your friends and family will be impressed at your cleverness for thinking of it. If you have a certain disdain for over organization or having things too terribly tidy you can always opt for these Velcro ties that you simple use like the old sandwich bag ties. They can keep several chords together so that you aren't constantly having to work around them and yet allows you easy access to the chords should you find a sudden need for access or get the urge to rearrange or change settings and situations. While it doesn't take rocket science to tame the wild tangle of chords that sometimes invade of entertainment space, it often helps to have a few tricks up your sleeve when confronting the seemingly endless stream of wires that are part of the average home theater or surround sound system. Hopefully you will find that some of these suggestions and tips will be helpful in your home. Surround Sound for the Little Ones If you have a family that loves movies and music the best gift you can give yourself is a second home theater for the little ones. Seriously, how many times has the Sunday game interfered with or been interrupted to the little one's needs to watch Disney's latest and greatest flick? I know these meltdowns occur far too regularly in my household. This is why a second home theater is an excellent idea. Your children learn important lessons and you get to watch television on occasion without tantrums and meltdowns. There are many benefits to you for building a secondary home theater system not the least of which is spare parts should anything ever happen to yours. I know in our home I was worried that I would never see the kids once we built a system for them but the truth is they each have different tastes as well and sometimes prefer what we are watching over what brother and/or sister are watching. We also have the knowledge that our television is still bigger than theirs and there is always that to draw them back into the land of the living rather than holing up in their basement theater hide away. Getting back to the benefits, the kids are learning to take turns even establishing a schedule and sticking to it. They are learning to make responsible choices and even to work together on occasion and compromise in favor of watching all of favorite programs that are close to ending but not quite over. It's great to see them cooperating rather than fighting all the time. It also allows them a place to take their friends when they come over that they are responsible for cleaning up and keeps the mess out of our home theater space (my personal favorite reason for having two home theaters). For even more benefits when it comes to a second home theater in your home is that your children learn very quickly what it means to break something such as the components in their home theater and aren't likely to do so again. It teaches responsibility on a level that most toys that are lost and broken one week after Christmas could never get across. They learn to take care of the equipment, to wipe off the fingerprints, not to throw things at it, and not to pull it off the shelves and leave it on the floor as they do with their other toys. This is something that matters to them and I have been amazed at how well they have taken care of it. Finally, a home theater system is an awesome tool for discipline. The threat of not allowing any one or all of them not to watch their home theater with surround sound or any other television in the household for that matter is a fate worse than death for them most of the time and enough to get them to walk on the straight and narrow. The few times this privilege has been revoked have been quite effective in creating a much more cooperative atmosphere of harmony at home or at school. While there are many who believe that a home theater or surround sound system for the kids is overkill I firmly believe that it is an incredible privilege and responsibility that prepares them to deal with the world outside as they grow older. They are already learning about negotiation, cooperation, and respect.
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