What do I need to create a great sounding audio and video surround sound system?
- Speakers - Quality speakers are the key to creating a great sounding home audio system. Make sure you are happy with the speakers you choose since speakers are said to be the most important part of the home audio experience .
- Receiver - A Dolby Pro Logic receiver is necessary to deliver the multi-channel signals in surround sound. (Some Dolby Pro Logic receivers also have Dolby DigitalDTS processors). Most experts recommend a min. of 75 watts ofpower per channel for the front and center channels, rear channels should be at least 1/2 the output of the front channels. Purchase a Dolby Digital/DTS Ready or a Dolby Digital/DTS receiver if planning to use a DVD player for best results. All receivers have built in FM / AM tuners.
- VCR or DVD Player - A Hi-Fi VCR is required in a Dolby Pro Logic Surround System. If you wish to view movies on DVD discs in Dolby Digital/DTS, a appropriate DVD player is required. Note: A Dolby Digital decoder is required for the improved surround sound effects on a DVD disc. Decoders are available in receivers or in DVD players.
- CD Player or Tape Deck - CD players and tape decks are an optional part of a home audio system. Many DVD players can also double as an audio CD player.
How many speakers do I need for surround sound, and where do I place them?
A minimum of 5 speakers are needed in a surround sound system. Dolby Digital/DTS Systems also Require a Powered Subwoofer.
- One left and one right front channel:
Place to the left and right of the television or screen
Recreates the effects coming from the front during a video, also acts as stereo channels when listening to music.
- One center channel:
Place on top of, or as close to as possible to the television or screen
Recreates the voices and other center effects of a movie.
- One left and one right surround channel:
Place to the left and right behind or to each side of your listening area
Recreates the effects coming from the rear and sides during a video, also plays an ambiance effect when listening to music. An extra speaker should be placed somewhere in the center of your surrounds with 6.1 surround. (Some receivers do have a 4-6 channel stereo mode which would also send full range stereo to the rear in these music modes.) These speakers are what create the immersive sound environment that puts the viewer in the middle of the movie.
- Powered subwoofer
Best placement is in the front of the listening area; in one corner of the room.(Corner placement will deliver maximum bass, center of the room will deliver least bass)
Adds incredible sounding bass to any system. And is required in Dolby Digital/DTS Systems.
How do I choose the front speakers in a surround or stereo speaker system?
Front speakers are very important in your system. They not only recreate many of the the effects in video, but they also act as the stereo channels when listening to music. If you are using a subwoofer you may use small mini-sized or bookshelf speakers. If you do not use a subwoofer in your system, tower speakers are recommended for right and left. Tower speakers paired with a subwoofer will provide an even better audio experience.
Using large speakers for the front channels will allow them to reproduce lower bass. One dissadvantage is that these speakers take up more space than mini-speakers but they are capable of reproducing a greater range of sound.
Using mid-sized speakers (bookshelf speakers) as your front channel speakers can be a good alternative to towers when space is a concern. Most bookshelf speakers can reproduce adequate amounts of bass along with excellent midrange and highs even though they do not have large woofers. Bookshelf speakers typically do not have large enough woofers to reproduce deep bass, so a powered subwoofer is recommended in this type of configuration.
Using mini-speakers (satellite speakers) as the front channel is the best option for those that are really concerned about the space that the speakers occupy. The sound that mini-speakers can reproduce is very impressive however, because they are incapable of reproducing low bass by themselves, it is not recommended that you use them as front (stereo) channel speakers unless you are using a powered subwoofer. With the appropriate powered subwoofer you will be able to fully recreate the full range of sounds comparable to larger speakers.
How do I choose a center channel speaker?
The center speaker is very important in a home theater system. It is the speaker that draws your attention to the TV screen and reproduces the bulk of the dialog. For this reason the center channel speaker must be placed as close to the screen as possible. Most viewers place the center channel on top or directly below the TV. Since the center channel speaker is very close to the TV, it must be magnetically shielded or it may damage the picture tube in a TV set. Therefore, it is important to use speakers designated for center channel use.
The two most important factors to take into consideration when selecting a center speaker is sound and sonic matching. Make sure that voices sound clear and are easy to understand. Ideally, it's best to match your center channel drivers to your front left and right speaker drivers (try to match midrange drivers and tweeters). This will allow a seamless transition when sound travels from one speaker to another as it crosses the sound stage.
Smaller Center channels(2"-3 1/2" woofers)
Some people prefer smaller center channels because of their size. You can purchase a smaller center channel with only a slight compromise in sound. Most receivers have a centerspeaker setting called Normal which will redirect bass frequencies to the left and right front channels.
Mid size Center Speakers(4"-5 1/4" woofers)
Mid-sized center speakers will allow you to hear slightly lower midrange sound frequencies from your center channel than small center speakers. When using a mid-sized center speaker set your receivers center channel setting to the Normal mode. (Mid sized center speakers will operate down to the 100 cycle cut-off pointwhen using the Normal mode on a receiver.)
Large Center Speakers(6 1/4" woofers)
Larger center speakers will allow you to hear wide range sound from a center channel speaker. This may provide a small improvement in the imaging of the sound on the TV screen. To obtain this benefit you must set your receiver center channel selector in the Wide mode of your receiver.
How do I choose rear surround speakers?
Rear or surround speakers, should be placed across from or behind the listening area. The recreate only ambient surround effects in Dolby Pro Logic and in most music modes; however, Dolby Digital and DTS are capable of sending deep bass to the rear channels. (Surround speakers come in many sizes. shapes and formats. While some of the Dipolar and Bipolar speaker arrays offer some improvement in sound, they are quite expensive, about twice as much as a monopole (2-driver conventional
surround speakers). Most agree that spending less on surrounds and more on other speakers in your system such as front, center and subwoofer will result in a more audible improvement to your system than purchasing expensive surrounds. Matching the midrange drivers and tweeters of your surrounds to those in your front channel speakers will allow the smoothest transition as sound moves from front to rear.
Tower surrounds offer little improvement for Dolby Pro Logic surround systems but will benefit Dolby Digital and DTS systems since bass signals are also sent to the rear channels.
Bookshelf speakers are a great choice for surrounds. They are a good choice for Dolby Pro Logic, Dolby Digital, and DTS. Speakers with 5"or larger woofers and a dome tweeter will deliver the full range of sound down to the upper bass where the subwoofer takes over.
Mini-Speakers (satellite speakers) are a good choice for Dolby Pro Logic systems since bass is not sent to rear channels. If mini-speakers are used as surrounds in Dolby Digital or DTS systems, an inexpensive passive or poweredsubwoofer can be added to the rear for maximum performance.
What do I need to know about subwoofers?
Subwoofers Add Bass to a System - Subwoofers, especially powered subwoofers, can greatly improve the bass any system for music & video surround sound. Two types of Subwoofers are passive subwoofers and active subwoofers. The easiest way to visually distinguish a Passive Subwoofer from a Powered Subwoofer is to remember that only a Powered Subwoofer plugs into a wall.
A passive subwoofer is a box style speaker containing a woofer for bass. When connected to a receiver, a passive subwoofer like most traditional speakers, uses the power from a receiver to add bass to a system. The bigger the woofer the deeper the bass. A passive sub can add bass to any system and can be connected to any stereo or surround sound system by using speaker wires. A passive subwoofer may only be connected to a receiver's speaker terminals, it can not be connected to the subwoofer out RCA plug on the back of receivers.
Dolby Digital/DTS Systems Recommend a Powered subwoofer
A powered subwoofer is a speaker that contains a woofer for bass and an amplifier for the most impressive sounding bass available. Unlike passive subwoofers, powered subwoofers use an internal power amplifier rather than the power coming from a receiver. The bigger the woofer the deeper the bass, the more powerful the amplifier, the louder the bass will play. A powered subwoofer will add bass and power to any system and can be connected to any stereo or surround sound system by using speaker wire or a subwoofer output located on the back of most receivers. Powered subwoofers are recommended in Dolby Digital/DTS systems if you wish to hear the full effects of Dolby Digital and DTS.
How do I match speakers to a receiver?
There are two important things to consider when matching speakers to a receiver; power handling and impedance.
RMS Power - Continuous power
Impedance- Resistance (Specified by Ohms)
The RMS power handling rating of a speaker should be at least 1/2 the RMS power of a receiver on a given channel. Therefore, if the RMS power rating on a
receiver chan. is 100 watts, it is best to select a speaker that can handle at least 50 watts RMS. Since music and videos are composed of constant peaks and dips of power, some speakers are rated at peak power handling instead of RMS . If this is the case assume the RMS handling of the speaker to be about 1/2 of the power rating given. If the power rating of a speaker does not specify RMS or Continuous power it is likely the rating is at peak power instead of RMS.
Speaker Impedance requirements for most receivers specify 8 OHMS. Impedance guidelines for areceiver can be found on the back of a receiver or in the owner's manual. Check receiver to match speaker impedance in receiver guidelines.
Will music sound good through my surround system?
YES - All music sources can sound better with the enhanced built in sound modes of a Audio/Video Receiver. With many receivers you can turn your listening area into a Classical Music Hall, or a Live Rock Concert simply with the touch of a button. All surround sound receivers also permit you to play music in a 2 channel stereo only mode and many of them allow you to utilize all of your speakers to play 2 channel music yielding an immersive sonic experience.
Can I mix speaker brands?
YES - As long as all of the speakers in your system meet the requirements of your
receiver, you may mix and match speakers of your choice for front, center and surrounds.(See above: How do I match Speakers to a Receiver?)
Facts and Guidelines
The goal is to achieve a seamless transition from left to center to right to surrounds. This can best be accomplished by matching the tweeter and midrange driver sizes. For example, for best results match two way 5" front channel speakers to acenter channel with 5" drivers or, 61/4" driver front channels to a center channel with 6 1/4" drivers. Matching rear channels is less important than the front 3 channels but rear channel matching would also improve front and rear balance.