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do I need a home theater system? What are the benefits?
nobody really needs a home theater, but there certainly are benefits.
And with all of the changes coming soon to the U.S. television standard,
there is no better time than the present to begin constructing your home
theater. The primary goal of a home theater is to do just that, bring
the experience of a theater to your home. For a relatively low cost, you
can now bring big screen pictures and digital surround sound to your living
room with a clarity and fidelity never before possible. With the advent
of DVD and HDTV you will see details you never noticed before and pictures
will be so life-like they will almost pop off the screen. Dolby Digital
and DTS audio will provide a surround sound experience that will put you
right in the middle of the action.
Another thing to think
about is with the prices of movies going up, it's cheaper to just stay
home, BUY a dvd and watch your favorite movie in the comfort of your living
room. You won't have to worry about waiting in lines, driving across town,
stepping in gum, etc.
Also consider that
in 2006 the United States will move to a digital TV standard and existing
analog TV's will need to be replaced or fitted with a set top box to receive
over the air TV signals. The new HDTV format consists of a high-definition
16:9 picture and Dolby Digital surround sound. Neither of which would
have very much benefit on an existing analog TV. Any way you look at it,
the digital revolution is coming!
What are the
minimum requirements for a home theater system?
There is no absolute definition of what constitutes a home theater
system. Just like beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is what makes
up a home theater. However, most people agree that a respectable home
theater should, at the bare minimum, consist of a 27" TV, VCR, receiver
and a surround sound speaker package.
How do I connect
all this equipment together?
Typically most of the components in your system will be wired together
through the receiver. This is considered the heart of your system. When
shopping for a receiver make sure that it has enough audio and video inputs
and outputs to accommodate your plans. You physically connect all of the
equipment together with interconnects, another term for audio and video
cables. I suggest researching your equipment ahead of time and drawing
a schematic of exactly where every in and out will go, before you buy
anything. This will help you determine if you need any adapters or converters
and it will also be a good reference for when you actually attempt to
connect everything together.
Does the quality
of speaker wire / cables really make a big difference?
It depends on who you ask. Some people swear by certain brands of cable
and other people say you can use old phone cord for speaker wire. Here's
my two cents: As far as speaker wire goes, a 12 gauge speaker wire will
sound a heck of a lot better than 18 gauge wire. Quality definitely matters
here. Most of the free cables that come with equipment are not very good.
They will physically carry a signal, but will also carry interference,
noise and other things you don't want. Do yourself a favor and buy yourself
good quality, fairly priced, speaker and interconnect cables.
What is home
THX? What are the different Home THX ratings?
Home THX Audio Systems, developed by George Lucas' THX Division, have
become the world's standard for film enjoyment in the home. Now in its
15th year, THX licenses its patented technology to leading A/V and PC
manufacturers worldwide. The legendary training program has certified
more than 1300 dealers as among the highest qualified to sell and install
Home THX products. THX also certifies home video software through the
THX Digital Mastering Program, ensuring that DVD software, laser discs
and VHS videotapes provide the best image and sound quality possible through
the use of patented THX technology and our unique quality control expertise.
as a studio reference monitoring tool, the Home THX Ultra System combines
Lucasfilm Ltd. entertainment expertise with world class product design
by leading consumer electronics manufacturers. The result: the ultimate
Home Theatre experience.
THX Select is more suited to the size and listening distances of most
living rooms. It accurately reflects the demands of modern program material,
based on a fresh examination of the requirements of multichannel digital
Which is better?
Satellite TV or cable TV?
Satellite TV. Satellite signals are digital transmissions that deliver
a quality almost comparable to laserdisc with CD quality audio. Cable
TV is an analog signal and can suffer from degradation under a variety
of circumstances. Also, satellite systems typically offer a wider range
of programming and since recent laws have changed, it is now possible
to get your local networks over satellite as well.
This is not to say that satellite TV doesn't have it's drawbacks, though.
An occasional thunderstorm or blizzard, may disrupt the signal. Also,
make sure you have a clear line of sight towards the satellite before
you invest in a system. And check with your landlord if you live in an
apartment building. But all other things being equal, a DSS system is
the way to go.
Why do some
people need more than one satellite dish?
This all depends on how many satellites you're trying to see. For example,
Dishnetwork broadcasts it's standard channels on two satellites. One at
110º and another at 119º. Too see both of these, they have developed
an oval dish (the Dish 500) which can pick up signals from both satellites.
OK, two satellites, one dish, case closed, right? Wrong. They also have
a satellite at 61.5º which broadcasts HDTV signals. Because of the
angles of the satellites, it would be impossible to see all three satellites
with one dish. Therefore, if you want to see all three of DishNewtork's
satellites, you need two dishes.
Who has the
best equipment - Brand X or Brand Y?
A lot of people ask who manufactures the best equipment. Unfortunately
there is no answer for this. Many pieces of equipment can be constructed
of the same quality materials and perform the same functions but will
look or sound differently. That is not to say that one is better or worse
than the other, they are just different. For example, one speaker may
sound "bright" while another may sound "boomy". One
person will like the first, someone else will like the second. Go out
and test the equipment for yourself with your own eyes and ears.
What is "surround
Surround sound really began in the 1960's with the development of quadraphonic
sound. This was a system of encoding four channels of information within
a two channel recording. The result was that ambient (or effects) sounds
could be imbedded in a two channel recording that could be played by a
normal record player and passed through to a receiver or amplifier with
a Quadraphonic decoder. This decoder would then pass the signals to four
separate speakers. Today, surround sound is very similar. In it's basic
form (Dolby Surround) four sound channels, right, left, center and rear
are encoded into a two channel audio track and played back with a surround
decoder. This decoder sends the individual sounds to their respective
speakers and the rear channel adds the "surround" effect, with
sounds coming from behind the listening position.
What is "virtual
surround" or "spatialized surround"?
Virtual surround is a process of attempting to play back the surround
effects of a multi-track recording with only two speakers. Many of today's
televisions will incorporate this feature. In some instances this works
quite well, however virtual surround in no way compares in quality to
true surround sound.
differences between "regular" stereo speakers and home theater
No. Speakers are speakers. They all have woofers, tweeters, etc. If they
don't sound good with music they will not sound good for movies. The difference
is that home theater speakers are typically all "matched". This
means they have been designed to work together to produce sounds at the
same levels and tones. If you had a home theater setup with five different
brands and types of speakers the sound would be totally mis-matched as
people walked around a room, or planes flew around your head.
How do I know
when to choose "large" or "small" for my speakers?
When setting up a Dolby Digital / DTS receiver you will need to let your
receiver know if your speakers are either "large" or "small".
If your system has a subwoofer, select Subwoofer "Yes" or "On".
Then, check the main (left/right) speakers settings next. If you are using
very large main speakers (some models even include powered "subwoofer"
sections), you can select Large. Deep bass present in the program's left
and right front channels will only be routed to the left and right speakers.
For most systems, even if you are using larger left and right speakers,
if you have a sub, choose Small for the left/right and any deep bass present
in the program material will be routed to the subwoofer. This usually
produces better sound, as the subwoofer is generally going to a better
job of providing clean, deep and louder bass than can be obtained from
conventional full range speakers.
Always choose Small
for center channel. Choosing the Large setting for the center channel
will always result in reduced bass, as well as substantially degraded
Unless your surround speakers are the same make and model as your fronts,
choose Small for the surround channels. The bass management within the
surround decoder will then route any deep bass information present to
If your system has
no subwoofer, then choose Large for the left and right speakers, keeping
the center and surrounds set to Small. Any deep bass present in any channel
of the program material will be routed to the left and right speakers
- this would include any deep bass sounds encoded in the ".1"
or LFE (Low Frequency Effects) channel.
Do I really
need a subwoofer?
YES! Almost all Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks now have a .1 LFE track
designed especially for a subwoofer. Adding a subwoofer will make a dramatic
improvement in the sound quality of your movies and music. Explosions
will be more powerful, bass tracks in music will sound deeper, etc. Even
if you already have huge woofers in your speakers, they probably cannot
produce sounds at the low frequency that a powered subwoofer can.
Is it OK to
mix different brands of speakers in my system?
Home theater speakers need to be "matched". This means they
must be designed to work together to produce sounds at the same levels
and tones. If you had a home theater setup with five different brands
and types of speakers the sound would be totally mis-matched as people
walked around a room, or planes flew around your head. However, it is
acceptable to have different types of surround speakers in your setup.
This is because, in reality, the surround speakers produce very little
of an actual soundtrack and most of the movement is across the front channels
and not front to back. This makes mis-matched surround speakers less noticeable
than a mis-matched center channel speaker.
difference between Dolby Surround, Dolby Pro Logic, Dolby Digital 5.1
and DTS 5.1? Is one better than the other?
Dolby Surround involves encoding four channels of information - Front
Left, Center, Front Right, and Rear Surround into a two channel signal.
A decoding chip then decodes the four channels and sends them to the appropriate
destination, the Left, Right, Rear, and Phantom Center (center channel
is derived from the L/R front channels). The result is a more balanced
listening environment in which the main sounds derive from the left and
right channels, the vocal or dialog emanates from the center phantom channel,
and the ambience or effects information comes in from behind the listener.
Dolby Pro-Logic adds hardware elements in the decoding chip that emphasize
important directional cues in a movie soundtrack. This process, although
not important in musical recordings is very effective for film soundtracks
and adds more accuracy to effects such as explosions, planes flying overhead,
etc. There is greater separation between channels. In addition, Dolby
Pro-Logic extracts a dedicated Center Channel that more accurately centers
the dialog (this necessitates a center channel speaker for full effect)
in a movie soundtrack.
Dolby Digital adds
both accuracy and flexibility by adding stereo rear surround channels
that enable sounds to emanate in more directions, as well as a dedicated
Subwoofer Channel to provide more emphasis for low frequency effects.
Dolby Digital is often referred to as a 5.1 channel system, because of
the added Subwoofer channel. Also, unlike Dolby Pro-logic which requires
a rear channel of only minimal power and limited frequency response, Dolby
Digital encoding/decoding requires the same power output and frequency
range as the main channels. Dolby Digital encoding on DVDs, Laserdiscs,
and Satellite programming is very common and has solidified this format
in the marketplace. Since Dolby Digital involves its own encoding process,
you need to have a Dolby Digital receiver or amplifier to accurately decode
Digital Theater Systems
(DTS) has also adapted its surround sound process for home use. It is
a 5.1 system just like Dolby Digital, but since DTS uses less compression
in encoding process, many feel that DTS has a better result on the listening
end. In addition, while Dolby Digital is mainly intended for the Movie
Soundtrack experience, DTS is being used in the mixing and reproduction
of Musical performances. Many CD-only players now come equipped with DTS
outputs that allow a DTS-equipped amplifier or receiver to decode the
DTS signals imprinted on "select" DTS-encoded music CD's.
Digital-EX, DTS-ES and THX-EX?
Dolby Digital-EX and DTS-ES add a rear center channel to the typical 5.1
surround setup to make it 6.1. THX-EX is the processing technique to match
the new soundtracks.
What do the numbers 2.0, 4.0, 5.0, 5.1 and 6.1 refer to?
The number of discrete audio channels. For example, 2.0 is basic stereo,
5.0 would be Dolby Digital and the .1 adds the LFE channel.
What are dipolar,
bipolar and monopole speakers?
Dipolar refers to speakers with drivers that are fired in two different
directions and are in reverse phase causing a cancellation of sound waves
in front of the speaker. This is usually done in rear speakers that are
wall mounted. The front of the speaker is aimed at the listening area,
which causes all of the sound to bounce off the walls before it is heard.
This makes it almost impossible to determine where the speaker is, creating
a true surround effect.
Bi-polar refers to
speakers with drivers that are fired in two different directions, but
are in phase causing an increase in bass output. I this type of speaker
the drivers can be in the front and back of the speaker, side firing,
or at 90º angles from one another. There are also speakers which
function as both bipolar and dipolar. This can be adjusted using a switch.
Monopole is a type of speaker with all drivers facing one direction. Used
for precise placement of sounds. Usually used in front and center speakers.
I position the speakers in my room?
It all depends on your seating layout and how many surround speakers/subwoofers
your system requires. This is where the setup and acoustics of the room
is very important.
What's with those black bars on the top and bottom of my screen?
The standard television
screen proportions are 4:3 or 1.33:1, however theatrical movies are filmed
in a variety of wide screen formats such as 1.85:1, 2.15:1 or 2.35:1.
When widescreen movies are show on a standard television, there are two
options for displaying the picture. The first option is "pan-and-scan".
This is a method of cropping the full frame of the movie, so that it fills
a 4:3 screen. The drawback to this is that quite a bit of the picture
gets chopped off and the original scope of the scenes are ruined. On a
movie filmed in 2.35:1, almost half of the picture is lost in the pan-and-scan
process. The second option is to display the movie in it's original aspect
ratio. This results in the black bars on the top and bottom of the screen,
however you are now seeing the movie as it was meant to be seen, without
losing any of the picture.
"anamorphic" widescreen mean?
The DVD format is specially designed to support widescreen displays. Widescreen
16:9 video can be stored on the DVD disc in anamorphic form, meaning the
picture is squeezed horizontally to fit the standard 4:3 rectangle, then
unsqueezed during playback.
This anamorphic squeezing results in less of the picture being wasted
on the black letterbox mattes. DVD has a frame size designed for 1.33
display, so the video still has to be made to fit, but because it's only
squeezed horizontally, 33% more pixels (25% of the total pixels in a video
frame) are used to store active picture instead of black.
Anamorphic video is
best displayed on widescreen equipment, which stretches the video back
out to its original width. Anamorphic video can be converted by the player
for display on standard 4:3 TVs in letterbox or pan & scan form. If
anamorphic video is shown unchanged on a standard 4:3 display, people
will look tall and skinny as if they have been on a crash diet. The setup
options of DVD players allow the viewer to indicate whether they have
a 16:9 or 4:3 TV.
Why is DVD
better than VHS video?
There are many reasons why DVD is better than VHS. These include:
· No need to rewind a dvd.
· DVD has twice the resolution and clarity of VHS.
· DVD can store multiple audio tracks including Dolby Digital and
DTS surround sound.
· DVD can store up to 8 hours of video on one disc. DVD has the
capability to use multiple camera angles, multiple subtitles, interactive
menus and other interactive features (for games, quizzes, etc.)
· DVD has the capability to store DVD-ROM features for your PC
as well, including games, video, web links, etc.
· VHS deteriorates slightly each time it is viewed.
Can I record
on DVDs? What about all this copyright stuff I keep hearing about?
You cannot record onto a standard DVD with a standard DVD player. However,
there are DVD recorders available for use with a computer today. By the
mid-2001 DVD hit the mainstream AV market.
System (CSS) is a data encryption and authentication scheme intended to
prevent copying video files directly from a DVD disc. CSS was developed
primarily by Matsushita and Toshiba. Each CSS licensee is given a key
from a master set of 400 keys that are stored on every CSS-encrypted disc.
This allows a license to be revoked by removing its key from future discs.
The CSS decryption algorithm exchanges keys with the drive unit to generate
an encryption key that is then used to obfuscate the exchange of disc
keys and title keys that are needed to decrypt data from the disc. DVD
players have CSS circuitry that decrypts the data before it's decoded
and displayed. Makers of equipment used to display DVD-Video (drives,
decoder chips, decoder software, display adapters, etc.) must license
CSS. The license is extremely restrictive in an attempt to keep the CSS
algorithm and keys secret. Of course, nothing that's used on millions
of players and drives worldwide could be kept secret for long. In October
1999, the CSS algorithm was cracked and posted on the Internet, triggering
endless controversies and legal battles.
What is meant
by lines of resolution?
Lines of horizontal resolution are often confused with scan lines. The
two are totally different things, be careful when shopping for equipment.
Lines of horizontal resolution refers to visually resolvable vertical
lines per picture height. In other words, it's measured by counting the
number of vertical black and white lines that can be distinguished an
area that is as wide as the picture is high. Lines of horizontal resolution
applies both to television displays and to signal formats such as that
produced by a DVD player. Since DVD has 720 horizontal pixels (on both
NTSC and PAL discs), the horizontal resolution can be calculated by dividing
720 by 1.33 (for a 4:3 aspect ratio) to get 540 lines. On a 1.78 (16:9)
display, you get 405 lines. In practice, most DVD players provide about
500 lines instead of 540 because of filtering and low-quality digital-to-analog
converters. VHS has about 230 (172 widescreen) lines, broadcast TV has
about 330 (248 widescreen), and laserdisc has about 425 (318 widescreen).
Scan lines, on the other hand, measure resolution along the y axis. DVD
produces 480 scan lines of active picture for NTSC and 576 for PAL. The
NTSC standard has 525 total scan lines, but only 480 to 483 or so are
visible. (The extra lines are black and are encoded with other information).
Since all video formats (VHS, LD, broadcast, etc.) have the same number
of scan lines, it's the horizontal resolution that makes the big difference
in picture quality.
difference between composite, s-video, component and rgb video? Is one
better than the other?
Composite video is standard on all DVD players. You hook a standard video
cable from the player to the display (or to an A/V receiver). The connectors
are usually yellow and may be labeled video, CVBS, composite, or baseband.
A better solution is S-video. Almost all players have s-video output.
S-video looks much better than composite video, and only slightly inferior
to component video. Hook an s-video cable from the player to the display
(or to an A/V receiver that can switch s-video). The round, 4-pin connectors
may be labelled Y/C, s-video, or S-VHS.
Component video is
the best solution: Most DVD players have interlaced (some also have progressive
scan) component YUV (Y'Pb'Pr') video output in the form of 3 RCA-jack
connectors. Connectors may be labeled YUV, color difference, YPbPr, or
Y/B-Y/R-Y, and may be colored green/blue/red. (Some players incorrectly
label the output YCbCr.) Some DVD players and HDTV receivers also have
RGB component video output via a 15-pin video plug (similar to a monitor
on your PC).
Can I mix
composite, s-video, component and rgb video when hooking up my system?
This varies depending on the equipment. It depends if your receiver or
TV has the capability to perform video format conversion. Most do not.
For example, if you hooked up your VCR to your receiver with composite
video cable, you could not then, hook-up your receiver to your TV with
s-video cables. However, your best bet is to consult your owners manual
for specifications on your equipment.
What is the
difference between interlaced and progressive video?
An interlaced picture is divided into two halves, the odd and even scan
lines. These are "halves" are displayed odd, even, odd, even,
etc., at a rate of 60 frames per second. So, in reality at any given time
you are only seeing half of the picture (although because the frame rate
is so high, your eyes don't notice it.) Interlaced scanning sometimes
results in screen flicker and visible scan lines. Standard analog TV signals
are interlaced signals.
takes the whole picture (all scan lines) and displays them at a rate of
30 frames per second. Because the whole frame is reproduced every time,
the result is a more solid, film-like picture. Computer monitors use progressive
What is HDTV?
How can I get it? Do I need it now? Is my regular TV going to stop working?
I'm sure that you have either heard or read the statement that HDTV is
the biggest breakthrough in television since color. It truly is. If you
have never seen HDTV, you are in for a treat. HDTV is simply incredible.
It is the most life-like picture you can get with the sole exception of
looking out a window. HDTV offers wider pictures with greater detail and
the clarity of motion pictures. Compared to standard television (NTSC),
the true HDTV image has twice the luminance definition - vertically and
horizontally - and is twenty-five percent wider. Standard television aspect
ratio is 4:3 - the HDTV aspect ratio is 16:9. The 16:9 ratio is much closer
to the average widescreen image shown in movie theaters. However, the
biggest difference between NTSC and HDTV is its clarity. True HDTV pictures
are composed of 1080 active lines (1125 total) whereas current standard
television pictures are composed of only 480 active lines (525 total).
The lines that make up standard television pictures are clearly visible,
but HDTV lines are not at all noticeable. The fine-grained HD picture
contains five times more information than does the standard television
picture and is accompanied by multi-channel, Dolby Digital audio.
The U.S. Congress
has mandated a change from the current NTSC (analog) television broadcasting
standard to DTV (digital) broadcasting. The Federal Communications Commission
has established a schedule for the introduction of DTV. Most Americans
are scheduled to have access to DTV by 1999 and everyone in this country
is scheduled to have DTV access by the year 2002. At the end of the transition
period -- which is now scheduled for December 31, 2006 -- broadcasters
will be required to surrender their analog channels to the federal government.
This will be the end of standard NTSC broadcasts.