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A surround sound setup doesn't need speakers everywhere. Here are 2.1 reasons why.

I'll admit it, as enticing as it is to have a surround sound setup all around you, delivering the cinematic punch of a movie's soundtrack, it's not for everyone…or every room for that matter. For what ever reason, the layout of the room may be prohibitive, or a member of the household may not like the idea. The answer may lie in a 2.1 channel system. Simply put, 2 speakers and a subwoofer.

Please do not confuse simplicity with cheap home theater systems. I defend this by stating that I have heard even a computer surround sound speaker system with 2 speakers and a sub sound better than a poorly built 5.1 channel system.

A good quality surround sound setup depends on the quality of the gear, not the quantity. The sonic improvement of adding two powered speakers and a subwoofer to an HDTV, a blu-ray, or DVD player will knock the socks off of many folks. It is such an improvement over the TV speakers that many will be content with a 2.1 channel system.

For those households who may have someone opposed to a huge 5.1 channel, or 7.1 channel system, it is a welcome compromise. A 2.1 channel system is much easier to hide, connect, and once again, the sonic improvement is hard to argue against.

You may be wondering, can 2 speakers be considered surround sound, since there are no speakers "surrounding" you? The answer is, absolutely! You see, many of today's acoustic technologies provide a surround effect through the use of only two speakers. This audio effect creates the illusion of more than 2 speakers using unique processing algorithms, your room's acoustics, or a combination of both to create a convincing soundstage. For those unconvinced, the simple upgrade to 2.1 channel stereo sound compared to your TV speakers will be a revelation.

Home theatre speakers don't have to surround you. Experience a 3.1 channel system and hear for yourself.

As many people love the idea of thrilling surround sound in their home, there are those who lack the space for lots of home theatre speakers. There are also those who don't want to place speakers all around the room. Enter the 3.1 channel home theater systems.

Depending on the room layout or size, it may be difficult to place surround sound speakers. Under these circumstances even wireless surround sound may not be an option.

Whether a small den or how about the bedroom?

A 3.1 channel home theater system might just fit the bill.

This setup consists of 3 speakers across the front and a subwoofer. Rear speakers are not used; however, using acoustical processing technologies, which vary depending on the manufacturer, a simulated surround sound speaker effect is achieved through the front speakers.

These may be separate left front, center, and right front speakers, or a single speaker array, called a sound bar, which is usually long and narrow placed above or below the TV. Inside this speaker array will likely be three or more separate speaker drivers (one for each channel) along with a connection to a separate subwoofer for the low bass effects. Often, the amplifier, inputs and outputs, as well as all of the audio processing circuitry is housed inside the subwoofer to keep this system super easy to hookup.

High definition DVD recorders let you archive your HD videos on DVD media!

Home movie-makers rejoice! High definition DVD recorders are here! Wouldn't it be great if there were a device that allowed you to transfer all those home movies from now and the past onto DVD? Without a computer? What about burning those high definition videos from your HD camcorder?

Now you can. In fact, if you have a Sony High Def Handycam with memory stick or hard drive storage, you can burn HD video at 1080i resolution on a DVD disc! Enjoy those home movies, digitally preserved, while you are relaxing in front of your HDTV.

Although a Blu-ray player is required to view those DVDs you record in high definition, the cost of a blank DVD vs. a blank Blu-ray disc is far less expensive. Using AVCHD or advanced video codec HD, this high def DVD recorder can burn videos recorded in a high definition format known as H.264. This special type of video compression allows approximately 90 minutes of HD video to fit on a 4.7 gigabyte single layer DVD.

Surround sound speakers in a 5.1 channel system put you in the center of it all!

When it comes to surround sound speakers, the most popular configuration is a 5.1 channel setup. This consists of a front left and right speaker, a center channel speaker, a left and right rear speaker, and a subwoofer. The basic configuration is shown in the diagram to the right.

When installing surround sound, this setup allows a bit more flexibility when it comes to positioning the rear speakers versus a 7.1 channel system.

The rear speakers in a 5.1 channel system can be placed directly behind or off to the sides of the listener (i.e. behind the sofa, on two end tables on either side of the seating position, on the rear wall behind the listener, on the side walls to the rear of the room, and even in the rear corners of the rear/side walls at a forty five degree angle to split the difference.)

The point is, you can experiment with the sonic differences and with what is more aesthetically pleasing for the room in question. You will likely find the perfect place for your surround speakers.

For those looking at a wireless surround sound system, the 5.1 channel configuration will prove an easier install as well as far easier to find when shopping around.

For those who feel that they are selling themselves short by not going for the full 7 speaker setup, remember that today's sophisticated surround sound receivers that utilize 7 channels are designed to convert all content recorded in 7.1 surround sound to 5.1 speaker systems when needed. The sound for the additional speakers is simply routed to the two surrounds and you still get to hear everything. This feature found on pretty much every 7.1 channel receiver can be easily configured in the first time set up of your system after which you need not worry about it again. This is a great feature for two reasons:

First of all, most all HDTV broadcasts, DVDs,video games, and even Blu ray discs to date are encoded in 5.1 surround formats so you won't be missing a thing. Second,if your home theater system consists of a 7.1 channel amplifier/receiver, as more content becomes available, you can add the two additional surround sound speakers to your system if and when you wish to do so.

The surround sound receiver. The brain behind every word, note, and noise you hear.

One of the most important parts of home theater systems is the surround sound receiver, also commonly referred to as a home theater amplifier. It sends power to each speaker and processes the signal, providing the brawn and the brain of every voice, sound effect, and musical cue.

Not only providing the power to drive every speaker, this device is also the hub, or central nervous system wherein all of the components, often including the high definition television, are connected.

Even wireless home theater systems have a receiver that connects the front speakers, the blu ray player, a high definition satellite system, and many other home theater components.

The surround receiver is responsible for decoding many of today's sophisticated surround sound formats found on the latest blu ray movies and DVDs.

Make sure that the amplifier/receiver you select has sufficient power for all of the speakers in your surround sound setup. Also make sure it has the most up to date decoding for the latest surround formats.

You will be amazed at the connectivity of today's components. A high quality home theater receiver will allow almost every component in your system to be hooked up to it; thereby simplifying the operation of your system and making it all the more enjoyable.

A wireless surround sound system keeps the wires out of your way! (kinda/sorta)

We live in an increasingly wireless world. Why not a wireless surround sound system? For many, the thought of installing surround sound with all of the speakers and the subwoofer, placed anywhere in the room without any wires is very enticing. Sadly however, with current technology, this dream remains unrealized and incomplete.

Currently, the options are limited to subwoofers and the rear speakers. Even in these instances, although the audio signal information is transmitted to the sub wirelessly, the subwoofer still requires power from an AC outlet. The wireless surround speakers need to be powered as well. Most likely in this case, a separate, smaller amplifier, plugged into an AC outlet is connected to the rear speakers with speaker wire. This enables surround sound without the need for wires running across the room from front to back.

wireless vs. wired

The small amplifier can be hidden in the back of the room near the speakers, or under the home theater seating if you place the speakers directly behind the listener.

Depending on your home theater design, wireless surround sound may be the right way to go.

For those situations, where wires across the room present the biggest challenge when installing surround sound, this "wireless" option should be helpful.

Today's dts surround sound and Dolby Digital surround formats sound incredible!

dts surround sound and Dolby Digital surround formats continue to push the envelope, providing an audio experience to remember. The brilliant sound is enjoyed in both movie and home theaters worldwide.

Dolby™ Digital is a surround sound audio format created by Dolby™ Laboratories. The company was founded in 1965 by Ray Dolby and first designed professional recording equipment. They pioneered a method of audio compression and expansion that greatly reduced the hissing sound often heard in tape recordings at the time, while maintaining the clarity of the recording itself.

Years would pass and the company would continue to develop ways to improve sound. Movie theaters around the world would have Dolby™ equipment to provide a grand listening experience. In the 80's the company would enter the digital era, and offer surround sound, and in the early 90's, digital surround sound would be born. Until 1993, Dolby™ Labs was the preeminent provider of digital surround sound in the theater, and the home.

dts™ stands for Digital Theater Systems and was founded in 1993 in Agoura Hills,CA. It was designed to improve on the current digital surround format at the time called ac-3 (audio codec 3) by Dolby Laboratories. The use of lower data compression would result in a richer audio experience than the current technology.

Today, both Dolby™ Labs and dts™ continue to advance surround sound audio quality. Thanks to the advancement of technology found in today's surround sound software like blu ray discs, video games, and DVDs, and the remarkable sophistication of today's advanced surround sound receivers, we have the privilege of hearing the director's and sound designer's sonic vision exactly as they intended.

Not long ago, dts surround sound and Dolby Digital, or ac-3 as it was originally called, gave us 5.1 channel digital audio on our home theater systems. This allowed for 5 discreet channels of sound coming from 5 speakers plus a low frequency effects channel for a subwoofer. For the first time, surround sound speakers were as full range as the front speakers, and independent of each other. This meant that a sound designer could place sounds all around the listener and manipulate them anyway they wanted. This allowed for very realistic panning effects and a greater sense of immersion into the film, game, or show. Well if that was not awesome enough, now there are newer more advanced audio formats brought to the home theater scene.

Why would we need something better?

Although the aforementioned dts surround sound and Dolby Digital surround formats sounded great, they were digitally compressed in order to fit on DVD and video game media available at the time. Now, that is no longer the case. Thanks to newer media like blu ray movies and their vast storage capacity, the producers of today's movies can include uncompressed digital soundtracks which are identical to the studio master recording and the ones we hear at the movie theater.

Now called dts-HD Master Audio and Dolby True HD, these latest formats from the two companies are able to provide home theater lovers with sound quality that compromises nothing.