Here is a summary of our most frequently asked questions and some tips for getting your system just right.
I am having difficulties using my turntable connected to any of the audio inputs even AUX.
Not all receivers have a built-in “phono” input. If your receiver does not have an input labeled “Phono” you will need to purchase a phono pre-amplifier in order to connect a turntable to this unit. The reason being is that turntables have a very low output; this is where the pre-amp comes into play. The pre-amplifier is just that, an amplifier. It’s job is to amplify the low signal that runs through and pass it along to the receiver so that it can play it back.
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. As far as speaker wire goes, a 12 gauge speaker wire will sound a heck of a lot better than 18 gauge wire.
AV (audio/video) cables are kind of a different story — quality definitely matters here. Most of the free cables that come with equipment are not good enough. They will physically carry a signal, but will also carry interference, noise and other things that you don’t want. Do yourself a favour and buy good quality, but reasonably priced, shielded cables.
I want to connect an equaliser to my receiver.
It is not recommended to connect an equaliser to a Home Theatre receiver that decodes DTS & Dolby Digital. If you do connect an equalizer be sure to purchase one that has a Bypass or Defeat switch and connect it to the tape monitor inputs on the receiver. You should bypass the EQ when the playback source is DD or DTS.
Why does my receiver keep turning off?
There are many reasons why a receiver will shut down unexpectedly. The first thing to check is the speaker wiring. Make sure the speaker wires are not shorted out (touching each other). You should check the speaker wiring to be absolutely sure the wiring is correct. If the wiring is correct you should power down the receiver and completely disconnect ALL the speaker wires. Then turn the receiver ON, without any speakers connected, to see if the receiver continues to shut down.
If it continues to shut down there could be damage internally. If it remains on (this is usually a good sign) turn the volume up to about half way and connect one speaker at a time until the receiver shuts down again. You can single out which speaker is causing the problem at which point you should repair or replace the problem speaker/speaker wire.
What’s the difference between Pro Logic®, Pro Logic II, and Dolby® Digital 5.1?
Dolby Pro Logic is a matrix decoder that decodes the four channels of surround sound that have been encoded onto the stereo soundtracks of Dolby Surround program material such as VHS movies and TV shows. Dolby Surround (or Dolby matrix!) is a matrix encoding process that in essence “folds” Left, Center, Right, and Surround channels onto stereo soundtracks. A Pro Logic decoder “unfolds” the four channels on playback (without a Pro Logic decoder, the encoded program plays in regular stereo).
Dolby Pro Logic II is an advanced matrix decoder that derives five-channel surround (Left, Center, Right, Left Surround, and Right Surround) from any stereo program material, whether or not it has been specifically Dolby Surround encoded. On encoded material such as movie soundtracks, the sound is more like Dolby Digital 5.1, while on unencoded stereo material such as music CDs the effect is a wider, more involving soundfield. Among other improvements over Pro Logic, Pro Logic II provides two full-range (stereo) surround channels, as opposed to Pro Logic’s single, limited-bandwidth (mono) surround channel. DPL-II has also improved the steering logic, resulting in high channel separation and an exceptionally stable soundfield.
Dolby Digital 5.1 is a method of transmitting and storing 5.1-channel soundtracks via newer digital media such as DVD, digital cable, digital broadcast TV (DTV), and satellite transmissions. Unlike the Dolby Surround encode/Pro Logic decode process, which sacrifices channel separation to get surround onto any stereo soundtrack, Dolby Digital 5.1 is a discrete system that keeps the multiple channels fully separated throughout the whole encoding and decoding processes. In addition to having full-range Left, Centre, Right, Left Surround, and Right Surround channels, Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks carry a sixth (“.1”) channel recorded with low-frequency effects (those bass rumbles and booms you feel as well as hear in a well-equipped cinema).
What’s the difference between Dolby Digital and DTS?
Dolby Digital is 16 bits of PCM Linear Tracking that is compressed. DTS is 20 bits of Master quality audio that is not compressed. Dolby Digital and DTS are similar in that they are both digital lossy audio coding technologies, which means they use “perceptual” data reduction techniques that are based on the characteristics of human hearing to mask the process, thereby preserving high fidelity sound. This is necessary in order to fit the typical 5.1-channel bitstream into a given storage space or transmission bandwidth. Beyond those basic similarities, the two formats are very different.
The main difference is that Dolby Digital is designed to handle anything from mono to full 5.1-channel sound formats, and typically runs at data rates of 192 to 448 kbps depending on the number of audio channels and the application. DTS was originally designed for a data rate of 1411 kbps, and typically runs at data rates of 754 or 1509 kbps depending on the data capacity available. In order to achieve lower data rates than DTS with no sacrifice in sound quality, Dolby Digital uses many sophisticated data reduction technologies that DTS lacks.
The most commonly used data rate for Dolby Digital on DVDs has increased to 448 kbps, thus assuring optimal sound quality. Meanwhile, DTS data rates have been cut in half for most new DVDs, down to 754 kbps, potentially decreasing sound quality.
There is some debate about which of the two formats is better. Many broadcast industries seem to believe that Dolby Digital is better. After exhaustive listening tests, Dolby Digital has been chosen as the standard for digital broadcast television, digital cable, and digital satellite TV in almost every country worldwide. All DVDs in the US (and worldwide) are mandated to carry either Dolby Digital or PCM stereo audio. Finally, Dolby Digital is by far the leader in commercial cinema; it is installed in more than 30,000 theatres worldwide.
What is meant by 5.1, 6.1, and even 7.1?
With respect to soundtracks, such as those on movies and DVDs, 5.1 means that the soundtracks are recorded with five main channels: left, center, right, left surround, and right surround, plus a low-frequency effects (LFE) bass channel (called a “.1″ channel because it covers only a fraction of the frequency range of the main channels).
Some movie soundtracks use a variation on 5.1 called Dolby® Digital Surround EX™, which has now migrated via DVDs to home theater. This format matrix encodes a third surround channel onto, actually from, the left and right surround channels of 5.1 soundtracks, and may be decoded or not at the cinema’s or home listener’s option due to their inherent compatibility. Because the extra surround information is carried on the left and right surround channels, Dolby Digital Surround EX encoded soundtracks are still regarded as 5.1 soundtracks.
With respect to home playback, the terms 5.1, 6.1, and even 7.1 mean that there are five, six, or even seven main speakers, plus a subwoofer, in the playback system. (The subwoofer reproduces the LFE channel recorded on 5.1 soundtracks, plus any bass the main speakers cannot handle.) The difference is in the number of surround speakers: two in a 5.1 system, three in a 6.1 system, and four in a 7.1 system.
Obviously, a 5.1-channel soundtrack can be played on a 5.1-speaker system. But it is not always understood that it can also be played on a 6.1- or a 7.1-speaker system. To do this, the two surround signals on the 5.1 soundtrack are spread across the three or four surround speakers. This distribution can be accomplished by a Dolby Digital EX decoder, a THX Surround EX decoder, or other proprietary methods provided in home theater equipment by various manufacturers.
So the number (i.e., 5.1) describing the soundtrack does not have to match the number applied to the speaker system. It’s even possible to play two-channel stereo content over these multi-speaker systems by using a matrix surround decoder such as Dolby Pro Logic® II. The delivery format and the speaker configuration are independent, and it is the decoder’s job to bridge them effectively.
What is Dolby Digital Surround EX?
Dolby Digital Surround EX provides a third surround channel on Dolby Digital movie soundtracks. The third surround channel can be decoded at the home viewer’s option for playback over surround speakers located behind the seating area, while the left and right surround channels are reproduced by surround speakers to the sides. To maintain compatibility, the back surround channel is matrix-encoded onto (or from!) the left and right surround channels of an otherwise conventional 5.1 mix, so no information is lost when the film is played in conventional 5.1.
For playing DVDs with Dolby Digital Surround EX soundtracks in the home, A/V receivers are available with Dolby Digital EX which derives the extra surround channel for playback in 6.1 (three surround speakers total) or 7.1 (four surround speakers total) configurations. (Of course, these DVDs can be played in conventional 5.1, without EX decoding and extra surround speakers.)
The benefits of Dolby Digital Surround EX include a more realistic flyover and fly-around effects, a more stable image for atmospheres and music, and a more consistent surround effect throughout the auditorium or home viewing area.
What’s the 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. Here is an 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.
Progressive scanning 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 video.
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. 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.
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, 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 normal 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.
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 theatre. 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.