Understanding Home Theater Sound Types: Several 7.1-Channel Formats

If you’re new to home theater audio, you’ve probably discovered that the topic is more complicated than many people expect it to be. That’s why last month we started a series on the Home Theater Installation Orange County blog, Understanding Home Theater Sound Types. We covered some of the basics of terminology, and then we covered some of the most popular 5.1-channel formats.

This month we’re back for more! Today we’ll start out by explaining several of the most popular 7.1-channel formats.

7.1 Defined

7.1-channel systems add two additional speakers to the 5.1-channel setup. So where 5.1 includes five primary speakers (front left/center/right and rear left/right) plus a subwoofer, a 7.1-channel system adds a “middle” left and right. These additional speakers create an even more immersive experience.

Blu-ray discs have more space for audio, so many commercially-produced Blu-ray releases include 7.1-channel audio in one of several formats. Some video games and much of modern streaming media also supports 7.1-channel audio.

Now that we have the basics out of the way, here’s an explanation of two of the most common formats.

Dolby TrueHD

Dolby TrueHD gets its name from the fact that it offers lossless, uncompressed audio in 7.1 channels— in other words, “true HD.” This level of quality and format matches exactly the channel quality and distribution you experience when you go to the movie theater. You’ll get better, more exact audio effects with Dolby TrueHD than you will with some other formats (especially those with only 5.1 channels).

DTS-HD Master Audio

DTS-HD Master Audio does basically everything Dolby TrueHD does. It’s a competing technology from the brand DTS. While it delivers lossless performance, it’s not truly lossless thanks to DTS’s “lossy core.”

Conclusion

The reality is that any modern equipment can handle either type, and you’ll likely never hear a difference. Both are great options if your system is set up for 7.1-channel output.

 


Understanding Home Theater Sound Types: More 7.1-Channel Formats

Here on the Home Theater Installation Orange County blog, we’re in the middle of a series explaining the various aspects of home theater sound. There are so many types and technologies that it can be hard for many people to keep up. We’re here to help with this multi-part guide.

Last week we looked at the two main 7.1-channel formats, Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. We also covered what makes 7.1 different than 5.1: the two additional rear surround speakers, for a total of 7 channels plus a subwoofer.

This week we’re rounding out the 7.1 category with three other sound types.

Dolby Pro Logic IIx

If you remember back a couple weeks, we talked about some formats that do something called upmixing. These formats take a stereo signal and upmix it to take advantage of all 5.1 channels. Well, Dolby Pro Logis IIx is the next iteration of upmixing. Systems equipped with this codec can take audio content that’s encoded as stereo or as 5.1 and distribute that sound across all 7.1 channels.

This format is useful when playing older media or stereo-encoded audio CDs.

Dolby Digital Plus

This format is the successor to Dolby Digital 5.1. It does what Dolby Digital does, but over all 7.1 channels. It’s slightly inferior to Dolby TrueHD in that Dolby Digital Plus is lossy. (Though again, if you have average ears and average equipment, you’ll rarely notice a difference.)

DTS-HD

This technology is DTS’s answer to Dolby Digital Plus. It’s a 7.1-channel upgrade to DTS’s 5.1-channel technology. It, too, is lossier than its fancier sibling, DTS-HD Master.

Conclusion

When selecting new 7.1-channel audio equipment, the smart play is to go for equipment that can process all of these formats. The media you want to play will be encoded various ways, and you don’t want to be held back by an unsupported format.

Talk to one of our specialists today to make sure you’re getting everything you need for your new system.

 


Understanding Home Theater Sound Types: Dolby Atmos and DTS:X

We’ve finally arrived at the conclusion of our series on Understanding Home Theater Sound Types. It’s been our privilege here at Experience Audio Video to educate you, our readers, on this often confusing topic. Thanks for reading!

So far we’ve covered all the major home theater sound types in the 5.1-channel, 7.1-channel and 9.1-channel categories. But there’s one more category that bears discussing: the current undisputed champion of fully immersive audio, 11.1-channel formats.

There are three 11.1-channel formats to discuss, all evolutions of technologies we covered in previous posts.

Dolby Atmos

Dolby Atmos is a real reimagining of surround sound technology. It’s an object-based format, where audio is assigned to exact spatial locations, mimicking where those sounds would take place if your media were real life. It includes either ceiling-mounted speakers or up-throwing speakers to generate the spatial element.

With Atmos, you need a new number in your configuration: 7.1.4, for example, indicates a seven-speaker surround setup, one subwoofer, and four overhead or up-firing speakers.

DTS:X

DTS:X takes a similar object-based approach, but it’s a little more flexible. It works with or without the overhead/up-firing speakers, so you could use DTS:X with as little as a 5.1-channel configuration. It also allows for some mild customization, such as toggling dialog louder.

Auro-3D

Auro-3D has several additional configurations and speaker placements, including a 10th channel overhead center and an 11th, which adds front center height.

Auro even has a 13.1-channel option, which adds in the rear surround left/right speakers that were lost way back at 9.1-channel Auro-3D. Note that there are very few 13.1-channel receivers on the market, and like any latest and greatest tech, you’ll pay a premium.

Which Should You Choose?

Much of today’s content is encoded with either Dolby Atmos or DTS:X. The good news is that most robust systems can adequately interpret both of those without the need for reconfiguration. Auro-3D is a bit different, but it can adequately distribute content encoded using the other formats as well.

Unsure which way to go? Schedule a free consultation today and talk to an industry veteran to help determine what makes the most sense for your space.

 


Understanding Home Theater Sound Types: Auro-3D and Dolby Pro Logic IIz

We’ve been talking about home theater sound formats for the last several weeks on the Home Theater Installation Orange County blog. We’re getting close to the end of this series now. So far we’ve covered all the major 5.1-channel and 7.1-channel formats, and we’ve shared a bit of a tutorial on what those designations are all about.

If you’re just joining us, we highly recommend you read the previous posts in the series before continuing.

9.1: The Next Frontier

For many consumers, a 5.1- or 7.1-channel system will meet their expectations and create a perfectly enjoyable home theater experience. But some of you want even more. The next evolution in home theater sound is 9.1-channel audio.

As you might expect, 9.1-channel configurations add two additional channels, which correspond to two additional speakers. One great thing about 9.1-channel formats and equipment is that both formats can automatically upmix any source to utilize all the speakers in your system.

Let’s look at the two 9.1-channel formats on the market today.

Dolby Pro logic IIz

Dolby’s 9.1-channel format can upmix any source, adding front height effects to what would otherwise be a 7.1-channel sound. These front height speakers are the two new channels, and they are placed high on the wall above your front left and right speakers. They add further depth and dimension to your sound.

Auro-3D

Auro-3D takes a slightly different approach. Remember those additional rear speakers we gained when we bumped up to 7.1? Auro-3D ditches those in favor of a “full 3D” soundscape. With Auro-3D, you add height speakers (up high on the wall) above your front left and right as well as your surround left and right. In a way, you’re sacrificing a bit of surround immersion, but the trade-off is a much greater sense of 3D sound immersion.

 


Understanding Home Theater Sound Types: Dolby Digital (plus DTS)

One of the main components of a home theater setup is the sound system. Generally to qualify as home theater, a system needs to have some form of surround sound.

The only problem? There are so many different formats and setups for home theater sound. It’s enough to make your head spin!

That’s why we’re starting a new series on the Home Theater Installation of Orange County blog today: Understanding Home Theater Sound Types. We’ll start today with one of the earliest formats that’s still in wide use: Dolby Digital.

Prologue: Defining Terms

Before we dive into Dolby Digital, we need to define some terms. In the world of home theater speaker setups, you’ll often see numbers, like 5.1 or 7.1, in addition to branded names, like Dolby Digital or Atmos. Both of these are important. We’ll cover the branded names later on, but first let’s look at the numbers.

If you see a number like 5.1 or 7.1, you’re seeing a shorthand description of the number of speakers. A 5.1 system has five distinct speakers, plus a subwoofer (that’s the .1).

Whatever numbers are associated with your speaker system, you’ll also need a receiver that can handle that many channels of audio. So a 5.1 system needs a five-channel receiver, and a 7.1 system needs a seven-channel receiver.

Dolby Digital: The OG Surround Format

Dolby Digital is the original surround sound format. It was the first to provide clear, realistic multichannel audio in a 5.1 channel configuration (Front left/center/right and rear left/right). When used on discs (such as DVDs), audio must be compressed. The receiver then decompresses and plays the audio.

This compression isn’t particularly desirable among enthusiasts, but everyday folks probably won’t hear a difference—especially on non-premium speakers.

Bonus Format: DTS

DTS is a less common format in the same family as Dolby Digital. It improves on Dolby Digital by lowering compression levels. The difference is slight, however.

Interested to learn more? Stay tuned! We’ll cover many other formats in the weeks to come.

 


Understanding Home Theater Sound Types: 2 Upmixing Formats

We started a new series on the blog last week, Understanding Home Theater Sound Types. If you’re new to all this (or even if you could just use a refresher), make sure you read that post before this one. We covered some of the basic terminology, plus two classic surround sound formats, Dolby Digital and DTS.

This week, we at Experience Audio Video want to help you understand two more formats that do something called upmixing.

What Is Upmixing?

Upmixing isn’t an everyday word, so we’ll start with a quick explanation. Some video/audio formats, like CDs, DVDs and Blu-Rays produced commercially by large entertainment companies, are encoded with multichannel audio in one or more of a number of formats (like Dolby Digital or Atmos). Provided your system is compatible with the format the media is encoded with, you’ll receive sweet surround sound naturally.

But not everything you might want to watch or listen to is formatted in surround sound. Much recorded music is stereo encoded, and some video sources may also provide stereo audio only.

Upmixing, then, is the process of reading a stereo audio source and converting it on the fly to utilize the additional channels in a home theater system.

There are two leading types of upmixing formats/algorithms: Dolby Pro Logic II and DTS Neo:6.

Dolby Pro Logic II

One of the two main formats or methods for upmixing stereo audio to a multichannel matrix, Dolby Pro Logic II can decode recordings encoded as stereo and upmix them to a 5.1-channel multichannel matrix, giving you “faux surround” sound.

DTS Neo:6

DTS Neo:6 does essentially the same thing as the previous type, potentially with better audio mapping (more realistic “faux surround”).

Understand that this isn’t standalone tech: your system needs to be able to process true surround formats, too. But upmixing capability is a nice addition to a home theater system.

 


2020 Trends in Home Theater: Our Top 2 Predictions

Now that it’s 2020, it’s time to take a look at upcoming trends in home theater. As with any area of technology, new developments are happening all the time. So what are the most significant developments that look to trend in 2020? Here are the top 2 predictions from the Experience Audio Video team.

Soundbars Reign Supreme

We know, soundbars aren’t exactly a home theater aficionado’s dream, but trends are trends. 2020 looks to be a promising year for soundbar technology. All sorts of manufacturers are trotting out improved models at CES. Functionality, intuitiveness and sound quality are all on the rise.

Of course, as a custom home theater installer, we’re never going to recommend you settle for a soundbar alone. Your home theater needs more. But consider how much bang for your buck you could get for any secondary TVs in your home—ones that aren’t a part of your main home theater setup.

Some of the new offerings include innovative approaches to accommodate 5.1 channel sound and more. While these soundbars can’t match a full surround setup, they are nonetheless impressive.

8K Ascending

The other trend we’re watching is toward 8K displays. We’ve been seeing prototypes at shows like CES since 2013, but displays have only become available at retail in the last couple years. They’re still quite expensive, but prices are dropping. Samsung’s 55-inch 8K display is offered at around $3500 today, a reasonable price for cutting-edge equipment.

There isn’t a ton of native 8K content available yet, but it’s a mistake to dismiss 8K as a trend on this basis alone. That’s because, according to Digital Trends, 8K displays will upscale 4K content, giving a significant difference in clarity. In simpler terms, your 4K content will look even better on an 8K display than on a 4K.

 


Why You Want a Media Center PC for Your Home Theater

One home theater component we get a lot of questions about at Experience Audio Video is the media center PC. What’s the value of having a media center PC? In the age of streaming sticks and smart TVs, what makes a media center PC a worthwhile investment?

It’s true that smart TVs and streaming devices have changed the landscape somewhat, but for a truly deep, immersive home theater experience, you’ll still want a media center PC. Here are a few reasons why.

A Media Center PC Simplifies Your Home Theater

First, a media center PC simplifies your setup. Have you ever visited someone’s home and been invited to “help yourself” to the TV? Easier said than done, right? A typical TV setup can involve 4 or more remotes, and good luck recovering if you turn devices on in the wrong order.

This is one problem you can solve with a media center PC. With one device controlling all your entertainment options, you simplify the process of running your system and accessing your content. With a few basic instructions, your guests can control what they need so they can enjoy your home theater.

A Media Center PC Gives You Greater Consumption Options

Streaming sticks and smart speakers are great, but they have their limits. You’re limited to the subscriptions you’re paying for, and even then, not every service works on every device. Want to watch an obscure foreign film from the 1980s? Good luck finding it on a major streaming platform.

To make matters worse, most smart devices can’t play the media you own outright. Most of us have a hefty collection of purchased music and movies that we can’t access on our Rokus, Fire TVs or Apple TVs.

A media center PC is the solution to your back catalog of content. And a quality modern media center PC can handle your streaming services, too.

 


Why You Want a Media Center PC for Your Home Theater

One home theater component we get a lot of questions about at Experience Audio Video is the media center PC. What’s the value of having a media center PC? In the age of streaming sticks and smart TVs, what makes a media center PC a worthwhile investment?

It’s true that smart TVs and streaming devices have changed the landscape somewhat, but for a truly deep, immersive home theater experience, you’ll still want a media center PC. Here are a few reasons why.

A Media Center PC Simplifies Your Home Theater

First, a media center PC simplifies your setup. Have you ever visited someone’s home and been invited to “help yourself” to the TV? Easier said than done, right? A typical TV setup can involve 4 or more remotes, and good luck recovering if you turn devices on in the wrong order.

This is one problem you can solve with a media center PC. With one device controlling all your entertainment options, you simplify the process of running your system and accessing your content. With a few basic instructions, your guests can control what they need so they can enjoy your home theater.

A Media Center PC Gives You Greater Consumption Options

Streaming sticks and smart speakers are great, but they have their limits. You’re limited to the subscriptions you’re paying for, and even then, not every service works on every device. Want to watch an obscure foreign film from the 1980s? Good luck finding it on a major streaming platform.

To make matters worse, most smart devices can’t play the media you own outright. Most of us have a hefty collection of purchased music and movies that we can’t access on our Rokus, Fire TVs or Apple TVs.

A media center PC is the solution to your back catalog of content. And a quality modern media center PC can handle your streaming services, too.

 


Recliner-Style Theater Seating: The Ultimate in Home Theater Luxury

Are you thinking about installing a home theater? Perhaps you already have one, but you’re looking to renovate or upgrade it. Here at Experience Audio Video, we love helping our customers achieve fantastic results with their home theaters.

One area where customers can differentiate their home theater experience is with seating. We looked recently here on the blog at two seating options: stadium and theater style seats. Both are great options, but some of our customers want something a bit more luxurious: recliner-style seating.

Recliner-Style Seating Is the Ultimate Home Theater Luxury

Recliner-style seating is the ultimate luxury upgrade for your home theater. It’s a combination of two great things. Everyone loves the comfort of watching TV in an overstuffed easy chair, and everyone loves the experience of sharing a movie with friends and family. With recliner-style theater seating, you’ll get both of those at once.

There are many options available, of course. Most will have cup holders and trays between seats perfect for storing snacks, devices and remotes. Less expensive models may be finished in an imitation leather like at the movies, while higher-end versions are outfitted with luxurious real leather.

A few newer, nicer movie theaters have innovated in this way, providing a recliner experience in every seat. It’s a nice touch of class to be sure, but it’s nothing compared to the intimate luxury you can get at home. You can have larger recliner seats in a more intimate space, and you don’t have to worry about rude guests (unless you invited them yourself!).

Ready to Learn More?

If you’re considering new seating for a home theater room in your home, contact Experience Audio Video today.