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.

 


HDMI ARC and HDMI eARC: What’s the Difference and What Do They Do?

If you’re running cable to carry video signals in your residence, you’re almost certainly using HDMI cable. The HDMI cable has become ubiquitous in residential applications, connecting nearly every video device in your entertainment system.

Did you know that there are actually many different types of HDMI cable with differing capabilities? Most consumers don’t. That’s because most of the time, the cables work perfectly, and users don’t need to think about the technical specifications.

If your system involves any audio more complicated than the speakers inside the TV, you may have come across the terms HDMI ARC or HDMI eARC. What’s the difference, and what do they do?

HDMI ARC and HDMI eARC: What They Do

The ARC in both terms stands for Audio Return Channel. All HDMI cables carry both video and audio signals. That’s why you can watch a Blu-ray (with sound) over just a single cable. But often this isn’t quite enough. If you’re using an A/V receiver to distribute audio to a speaker system, you also need to send an audio signal from the TV back to the receiver.

Before ARC, you’d need a separate cable to do this. But HDMI cables with either ARC or eARC can send audio both directions—in other words, they have an audio return channel.

What’s the Difference between HDMI ARC and HDMI eARC?

ARC can handle stereo and 5.1 surround signals. eARC is newer and can do more, including technologies like Dolby TrueHD and Atmos. HDMI cables with the 2.1 specification or higher include eARC, while those following the 1.4 specification have ARC. Older cables have neither.

The Takeaway

So, what’s the point? Well, if you’re buying new cables, get those with the HDMI 2.1 specification so you’ll be prepared for any future expansions. And if your fancy new audio gear isn’t working, make sure your HDMI cables are following the needed specification.

Of course, if you don’t want to worry about any of this yourself: give us a call. We’ll happily take care of it for you!

 


2 Seating Ideas for Your Home Theater

The team here at Experience Audio Video loves assisting our clients in building out the home theaters of their dreams. Of course, a great home theater matches the style and personality of the owner. Seating is one great way to customize your home theater room, giving it a flavor and feel all its own.

There are plenty of great options available for home theater seating. Today we’ll look at two of them.

For the Sports Fan: Stadium-Style Seating

One of the simplest ways to choose your seating style is to consider how you’re planning to use your home theater. Is your family crazy about sports? Are you die-hard Dodgers or Lakers fans? Then consider stadium-style seating for your home theater.

Yes, there are vendors who will sell you the iconic fold-down seats found in stadiums around the country. Colors and even team branded options are available as well.

Are you a true die-hard fan? Most teams have either renovated or moved to a new stadium in the last decade or so, and you might be able to find actual seats from their previous stadium. These tend to be collector’s items and pretty expensive, but it’s worth taking a look.

Of course, most of us don’t find baseball stadium seats to be the most comfortable. If you agree, consider a hybrid of sorts: padded seating in the style of stadium chairs.

For the Movie Buff: Theater Seats

If your idea of relaxation is less sports and more cinematic in nature, consider theater-style seating for your home theater. Install a row or two of comfortable, limited-recline chairs complete with cup holders and even food trays, if you like. With theater-style seating, your home theater gets one step closer to a truly immersive cinematic experience.

 


Projector vs. TV Screen: How To Choose The Right Home Theater Display

When you’re shopping for the right home theater display, you’ll find you have two main options: getting a TV screen, or a projector.

Most people are comfortable with TV screens, and consider projectors to be the stuff of movie theaters and conference rooms. However, for both TV screens and projectors, you can now find high-quality options for far less than they used to be.

But which is right for your home theater? It all comes down to what you want in terms of features.

Care

Your TV is pretty much maintenance-free for its lifespan. Modern LEDs are long-lasting enough that you don’t need to worry about replacing them. But with projectors, you may find you need to replace internal lamps.

Cost

The great thing about projectors is that one box can make a huge screen. With TVs, you could be looking at 80-inch plus screens, which will cost more and be a lot more unwieldy. 

Resolution

While HD and 4k screens are all the rage, it’s crucial to think about your screen size when you’re concerned with resolution. Most new TVs feature this technology, but they also have to be a large enough size to make it count. HD projectors, on the other hand, will give you the resolution that you want.

Brightness

In a dark room like a home theater, your projection screen will shine. But if you’re in a bright room, a TV screen will handle any additional light with ease.

Room space

While a projector can provide you with a massive screen, you’ll need to be far enough away from it to truly appreciate the quality. If your home theater is small, you may need a TV screen as you can’t get far enough away to enjoy a projector.

 

About the Author

Experience Audio Video has been serving Orange County and Area since 1999 for residential and commercial audio and video installation services. 5 Star Yelp Ratings, Thousands of Referrals, there is not a better choice than Brian Chappell and the Experience Audio Video Team. One phone call and you will know right away the difference in working with Experience Audio Video vs. others in the area. Contact us now at 714-744-4455 or info@eav-inc.com for a Free Consultation.