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How to add great sound to your HDTV

   Sound solutions for today's HDTVs

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Surround Sound over HDMI
How to hookup surround sound
Surround Sound Glossary
How to add great sound to HDTV - Sound Bar

Adding great sound to your HDTV can be accomplished in several ways. The Sound Bar solution is one way.

Another way is to go with a full function surround sound solution.

What do I need for surround sound?

To reproduce surround sound at home, you need the following:

1) A source such as a DVD player, digital cable TV, satellite TV or digital broadcast TV, capable of either (a) passing a digital bit stream of encoded surround-sound signals to a separate decoder via an optical or digital coaxial audio output, or (b) decoding the bitstream and passing the multiple resulting analog audio signals to an amplifier. Most DVD players, digital cable TV boxes and HDTVs pass the digital bitstream for surround formats; for multichannel audio, make sure the requisite decoders (SACD, DVD-Audio or both) are built-in, since these formats must be decoded at the source component.

2) A sound system capable of multichannel reproduction. A basic 5.1-channel system (the minimum needed for the most common surround applications) consists of speakers for front left, front right, front center, surround left and surround right channels, each with a dedicated channel of amplification usually supplied by a home theater receiver, also called an Audio/Video Receiver or AVR, plus a separate subwoofer which usually has its own built-in amplifier.

You must have a decoder compatible with one or more multichannel audio formats. For movie surround formats (Dolby Digital, DTS and their extended-surround variants), the decoder is typically built into the home theater receiver that supplies amplification and processing for each of the system's audio channels, but may also be built into a DVD player or added to the system via a dedicated processing device.

For multichannel music (SACD and DVD-Audio), decoding must be done within the source component and the resulting audio signals passed on to the system's amplifiers via multiple analog audio outputs, usually 6 RCA audio cables. If multichannel music is a priority for you, make sure you buy either a dedicated SACD player or a DVD player with built-in SACD or DVD-Audio processing capability.

For discrete multichannel audio, you'll also need surround-encoded media. All DVD discs, for example, are encoded with Dolby Digital soundtracks, but not all Dolby Digital soundtracks are multichannel. Unless a movie soundtrack was originally created with multichannel audio in mind, or remixed to accommodate multichannel playback, it will not necessarily have a surround soundtrack.

Increasingly sophisticated hybrid matrix-surround technologies such as Dolby Pro Logic II, DTS Neo:6 and Dolby Pro Logic IIx can simulate the discrete multichannel experience, even with audio CDs, stereo VHS tapes and other 2-channel media.

What to look for when buying a home theater receiver

When buying a home theater receiver, look for high power (100 watts per channel or more is recommended), equally distributed to all channels of the system (e.g., 100 watts x 5 for a 5.1-channel system). Make sure the receiver you select includes decoders for the formats you want to use. Most modern receivers include basic Dolby Digital 5.1-channel decoding, and many include DTS 5.1 decoding as well. Extended-surround formats are backwards-compatible with 5.1-channel playback, and you can always start with a basic 5.1-channel system and upgrade with extra speakers later. Brands to look for include Pioneer, Yamaha, Sony, Denon and Onkyo.

There are also all-in-one systems called "Home Theater in-a-box" or HTIB. Included are AM/FM, DVD/Blu-ray and 6 speakers.
• Learn more about HTIB here.

Home Theater Receiver › Features to look for:

AM/FM reception
Satellite radio reception
Video conversion - analog video upscaled and sent over HDMI
Video conversion allows composite video and component video input signals to be converted to HDMI, then all video sources are routed to the TV using one HDMI cable

Lip Synch - ability to match (delay) sound with picture
Audio Delay: You can delay the sound output up to 240ms to synchronize it with the video image.
Multiple HDMI Inputs and HDMI Output (HDMI 1.3)
Dolby Digital decoding, DTS decoding
Analog 6 to 8 RCA audio Inputs for already decoded audio such as from SACD or DVD-Audio
Phono Input for turntable
Assignable input and output jacks
Optical digital audio inputs
Digital Coaxial audio inputs
Media Docks such as for iPod
Speaker level adjustments for each speaker
Sleep Timer
Headphone jack
Multi-function Remote control
Subwoofer OUT
5-way speaker binding posts
Inputs for DVD, CD, TV, DVR, Game, converter box
Acoustic Optimizer - automatically adjusts the output of the speakers based on placement, performance, and the room's acoustic characteristics

192kHz/24-bit digital-to-analog converters for all channels
On-screen Display
Dual Zone Capability
Bluetooth wireless capability for streaming audio

Next-Generation SURROUND SOUND capability:
* Dolby TrueHD: a lossless coding technology that supports up to 8 channels of multi-channel surround sound for the next generation optical discs; the reproduced sound is true to the original source bit-for-bit
* Dolby Digital Plus: developed as an extension to Dolby Digital, the coding technology supports 7.1 discrete channels
* DTS-HD Master Audio: an advanced lossless technology that delivers sound that is bit-for-bit identical to the studio master, offering a high-definition home theater experience
* DTS-HD High Resolution Audio: high resolution audio, virtually indistinguishable from the original audio track

Dynamic Range Control: The amount of dynamic range compression applied to bitstream signals; Min/Auto is suitable for low volume listening, Standard is typical for home use, and Max doesn't compress the dynamic range at all.

HDMI Through: When the Receiver is in standby mode (power off), the HDMI Through feature allows HDMI source signals to pass through the receiver to the TV. The HDMI input must be selected before the unit is turned off.


Your speaker complement should ideally be "voice-matched," meaning that all the speakers in the system exhibit similar performance with regard to frequency response, sensitivity and overall tonal character. The easiest way to ensure voice-matching is to buy all your speakers at once and confine your choices to a single manufacturer. If you're fond of your current stereo speakers and wish to augment your existing system to accommodate surround sound, you're probably best off adding speakers by the same manufacturer to ensure the greatest tonal compatibility.


You will need connecting cables for the video and audio to get from source components to the receiver and to a TV. These include HDMI cables, composite and component video, digital audio and also speaker wires. Visit this Cable Guide for an overview of common audio and video cable interconnects.

 Home Theater Receivers

You can buy a good Audio/Video Receiver with Dolby Digital 5.1 decoding capability and HDMI for around $200 - $300.

Examples include the following:

Pioneer - 550W 5.1-Ch. Home Theater Receiver
Model: VSX-519V-K with HDMI

Yamaha - 525W 5.1-Ch. A/V Home Theater Receiver
Model: RX-V465

How do I connect the components?:


You can connect your Cable or satellite TV box, DVD player, Blu-ray player, HDTV and other sources using the optical, digital coaxial or HDMI outputs on the rear of the devices. Typically for Dolby Digital 5.1 you will use the optical output on a HDTV and this will pass the bitstream to the Audio/Video receiver using an optical audio cable to the optical input jack of the AVR. The AVR decodes the bitstream, amplifies the sound and sends to the speakers.


Connects to a Digital Audio component such as a Home theater receiver. When a Digital Audio System is connected to the DIGITAL AUDIO OUT (OPTICAL) jack: Decrease the volume of the TV and adjust the volume level with the system’s volume control. 5.1 channel audio is possible when the HDTV is connected to an external device supporting 5.1 channels. When the Home Theater receiver is set to On, you can hear sound output from the TV’s Optical jack. When the TV is displaying a DTV(air) signal, the HDTV will send out 5.1 channel sound to the Home theater receiver. When the source is a digital component such as a DVD / Blu-ray player / Cable Box / Satellite receiver (Set-Top Box) and is connected to the TV via HDMI, only 2 channel sound will be heard from the Home Theater receiver. If you want to hear 5.1 channel audio, connect the digital audio out jack on DVD / Blu-ray player / Cable Box / Satellite receiver (Set-Top Box) directly to your Home Theater Receiver, not the HDTV.

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