Sound Options
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Home Theater Audio Options

Typically, the modern amplifier will have four or five options to control how the sound is processed:

bulletDolby Prologic Surround: This option provides full surround sound, especially for those tape or discs encoded for Dolby, Dolby Surround and THX. It puts you in the middle of the action, makes you feel like you are in the scene.
bulletStudio Effect: This option gives the listener the feeling of being in a recording studio. The front speakers provide normal stereo while the rear speakers provide a subtly reverberated sound. This mode is especially good for live music recordings or stereo movies not filmed in a surround sound format.
bulletSimulated Surround: This provides a simulated surround sound for tapes and recordings made in mono. Try some old movies on this and it will sound like you are at the old time movie house only better!
bulletDolby 3CH Logic: This option produces a more spacious sound field than possible with normal stereo playback. It combines the front and rear speakers for a more spacious feel. The channel's sound is sent to the front speakers. Good if you have not yet purchased the rear speakers.
bulletDolby 5.1 (AC-3): The holy grail of home theater. Full six channel surround sound. Make the most of each speaker. Each of six speakers is separately encoded for the best sound. The 5.1 comes from the five normal speakers (front, rear and center) while the .1 refers to the effects sub woofer.
bulletDTS: This method of audio encoding is becoming more popular especially with newer DVD players. The sound is crisp and clear but there is a price, it takes up about four times the space as Dolby 5.1. As such, many DTS encoded discs do not have the extra features found in Dolby 5.1 discs.  As with Dolby 5.1 each of six channels has it's own encoding. It is downward compatible with other means of encoding so you can play DTS discs on your current system and upgrade to a DTS decoder later. After obtaining a DVD player with DTS capabilities I was able to compare DTS directly with Dolby 5.1. The DTS did seem to be crisper and provide a cleaner separation, especially with the surround tracks. When playing the DTS disc through a Dolby 5.1 processor some of this clarity appeared to have been diminished. As my collection of DTS discs grows I'll report more here.
bulletTHX: This is not really a sound option but I include it here because many think of it in such a light. THX is a standard set by LucasSound to guarantee the reproduction of a film is what the director intended. There are two many divisions of the THX standard, theater and home. For the home the media must come up to strict standards of audio and video reproduction. For an explanation of THX see the THX section.
bulletDolby ES 6.1: This format is brand new and not found in home systems, yet. It made it's premiere with the Star Wars prequel, Phantom Menace. There is an added channel from 5.1, a center rear speaker. This fills out the sound field and adds to the realism dramatically. Theatrically, Phantom Menace was released in several formats including 5.1, DTS, SDDS, and ES 6.1. All are approved for THX. The Haunting was released with a Dolby ES 6.1 sound track that is downwardly compatible with Dolby 5.1 equipment. The seventh channel is just waiting there for the receiver to catch up with it.
bulletDTS 6.1 EX: Similar to Dobly ES 6.1 but with the higher bit rate and lower compression typical of DTS. Also this format can be  either matrixed or discrete. With matrixed the rear center channel is derived from the two regular rear channels. With discrete there is a separate channel for the rear center. Matrixed is also available with the discrete format to permit downward compatibility with six channel DTS systems.
bulletSuperBit: This is a new method of bandwidth allocation and not really a sound format. It was produced by Sony Labs and released through Columbia/TriStar. In most DVDs the audio track is highly compressed to permit the addition of extra features. This results in a lower bitrate to the decoder lower than the 10mbps top rate. With SuperBits the extras are removed permitting the space for rather uncompressed Dolby 5.1 and DTS on the same disc. If this is done with the recent trend towards two disc sets. one disc for the film the second for the extras, then the DVD owner will lose nothing. The first SuperBit releases were released 10/9/01 and included Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. For a list of Superbit titles click here.

With some of the better amplifiers and receivers there are several other modes you can choose.

bulletHall: This mode emulates the reflection and spread of a large concert hall. Use it for recordings of concerts and plays.
bulletClub: Get the feel of a small jazz club with the simulation of the hard reflective surfaces and low ceilings of such a place. The sound from the performers are enhanced.
bulletLive: Mainly for vocal recordings and small groups. Great for use with your CD collection.
bulletTheater: In this mode you can clearly perceive the directions and source of the sounds.  This mode is perfect for stereo sources not encoded with Dolby Surround. Try it with classical music, plays and for that great old movie theater sound with mono or stereo films.
bulletSimulated Surround: Its just what is sounds like, an electronic simulation of surround sound. This processes stereo audio sources into something that is similar to ProLogic.
bulletThree Channel Stereo: This mode takes the dialogue and pushes it to the center speaker. It nicely emulates the sound of a smaller movie theater, like the ones in most neighborhoods.
 

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