7.1 vs. 5.1, HTIBs, Dolby Headphone
With Blu-ray's storage capacity, lossless codecs, and 7.1 receivers, why aren't the vast majority of Blu-ray movies released with 7.1 audio? Are movie distributors/production companies just cheap or lazy? Did I just waste my money installing a 7.1 setup?
All modern movie soundtracks are mixed in 5.1, so that's why most Blu-rays are 5.1. I don't know why movies are not mixed in 7.1 discrete, except perhaps that it wouldn't sound complete on a 5.1 system, which many people still have. There are a few 7.1 Blu-rays, but the back-surround channels are artificially derived from the side-surround channels. This is also how a 7.1 receiver generates the extra two channels from a 5.1 source.
I don't think the companies involved are cheap or lazy; they are conforming to the marketplace as well as an existing standard for commercial cinema. As for wasting money on a 7.1 system, I wouldn't spend the extra dough on 7.1, not only because there's no content with true 7.1 channels, but also because the sense of envelopment is not that much greater with 7.1 compared with 5.1.
I just love what you do and how you help people out, and I have a few questions of my own. I have a 42-inch Samsung LCD TV that accepts 720p or 1080i and a PlayStation 3 connected to the TV with a 6-foot Monoprice HDMI cable. I would like to get a 5.1 surround-sound system. My budget is $500 or a bit more if necessary. What should I get? I need help with everything, like where to put the speakers, etc. I will be primarily using this room for gaming and watching Blu-ray movies. I know my budget is tight, but I want the best bang for my buck!
Thanks for the kind words! I think the best solution for you is a home theater in a box, or HTIB. Since you already have a PS3, you don't need an HTIB with a disc player. I recommend the Onkyo HT-S5100. It lists for $600, but I've seen it online for much less. It's the successor to the HT-SR800, which got a very good review on Home Theater.
As for where to put the speakers, front left and right at ±30 degrees from the centerline directly in front of you, center speaker directly under or above the TV screen, side surrounds at ±110 degrees, back surrounds behind you (there's no standard placement for these speakers). In a rectangular room, the main left/right speakers should be located at even fractionssay, a sixth or eighthof the room's length and width (and height, but this is more difficult to manage). The surrounds can be mounted on the walls. The subwoofer is generally best at the half or quarter point along one wall.
Because of other family members and the proximity of my neighbors, I can't use speakers at all. So the AVR I get must have Dolby Headphone or it does me no good. But the AVRs with Dolby headphone that I have found are way out of my budget ($600 or less). Is my budget too low? Why do I have to pay big bucks for an AVR with Dolby headphone that never will have speakers connected? Why hasn't this technology become available as a small add on? Why does this technology only show up in the high-end units? Does Dolby have a list of systems with it's technology in it? Is the Dolby technology sold as hardware (chips) or software for use in proprietary chips?
David E. Scott
Here are some AVRs with Dolby Headphone that are more or less within your budget, at least at discount:
Harman AVR 354
Harman AVR 3550HD
Dolby licenses this and its other technologies to manufacturers, who determine what products actually appear in the marketplace, not Dolby. I don't know why a small add-on box hasn't been developedit's a good idea.
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