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Buying a home theatre surround system

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Design: The Scientist

 

With a large high-definition TV and a surround sound system, it's not difficult to get that movie theatre experience at home. A typical surround system has two or three speakers in front and two at the rear. However, there's been a trend towards sound bars that are able to recreate surround sound in a room with less speakers.

How It Works

With a surround system, the audio signal is split into multiple channels so that different sound information comes out of the various speakers. Typically, there are three channels at the front. The left and right channels gives you the stereo sound, while the centre channel anchors the dialogue and front sound effects. The channels at the side or rear give you a sense of motion and depth, for example, the sound of a train coming from the far left of the screen to the near right side. A good surround sound system is able to recreate that immersive audio experience.

Ask Before You Buy

How many channels do you want for your room? The most common option is 5.1 surround, which means five channels (speakers) plus one subwoofer (denoted by the ".1") that provides the bass frequencies. 6.1 and 7.1 channel systems have six or seven speakers plus a subwoofer.

 

Our Picks

 

1. Sony HT-RT3, $599

The new HT-RT3 5.1 surround sound system from Sony delivers an impressive 600W of power through a slim, stylish sound bar and a dedicated subwoofer and rear speakers. The sound bar has three channels to provide for the left, right and centre audio. Setup is easy. Simply plug it in to your TV via HDMI, wire up the speakers via the colour-coded connections, and you’re all ready to watch your favourite movies.

 

2. Philips Fidelio B8, price unavailable

Philips claims that its new Fidelio B8 (available from November) soundbar and subwoofer system can create the 5.1 surround sound with overhead audio. The B8 features 400W of sound pumped out from a total of 18 speakers, including two up-firing units. The subwoofer offers a low frequency 200W of powerful sound from its eight-inch down-firing driver, for 360-degree sound and plenty of bass ideal for movie immersion.

 

3. Samsung HT-J7500W/XS, $999

This blu-ray player with a suite of speakers deliver multi directional, 5.1 channels of sound with 1000W of power for a pure surround sound that will pull right into the middle of the action. The built-in amplifier in the blu-ray player powers the speakers to deliver a deep, smooth and room filling sound. The rear speakers connect wirelessly to the blu-ray player.