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Best Home Cinema Surround Sound Speakers: Soundbars Vs. True Surround Sound

In the home cinema world there are two main sound options: the soundbar or a surround sound system (usually 5.1, i.e. 6 speakers). If you're trying to put together the best home cinema in your living room, which of these two options should you choose? Keep reading to find out more.

Why Soundbars Have Become So Popular For Home Cinema

Traditional surround sound speakers are composed of a number of elements, including speakers designed to be placed behind you. In order to do so, you'll usually need to run wires across your living room, or pay more money [easyazon-block asin="B004PA8706" align="right"]for a wireless set of speakers. This isn't ideal in many living rooms, depending on the layout of your room and how much effort you want to put into the setup.

Soundbars have been developed as a way to deal with this problem. They are composed of a long, slim bar that can simply be placed above or below your television screen. All elements of the surround sound speaker system are housed within the bar itself (though you'll need a separate subwoofer for bass tones).

The Difference Between Real And Virtual Surround Sound In Home Cinema

The key difference between soundbars and surround sound speakers is the fact that the former creates "virtual" surround sound through clever engineering. All of the required speakers are housed within the one slim bar, and are projected at different angles so they bounce around the room. This makes it appear as though the sounds are coming from different angles, even if they all originate directly in front of you. Soundbars also make use of clever audio delays and volume controls to fool our brains into thinking we're hearing sounds from certain locations.

Surround sound speakers, on the other hand, are literally placed all around us. We hear the sound coming from behind us because we've placed the speaker directly behind us. Although some soundbars can mimic this very successfully, they work best in square rooms with a standard TV-to-couch positioning (where the couch isn't far from the back wall). Surround sound speakers, on the other hand, can be placed exactly where you want them, making for a better overall experience.

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Which Should You Choose For The Best Home Cinema Setup?

For some, the best home cinema setup means top quality sound, in which case you should opt for true surround sound rather than a soundbar. That said, for most of us there are usually other factors at play. Perhaps you don't want to fiddle around with cabling, or you want the ease of use of a soundbar? If this is the case, then a good quality soundbar will most definitely sound a lot more immersive than your standard TV speakers.

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Home Cinema Speakers Guide To Sound Formats

There are so many specs to consider when shopping for home cinema speakers: the price tag, the various features, the design, the power. But one of the most crucial aspects is the audio format the set uses. Here's a guide to the various speaker setups and the most common formats they each use.

5.1 Channel Surround Sound Home Cinema Speakers

This is the most common surround sound format found in home cinema speakers. 5.1 means that there are five speakers accompanying the bass subwoofer. The position of the speakers is usually: front left and right, center and left and right, though you can also get 6.1 and 7.1 to add in extra channels.

5.1 surround sound is available in two different formats, both of which are featured on most audio/video receivers:
* Dolby Digital is the most common sound format used in standard DVDs, HDTV shows and games. In its 5.1 channel format, this is a discrete surround sound format which can produce excellent results.
* DTS is the second format commonly using a 5.1 configuration. Because it uses less compression than Dolby Digital, it's considered to be slightly more accurate to the way the video was recorded.

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6.1 Channel Surround Sound Home Cinema Speakers

There are a couple of surround sound formats that add an extra channel to the mix, helping to make the sound even more realistic and making the listener feel even more as though they're in the middle of the action. DTS-ES is less common than Dolby Digital EX.

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7.1 Channel Surround Sound Home Cinema Speakers

For an even more authentic 360 degree sound option, there are 7.1 surround sound systems. Many of the newer Blu-Ray disc players can take advantage of this high quality audio, but not all discs will be able to make use of the function. Two of the 7.1 channel surround sound formats - Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD - are known as "lossless" surround sound. On standard DVDs, sound formats had to be compressed to fit onto the space of a standard disc. Because HD Blu-Ray discs offer more space, the audio formats have gotten bigger too. Lossless surround sound is true to the original sound recording. Other 7.1 formats, such as Dolby Digital Plus and DTS-HD, are very high quality but don't match the level of lossless surround sound.

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Bottom Line

If you're not going to play Blu-Ray discs then the more detailed surround sound options won't matter to you at all. If, however, you opt for a Blu-Ray disc player that supports lossless audio - and you want to be able to hear it in all its glory - you'll need to purchase a surround sound system to match. Most home cinema speakers today make use of 5.1 channels, which is perfectly adequate to bring you into the center of the action.

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The Perks of Blu Ray and Blu Ray Players
Picture Quality
Superior high def resolution is a huge element of the reason why Blu Ray movies look excellent. This means you'll see a much more detailed picture: much more clearly defined features of people faces, colors of nature, close ups of wrinkles, facial imperfections, etc. The technological distinction is that Blu Ray's maximum resolution is 1920 x 1080 (1080p), while DVD is restricted to 720 x 480 (480p). Further than image resolution, Blu Ray additionally employs much better video-compression methods, producing much more contrast as well as better colors. It truly is the best quality of video you can get inb the market today, with a comparable, if note better than picture that you get at the movies, when the Blu Ray player is used in conjunction with an HDTV.

Audio Quality
Audio quality is also much better. New high-resolution soundtrack formats, such as Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, are basically the same as the studio master, consequently you will be hearing sounds just as the director and audio editors designed.

Special Features
Blu Ray also has extra unique functions that DVD never did. The most basic innovation is the pop-up menu, allowing one to access the menu features as the movie keeps playing. Also, there is BD-Live, picture-in-picture video commentary, Internet connectivity, including models with built-in Wifi for streaming movies, videos, tv shows and all kinds of media from the Web.

Main Blu Ray Features
While most basic features of Blu Ray Players are the same, there are some specific things to consider when buying a player, especially, Internet connectivity options.

Player Options for Connecting to Internet
There are several options, depending on the player model and brand, for linking up your smart Blu-ray player to the Internet

  • A wired connection using Ethernet cable
  • Built-In Wifi Connection on the Player
  • A wireless connection using a compatible wireless adapter
  • A connection using power line Ethernet adapters
WiFi Built In - Smart Blu Ray Players - Connect to Internet and stream movies, music, TV shows and more with WiFi built in.
WiFi Ready - Means the Wifi is not built in and you will need an adapter of some sort to connect.
BD-Live is a Blu-ray feature that enables you to access content, features and activities via your smart Blu-ray player. On some movies you'll be able to download a variety of up-to-date content (for example, refreshed previews and exclusive special features). There are also a host of next generation possibilities, such as ringtone/wallpaper downloads, peer-to-peer interactions, live events and gaming activities. For example, on the Blu Ray version of Julie & Julia with BD-Live, you can bookmark Julia Child's actual recipes while you watch the movie. At the end of the film, you can e-mail yourself the recipes, pretty cool!
Bonus View
The Bonus View and lets you play back picture-in-picture content, which allows for a second video and audio stream.

Playing DVD's
The transition from DVD to Blu Ray is an easy one since all Blu Ray players play standard DVD discs. Actually, each and every Blu Ray player is also an upconverting DVD player.

Buying Cheap Blu Ray Players

There are some great ways to save money on Blu Ray players and that is by avoiding retail stores and shopping online. Cheap Blu ray players are plentiful and can really be a great alternative to spending too much at the stores. Some of the top brands of Blu Ray players can cost you as much $300, with brands like LG, Sony, Samsung and other industry leaders invemting bigger and better models regularly causing retail prices to skyrocket. Stop wasting your money and buy cheap Blu Ray players here, always bid and buy with confidence, with buyer feedback and ratings for sellers.

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