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THX Cinema Mode Explained


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#1 of 17 OFFLINE   Adam Sanchez

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Posted May 10 2009 - 04:05 PM

hey all.

First off as usual I start with saying I hope this is the right thread.

Something has been on my mind and I thought I'd seek a little enlightenment. Recently I purchased a new Next Gen Audio Reciever, the Onkyo TX-SR806, which is also the first peice of THX Home Theater Equipment I've ever owned.

For lack of a better way to word this, I was just wondering how the THX Cinema mode (Just chose that as an example) works? Now, I understand that when I choose my audio on my Blu-Ray, DTS-MA, TrueHD, or whatever, that those are the sound formats I'm using. I know THX isn't a sound Format. It's just taking my DTS or whatever and processing them..differently right? The manual states something about the Mode is optimized for Home Theater etc etc etc but I'm guesisng that is just THX tooting it's own Horn.

Is THX Cinema the way to go? What do people here like to choose? Natrual Processed audio be it DTS or Dolby or whatever, or do you find use in engaging the THX modes?

I don't have super audiophile ears. Switching back and fourth between a pure audio source being decoded or using a THX mode I can't really tell a difference, but I've not spend a ton of time with it.

I guess more than anyhting I'm wondering about the technical side of the THX modes. The audio is still it's native format...but just altered through some seperate or additional circuity?

Thanks for any info. Sorry for the crapp Technobabble. =)

#2 of 17 OFFLINE   JohnRice

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Posted May 10 2009 - 05:22 PM

One potential downside, depending on your priorities, is that THX skews the sub in favor of maximum output over maximum extension. Whether or not this is better depends on what you want and the capabilities of your system. It also used to re-equalize the high frequencies to compensate for soundtracks which are mixed for theaters rather than home. I don;t know if this still applies, since basically all home video material is now mastered for home use.

I have had a (full) THX certified receiver for about 10 years, and I haven't used the THX mode for probably 8. I actually don't use any processing modes. I listen to music in "Direct" mode and movies in their straight, unmodified DD or DTS modes. After the initial excitement wears off, I find post processing difficult to listen to.

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#3 of 17 OFFLINE   Adam Sanchez

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Posted May 10 2009 - 06:22 PM

Thanks for taking a stab at this John. I get it a little more now.

I actually have a followup that your posted reminded me about. This applies to my TX-SR806 so I might be in the wrong place to ask but my reciever does have a direct mode. What is the difference between choosing Direct over just selecting the actual sound mode? I.E. for each type of audio I can simply pick DTS-MA for DTS-MA tracks for example or just pick direct. Is there a difference between doing one or the other?

If I choose not to use THX modes, I'll want the audio from the source as pure as possible.

#4 of 17 OFFLINE   troy evans

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Posted May 10 2009 - 08:00 PM

My understanding of the "direct" mode is that it basically selects the primary audio codec on the disc. You can still select the others as you've stated, but, "direct" automatically selects either DD, DTS, TrueHD, etc, etc, depending on which has been deemed the primary audio by the discs author.
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#5 of 17 OFFLINE   Stephen Tu

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Posted May 10 2009 - 11:40 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by troy evans
My understanding of the "direct" mode is that it basically selects the primary audio codec on the disc. You can still select the others as you've stated, but, "direct" automatically selects either DD, DTS, TrueHD, etc, etc, depending on which has been deemed the primary audio by the discs author.

Huh? That doesn't make any sense. We're talking about a receiver here, not a Blu-ray player. The setting on the receiver doesn't select the track on the BD player. You do that with the BD player menu. In some cases if using HDMI, HDMI auto-negotiation will cause the BD player to fall back to a default track/core track or PCM if the receiver tells it that it can't handle the particular codec you selected. The "Direct" setting on Sony Blu-ray players (as opposed to the setting on the Onkyo), uses bitstream out for the track so you decode on the receiver, bypassing the decoding/mixing on the BD player.

"Direct" on Onkyo receivers just turns off nearly all post-processing, including bass management from what I've read. You probably shouldn't do this for movies. Some may want to use it for pure CD/MP3 stereo music listening if you have full-range mains. But I wouldn't use it for normal DD/DTS etc.

#6 of 17 OFFLINE   sptrout

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Posted May 11 2009 - 01:12 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephen Tu
"Direct" on Onkyo receivers just turns off nearly all post-processing, including bass management from what I've read. You probably shouldn't do this for movies. Some may want to use it for pure CD/MP3 stereo music listening if you have full-range mains. But I wouldn't use it for normal DD/DTS etc.

This is correct. I have an 805, which I assume has similar processing capabilities as the 806 (at least in this particular situation). The 805 has "Direct" and "Pure" Modes. In both cases the AVR disables all post-audio processing including bass management. Therefore, very few people would want to use either Mode for movies. If you have full range front speakers, then either of these Modes may be OK for 2-channel material.

BTW- - The only difference between Direct and Pure Modes is that when using the Pure Mode the 805 shuts-off the display, and video processing circuits; Direct Mode does not. This difference is poorly explained in the 805 Manual.

As to the OP's original question, I prefer not to use any of the THX or other post-decoding Modes. I just use whatever is the primary HD audio format on the Blu-ray (DTS-HD MA, TrueHD, etc.).
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#7 of 17 OFFLINE   Raasean Asaad

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Posted May 11 2009 - 03:46 AM

I use Direct mode on my 806 because i do have full range mains and don't want the subwoofer to be active which is what the case is when using the Stereo mode.

Pure Audio does turn off all video processing but thar isn't something that i need to use when i am streaming through my XBOX360 because then i cannot see what to play.
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#8 of 17 OFFLINE   Brent_S

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Posted May 11 2009 - 11:32 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnRice
One potential downside, depending on your priorities, is that THX skews the sub in favor of maximum output over maximum extension. Whether or not this is better depends on what you want and the capabilities of your system. It also used to re-equalize the high frequencies to compensate for soundtracks which are mixed for theaters rather than home. I don;t know if this still applies, since basically all home video material is now mastered for home use.

I have had a (full) THX certified receiver for about 10 years, and I haven't used the THX mode for probably 8. I actually don't use any processing modes. I listen to music in "Direct" mode and movies in their straight, unmodified DD or DTS modes. After the initial excitement wears off, I find post processing difficult to listen to.

John, I think you're confusing THX processing in a prepro/receiver with the THX mode on some subwoofers, M&K being the main proponet that I can remember. The THX mode on those subwoofers would change the subsonic filter and probably apply some other equalization to faciliate meeting the THX requirements. THX didn't mandate a tradeoff of output over frequency extension, but a manufacturer, like M&K, who EQ'd some of their subs to an f3 of 20Hz, could retune that EQ to get that same sub to meet the THX output spec, which only called for extension down to 30Hz in the '90s. Today the THX output requirement extends down to 20Hz.

RE-EQ, the high frequency rolloff curve that was implemented to couteract the boosted highs a theater track exhibited at home, is user defeatable, but defaults to on when a THX mode is first engaged after powerup. Now that audio is frequently remixed for home release, this is no longer the "problem" it was in the '90s when THX standards were introduced and audio tracks were usually transferred straight without accounting for the difference between a theater and home environment. Thus, the mode is not locked on when THX processing is selected. Interestingly, Audyssey RoomEQ's "standard" target curve dials in a similar high frequency rolloff when it measures and EQs a room. This "standard" target is defined for mixing stages by some movie audio mixing standards body. On the Onkyos, if you engage a THX mode and then deactivate RE-EQ, you then get the Audyssey "flat" target curve...no high frequency rolloffs.

The only LFE channel processing THX audio modes do is "boundary mode compensation". This was introduced with the "2" in Ultra2/Select2, I believe. It defaults to off and is selected independently of the THX mode, at least in Onkyo land. As the name implies, it's intended to help offset the boominess that can come from placing a sub too close to a wall(s). Audyssey will likely dial in a compensation of its own, but you can have THX U2/S2 processing without Audyssey and vice-versa.

To the OP's original question. Everybody should listen to the various modes and choose what they prefer. Since I can't see my 805's display, I used "blind testing" to decide on my preferred modes by cycling through the surround modes until I found the mode I consistently preferred. Only then would I check the display to see where I landed. For movies, that ended up being a THX mode a majority of the time...every once in a while, it would be a DPL II Movie mode, but THX modes are mostly just an extension of this so that's not too surprising. For DVD-A/SACD, I like THX Music mode, but for plain stereo sources, I prefer the stereo mode...expansion to 5.1/7.1 can be "interesting", but it quickly sounds gimmikcy IMO.

BTW, I also used this same blind sampling to decide on RE-EQ On/Off. Even though the rolloff is only a couple of dBs at 20kHz, I still consistenly pick "off", even on something like "Planet Earth" (Attenborough, of course) which doesn't have a lot of high frequency information to speak of.

As a final BTW, all of the THX modes and processing are explained on THX's site, just as Dolby and DTS also have text and graphs to show you what effects they're trying to accomplish with their various processing modes.

-Brent

#9 of 17 OFFLINE   JohnRice

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Posted May 11 2009 - 12:44 PM

Some of the absolutes being stated here actually vary with models and manufacturers. For example, the THX mode on my roughly 10 year old, full THX Pioneer receiver does in fact mess with the extension, and the direct mode does leave bass management intact. So, don't assume that because things work one way with a particular piece of equipment they work that way with all equipment. Also, this same receiver does not have the ability to defeat the re-eq when using THX mode. That feature may have become more common, but it was not always the case and is not universal.

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#10 of 17 OFFLINE   Brent_S

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Posted May 11 2009 - 01:28 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnRice
Some of the absolutes being stated here actually vary with models and manufacturers. For example, the THX mode on my roughly 10 year old, full THX Pioneer receiver does in fact mess with the extension, and the direct mode does leave bass management intact. So, don't assume that because things work one way with a particular piece of equipment they work that way with all equipment. Also, this same receiver does not have the ability to defeat the re-eq when using THX mode. That feature may have become more common, but it was not always the case and is not universal.

Adam did mention he had an Onkyo and I think many of us, myself included, are speaking from first hand Onkyo experience. I tried to qualify my comments as Onkyo specific, where necessary, although quite a few items should be universal for THX standards.

What Pioneer do you have? I've tried to stay fairly current with public knowledge THX standards since their inception, but I've never heard of any extension fidding happening in a processor under the guise of THX.

-Brent

#11 of 17 OFFLINE   Adam Sanchez

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Posted May 11 2009 - 04:07 PM

I appreciate all the replies regarding this subject, thank you.

I think, though, this was more beyond me that I thought it would be. Sometimes I get to a point where I think my AV equipment has TOO many options that I could spend all day going between instead of just using it. THX Cinema or Unaltered sources...hell I can't even tell a difference. I like my audio as pure as the theater for the most part, so listening to audio sources in thier native recorded format probably be the way for me to go for the most part.

My Onkyo is a fine receiver, but my head spins with all it's options. I'm still trying to figure out why it Audyssey does stuff like lower all my speakers by 5 db during setup and the sub by like -15. I set them all back down to 0 dB. Sounds fine to me. =)

But again, Thanks.

#12 of 17 OFFLINE   troy evans

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Posted May 11 2009 - 05:46 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephen Tu
Huh? That doesn't make any sense. We're talking about a receiver here, not a Blu-ray player. The setting on the receiver doesn't select the track on the BD player. You do that with the BD player menu. "Direct" on Onkyo receivers just turns off nearly all post-processing, including bass management from what I've read.
Yeah, You're right. I was thinking about the player end of things. That the OP was talking about receivers some how didn't register to me. Thanks Stephen.
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#13 of 17 OFFLINE   David Willow

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Posted May 11 2009 - 11:51 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Adam Sanchez

My Onkyo is a fine receiver, but my head spins with all it's options. I'm still trying to figure out why it Audyssey does stuff like lower all my speakers by 5 db during setup and the sub by like -15. I set them all back down to 0 dB. Sounds fine to me. =)

But again, Thanks.

Check out the Audyssey thread for some good information. For example, if you sub is set for -15, then the volume on the sub itself is too high.

#14 of 17 OFFLINE   Jeff Gatie

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Posted May 12 2009 - 02:15 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Adam Sanchez
My Onkyo is a fine receiver, but my head spins with all it's options. I'm still trying to figure out why it Audyssey does stuff like lower all my speakers by 5 db during setup and the sub by like -15. I set them all back down to 0 dB. Sounds fine to me. =)

But again, Thanks.

Not all speaker efficiency is alike, some may have a higher output given a set level of power. Your subwoofer, being self-powered, is obviously set to output a very high level of volume for a relatively low level of input. You should turn the sub's internal gain down.

It's probably not a very good idea to "set them all back down to 0 dB". It may "sound fine" to you, but rest assured it is not the way to listen to surround sound. This may not matter to you in the least, and that's fine, but if you really wish to enjoy the hobby of home cinema, then a properly setup system is a good start.

#15 of 17 OFFLINE   sptrout

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Posted May 12 2009 - 02:53 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Willow
Check out the Audyssey thread for some good information. For example, if you sub is set for -15, then the volume on the sub itself is too high.

Just incase you do not know where the Audyssey thread is, below is a link to the Audyssey Setup Guide that is the "Bible" for setting up an AVR that has Audyssey.

"Official" Audyssey thread. - Page 191 - AVS Forum
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#16 of 17 OFFLINE   David Willow

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Posted May 12 2009 - 03:20 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by sptrout
Just incase you do not know where the Audyssey thread is, below is a link to the Audyssey Setup Guide that is the "Bible" for setting up an AVR that has Audyssey.

"Official" Audyssey thread. - Page 191 - AVS Forum

FYI - Links to AVS do not work from here. We do have a dedicated thread that Chris from Audyssey visits often. http://www.hometheat....non-et-al.html

Check out the setup guide I reposted here from AVS (with the author's permission, of course).

#17 of 17 OFFLINE   sptrout

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Posted May 12 2009 - 03:30 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Willow
FYI - Links to AVS do not work from here. We do have a dedicated thread that Chris from Audyssey visits often. http://www.hometheat....non-et-al.html

Check out the setup guide I reposted here from AVS (with the author's permission, of course).

Thanks David, I did not know AVS blocked access from other forums (or that any forums blocked access from others). Sad situation.....
Samsung HL-S6188 TV
Onkyo 805 AVR
Sony BDPS1000ES Blu-ray & Oppo 971 DVD Players
DTV HR22 DVR
Infinity Beta 50's Front Speakers, C360 Center Speaker, and Beta 20's Surrounds, Hsu VTF MK 2 Subwoofer w/Turbo, & APC J15 UPS & Power Conditioner


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