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I drank the Kool-Aid today... 5.1 vs 7.1, well how about 5.3 vs 7.3 or even 5.5 vs 7.7 ?????


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#1 of 15 OFFLINE   HDNutts2010

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Posted October 27 2010 - 01:45 PM

Well today I drank the Kool-Aid and now another venture may soon start for me.  I went to a local highest of high-end home theater & audio custom shops today with a buddy and was re-introduced to Dolby-Digital, or rather Dolby-Digital vs THX.  The technician that was giving me and my buddy the grand tour of their offerings, room by room he gave us a different setup concept to think about.  It is also how they are doing most of their highest end installation in customers’ homes.


He was very passionate about Dolby-Digital for the best, true to ear sound reproduction, clearest of the ultimate sound quality and volume possible and the way they do this.  Here is how he explained it; They use Dolby-Digital receivers and not your standard 5.1 or 7.1 or even 9.1 setup’s. They use in addition to those, a REL subwoofers hooked up in sequence with each channel along with the speaker.  So this actually adds a dedicated high-quality subwoofer to each of your separate channels.  Their standard system actually uses 5.3 or 7.3 which means they add an independent subwoofer for the left/right and center and/or surrounds. He took us into a room that was setup this way and WOW it blew me away.   What I “heard”, was some of the best audio reproduction I’ve ever listen to and 10 times better sounding then my system all cracked up in my home theater. 

 

I currently have a Pioneer Elite VSX-23THX, speakers are: C=Klipsch RC-64’s, FL & FR = Klipsch RB-81’s, SL & SR = Klipsch VS-14’s and SW = Klipsch Sub-12.  The tech explained to me that just by adding 3 REL subwoofers to 3 of my channels.  I could have my system sounding just as pleasing to my ears as what I heard in his shop. 


The tech explained a lot of detail on how this level of sound quality is achieved, and it all made sense to me.  He told me to go back to my home theater and listen really close to my system.   He bet I’d basically hear my subwoofer rumbling through most of what I was listening to or watching.  And more importantly, I’d hear a lot of non-subwoofer tracks coming through to my sub.  And by-George he was dead on.   So I’m sure this post is a bit confusing, but in general I’m wondering if anyone else has drank this Kool-Aid with their own setup.


Thanks



#2 of 15 ONLINE   Jason Charlton

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Posted October 27 2010 - 03:56 PM

Well, the "tech" has got his routine worked out pretty well, except for one thing:


"5.1", 7.1", etc. does not refer to the number of speakers a system has - it refers to the number of discrete channels of audio there are.


There is NO SUCH THING as 9.2, 7.2, 5.3, or 7.3  Adding a dedicated subwoofer to your mains while playing back 5.1 audio is STILL 5.1 audio - you're just splitting two of the channels across multiple speakers.


A receiver that has two subwoofer outputs is not a ".2" receiver (depsite the misleading nomenclature in marketing materials).  It's the same, mono, ".1" channel that is simply output over two different connections.


"More speakers" is not necessarily better.  Yes, commercial theaters have "arrays" of surround speakers along the side walls of the auditorium - but the audio is still encoded as 5.1.  Each of those side speakers output the same discrete audio channel.  The reason for them is to fill the large volume with sound.  For the home system, where the room volume is dramatically smaller, the benefit is much less, and the risk of muddying the sound is much higher.


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#3 of 15 OFFLINE   RobertR

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Posted October 28 2010 - 12:56 AM

In addition to what Jason said, there are unanswered questions about the dealer's setup.  I can see how having all speakers be full range could be beneficial, but care would have to be taken to avoid phase cancellation effects--all those subwoofers would have to be correctly located in relation to each other.


The phrase "Dolby-Digital for the best, true to ear sound reproduction, clearest of the ultimate sound quality" is also questionable, since DD is inherently a LOSSY sound format.  It's axiomatic that the truest sound can only be achieved via one of the lossless formats--Dolby TrueHD, DTS Master Audio, or uncompressed PCM.



#4 of 15 OFFLINE   HDNutts2010

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Posted October 28 2010 - 01:30 AM

Guys that is my BAD...  I assumed the tech was talking about .3 and .5 since he was talking about 3 and 5 dedicated subwoofers to each channel.  He didn't say that to me and those were my words from my assumption.  Sorry for that.  But I'm really just trying to better understand how/why that setup sound so much better to me.  Not just compared to my setup at home, but to other setup’s the tech had and other rooms they had that were standard 7.1 THX etc.  I just wonder the technology of why this would or would not be better (the pros and cons) of a dedicated/powered sub on each channel?  The tech played a demo for us on a 5.1 with 3 dedicated REL powered subs.  It was rain falling and then a tree falling over.  And kick my “A” double you know what.  It sounded so life like, the rain seemed to be coming right down on me and when the tree fell it was just indescribable how good it sounded.  Then he switch from that setup (in the same room) to 7.1, same center, surrounds etc but using just one sub and none on the other channels.  It sounded really good/great, but I knew I was hearing something that was less then what I first heard.   I’m a novice at all this and really do not understand any of the hard core tech stuff related sound, crossovers frequencies etc.  But I know when I hear something good, awesome and incredible.  So really just looking for additional input.  Thanks



#5 of 15 OFFLINE   Robert_J

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Posted October 28 2010 - 02:46 AM

The difference between the two demos could be almost anything.  With 3 subs, there will be more SPL in the low bass region.  3 subs can also even out the response in the room.


In your first post, you mentioned "Dolby-Digital vs THX".  That's comparing apples to baseballs.  One is a sound format and other is a minimum set of specifications required to place 3 letters on a piece of audio/video equipment.  Many receivers, speakers and subs meet and beat the THX specs but they don't want to pay George Lucas for those 3 letters.


Rel subs - From what I've read, they are good subs but not good values.  Subs from SVS, Elemental Designs, Lava Subwoofers, Epik Subwoofers and Hsu Research can best a Rel in both specs and value.


A properly calibrated system with a great sub can sound amazing.  You have some good equipment but what have you done to calibrate it?



#6 of 15 OFFLINE   HDNutts2010

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Posted October 28 2010 - 05:42 AM

Thanks for the input... 


I agree with what you are saying, but what I heard was also a different thing altogether.  I doubt they would have one setup as good as it could be and the other not so could to make a point, but enough said I guess on what I think I heard.  So as far as calibrating and tuning my equipment/space: I can do a MPACC Full Auto setup to set levels and whatever else it sets with the microphone Pioneer includes.  But should I seek a pro to come in and calibrate/tune my equipment to my room etc?





#7 of 15 ONLINE   Jason Charlton

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Posted October 28 2010 - 06:09 AM

Regardless of any "smoke and mirrors" that may or may not have been present on the hardware side of things, you should also take into consideration some of the physical aspects of the room/listening environment.  Were there any acoustical treatments that helped enhance the sound?  As Robert_J mentioned, the addition of extra subs, while having the obvious effect of increasing SPL can also have a tremendous impact on the frequency response within the entire room.  The "simpler" system you heard may have sounded much better were you to stand in one of the "sweet spots", whereas the "better" system simply had more "sweet spots" to begin with.  Finally, remember that showroom/demo rooms are specifically engineered based on the specific criteria and sample material used (did you ask if you could play your own CD or Blu-Ray in the system?)


In general, I think it's great that you took the time to listen to different setups and you've gotten a sense of what is possible.  However, it's also important to remember to do some research on your own (and posting to this forum is an excellent way to do so) into what sorts of steps can be taken to achieve the same results.  Don't rely solely on the word of a salesman whose income is based on commission.


It's all a combination of hardware, room environment, and proper setup/calibration that is needed to achieve stellar results.  Unfortunately (or fortunately - depending on your perspective), there are infinite combinations that will yield results.


Have fun.


Oh, and there are "pros" out there that can help make the most of your gear.  Many of us on the forums like to do the work ourselves, but for some, we understand the appeal of having someone else do the dirty work so you can get busy enjoying it.  It's up to you whether the price you pay for a pro is worth it.


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#8 of 15 OFFLINE   HDNutts2010

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Posted October 28 2010 - 06:38 AM

Thanks guys!  All good info and yes I do follow what you are saying.  I'll keep you all posted via this thread.




#9 of 15 OFFLINE   Charles Smith

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Posted October 28 2010 - 06:42 AM

All of that having been said, it would be interesting now to know who the dealer is, in case someone here is in that area and could go in for the same demo.  I don't say that to be antagonistic toward the dealer, but another pair of eyes and ears and with additional levels of experience could help to discern more about what you observed.



#10 of 15 OFFLINE   Robert_J

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Posted October 28 2010 - 07:24 AM



Originally Posted by HDNutts2010 

Thanks for the input... 


 I can do a MPACC Full Auto setup to set levels and whatever else it sets with the microphone Pioneer includes.  But should I seek a pro to come in and calibrate/tune my equipment to my room etc?



I do the MCACC calibration as well.  It is spot on when comparing it to a calibration using Video Essentials and a Radio Shack SPL meter.  Not only does it set levels, it sets distance and sets a 3 band EQ on the speakers.  This made my system sound great with music but movies sucked.  There was no low bass for special effects.  I used my SPL meter, test tones and a free spreadsheet to plot the in-room frequency response of my subs.  It took less than an hour.  What I found was a hump in the frequency at 55hz and a quick roll-off down low.  Since the spreadsheet simulates a 12 band parametric EQ, is used the "controls" to flatten out the virtual frequency response.  I then entered the settings manually into my sub's EQ.  I re-plotted (is that a word?) the sub's in-room frequency response and again, it was spot on with what the software was predicting.  The last step of the process was to re-run the MCACC calibration.  This time the sub was seamlessly blended into the rest of the system.  During movies and music, you don't notice it.  When it is needed in an action movie it will roar to life and scare the crap out of you.


You can hire someone and pay them hundreds or even thousands of dollars for this.  I did the same with a $45 meter, a $100 EQ and $10 worth of cables.



#11 of 15 OFFLINE   CB750

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Posted October 28 2010 - 08:10 AM

Scott


I smell something fishy similar to a Bose Factory Store Demo.   Where specially edited audio tracks produced by Bose are able to make rather inferior  cube speaker system with a passive sub sound pretty dramatic.  The quickest way to test the honesty of your high end salesman before you swallow the hook,  is to take in your own media which you are familiar with and ask him to play it on his super system to evaluate how it sounds.   If he won't play your stuff run don't walk away.

Bottom line is if it sounds too good to be true it probably isn't true.  If their was much merit to his claims wouldn't you think that one of us would have one these rigs in our house.



#12 of 15 OFFLINE   HDNutts2010

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Posted October 28 2010 - 08:33 AM

I plan on doing just that,  I’ll take both Terminator Salvation and Transformers to test... maybe Black Hawk Down?   I know how these sound so it might be a better way to compare.  I think these guys are on the up and up.  They have been in the same location for over 25 years and their reputation around town is excellent.




#13 of 15 OFFLINE   Robert_J

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Posted October 28 2010 - 10:32 AM



Originally Posted by HDNutts2010 

They have been in the same location for over 25 years and their reputation around town is excellent.


Auto Radio has "owned" the car audio market in the Memphis area since at least the sometime in the 90's but I've had to fix two of their installs for a friend.  After giving them a visit with a family member and listening to an expert's recommendation, I left and haven't been back.


Some people want handed to them by the experts and that keeps that custom audio shop open.  I'm at the opposite end of the spectrum and go the DIY route at every possible chance because I want to know how things work.  Most people here are in-between.  They still want the best value for their money and are willing to take recommendations but they also want to learn.  The best way to learn is to assemble your own system and doing some research on your own.


I don't doubt that the system you auditioned sounded great.  But what have you compared it to?  None of my friends or family are into audio so I could only compare my system to places like Best Buy and Magnolia Hi-Fi.  My DIY speakers and subs blew everything away.  But I also had read the criticisms of the speaker design that I chose.  Recently I heard the sound that I'm striving for.  I had a chance to tour the Egglestonworks factory in Memphis and spend about an hour in their listening room.  Their Savoy speakers ($55,000/pair) were unreal.  Each speaker had a Boulder 500w mono amp ($42,000/pair) driving them.  I didn't even check out the CD or pre-amp models but their new record player was minimum $20,000.  Even though I know my speakers have flaws, I know what $100 bucks in parts (each) and a lot of sweat can accomplish.



#14 of 15 OFFLINE   JoeCool6972

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Posted October 30 2010 - 05:28 PM

Well I am going to add a question to this... I have a Yamaha 7.1 receiver. But am only running 5.1 right now (no center surrounds). I sold two speakers last year when I was out of work and hard up for money, also didn't really have the room in my living room either. (I have all large floor standing speakers) Anyway, my question is this... what is the point of more than 5.1 channel receivers when most HD TV broadcasts and DVD or blu-ray is only 5.1 channels? And if the "soundtrack" is only 5.1 or even stereo or mono, such as old TV shows, how does the receiver break it up into 7 speakers?



#15 of 15 OFFLINE   CB750

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Posted October 31 2010 - 09:03 AM

Joe,


This might be a play on words but  if you eliminated two speakers from a 7.1 system and made it a 5.1 system you should have eliminated the rear speakers from the system and kept the surrounds in their recommended position which is to the side and just to the rear of the prime seating area.   In a 5.1 system these speakers should be connected to your receiver as the surround speakers not the rear speakers.


Manufactures build most or their receivers as a 7.1 because it doesn't cost much to add the two extra channels, so that if a 7.1 format becomes more popular the receiver will be able to process those two extra channels.  It also allows the receiver to use those two extra channels as a two channel zone 2 to power speakers in a different room or outdoor patio.