Is a "digital" audio connection really better??

videobruce

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I have a older audio receiver that works fine (other than the lousy user interface) with only analog inputs. I haven't bothered to upgrade since it would be one more piece of equipment I would have to sell since I have no other use for it. Since I wouldn't get squat for it I have kepted it.

Comming from a HD TV, HD DVR, CD player, DVD player using an analog path to the receiver and comparing that to getting a new receiver with digital inputs is there really a difference regarding:

1. The basic 'audio' (sonic) quality: tonal range, dynamic range, imaging etc.
2. Separation and surround sound effects (I'm not using a subwoofer or center channel speakers).

I know how hyped "digital" everything is these days and I question if it is really better especially considering all the compression & processing of most sources??
 

Brent_S

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Are you wanting to compare digital to analog sound or are you talking about surround formats?

All digital sourced sound has to be converted to analog before you can hear it, via digital-to-analog-converters (DACs). The question becomes whether the DAC in the souce component such as your DVD player sounds better to YOU than the DAC in a newer receiver.

On the other hand, if you're still running Dolby Prologic via a two channel analog input on your receiver, then an upgrade to Dolby Digital or DTS decoding is night-and-day better, IMO.

-Brent
 

Seth=L

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I would certainly say that even in a 4 channel setup with Dolby Digital or DTS would be a major step up from Prologic. I would also reccomend getting a center and a subwoofer.
 

Phil A

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The way the DACs are on most rec'rs piggybacked off the DSP and lots of stuff in the signal path, I'd think for music if your rec'r (especially old but could be new as well) has an 'analog direct' type mode you'd get the best sound for imaging and music playback. I'd totally agree with the above post about DD or DTS being a big step up from what you have now. On movies, with just plain old Dolby Surround, you're getting mono sound from the rears and probably around 100-7,000HZ. Going to DD or DTS will get you discrete sound for movies from each of the rears of a much wider frequency.
 

John Garcia

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If ever there was a reason to upgrade it would be for true digital surround. No question what-so-ever.
 

videobruce

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There is a bypass mode to turn off that Motorola processing chip which I never use. Only the 'Pro Logic' circuit is used. At the time I had a separate int. amp and tuner. The TV had a Dolby SS decoder built in and I used the TV's amp for the rear speakers which worked well. I didn't research Pro Logic, I assumed it was 2 channel rear, not mono rear. I was wrong. Had I known I wouldn't of gotten that receiver.

Regarding the center channel, the reason I don't have or want one;
1. I have no 'hole' between the L&R that needs filling in (sonically)
2. One one thing to setup and go wrong
3. No place to put it
4. Unneeded expense
5. This isn't in a dedicated media room
6. If you have decent main speakers you shouldn't need it.

As far as a subwoofer,
1. I can hear where the 'boom' is comming from with a subwoofer. If it isn't placed between the L&R front speakers it is distracting. Sound is comming from somewhere else.
2. See #2-6 above.

I'm sure most will disagree with all of that, but that really isn't the reason for the orginal question.

But, I will look into it having no real idea where to start.
 

Jeff Gatie

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Bruce, I really don't know what you'd like us to answer here. This is the second post in a couple days asking the same question and each time you have been told that DD/DTS are far superior to analog Pro-Logic. You originally posted that you are not interested in surround sound, now you are not interested in a sub or a center. If you looking for someone to assure you that analog is superior and that "digital" is all hype, you are not going to find many (any??) among Home Theater audio fans. Try a traditional audio forum instead. Of course, then you will have to shell out for a turntable and replace your CD's with vinyl.
 

Phil A

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For movies the center channel is to anchor dialog to the screen. Dolby Pro Logic just matrixes the center that you have in plain old Dolby Surround. It was meant to help people sitting off axis. Dolby Digital has a discrete center channel. While it obviously is helpful to people off axis as well, it still anchors the sound to the display. If you sit right in the middle and prefer an imaged type sound, that is your preference and is OK. Part of the joy of discrete channels is the movement of things all around the room. Go put on something like "Dragonheart" for example. The scene where Dennis Quaid is on his horse talking to the dragon (voice of Sean Connery) who is flying all around him. Not only does it pan around but you can almost feel the breeze from the dragon's wings when he is overhead.

On audio, if you never turn off the DSP chip, while it is OK to have personal preferences, you are likely not getting what most would call good audiophile sound. Separate outboard DACs tend to sound better for the factors I cited above. The DAC takes the digital ouput of your player and then converts it to an analog ouput w/o going thru add'l signal processing. Not to mention the fact that as a separate component in many cases it will have superior analog output stages than a device designed primarily for HT>
 

Jeff Gatie

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I gave input in the other thread. I just could not understand why this required another thread with the same basic question.
 

Brent_S

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videobruce said:
No, all I want to know is it that much a improvement.quote]

And I said DPL compared to DD/DTS is night-and-day. Shouldn't be that hard to go to your nearest Circuit City/Best Buy/other a/v dealer and get a demo yourself.

Technically, DPL, being a 2 channel matrixed format is limited to about 3db of channel separation, I believe...newer chips/algorithm improvements may make it a bit better. Meaning, a sound in your surround channels will still be played at a reduced level in either/both mains. Similarly for the center channel, that you don't believe in. This is in addition to the other mentioned limitations of DPL...mono, bandwidth limited surrounds.

DD/DTS is recorded as up to 6 distinct audio channels (5 mains, 1 LFE)...channel separation limited by your amplifier's crosstalk rating. Sound can come from your right rear speaker and you won't hear even a whisper out of the other channels, etc.

In the end, only you can decide if the upgrades are worth it. Seriously doubt you'll find anybody on this forum who thinks you should stay with DPL.
 

JeremyErwin

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If you have decent main speakers, you should also get a decent centre channel-- otherwise, the timbre changes will be distracting. I suppose that if you always sit in the sweet spot, it's not needed. If you share this home theatre with others, then a centre channel can be useful.

As for the subwoofer-- movie and television soundtracks often have much more low frequency content than music. Again, it depends on how close to full range your speakers are, but in many cases, the subwoofer provides a tactile sensation-- feel the helicopter's downdraft, or the impact of the explosion. If the crossover is set low enough, it shouldn't be localizable.
 

videobruce

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That is apparently obvious. I will take a trek to a couple of local audio stores and hear what you are talking about.
 

johnADA

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All I can add is this.
When I started this home theater addition I have, it was piece by piece.
I had a stereo and 2 speakers that I used for rears while using the TV for fronts.
Twin stereo, quad I'd call it.
Then I bought a receiver that had DTS, DD and all the other stuff and bought 2 more speakers which at the time was all I could afford. Using digital connections so I could take full advantage of the processing, then setting fronts as large and no center all I can say is OH MY!! Hum, how do we afford matching rears, sub and center??? Now we have it all and to me the center usage would be determined by the actual distance separation of width. Set with no center to a center for my distances etc, makes no real added value to the system, but you CANNOT TAKE AWAY MY SUB!!! And sub location really does make a difference as to your ability to locate it. Took me awhile, but if I don't tell you where its at, you probably couldn't find it either. I could until I found this sweet spot, always locate it if I spun myself around with my eyes closed and stopped not knowing my direction and listening for it!!
 

Seth=L

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Playing tricks on your mind, do you have to be so mean to yourself?

I will incert some of my opinion on subwoofers. Cheap, boomy subs, or as I like to call them, powered woofers, are easily localized. If you have larger speakers that can produce usefull output down to say 40 hertz, then you could have the subwoofer's crossover set to 40-45 hertz depending on rolloff, and if placed correctly you shouldn't ever notice where the sound is localized. Sub 20hz material won't likely be localized no matter the subwoofer's location.

Bruce, what is your system comprised of? Perhaps we can come up with some helpfull sugestions, maybe even ones that don't cost much.
 

videobruce

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Those are probably what I have heard years ago. All I know I could "locate" them by listening and it was distracting.

My Living room is around 15 x 15 (I guess small by todays suburban standards). The TV and sectional are at opposite corners with a viewing distance of 11-12'. There is a fireplace to the right of the TV. To the right of that is the right floor speaker (on a stand). To the left of the TV is a floor lamp, then the left speaker (slightly off center). I NEVER detect any 'hole' in the middle with this!
The rear speakers are mounted on small shelves (just for the speakers) one to the right of and the other just to the left and behind the 'wedge' of the three piece sectional. There are three 'bay' windows on that wall which is facing the street.

I'm limited for all four speakers because of the room. There really isn't enough room for a sub behind the TV as I need access to behind the set and there is a cold air return there. I don't want a a speaker on a shelf atop the set since the set will be high enough. Remember, the TV, stand and equipment under the set is sitting on a diagonal. It's not against a wall with a wall unit around it as most have.

I would be willing to bet 75% of the 'other halfs' out there would never allow this. I have lived here for 27 years and placement of most everything but the rear speakers was set from when I moved in as I figured it out even before the furniture was there. The only items that were moved were the left speaker from the far side of the opening to the front hall to just left of the TV and the equipment from across from the TV to under the TV courtesy of Microdisplays as I had CRT RPTVs' before.
 

videobruce

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50" Microdisplay
Pro Logic Receiver
CD changer
S-VHS deck
HD DVR
DVD player
Satellite receiver

Use:
70% timeshifted programs off the HD DVR,
10% off the internal tuners of the TV (cable and OTA)
10% off the computer
7% CD
2% DVD
 

JeremyErwin

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HD uses dolby digital as its audio codec. Usually, this comes in two varieties-- dolby digital 2.0 (stereo) and dolby digital 5.1. Some channels only offer dolby digital 2.0, and others don't know how to properly operate their dolby digital encoders.

Your tuners/ dvr must have digital ports--either coaxial (spdif) or optical (toslink), and they must be set to output "bitstream", "dolby digital", or "AC3", or you will not be able to enjoy a full fully discrete 5.1 mix. PCM mixes it down to plain old stereo.
Naturally, you'll want a receiver with enough digital inputs to satisfy all your devices. (I only mention this because some receivers only have one coaxial input, and multiple optical inputs.)

But much of this will depend on what sort of HD programming you watch. Some genres do not really benefit from surround sound.
 

Arthur S

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Bruce

In all probability you have room for the new SVS SB-12 Plus, and in that rosenut finish $749, it is beautiful. Or, if it is going to be out of site only $699 in black. This would be a great addition to your system. Only 14X14X15 inches deep. Just perfect for your situation.
 

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