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PCM vs. Dolby Digital 3.1 audio?

Discussion in 'Beginners, General Questions' started by Donald_S, Apr 7, 2018.

  1. Donald_S

    Donald_S Stunt Coordinator

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    I have a (somewhat) older JVC 37" TV in the family room (JLC37BC3000). It has 2 audio choices for the optical audio, PCM and Dolby Digital, no HDMI out. My current soundbar is 2.1 but I really want a center channel for dialog. I'm looking at a Samsung 3.1 soundbar. However, I don't know (and can't figure out) if the signal coming from my TV will support 3.1 audio. There is no HDMI out, only optical. I believe PCM is only stereo, but what about the Dolby? Can it output a full 5.1 signal?

    If I can't get a 3.1 signal from my TV, is there a box that will let me intercept the HDMI going into the TV? Right now I have 3 HDMI signals input to the TV. I would prefer not to have to use an AV receiver, as this would be used by family members who are going to have the patience to fool with constantly switching settings for various devices.

    Thanks!

    Donald
     
  2. JohnRice

    JohnRice Executive Producer

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    I started thinking of options to take the DD 5.1 out of your hdmi signal, and there are some. The reality of using a soundbar is that it won't make any difference. With a soundbar, you're really not taking advantage of discrete surround sound channels, regardless of what any of the marketing claims are. So, if you are intent on using a soundbar, just leave it as it is. I would probably set the output from the TV to Dolby. Again, it won't make any difference. A better soundbar will sound better, but that has nothing to do with anything other than it being a better soundbar.
     
  3. Donald_S

    Donald_S Stunt Coordinator

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    Thank for the response John. I should probably have been clearer. I have one goal, to have a separate center channel for dialog. We end up having to turn the volume up and down constantly because we are losing dialog. I *think* having a center channel should help with that, instead of mixing it with the stereo signal.

    I realize that we're not talking about surround sound here. In the living room I have a discreet 5.1 system. Totally different animal.
     
  4. JohnRice

    JohnRice Executive Producer

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    Then you just need a soundbar that allows you to adjust the volume of the center channel separately, so you can turn it up a bit and leave it that way. All surround receivers have that ability, but I expect it's not available with all soundbars. Don't assume that just because a soundbar says it's 3.1 means it has that feature. You need to confirm it.
     
  5. Donald_S

    Donald_S Stunt Coordinator

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    Thank you for taking the time to try and answer my question.
     
  6. xx Brian xx

    xx Brian xx Stunt Coordinator

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    I'm not sure a 3.1 soundbar is going to help. Now instead of two speakers doing all the work, you will have one driving dialog and two driving the sound effects over the top of the dialog.

    What may help is to check the cable box, bluray or other component to see if you can change sound output to a narrow audio output. A lot of cable boxes have this. This will increase the volume for whispering and quiet talking and decrease the volume for explosions and loud sounds. Some soundbars also have a night mode and/or clear voice settings that will narrow the sound output. Your TV may also have these setting under the Sound options.
     

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