Playing ES or EX Material Out Of A 5.1 Array...

Discussion in 'AV Receivers' started by Scott Adam, Jul 30, 2003.

  1. Scott Adam

    Scott Adam Stunt Coordinator

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    Hello Again Friends,

    While I continue to take under advisement the suggestions that were made to me regarding my last post about calibrating my Onkyo TX SR600 "properly" with an SPL meter and such (see "Issues With My Onkyo TX SR600..."), I have some more questions for you insightful, most helpful lads -- a question that I never really understood the answer to when someone attempted to provide such an answer under a totally different post...

    As everyone in here knows, Onkyo's TX SR600 is a 6-channel unit, but because my system is set up in a studio apartment and the listening area is small, I am only running a 5.1 speaker array; my couch and sweet spot is smack right up against a wall, with the wall unit housing all my surround gear opposite on the facing wall; there's only about nine feet between the sweet spot and the wall unit. And so, I opted not to buy that back surround channel because it would literally have to sit on the wall right behind the listener's head. Now, I have heard all the debates regarding whether or not 6.1 and 7.1 is worth the effort, heck I have started a lot of them---but I had just thought because of my apartment's space, 5.1 would do fine...if anyone has any disagreements on this, please fire away...

    But my dilemma is this: I have a handful of DVDs in my collection which have "extended" 6.1 soundtracking -- off the top of my head, I believe this includes Gladiator (DTS-ES), The Exorcist: The Version You've Never Seen Before (DD EX) and Attack Of The Clones (DD EX)...all the rest of the discs in the collection are all standard 5.1 Dolby Digital or standard DTS. Even though I do not have that sixth back surround channel to enjoy DTS-ES or DD EX films, I always choose the DTS ES or DD EX soundtrack from a certain film's menu before beginning the DVD because I actually HEAR a distinct difference between the sources; for instance, when I play back Gladiator, I CHOOSE the DTS-ES soundtrack on the menu---NOT the DD 5.1 soundtrack---because I can swear it sounds SO MUCH better...yet, I have no back surround speaker(s) for this DTS-ES mode...

    So, my question is this...what is "happening" when I play back 6.1 processed DVD information WITHOUT that sixth channel in my system? Am I "losing" any information by playing back a soundtrack with six channel sound yet I have no sixth channel? I have heard COUNTLESS theories on this topic; people have told me that because my receiver is set up to acknowledge that there is no back surround speaker, when I play back soundtracks with 6.1 sound, that sixth channel's sound is actually being MATRIXED and fed between the two rear surrounds and what I am hearing is a ghost or phantom center surround effect when sitting directly between the two rear surrounds...should I be playing DTS ES or DD EX soundtracks even though I only have a 5.1 setup? Is anything being "lost" here? And what is happening in my system when you choose for a DVD to play back in one of these modes --- DD EX or DTS ES --- and yet there is no extended sixth channel present? Am I hearing that back surround channel in a "ghosted" matrixed signal between the rear surrounds?

    If someone can explain this as plainly as possible, I would greatly appreciate it.

    "Someone in this camp aint who appears to be....right now thats one or two of us...by spring it could be all of us...."
    -Kurt Russell, "John Carpenter's The Thing"
     
  2. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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    This same question, and variations upon, is asked about every other week. Try a search, it has been covered quite extensively.
     
  3. Scott Adam

    Scott Adam Stunt Coordinator

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    Thank you, John...but can anyone else perhaps lend some insight to the questions I'm having regarding playing 6.1 material through a 5.1 system?

    "I dont give a f***ck about your war.....or your president..."
    -Kurt Russell, "John Carpenter's Escape From New York"
     
  4. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    First of all, your description of the formats needs refinement.

    DD Surround EX is a 5.1 format, not a 6.1 format. Even Dolby says so.

    DTS-ES Matrix is the same.

    The only "6.1" format is DTS-ES Discrete. The only title you've named in that format is Gladiator. Titles encoded in DTS-ES Discrete are also backward compatible with DTS-ES Matrix; all of the sounds in the rear center channel are also matrixed into the rear left and right, and the decoder handles which "version" of those sounds is used, depending on the equipment and configuration.

    All of these formats are designed and geared toward 5.1 playback, which is the still the common denominator. All of the sounds for the rear back channel are present for 5.1 playback. One could describe the effect, in a properly configured 5.1 system, as a "phantom" back center channel, but the description really isn't meaningful. It makes sense to talk about a phantom front center, because the front center is almost constantly active -- it's where the main audio "action" of the film occurs. A rear center channel, by contrast, will generally be limited to incidental effects and won't have enough of a continuous presence to constitute a "phantom" extra channel.

    The rear center channel was originally conceived to facilitate sound pans, such as fly-overs and fly-bys. It was conceived for the theatrical venues, where there was often a "gap" in the surround field because of the typical arrangement of speakers in an auditorium. The same problem doesn't present itself in the typical home theater, where two properly placed rear speakers may be more than enough to create a coherent soundfield. IMO, the preoccupation with "6.1" and "7.1" setups has more to do with the desire of hardware manufacturers to sell more gear than it does with any significant enhancement to the home viewing experience.

    M.

    P.S. John Garcia is right. This has been covered numerous times. And now once more. [​IMG]
     
  5. Scott Adam

    Scott Adam Stunt Coordinator

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    "First of all, your description of the formats needs refinement.

    DD Surround EX is a 5.1 format, not a 6.1 format. Even Dolby says so.

    DTS-ES Matrix is the same.

    The only "6.1" format is DTS-ES Discrete. The only title you've named in that format is Gladiator. Titles encoded in DTS-ES Discrete are also backward compatible with DTS-ES Matrix; all of the sounds in the rear center channel are also matrixed into the rear left and right, and the decoder handles which "version" of those sounds is used, depending on the equipment and configuration.

    All of these formats are designed and geared toward 5.1 playback, which is the still the common denominator. All of the sounds for the rear back channel are present for 5.1 playback. One could describe the effect, in a properly configured 5.1 system, as a "phantom" back center channel, but the description really isn't meaningful. It makes sense to talk about a phantom front center, because the front center is almost constantly active -- it's where the main audio "action" of the film occurs. A rear center channel, by contrast, will generally be limited to incidental effects and won't have enough of a continuous presence to constitute a "phantom" extra channel.

    The rear center channel was originally conceived to facilitate sound pans, such as fly-overs and fly-bys. It was conceived for the theatrical venues, where there was often a "gap" in the surround field because of the typical arrangement of speakers in an auditorium. The same problem doesn't present itself in the typical home theater, where two properly placed rear speakers may be more than enough to create a coherent soundfield. IMO, the preoccupation with "6.1" and "7.1" setups has more to do with the desire of hardware manufacturers to sell more gear than it does with any significant enhancement to the home viewing experience.

    M.

    P.S. John Garcia is right. This has been covered numerous times. And now once more."

    First of all, let me say thank you Mike for responding to this. I understand John is right that this has been covered numerous times---I even acknowledged the fact as such in my last post. But last time, it was extremely unclear to me, as it still is, because you are explaining this phenomenon in methods not easily understood by the Home Theater noobie.

    So, now, that said, I must turn my attention toward some other references you make, most notably, the fact that Dolby Digital EX is 5.1 soundtrack---if this is so, can you please explain what the "EX" badging is referring to? I thought EX referred to an "extended" channel or signal of some kind beyond 5.1...this is incorrect? And the what of the Attack of the Clones DVD---same 5.1 DD EX soundtrack?

    I know Gladiator is a true, discrete DTS ES 6.1 soundtrack---it clearly states on the box that it pumps out 6.1 channels of audio. But Im lost on the Dolby Digital EX thing; what is the DIFFERENCE between DD and DD EX then if they are both 5.1? Just some added ambience effects in the rears?

    So then, if mostly marketing hoopla, can I play back DVDs such as Gladiator in their DTS ES DISCRETE six channel mode even though I only have 5.1 speakers? And then WHERE is that back surround channel's info going since I have no sixth back surround speaker?

    "Captain Yates tells me you have a problem understanding what these men are in here for...maybe thats because as long as you can kid yourself into thinking theyre just men and not inmates, you can also kid yourself into thinking that you're not a guard....I SAID TURN AROUND!!!"
    -Cedric Forrest, "Against The Wall"
     
  6. Michael Mohrmann

    Michael Mohrmann Screenwriter

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    Scott,

    Information about Dolby Digital EX can be found at:

    http://www.dolby.com/ht/co_br_0110_L...rsGuideEX.html

    Here's a quote from that page:

    "The additional back surround information is encoded onto the regular left and right surround channels of otherwise conventional Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks. In cinemas equipped with Dolby Digital Surround EX decoding, the added information is reproduced as a third surround channel. In cinemas without Surround EX decoding, the extra information is played through the regular left and right surround channels, so no information is lost."

     
  7. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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  8. Scott Adam

    Scott Adam Stunt Coordinator

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    Michael,

    Thanks a million for the info and links...but let me ask you this now...the Michael from NYC who posted before you says that Dolby Digital EX IS NOT a six channel format; Dolby's website you pointed me toward claims DD EX ADDS to a DD 5.1 soundtrack with an EXTENDED channel...would this not mean SIX point one surround? Why is it still known as 5.1 if there is an EXTENDED algorithym going on here?

    And if these 6.1 soundtracks are backward/compatible with 5.1 systems like mine, and you dont need a back surround channel to play them as you are all telling me....then why do people BUY six channel receivers and a back surround speaker? If the 5.1 setup will allow you to hear these 6.1 DVDs, why purchase the extra gear or channel(s)? Seems like everything is compatible with everything, or am I missing something?
     
  9. Scott Adam

    Scott Adam Stunt Coordinator

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    So, are you all telling me that when I sit down to watch, say...The Exorcist DVD, which boasts a DD EX soundtrack only, and Im running a 5.1 system, that "extended" signal in the soundtrack is being heard between my rear surrounds? I am actually getting the EX effect between them?

    BUT when I view DISCRETE six channel DVDs like Gladiator, and run it in DTS ES mode, am I hearing a "ghosted" center surround image through my 5.1 system if I am sitting right between the surround left and right? What kind of info am I "missing" by playing a DISCRETE 6.1 channel DVD through my 5.1 setup? What is happening then?

    Thank you all for your continued assistance....
     
  10. Michael Mohrmann

    Michael Mohrmann Screenwriter

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    Scott,

    Having the 6th rear channel can stablize the surround information better, much like the center speaker does for the front speaker array (although some prefer no center speaker). This is especially true if your side surround speakers are far apart. It also gives you the ability to adjust the channel separately if you are using a 6th (and usually 7th) rear speaker.

    Michael
     
  11. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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  12. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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  13. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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    If you play a test tone from an EX or ES disc on a 5.1 system you will hear exactly what is going on. Since you do not have a rear center, the information is sent to BOTH R and L surrounds. When you hear the tone for the rear center, you will hear sound coming from both surrounds at the same time, giving you an ambient effect. The effect, while listening to an EX or ES (matrix or discrete) soundtrack, will seem to simulate a rear center, and create more cohesive pans between the rears. I had a 6.1 setup for about a year, and I am now back to 5.1 because I moved and have nowhere to put a rear center. I can tell you for certain that, while information is not lost, having the additional speaker back there, especially for ES Discrete titles such as Gladiator, is a noticable improvement over a 5.1 system.
     
  14. Scott Adam

    Scott Adam Stunt Coordinator

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    Thank you, John...

    (and everyone)...this does make sense; I HAVE in fact run a test tone over my speakers via the Attack Of The Clones DVD's THX OPTIMIZER system, which kind of showed what you were saying----the rear center surround coming from the two back surrounds; I can imagine that the sound is improved over a 5.1 system----especially in rare DVD cases like Gladiator; but an ex-co worker of mine who originally set my Onkyo and Polk system up for me told me that when HE heard back to back 5.1/6.1 comparisons (he is a home theater guru), he was not "blown away" by the differences that rear sixth speaker made; he told me if I had the money, go buy the sixth speaker, but otherwise to save the cash and get more DVDs...telling me that there are only subtle ambient effects that wrap the action up better with that sixth channel...

    And what of all this THX certified stuff and 7.1? Are these necessary for home theater? My Onkyo isnt THX certified with any bells and whistles; does this mean anything? Do I really need more than 5.1 in a studio apartment?
     
  15. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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  16. Scott Adam

    Scott Adam Stunt Coordinator

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    Will-do, Michael...thank you...was just a random thought about the THX certification crap that crossed my mind at the time...
     
  17. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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    My receiver is THX select cert, and 95% of the time I leave THX processing off, if that helps any. I'm still quite pleased with 5.1 sound.
     
  18. Scott Adam

    Scott Adam Stunt Coordinator

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    What does THX processing do that my SR600 doesn't?
     
  19. Scott Adam

    Scott Adam Stunt Coordinator

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    Okay, so let me ask this...to try and clarify once again...

    I just went online and looked up some sights which discuss the remixed soundtrack for the "Exorcist: Version You've Never Seen Before" DVD, which is presented in Dolby Digital EX; each site talks about the "added" back surround channel information---yet this is a 5.1 soundtrack---but, I do not have that back surround channel, so when I play back The Exorcist disc in DD EX, that back surround's information is coming from my left and right surrounds, correct? Im hearing kind of a "phantomed" sound when I sit between them? Im so confused because Warner Bros claims this soundtrack on the DVD is a FIVE POINT ONE soundtrack--that is, DD EX--yet, there is a SIXTH CHANNEL OF INFORMATION which can play back via EX---so, I guess because we're not talking about a DISCRETE system like DTS ES, that back surround information can come from the left and right surrounds in a typical 5.1 system such as mine?
     
  20. Tim Hoover

    Tim Hoover Screenwriter

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    Scott, the "5.1" designation refers to the number of discrete channels which have been encoded onto the disc, not the number of channels in playback. For example, I use a circle-surround mode on music sources. This makes the original 2-channel recordings come out of all five speakers. However, the original recording is still just 2-channel.

    In regards to your "Exorcist" question, you're not hearing a phantom-back surround when listening in 5.1. The info is simply folded back into the two rear surround channels. It's an effect very similar to Pro-Logic decoding. Take a 2-ch source and listen in stereo, then Pro-Logic. Notice what happens to the center...
     

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