Setting up multi-channel audio such as a home theater system has always been rather complicated and vendors lately have created unique products and technologies such as wireless audio products or virtual surround sound to help simplify this process. I will look at the most recent trends to see which devices in fact work. I will also give some advice for choosing the ideal components.
Whilst in the past installing a TV has been fairly straightforward, the appearance of multi-channel audio has made installing home theater systems a good deal more difficult by requiring a number of external speakers to create surround sound. While the traditional 5.1 format needs 6 speakers: a front center, two front side speakers, two rear speaker and a subwoofer, the more modern 7.1 format adds two additional side speakers.
As a result installing a home theater has turn out to be quite hard and long speaker wire runs are normally undesirable for aesthetic reasons. Suppliers have lately released new devices and technologies. These devices were developed to help simplify the setup of home theater products.
Suppliers have invented a variety of ways in order to do away with loudspeaker cable clutter. One of those approaches will be to send the music wirelessly. This is achieved via a openstatevisualized.com system.. Another approach is generating so-called virtual speakers by applying signal-processing to the sound and introducing phase shifts and special cues to those audio parts that would ordinarily be broadcast by the remote loudspeakers. The signal processing is engineered based on how the human hearing determines the location of a sound. The audio signal is then sent by the front speakers. The viewer is in effect tricked into assuming the sound is coming from a location other than the front speakers.
This technology reduces the quantity of needed speakers and avoids long speaker cables but every human will process sound somewhat differently because of the shape of the ear. The signal processing is based on measurements which are done using a standard human ear model. If the shape of the ear changes, sound will travel in a different way. Consequently virtual surround will not function equally well for each person.
Wireless surround sound devices are one more solution for simplifying home speaker setups and usually have a transmitter component which connects to the source and wireless amplifiers that will connect to the remote loudspeakers. Normally the transmitter component will have amplified speaker inputs and line-level inputs. This offers flexibility to connect to any type of source. A transmitter volume control helps take full advantage of the dynamic range and eliminates clipping of the sound within the transmitter.
A number of wireless speaker systems are designed to connect 2 loudspeakers per wireless amplifier. A better solution would have a wireless amplifier for each remote speaker to avoid the cord runs between each of the 2 remote loudspeakers. The most basic wireless devices utilize FM transmission. FM transmission is prone to noise and audio degradation. More advanced systems make use of digital audio transmission to completely maintain the original audio. To make sure that all loudspeakers are in sync in a multi-channel application, make sure that you pick a wireless system which has an audio latency of just a few milliseconds at most. If the latency is more than 10 ms then there will be an echo effect which will deteriorate the surround sound. Most wireless devices work in the 900 MHz and 2.4 GHz frequency bands. Some products use the less crowded 5.8 GHz frequency band and consequently have less competition from other wireless products.
A third technology employs side-reflecting loudspeakers. This method is referred to as sound bars. There are additional loudspeakers located at the front which broadcast the audio for the remote loudspeakers from the front at an angle. The audio is then reflected by walls and seems to be coming from besides or behind the viewer. The effect heavily is dependent upon the interior, in particular the shape of the room and the decoration. It will function well for square rooms with no obstacles and sound reflecting walls. Then again, realistic scenarios often will differ from this ideal and diminish the result of this solution.