The Magic of Surround Sound

Mohamed Habib, frequently seen on the Housewives of Beverly Hills (he was, in fact, married to one of them), has spent two million dollars on a lavish, beyond-comprehension home theater compound recently. It is as big as the average middle class home.  No words can describe the luxury–mostly to be used by his young adult daughters and their friends no doubt. It is all part of his palatial estate and indicates the popularity of the trend. Sophisticated systems are not uncommon in this area of Los Angeles, but his surpasses even the most opulent.

Surround sound is a feature of Mohamed’s special space (architecturally designed from scratch for concert hall acoustics) that also includes an enormous 3D TV with response time in the milliseconds (we are not telling if it is the diamond studded panel model by Yalos or the 152 inch Panasonic at 500K), state-of-the art symphonic quality speakers for maximum multi-channel surround sound, and more. This is just to make you drool. In actuality, however, many “average” Joes are getting home theater installations with an extraordinary capacity for high quality sound.

What exactly is surround sound? It is simply a stereophonic system with three or more speakers (many more are actually used today). It creates an amazing realistic effect as if sound were surrounding the listener from the perspective of 360 degrees. The speakers or channels go I front and behind. Most people are familiar with Dolby Digital, one of the reigning formats. Don’t worry about full- bandwidth, low frequency effects, and matrixes (for encoding separate sound signals from a stereo source) for now. The basic components include:

  • Home theater receiver (the brain of the system) and digital equalizers
  • Speakers and a subwoofer (don’t mix brands)
  • Power protection, cables, universal remote (don’t skimp on quality)
  • Internet and component connections
  • AV setup: speaker stands/brackets, etc.

The average person cannot afford the very same components, but they can enjoy the best that surround sound has to offer at various prince points from $10,000 to $100,000 or more.  Each system has its selling points and the one selected should not only suit one’s budget, but the optimal placement, purpose, and likely users. Whether a home theater and or sound system will be operated by adults or children makes a difference in making the right choice. Surround sound systems can be in a den, living room, basement rec area, or special designated space in the home or an adjunct structure. The level of quality will reflect price and brand models. It is best to consult the experts, listen to various options, and make your decision. Warning: starting with the best will surely color your view of lower-priced units.

Surround sound goes with the home theater territory but a true audiophile will appreciate the specific benefits of a quality system. Our eyes have gotten more sophisticated in line with music industry recording processes and what we hear at the cinema. Good sound is essential to great movie viewing wherever you are. But remember that it takes research and planning to do it well for a fair price.  You don’t want to mix connection types and get muddled sound. You need to know how much power for your speakers and your amp to suit room size. Placement is a consideration far too often overlooked. If you are still nonplussed, try Home Theater in a Box.