Nowadays you can get crystal clear high-resolution image and sound quality for a reasonable price, but you can also quickly lose track due to the many technical concepts. This article aims to get you started and explains some of the most common concepts.
Multi-Channel HD Home Cinema – The Most Comprehensive Solution, But Not the Only One
Surround receivers are the head and heart of your high-resolution home cinema. A surround receiver is more than an amplifier with 5, 7, or more channels – it’s an impressive multimedia center. You can connect all your image and sound sources to it, choose which source you watch, and send the signal with optimal quality to your flat screen, projector or speakers. Modern surround receivers have extensive control with a remote app and integrated music streamers, which give you access to a wealth of music.
With endless functions and all audio channels with matching speakers, an extensive home cinema is quite an attack on your interior. It is therefore nice if you are not averse to the necessary electronics and speakers – unless of course you store everything in hi-fi furniture or build the speakers into the walls or ceiling. That is also possible.
If music is important to you, or if you are looking for a simple solution with the same sound quality, you can also invest in a good stereo system instead of surround. For the same money, you get a better amplifier and better speakers, and your music and movies still sound great over two good channels. Additionally, a home theatre power manager will manage all of your input electricity, thus filtering the dirty power and enhancing the life of your home theatre system.
Okay, that’s out! Then we can now look at all the great possibilities for your own surrounding home cinema.
The Sound Is Essential for an Intense Experience
Today’s HD and 4K/8K video formats give you sound quality that even the trusty old DVD disc couldn’t dream of. But despite all the new concepts and possibilities that HD and UHD have brought with them, one thing has remained the same: the sound has to be good, otherwise, you might as well throw your money out of the window!
Whether you choose a home cinema with 5.1, 7.1, or even more channels, the receiver should have enough power to drive your speakers at all volumes. You also have to make sure that you have enough connections to be able to do what you want, for example for the number of speakers and all UHD options.
Once that’s taken care of, it’s almost impossible to go wrong. Below you can read what you should definitely pay attention to and where you can cheat a bit.
Real Power And Advertising Power
If you read somewhere that a surround receiver has a power of, say, 100 watts, this usually means that it delivers 100 watts in two of the seven channels of the total frequency range. For example, the power of an old-fashioned stereo amplifier is specified, and 100 watts is usually enough to drive a stereo. But many manufacturers usually only give up power at a test tone of 1 kHz at 6 ohms in only one of the seven channels. In other words, they measure an annoying whining tone in mono!
This ‘advertising power’ is designed to give the average consumer the impression that the product is much better – and more powerful – than it actually is. But if powers aren’t measured in the same way, you can’t compare them. For example, it makes no sense to compare serious hi-fi power over two channels with a beep in one channel. That’s comparing apples to oranges.
One brand that is affected by this is NAD, which traditionally uses large power supplies for ample power for its receivers. And that’s why NAD has always measured and specified power based on ‘all channels at full power’. However, the market has not followed or understood this honesty, which is why NAD has chosen to forgo ‘stereo watts’ (two channels at the same time) just like its competitors. But the company also still displays the honest and unadorned data from all channels simultaneously. And assume that other manufacturers have a good reason not to!
At Techlobsters we don’t think it’s fair to give up power output on just one channel either, but because most of our competitors don’t specify ‘true’ hi-fi wattages, we’re forced to do the same with our NAD and Denon products so you can at least compare them. That is why we now offer three different power ratings on all our models, and you can read all the technical data on supplier websites. This way you can again compare apples to apples and pears to oranges. Moreover, you do not run the risk of making a bad purchase while you hope that everyone does business fairly.
HD Movie Sound Is Much Better Than CD
The best new multi-channel HD sound formats – Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio – give you an exact copy of the 24-bit master recording in the movie studio, which is equivalent to approximately three to four times CD quality over eight channels! In comparison, the old Dolby Digital or DTS movie sound of DVDs is much worse than the sound of a CD and comparable to a bad MP3. This is of course reason enough to invest in a good receiver and a few good speakers for your HD home cinema.
True multi-channel HD sound can only be obtained from Blu-ray and HD game consoles, such as the PS4. The sound of HDTV broadcasts is not high-resolution, but at best remains at DVD quality. The very best sound quality currently on Netflix is ’Dolby Digital Plus’; this format sounds slightly better than DVD. Of course, that’s not the same as true HD quality yet, but that could change in the future.