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Does 5.1 Matter?

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January 5, 2005 11:17:03 PM

Please answer this straightforward question:

Aside from playing DVDs, does your PC ever truly use 5.1 channels of sound (unique channels)?

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January 6, 2005 1:19:09 AM

Some games I've played use 5.1, even 7.1, sound. For example Counter Strike Source, the surround indeed made the gameplay more fun. Still can't find another good use of it though.
January 7, 2005 12:33:27 AM

Most games nowadays are 5.1.

You've tried and failed. The lesson here is, never try again. -- Homer Simpson.
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January 7, 2005 3:02:52 AM

try a game like Call of Duty in 5.1 (with EAX 3 Advanced HD)...became without a doubt, the most intense game ive ever played. almost no comparison to 2.1, at least once you've tried it in 5.1.

DVD Audio, if thats of any interest to you, is in 5.1 (by MLP).
January 7, 2005 4:36:14 AM

If you have 5.1 you are also going to want Dolby Digital EX and DTS ES to fully make use of it. It makes a huge difference in movies. The EAX on creative cards along with 5.1 makes a huge difference in games. Most sound cards can also process stereo music out to all channels making it simply sound better.
Most of all you just can't beat the bass, most 5.1 systems come with some high quality woofers that make games and movies all the more realistic and intense.

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February 4, 2005 4:23:45 AM

The way I am reading your question you have your channels confused.

Pretty much all soundcards use 16-128 channels, but those channels have nothing to do with 5.1, 7.1.

A typical game might use 16 or 32 channels for all the various effects. Since pretty much all sound card have enough of these kind of channels, they are never talked about or mentioned.

So when someone says 5.1 channels, they mean 5 regular channels plus an independent subwoofer channel. And not that only 5 or 6 sounds can be rendered at once!

This has no connnection to the number of speakers the sound card supports.

So no, if you don't have 5.1 speakers then 5.1 doesn't matter.

Also if all your doing is passing through an AC3 or DTS audio stream to an external decoder, a cheap 2 channel sound card with digital out works as good (actually better) than an Audigy 4.




<P ID="edit"><FONT SIZE=-1><EM>Edited by Codesmith on 02/04/05 01:42 AM.</EM></FONT></P>
February 8, 2005 3:14:07 AM

The 5 matters. The 1 does not.

"If youre paddling upstream in a canoe and a
wheel falls off, how many pancakes fit in a doghouse? None! Icecream doesn't have bones!!!"

"Battling Gimps and Dimbulbs HERE at THGC"
February 8, 2005 1:04:42 PM

If you are watching a 5.1 movies the .1 matters!

The subwoofer has its own separate channel. Its called .1 because it doesn't only includes low frequency sounds, but it has more bandwidth than you would think.

If you have whimpy speakers without their own woofers you will need to redirect some of their base to the subwoofer.

But if you have nice front speakers the subwoofer is only going to output sounds from the subwoofer channel.
February 8, 2005 6:51:40 PM

Very good point. Plus, having a subwoofer takes the stress off
the front speakers to reproduce low frequency sounds.

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February 8, 2005 9:29:05 PM

But I have a 2.1 sound system that uses a stereo connection: It separates it's own sub frequencies from the stereo signal, and that works just fine!

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February 9, 2005 12:49:28 AM

Both 5.1 DD and DTS has an actual independent subwoofer channel that is as "real" as any of the other 5 channels.

Some people are confused by the term "limited bandwidth" that gets applied to the subwoofer channel. Its not low bitrate, it just means it range includeds base tones.

There is usually no 2.1, 3.1, 4.1 audio output, just 2.1, 3.1, 4.1 speakers. The base is simply redirected from the satelites to the subwoofer based on frequency.

If you are watching something with DD or DTS on non 5.1 speakers, the subwoofer channel gets blended into the front channels then redirected to the subwoofer.

Its true that lower frequencies are harder to pinpoint, but a lot of what gets redirected when you use "small" speakers is very directional, so normal people can notice this redirection,

Also merging and redirecting affects the quality of the subwoofer channel, but that is hard for most people to notice. (I can't).

I use "large" front speakers (with good subwoofers) and "medium" rear speakers.

My reciever knows the range of my speakers, so in theory only the lowest frequencies from the rear channel would get redirected to the subwoofer.

In practice DD and DTS is mastered with the assumption you are using at best large front speakers and medium sized surround speakers.

So when watching something 5.1 my subwoofer only outputs sounds from the ".1" channel.

Actually at night out of concern for my neighbors I turn off the subwoofer and my Reciever redirects the subwoofer channel to my front speakers. I barely notice, except I can not longer "feel" explosions, dinosaurs walking ect.
February 12, 2005 5:02:37 PM

Yes. My mains on my HT are capable down to 30hz! So realy there is no subwoofer needed unless I realy need that 15hz dinosaur rumble! So for me, the .1 does not matter!

"If youre paddling upstream in a canoe and a
wheel falls off, how many pancakes fit in a doghouse? None! Icecream doesn't have bones!!!"

"Battling Gimps and Dimbulbs HERE at THGC"
February 12, 2005 11:45:36 PM

The .1 still matters, just not the subwoofer :) 
!