Ok, so i've decided it's time to start my first surround setup, but asides from the obvious, i don't really know what i'm doing, and there's only so much you can understand from the net before you hit a brick wall of big words and confusion. I'd like to eventually setup an amp with 7.1 surround, that i can switch between different inputs of both video and audio, but as i'm a student, i'm not going to be able to do this all in one go. I currently have an old sony amp and my trusty pair of mission m70 bookshelf speakers. Basically, i just need to know the basics of a surround setup so i can start to build it. For instance, from what i can gather from wikipedia, 7.1 basically just means 7 speakers (2 front, 2 side, 2 rear, 1 centre) and a sub woofer, but do you need to have a set of matching speakers, or can you make up these from 3 different pairs, plus a centre and a sub? Does it matter where the sub goes? Is there anything in particular i need to make sure the amp has?
Only 7.1 setup i have used is the gigaworks one in my sig, however, i do know that in most setups people either buy pre built ones as it were or mix and match. Alot of audiophiles prefer the latter from what i have seen as they may like different brands for different things.
subwoofer placement is really a matter of choice, the best way is to get one that would fit in with the other speakers and just watch some favourite films and place it wehre you think best, not really a science to it.
all you need of an amp is that it has the required amount of inpouts and outputs and support the rigfht decoding features.
Well that's good to know, although that raises another question - is there anywhere that i can find an amp by searching what features i need? Or would i be better just spending a while checking out different amps until i find one that'll cover it all? Any brands you recommend/should avoid?
Onkyo and Denon are tops in my book for receivers. Yamaha is also very good and usually are the best bang for the buck.
You'll want a receiver with HDMI inputs as the latest and greatest 7.1 requires it. Dolby EX is a lesser version of 7.1 that'll work with optical, but for DTS HD and Dolby HD/uncompressed optical simply doesn't have the bandwidth for them.
Your 3 most important speakers are your left/right front and center. Try to get those "matched" if possible, or at least from the same brand. The center channel speaker is very important in DTS HD and Dolby HD as all the dialog basically goes through it.
Unless in an apt., a sub is 2nd most important. A crap sub just can't handle a good, loud movie. It moves to least important if you live above an elderly couple. As SS said, location is different for everyone. Some prefer a corner, some a flat wall, some even prefer behind them. Sometimes the sub's manual will suggest optimal placement from walls and stuff. Go with one with an amplifier, passive subs suck.
Your surrounds are least important as they only do "environmental" sounds, but don't cheap out here too much. Good tweeters/midrange are key IMO, and I recommend JBL, generally JBL excel in the tweeter dept.
I can assure you there is a huge difference between a standard DVD in a good 5.1 setup and DTS/Dolby HD 7.1 uncompressed on HD DVD/Blu ray in a good setup.
Brill, Thanks for the advice! I recently bought a PC with a 7.1 sound card which is what pushed me to finally want to spend the money, though i've been considering it since i bought my PS3 earlier this year...And with a birthday coming up - hell, i deserve it!
well, apart from the gigaworks not being terribly good(trust me). you do not get the same choice, you may buy one feeling that some of the included speakers are lacking and unbalanced compared to each other and you would want something different.
of course a package will hopefully have speakers who's crossover frequencies are setup right and made to complement each other.
really, though not too much experience beyond comp speakers on this side.