New audio and visual technologies enhance your experience
BLU-RAY vs. DVD UPCONVERSION PLAYERS
Blu-ray is a high-definition technology developed by Sony, but now available
through several manufacturers. It came out on top in the format battle
with Toshiba’s rival HD DVD technology in early 2008, much the way VHS
triumphed over Betamax. The turning point was when major film studios
decided to release their movies only in Blu-ray format DVDs.
Blu-ray’s blue laser has a shorter wavelength than a standard DVD’s red laser,
so it can store five times as much content as a regular DVD. For the viewer,
that means that more features and interactive content are available on a
Blu-ray DVD, and high-definition movies can be stored on just one disc.
Blu-ray also delivers higher-resolution images: 1920 x 1080 pixels compared
to the 720 x 480 pixels of a conventional DVD. It also gets better colour
contrasts than regular DVDs do. A Blu-ray DVD player can play standard
DVDs, although they will not be shown in high-definition.
Since many people already have large collections of movies on standard DVD
format and don’t want to replace them all, the upconversion DVD player
fills the gap.
Upconversion DVD players compress images from regular DVDs and deliver
near high-definition quality. The picture resolution is sharper and clearer than
on a regular DVD, but since it doesn’t use quite as many pixels, it’s not quite
as good as Blu-ray.
Blu-ray players run $200 to $300 compared to upconversion DVD players
that cost below $90. Blu-ray also requires that you own a highdefinition
All Blu-ray players now offer upconversion, too. The more extensive ones also
come with a wireless connection to the Internet for BD-Live. BD-Live allows
your Blu-ray player to access additional movie-studio related content, such as
ringtones, interactive games and movie trailers, when you’re playing a
As for audio features, higher-end Blu-ray DVD players offer 7.1 channels of
uncompressed audio. It dramatically enhances the surround
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN 5.1, 6.1 AND 7.1 SOUND
Back in the 1930s, a British inventor wanted to simulate with recorded sounds, how the
human ear actually hears things in three dimensions. So he fed sound through
two channels — left and right — creating stereo sound.
Surround sound was invented in the 1970s and then developed by Dolby for the
film industry in the 1980s. It uses four channels: front-left, front-centre, front-right
and surround centre (in the rear). The front-centre channel is for dialogue, the other
channels for music and side-effects.
The .1 refers to the sub-woofer (also known as the Low Frequency Effects channel). It’s
for bass sound effects and is present in all modern sound systems. Its placement isn’t as
specific. It can go in a corner, or even under a table.
The industry standard is now 5.1. In addition to the three front channels, this audio
system contains not one, but two surround channels, positioned a little to the rear and
side. There are a number of 5.1 technologies (including Dolby Prologic II, Dolby Digital
and DTS) some of which are better for non-digital broadcasts, games or music than
An updated format — used on some DVDs — is 6.1.
It added a rear-centre
The Home Theatre Standard
The current standard for dedicated home theatre rooms is 7.1. It includes the
three channels at the front, two surround channels at the side and three channels
at the rear.
In some small rooms, it just isn’t practical to accommodate a 7.1 system, which will
include eight speakers (seven plus the sub-woofer). You’ll be just fine with a 5.1 system.
But if you have a big room with enough wall space, or one that’s dedicated to and wired
for a home theatre system, then 7.1 is the way to go for sound that best reproduces the
movie- theatre experience in your own home.
Many home theatre audio configurations come packaged along with a Blu-ray system.
You just add the TV. And if you’re worried about all those wires connecting all those
speakers, don’t be. In many of the systems, the rear speakers are wireless. But you’ll still
have to decide whether you want your speakers to be floor-standing or shelf models.
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