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  • Eyes & Ears on the Home Theatre

    New audio and visual technologies enhance your experience

    BLU-RAY vs. DVD UPCONVERSION PLAYERS
    SONY Blu-ray DVD with Wireless Functionality

    Blu-ray 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.

    Upconversion Players
    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 television.

    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 BD-Live disc.

    As for audio features, higher-end Blu-ray DVD players offer 7.1 channels of uncompressed audio. It dramatically enhances the surround sound capabilities.

    THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN 5.1, 6.1 AND 7.1 SOUND
    SAMSUNG 850 Watt 5.1 Channel Home Theatre System

    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.

    Sound Channels
    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 for movies.

    An updated format — used on some DVDs — is 6.1.
    It added a rear-centre surround channel.

    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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