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A Comparison Of Modern Cordless Surround Sound Kits

By Martina Swagger

Multi-channel audio has become mainstream and vendors have developed many types of basic and more sophisticated technologies like wireless surround sound speakers, virtual surround sound to simplify the installation of home theater products. I will look at some of the products and technologies that have appeared and give some advice about selecting proper components for a hassle-free setup.

For that reason, home theater setups have turn out to be pretty difficult. Running wires to remote speakers also is often undesirable due to aesthetic reasons. Component manufacturers have come up with several technologies to simplify the setup.

One option is reducing the number of speakers by building virtual loudspeakers. This method applies signal processing to the audio and adds phase shifts and cues to the sound that would ordinarily be sent by the remote speaker. The sound is next sent by the front loudspeakers together with the front speaker sound components. The signal processing is modeled after the human hearing. It uses the knowledge about how the human ear can determine the source of sound. Due to the signal processing, the viewer is deceived into assuming the sound is originating from virtual remote surround speakers.

The first approach is referred to as virtual surround sound. This solution will take the audio components which would ordinarily be broadcast by the remote loudspeakers. It then utilizes signal processing to those components and inserts special cues and phase delays. Next these components are mixed with the front speaker audio. Because the signal processing is based on how the human hearing detects the origin of audio, the audio components which underwent signal processing can be mixed with the front speaker components and broadcast by the front loudspeakers. The viewer is in effect deceived into assuming the audio is originating from a location other than the front speakers.

Virtual surround eliminates the remote loudspeakers and simplifies the setup and also avoids long speaker wire runs. However, it also has a downside. The shape of each human's ear is slightly different. For that reason everybody processes sound differently. The signal processing of these virtual surround systems is based on a standard model which was measured with a standard ear. However, virtual surround will not function equally well for every person. Wireless surround sound devices are another method for simplifying home speaker setups and usually have a transmitter component which connects to the source in addition to wireless amplifiers which will connect to the remote speakers. This transmitter will usually come with line-level along with amplified speaker inputs. Ideally it should come with a volume control to adjust it to the audio source.

Several wireless kits come with wireless amplifiers that connect to two speakers. This still requires cable runs between the two loudspeakers. Other products offer separate wireless amplifiers for each speaker. The most sophisticated wireless devices use digital transmission to eliminate signal degradation. To be certain that all loudspeakers are in sync in a multi-channel application, be sure that you pick a wireless system which has an audio latency of a few milliseconds at most. If the latency is higher than 10 ms then there will be an echo effect which will deteriorate the surround sound. Wireless kits frequently utilize the 900 MHz or 2.4 GHz frequency band. A few products also use the 5.8 GHz band. These products have less competition from other wireless gadgets than products utilizing the crowded 900 MHz or 2.4 GHz bands.

Another option are side-reflecting loudspeakers. These systems are also called sound bars. There are additional speakers located at the front which broadcast the audio for the remote speakers from the front at an angle. The sound is then reflected by walls and seems to be coming from besides or behind the viewer. The effect heavily is dependent upon the interior, especially the shape of the room and the decoration. It will function well for square rooms with no obstacles and sound reflecting walls. However, realistic scenarios frequently will be different from this ideal and reduce the effect of this option.

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