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How can I test/assure best surround separation?

Discussion in 'Receivers and amplifiers' started by lbeck, Jun 15, 2011.

  1. lbeck

    lbeck Member

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    A couple of years ago I revamped my home theater system. I’m looking for advice on how to determine/maximize surround separation. What I currently have is:

    * AV Receiver = Yamaha RX-V463
    * TV = Samsung 52” LCD 650 series
    * Satellite = Dish Network VIP 722 DVR (I also have a Roku HD box for streaming)
    * DVD = Panasonic DMP-BD30 Blu Ray
    * Speakers = L/R Front, center, L/R rear, Subwoofer

    Connections
    * Satellite Receiver to TV via HDMI
    * TV/ DVD/ to AV Receiver via L/R RCA connections

    My previous HT system gave great surround separation. I could hear R/L motion and rear sounds clearly. My current system has great fidelity, but it’s almost like mono. I have of course adjusted each speaker volume level via the receiver and I can have front/rear/R/L weighted sound, but I don’t get the surround separation of my old system or what you would hear in a theater. Each of my components has digital optical capabilities. I’ve tried the optical outputs to the optical input and there doesn’t appear to be a difference.

    One thing that I would like advice on is a movie or DVD that has unmistakable surround separation. Currently I’m using Transformers and/or Star Wars and sometimes I think I’m hearing separation and sometimes I think it’s my imagination. Also, a recommendation of a test DVD or something to that effect would help, but that wouldn’t test my DVR. I can of course activate the test signal from the AV receiver and I hear test signals from each speaker but that doesn’t account for inputs.

    Another possible problem is the hundreds of combinations of sound programs in my Yamaha receiver. I’m currently using “5 Ch Enhancer”.
     
  2. JVC

    JVC Active member

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    I can't believe the way you have it hooked up!
    Run satellite receiver via HDMI to Yamaha receiver.
    Run blu ray player via HDMI to Yamaha receiver (5.1 surround not possible with RCA connections, except with Dolby Pro Logic II simulated surround).
    Run receiver via HDMI to tv.
    Then it's just a matter of making sure the settings are right, in the receiver's setup menus. Make sure inputs are assigned right. Use the factory assigned inputs the way they are labeled, unless you've reprogrammed the assignments.

    That receiver has the YPAO auto calibration software built in. Once you get things connected right, run the YPAO, exactly as the instructions tell you to. If you don't have the mic to do this, for some reason, buy it from Yamaha. The calibration of speakers are very important. Either buy the mic (if needed), or buy an SPL (Sound Pressure Level) meter from Radio Shack for about $45-$50.

    Properly calibrated, each speaker will be the same volume at the seating position. It's a must. Front speakers are usually farther away from the seat, than the rear speakers. So, to be the same volume at the seat, as the rear speakers, the fronts will need to be set to a louder volume, because of the distance. To get it right, you need the SPL meter, or let the auto calibration do it for you. Transformers and Star Wars, especially episode 1 during the pod race, are good ones to use.

    I don't think that 5 ch. enhancer is for surround. I think it's more for 5 ch. stereo. I'd use Movie or Cinema, whichever they offer.
    If you'll make sure the receiver is set to "Auto", whenever you play a disc or tv channel with a 5.1 signal, it will play in 5.1 surround, when things are connected and setup right. With tv, it'll mainly be the premium channels (HBO, Starz, etc.). I'd set it to Dolby Prologic II, when watching tv. Some network shows (NBC, CBS, etc.) will play in 5.1 if the receiver gets the signal. Also, in the sat. box setup menus, make sure the audio output is set to Dolby Digital or Digital, whichever the wording is.
    I hope this helped. Good luck!
     
  3. Jeffrey_P

    Jeffrey_P Regular member

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    A DB meter mounted on a tripod to make sure all levels are correct is a good place to start.
    Jeff
     
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2011
  4. lbeck

    lbeck Member

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    Thanks, JVC. Your explanation was thorough and helped quite a bit. For one thing, I did not know that 5.1 couldn't be transmitted through RCA cables. I did my setup primarily to be sure that I was getting HD video. Also I am limited somewhat by where my components are located. In order to do the setup that you describe I needed to buy a 25 foot HDMI cable to extend from the satellite receiver to the Yamaha, whereas the run from sat->TV was only a 6 footer. I'm always concerned about signal loss but the guy at CompUSA says that with the 500HI rating the 25 footer should be okay.

    The other thing that I was trying to avoid is the need to use the receiver EVERY time that the TV is on. The setting that you describe requires that the receiver be on in order to get a signal to the TV. It would be nice if there was a pass-through like most VCRs had. For most of our watching (nightly news etc.) the TV speakers are good enough. I only want surround for movies and high-end special programming. Plus my wife watches much more TV than I and she doesn't care about surround.

    Last night I did the setup that you recommend and the SS is indeed better. Fortunately, My TV has enough inputs to accommodate multiple arrangements and reverts to the last setting whenever turned off/on. So I have a separate setting for SS. I just need to remember to switch it back to the mode that doesn't use the receiver before I turn it off. My wife doesn't like and doesn't understand the need to turn on the receiver each time she wants to watch TV. HER Dish network remote would require that she choose the aux function to turn on the receiver, then switch between the two components to make adjustments. I use a programmable remote (that she doesn't like and won't use) that does all that automatically and I can adjust TV/receiver without switching to different components.

    Anyway - thanks for the help.
     
  5. JVC

    JVC Active member

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    I'm glad you found a work around for how you want it.
    I, personally, don't understand why anyone wants to watch tv without the surround being on. I love surround sound, whether it's the news or a movie. Some commercials have very good surround effects, believe it or not. Any time my tv is on, my surround receiver is on. I can't stand the sound of the tiny tv speakers, under any circumstances. To each his own though........ :)
    Enjoy!


    Oh, BTW.
    There is a way to get true 5.1 surround using RCA connections.
    A lot of receivers have 5.1/7.1 multi-channel analog inputs (not pre-outs). You can get it using those. In fact, that's the only way, other than HDMI, to get Dolby TrueHD and dtsHD Master Audio high def soundtracks from blu ray movies. But that's another story.
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2011

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