The Complete Guide to Buying Surround Sound Speakers on eBay

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The Complete Guide to Buying Surround Sound Speakers on eBay

Since audio technology became a working part of the digital industry, its evolutionary pace has sped up to lightning speed. The goal of a home theatre system for gaming and film viewing is to achieve a level of authenticity that is akin to that of a virtual world. Sound needs to be defined, clear and all encompassing, leaving the listener with every possible crutch to support a lively imagination. Today's cinemaphiles and gamers want to feel transported into another world so that sound approaches them from every possible angle. An integrated surround sound system dictates tonal expression, simulating real world scenarios through potent sonic command.

How Binaural Sound Is Achieved

Surround sound creates the illusion of movement by recreating three dimensional cues. This is possible because the ears receive frequencies separately, allowing for disparate intensities that simulate a sense of direction. By giving sound waves their own tones, the binaural sound experience mimics audio sources that pass over the head, beneath it or as though they are approaching from behind. A variety of channels are used to send signals to strategically placed speakers. When basic multi-satellite set ups are used, there are pockets of the room that receive a particularly dynamic listening experience. More comprehensive speaker strategies create more of these pockets, delivering vibrant surround sound to more seating areas.

Multi-Speaker Strategies

2.1 Surround Sound

Two speakers and a subwoofer delivering two discreet channels.

Speaker systems are simple and affordable to set up. Sound quality is not strictly classified as true surround sound.

5.1 Surround Sound

Five speakers and a single subwoofer.

The first tier of true surround sound, with digital signals being channelled from four angles. A centre speaker mimics the experience of hearing dialogue coming directly from the screen. With the addition of a subwoofer and the use of a Dolby or THX, audio is clear, controlled, and authentic.

7.1 Surround Sound

Three front speakers, two side speakers, two back speakers, and one to four subwoofers.

Surround speakers are placed at precise angles to deliver a defined and colossal range of frequencies. Multiple subwoofers deliver low frequencies to the entire room. 7.1 is the entry level surround sound option for gaming.

6.1 and 10.2 Surround Sound

Six to ten speakers with one or two subwoofers.

The true audiophile's solution, allowing audio to come from additional satellite speakers placed in the middle of the room, behind and in front of the viewer. This set up allows for more customised speaker placement to suit oddly shaped rooms.

Dolby True HD or DTS-HD

Multiple satellites and subwoofers. Back satellites are precisely placed at a specified angle from the main seating area. Angles differ according to whether Dolby HD (60 degrees) or THX Certified (more than 48 degrees) speaker placement is used.

True studio sound quality is delivered when high definition and Blu-ray discs are played. Lossless compression ensures that output is optimal. Thumping bass and sharp frequencies make this the home theatre system for obsessive gamers and fanatical cinemaphiles.

Speaker Placement Strategies

The fact that sound waves either bounce or become absorbed by materials allows bats to navigate with their ears. This tendency also makes the shape, size, and materials in a room an integral part of the overall listening experience. Tones might distort because they are obstructed by surrounding furniture and room shape. To avoid distortion, a surround sound system needs to factor in the shape and size of the room it exists in as well as the angles relative to the ear height.

Left and Right Back Satellites

Subwoofer Placement

Left and Right Speaker Placement

Left and Right Back Satellites

Subwoofer Placement

Aligned with the front speakers and placed directly behind the listener. Speakers should be angled inward to face the ear

Bass is easily delivered from any angle, but corner placement distorts the boom. Irregularly shaped rooms benefit from balanced placement on either side of the middle wall at any angle. There should be a minimum of three feet between the subwoofer and seating area.

Left and right satellites are three feet away from the seating position, mid-way between the screen and listener. Placement at ear height angled towards the listener channels sound more vibrantly.

Aligned with the front speakers and placed directly behind the listener. Speakers should be angled inward to face the ear

Bass is easily delivered from any angle, but corner placement distorts the boom. Irregularly shaped rooms benefit from balanced placement on either side of the middle wall at any angle. There should be a minimum of three feet between the subwoofer and seating area.

Components

eBay's second-hand components offer an affordable way to build a surround sound system to suit the unique needs of individuals and their entertainment spaces. Setting out to build an entire system out of individual components may seem intimidating, but by paying attention to the sound quality and design of each building block, audio quality is not difficult to achieve.

AV Receiver

Amplifies, processes, and distributes frequencies to the correct channels. Those with built in multi-channel amps restrain and funnel a balanced level of power to the speakers.

When wattage matches the total power capacity of the speakers, sound is clear and undistorted. A large signal to noise ratio whittles out negative distortions. Decibel levels control volume. Wattage per channel needs to be potent enough to obtain clear audio quality.

Subwoofer

Manages low frequency bass for music and rumbling explosions for games and films.

The subwoofer's maximum frequency should merge with the satellite speakers' minimum frequencies. Music fans prefer subwoofer diameters between 10 and 15 inches. Larger rooms need two or more larger subwoofers with higher outputs. Those who live in small apartments can restrict bass to their homes by using isolation pads. Home theatres are brought to life by horn loaded encasements that produce potent acoustics.

Satellite and Centre Speakers

The centre speaker crams additional cones into the structure to channel dialogue and major sound effects. The satellite speakers send out ambient and directional sound from the sides of the room, while the front two channels take care of music.

Full spectrum audio is achieved with six or more channels. Pre-matched systems give novices a simpler way to configure on a budget. Big screen televisions demand the more impressive soundscape achieved by large, powerful satellites while speakers placed on the floor deliver clear bass tones. Centre and satellite speakers can be mixed and matched between brands as long as they are sonically equal. Dipole satellite speakers mimic professional theatres more closely than direct radiating ones.

Cables

Sound quality is enhanced by conductivity, width, and size.

Thickness is measured according to gauge measurement, with lower gauges indicating greater widths. Surround sound systems demand gauges of above 16.HDMI cables deliver compressed audio without losing data and, thus, sound quality. HDMI 1.3a retains integrity between visual and audio data so that lip sync inconsistencies are avoided. Copper achieves fair sound quality on a budget. Silver and gold offer higher conduction rates for better sound quality.

Conclusion

Contrary to popular opinion, a surround system is not supposed to overwhelm audiophiles to the extent that they feel blown away by sonic booms. A controlled yet powerful configuration draws viewers into the entire sensory experience of a film, game or song, making them feel enveloped by integrated imagery and sound effects. The experience of an efficient surround sound system should not draw attention away from other senses. Instead, they help listeners to sink deeply into the imaginative realms created by directors, musicians and developers. At the same time, few want their state of the art technology to clutter up their decor. Wireless options, creative cabling solutions and sleek soundbars offer a virtual audio world without disorderly cabling and the inorganic aesthetic of too much technology. The psychoacoustics involved in how the ears receive and translate sound help the brain to interpret different frequencies as though they are approaching from behind or whizzing by. It is the brain's ability to be fooled that enables surround sound systems to mesmerise.

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