All About Sound: What is Home Theater?
What a time to be alive! So many entertainment options, and they all can be enjoyed at home, where they deliver the kind of thrilling technology once only found in movie theaters and video game arcades. More, even!
Chances are you're already experiencing some level of "home theater." You're watching TV on a flat, wide screen, maybe streaming movies or watching Blu-ray or DVD discs. Maybe you're a gamer. You might have a small pair of stereo speakers on either side of your TV, or a soundbar speaker right in the middle.
It's likely that your movies and games, delivered on current digital media, feature multiple channels of audio, which means that there are specific audio signals directed to different areas located all around your listening space. Like in a movie theater, there is the front center, left and right, and rear surround left and right. There's also a channel specifically for low frequency effects and deep bass. Now it's easier than ever to duplicate the big movie theater experience in your own home. Like we said: It's a glorious time to be alive!
But if you don't have a surround sound speaker array, also called a "five point one" (or beyond) home theater sound system, then you're really missing out on the experience.
A home theater, to put it plain, is a collection of speakers and audio-video components designed to reproduce the movie theater experience in the comfort of your own home. The size and the quality of your video screen is very important here, but since we're a speaker company, we're going to let someone else talk about that. For us, a high-quality, properly placed, multi-channel surround-sound speaker system is what really brings a home theater to life.
Multi-channel sound adds dimension, spaciousness and a heightened sense of realism to your movie watching or music-listening experience. Access to multiple channels of audio on digital media delivers more accurate reproduction of direct and reflected sound, just like in a movie theater. (Direct sound provides localization cues that can be realistically placed within the soundstage. Reflected sound completely envelops us in the space's natural ambiance.)
If you've been putting it off for forever, now is the time to step up to a new level of entertainment experience. Build a home theater sound and video system in your house. It's easier than ever before. Here's a quick rundown of the stuff you'll need:
A big TV. Bigger is better, and TV technology today makes even the biggest screens more accessible. Consider a projector and a screen. Why not?
A/V Source, includes video sources like DVD, BR, high res streaming or LAN connections, and audio sources such as CD, SACD, or even multi-channel vinyl. Why not?
Amplification and processing. This is the key element, the part that takes your A/V signal and boosts it up, and then distributes it to the speakers it needs to go to in order to create the illusion of surround sound. Today's home theater processors feature more power, and more channels, than ever before. Basic stereo (2.1, with the "point one" being a subwoofer for bass effects) and basic Dolby Digital 5.1 (five-channel surround sound with a subwoofer) has given way to 7, 9 and even 11 channels of ambient spacial sound design with names like ATMOS, AURO-3D, and DTS-HD. The power of even the most advanced movie theater is now available in this one component. (What a time it is!)
Speakers. This is our gig. So let us tell you that the one most important thing to keep in mind when cobbling together a multi-channel, multi-speaker surround sound system, is make sure the speakers you choose are all timbrally matched, with the same audio characteristics from speaker to speaker. Timbre-matching ensures that sound does not change or fluctuate in character as it travels around the "surround" system from speaker to speaker. This is most easily accomplished by choosing loudspeakers from one manufacturer (we can recommend one), or even one series of models within a manufacturer's line (chosen for size or budget considerations).
Front Speakers (1, in the diagram above): Front left and right speakers reproduce the majority of front stage dialog, sound effects and music.
Center Speaker (2): The center channel is "the hardest working speaker in your home theater." It takes on the burden of the majority of dialog, sound effects and music. Its performance level is key to anchoring the action to the screen and lending realism to your system's imaging. Place your center channel speaker directly above or below your screen. (If you have a perforated projection screen, you can usually place the center channel speaker behind it.)
Surround Speakers (3): Surround speakers placed on walls above and behind the seating area are the minimum you need to reproduce ambiance (like, "rain") and sound effects (like, "flyovers") that are critical to the realism of multi-channel movies and music. Timbre-matched for seamless blending, surround speakers should have a uniform reverberant sound field. Full-bandwidth bass reproduction is a bonus.
Rear Speakers (4): Rear speakers in addition to traditional surrounds allow the contribution of additional channels to the mix. New multi-channel processing can include channels that reinforce the illusions of "height" and "width" in the space.
Subwoofer (5): The subwoofer is the "point one" channel, usually connected to the processor by low-level output with its own channel. Bass tends to be omni-directional, but placing the subwoofer up front and to the side usually results in the most realistic dispersion of low frequency effects. Big bass is an ingredient in a thrilling home theater experience.
Anthem Room Correction (ARC) Technology digital room correction system (6): This exclusive Paradigm innovation gives you the professional ability to optimize your listening space at the touch of a button. Your ARC microphone listens to your system, and instantly adjusts crossovers to eliminate the effects of room obstacles and anomalies like reflective walls and furniture. It reveals a better, more accurate blend of dynamics in the room, for astonishing home theater performance. (ARC is a Paradigm exclusive, of course. But we thought we'd mention it here.)
Building even a small home theater surround sound system can have a huge effect on the enjoyment you get from your entertainment media. Of course, we recommend musically accurate and timbre-matched Paradigm loudspeakers when you do it. Paradigm loudspeakers are created by audiophiles to satisfy audiophiles for both music and movies.