How Do I Get SURROUND SOUND From My DVD
Your DVD-Video disc will be the source of the surround sound. Most DVD-Video disc commercial movies today contain Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound and may contain DTS surround sound audio. Some discs do not contain surround sound, only 2-channel stereo. Your DVD player will read the disc, video and audio, but the DVD player in all but a few cases, has to send the audio bitstream out from the player for processing by other devices in order to attain surround sound. What are these few cases? Some expensive DVD players can have built-in decoders in which case the audio can be decoded into multiple channels and sent to a receiver for amplification only and then out to the loudspeakers. Most DVD players are not that expensive and do not have decoders in them. Therefore you must connect a digital audio cable from the DVD player to a audio/video receiver. This cable can be digital coaxial or optical. Some DVD players only have a RCA coaxial jack (usually orange) and some may only have an optical jack (usually black) or yours may have both jacks. You only need to use one or the other.
Once the audio data is received by the A/V receiver, it can be decoded and amplified and sent out to the various loudspeakers in a surround setup. Always check your DVD player setup. This is done with a SETUP button on the remote control. Some DVD players may use the DISPLAY button if they do not have a SETUP button. Select the AUDIO menu and hilight DIGITAL AUDIO OUTPUT or the like, and set BITSTREAM ON. Consult your owner's manual here for instructions on how to setup your particular player. You may only be able to select your choice in the LANGUAGE SELECTION of the main menu for "English Dolby Digital 5.1". DVDs do not default automatically to Dolby Digital 5.1. Each time you load a DVD, go to the DVD's setup menu and click on "Audio Setup" or on "Languages" if there is no Audio Setup option and choose
"Dolby Digital 5.1."
Depending on the age of the disc, the "Audio Setup" on the DVD menu may give you several
choices: "5.1 Channel Surround Sound" or "Stereo Playback." New DVDs may offer "Dolby Digital 5.1" and "Dolby
Digital 2.0," the latter being stereo. Some of the disc menus offer only "Surround Sound" or "Stereo" options.
You should go to the DVD player's menu and
set the bitstream for Dolby Digital. You will need to refer to your DVD
player's owner's manual to find out how to set this for your particular DVD player.
The single digital cable connector--either a plain coaxial cable with RCA male plugs on each end or a Toslink optical
connector, carries the entire Dolby Digital 5.1(and dts if its
available) channel data stream to the Audio/Video receiver. It also carries a
digital "flag" that signals your A/V receiver's Dolby Digital
5.1-channel decoder to switch to its Dolby Digital mode and send the
multichannel audio signals to your system's six loudspeakers. When it detects the digital flag, the receiver front panel should display "Dolby Digital" or indicate it with an LED or with text on your TV screen.
Receiver has the capability to accept the digital audio
signal from the DVD player, decode it, and amplify it in order
to drive multiple speakers, giving you surround sound (Dolby
Digital 5.1 or DTS 5.1). You need to choose between the
digital coaxial cable connection (RCA) or the optical cable
connection on the back of the DVD player. Both are good. The
optical connection uses light to transmit the information from
the DVD player to the A/V Receiver. Sometimes the optical
cable is called TOSLINK
or Toshiba Link after the Japanese company Toshiba. Both of
these cables will cost you extra and are usually not included
with your player. Connect the cable from the digital audio OUT
jack on the DVD player to the digital audio IN on the A/V
Receiver. Set your DVD player to use bitstream in the
audio setup menu.
diagram for A/V Receiver with 5.1 digital surround
Dolby Digital 5.1 or DTS surround sound is
available on most DVD Video movies. In order to listen to
these audio channels you need to be able to get them out from
the DVD player, decode them, amplify them and route each
channel to the appropriate loudspeaker. To handle all this you
need an Audio/Video
Receiver with a decoder for Dolby Digital 5.1 and/or DTS
which most new A/V Receivers today have and also a set of at
least six loudspeakers, one for each decoded audio
To get the digital audio out from the
DVD player, you need a digital audio cable connected to the
A/V Receiver's digital audio input. This cable can be a RCA
type coaxial digital audio cable or it can be an optical
(Toslink) cable. Either one works fine. The coaxial cable is
more robust physically but the optical is less susceptible to
RF interference. The RCA coaxial cable uses electricity to
carry the information while the optical cable uses light to
carry the digital audio information. Your DVD player may have
both of these output jacks but either one will
COAXIAL DIGITAL AUDIO
Coaxial digital audio cables look, on the
surface, like standard analog RCA cables; however, you should
avoid using a standard audio interconnect to transfer a
digital signal. Cables engineered specifically to pass a
digital signal provide 75-ohm impedance and wider frequency
bandwidth than standard RCA cables, ensuring superior signal
player back panel may have both coaxial and optical outputs
used for digital audio bitstream transfer to an Audio/Video receiver. The
A/V receiver has similar inputs to accept the bitstream and
turn it into 6 channel surround sound which you listen to thru
the receiver's attached loudspeakers which are positioned
around the listener.
Audio/Video Receiver rear panel - 5.1 surround sound capable
OPTICAL DIGITAL AUDIO
These cables use fiber optics to carry light
pulses instead of electricity to convey digital information.
If your DVD player has output jacks of this kind you can
choose to use optical audio cables instead of coaxial. Most
A/V Receivers today have optical input jacks.
Optical digital audio cable and
The A/V Receiver will
decode the audio bitstream, convert to analog, amplify and
send to the connected loudspeakers. Typically you have a
center channel speaker for movie dialog right up front with
left and right channel speakers on each side of the center
channel speaker. Two more "surround speakers" are placed in
back of the listener on the left and right. These speakers are
used with the others to produce the sounds of realism just
like a movie theater placing the listener right in the middle
of the action. The sixth speaker is for low-frequency or bass
sounds like explosions. That completes the 5.1 or six
speakers. The .1 is the bass speaker sometimes called a
sub-woofer. Some A/V receivers have 6.1 systems which add a
third "surround speaker" in the back and 7.1 systems add
another back speaker.
|2-channel stereo - 2
Setting up the DVD player for surround sound
Most DVD players will give you an on-screen menu option for setting up your audio. Every player is a little different. Basically what you need to do for surround sound is select the audio option in the on-screen menu which tells the player to output BITSTREAM. This is the RAW audio data, undecoded. It will be passed to the A/V receiver over the digital audio cable.
On-screen DVD player's menu for setting audio options.
High Definition DVD
With the arrival of High Definition DVD Players (HD-DVD and Blu-Ray) there are additional audio considerations. The HD video revolution has brought with it the potential for several new high-resolution audio formats including high bit-rate Dolby Digital Plus or lossless Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. The top-end audio streams are high data content, beyond the bandwidth of optical or coaxial SPDIF connections. You need to use HDMI version 1.3 both in the DVD player and the A/V receiver in order to have the capability to transfer and decode. Otherwise you'll be limited to conventional audio streams or PCM using 6 discrete RCA cable connections.