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New Accessories Make Building Home Theater Products A Snap

By Brian Fuller

The process of setting up multi-channel audio speakers in home theater systems is fairly tedious and manufacturers have invented new products and technologies such as wireless surround sound speakers or surround sound wireless headphones recently to help simplify the installation. I am going to look at some of the most recent technologies which were developed to make setting up home theater systems a snap. I will point out what to look out for when making your buying decision.

Traditionally, setting up a TV would be fast since they would already have built-in stereo speakers. This, however, has all changed with multi-channel audio. Today external speakers are used to create a surround sound effect. The most commonly used 5.1 surround sound format requires setting up a total of 6 speakers. These are one center speaker, two front side speakers, two rear speakers and a subwoofer. The newer 7.1 standard increases this number to 8 by adding two additional side speakers.

Therefore, home theater installations have become rather complex. Running wires to remote speakers also is often undesirable due to aesthetic reasons. Component vendors have come up with a number of technologies to simplify the installation.

The first approach is called virtual surround sound. This method will take the audio components which would normally be broadcast by the remote speakers. It then applies signal processing to those components and inserts special cues and phase delays. Then these components are mixed with the front speaker audio. The audio is then broadcast by the front speakers together with the front speaker audio components. The signal processing is modeled after the human hearing. It uses the knowledge about how the human ear can determine the origin of sound. Due to the signal processing, the viewer is tricked into thinking the audio is originating from virtual remote surround speakers.

This technology reduces the number of required speakers and eliminates long speaker cables but every human will process sound slightly differently due to the shape of the ear. The signal processing is based on measurements which are done using a standard human ear model. If the shape of the ear changes, sound will travel differently. Therefore virtual surround will not work equally well for everybody.

Wireless surround sound products are another method for simplifying home speaker setups and usually come with a transmitter component that connects to the source as well as wireless amplifiers that will connect to the remote speakers. The transmitter will often have amplified speaker inputs as well as line-level inputs and have a volume control to adjust it to the source audio level.

Some wireless kits come with wireless amplifiers that connect to two speakers. This still require cable run between the two speakers. Other products offer separate wireless amplifiers for each speaker. Entry-level wireless systems use FM transmission or audio compression which will degrade the audio quality to some extent. More advanced wireless kits employ uncompressed digital audio transmission. Make sure that you choose a wireless system with a low audio latency, at most a few milliseconds. This will ensure that the audio from all speakers, including the non-wireless speakers, is in sync. Low latency is also important for good sync with the video. If the latency is more than 10 ms then there will be an echo effect which will degrade the surround sound. Most wireless products operate in the 900 MHz and 2.4 GHz frequency bands. Some products use the less crowded 5.8 GHz frequency band and therefore have less competition from other wireless devices.

A third technology uses side-reflecting speakers. This method is sometimes 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 appears to be originating from besides or behind the viewer. This method works best in a square room with minimal interior design and obstacles. It will not work well in many real-world scenarios with different room shapes however.

You can get additional information about wireless audio transmitter products from Amphony’s website.

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Article Citation
MLA Style Citation:
Fuller, Brian "New Accessories Make Building Home Theater Products A Snap." New Accessories Make Building Home Theater Products A Snap. 26 Jun. 2010. 2 Nov 2014 <>.

APA Style Citation:
Fuller, B (2010, June 26). New Accessories Make Building Home Theater Products A Snap. Retrieved November 2, 2014, from

Chicago Style Citation:
Fuller, Brian "New Accessories Make Building Home Theater Products A Snap"

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