Problem with Surround Sound

  Silverbeard 14:53 29 Jun 2003

Hi everyone

This is a very simple question from a very simple person.

All the PC audio now seems to be aimed at "Home Cinema" with "Surround Sound" requiring numerous loud speakers with miles of connecting cables. All the PC's and motherboards advertised these days seem to be 5.1 or 6.1 and I understand that 7.1 and probably even higher numbered systems are about to arrive. I have only just got used to the idea of stereo, indeed my 25 yr old hi fi system is still capable of very good reproduction from my collection of vinyl records. My wife has not quite caught up to this level and has a collection of 78's and a rather old but serviceable player with poor sound.

I am hoping that when I finally buy a replacement PC I will be able to re-record our best records on more modern media. But I digress.

If I end up with a 5.1 or 6.1 system it will take up so much room that I will have to put extension leads on my mouse and keyboard and use my computer while standing in the garden at the open window.

Nearly there now. My question is will I be able to use a lesser number of speakers and still get good reproduction, or will I need to fit an old fashioned sound card and disable the onboard sound?

I looked at the thread Surround Sound Question posted by BeeWee but couldn't find my answer there. Would be grateful for your expert guidance.

  bremner 14:58 29 Jun 2003

If you have one of the all singing 7.1, 6.1 etc systems then there is the option within the software to have 2,3 or full 7 speaker set ups. The point is if you have on board sound that is reasonable you could just buy better speakers to get an improved sound.

  jazzypop 18:19 29 Jun 2003

5.1, 6.1 and other similar systems are designed to reproduce the audio experience that you get in cinemas (with speakers all around the auditorium) when playing DVDs, and to produce a similar effect in games (if a baddie is creeping up behind you, you hear their footsteps from behind).

The above sounds were created with the 'surround sound', or '3d positional' information embedded within them, so the sound card knows which part of a sound to send to which speaker.

When playing back music recorded in stereo, the sound only really contains two components - left or right speaker. So, when I play a music CD, the only real sound is coming from my left and right speaker. My sound card can be told to send some of the noise to rear left and right speakers, and a little bit into the front centre one - it can also feed frequencies below a certain threshold into the sub-woofer, to enhance the sound of the bass notes. But it is still essentially a stereo sound.

Therefore, if you really can't buy less than a 5.1 sound system, and you will be playing stereo or mono music, simply connect the front left and front right speakers (and the sub-woofer if you want to enhance the bass sound).

Don't bother to connect the rest of the speakers at all.

If you ask, most companies will be quite happy to supply a 2.1 set of speakers instead of a 5.1 or 6.1 set - it saves them money.

Be prepared to be startled at how poor your old 78, 45 and 33 rpm vinyl sounds when transferred to CD :)

  Rubroy 18:54 29 Jun 2003


Don't worry! I am in my late 70's but have no trouble with surround sound- in fact I think it is great. I agree with everything everyone else has said so far, but think it would be a shame to limit yourself unless it really is too big a problem space wise. I use a small box room (one of my 'children's'former bedrooms) for my 'Office cum PC room. It is about 8'0" X 8' 6" in size and I sit at a desk/bench, facing the wall on the longest side, which has the pc and peripherals on it. The CPU,sound power unit and Sub-woofer (silly name isn't it?) are under the desk protected from my feet by a couple of use ful kit boxes. As it happens I have shelving all round this den of mine which is usefulfor putting the background speakers on and supporting the wiring, although it would not be much of a problem to run them in pvc ducting near the ceiling or whatever. The front speakers are on on a couple of neat wooden corner shelves. The extra (fifth, or third small one if you prefer) is on the desk top by the VDU (which happens to be a TFT) but only comes into use if I play from a DVD, which is not often in my case. The whole lot took me a couple of hours to set up and it all works fine. Listening to classical disks is great and if you like it, big band and Glenn Miller are superb. Go for it friend, you will love it. I don't know what transfered records a

  Rubroy 19:00 29 Jun 2003


(continued) -

Sorry I met a gremlin! ---- are like but CD's are easier to keep and digital sound should reduce his and wow etc. Anyway that's another subject.

Good luck - enjoy yourself - and your wife too!

  Djohn 19:11 29 Jun 2003

As all above have said, whatever your card, there will be a facility to select stereo if you wish. But to be honest you don't need to go to great lengths to achieve "Surround" sound, whether the correct output from separate tracks or mixed from your sound card as in jazzypop's post.

I have 5.1 speakers with a sub unit. the sub is under the desk, left, right and centre on a shelf in front of me. The two rear speakers are actually on my desk either side of me. They are quite small speakers and take up very Little room at all. I have left them set as default. If I play a music CD, then the sound comes through front left/right only + sub.

DVD movies will use as many tracks as are encoded on the disk itself. Even with this confined set-up, the sound effect is very good and realistic. Regards. j.

  Silverbeard 06:27 01 Jul 2003

Thanks every one for your comprehensive and re-assuring replies. I don't think I shall go for the multi speaker setup, but will stick with stereo to start with.

Apologies for belated reply but had ISP connection problems - Oh the joys of HiTec!


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