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Multichannel audio has migrated from movie theaters to family rooms on the coattails of DVDs. Is it right for you?
* Page 26 Should you go for surround sound?
* Page 27 How much sound do you want?
* Page 28 Should you get individual components or a package?
* Page 28 Setting up your system.
* Page 30 How to choose speakers, with Ratings of 61 models.
* Page 33 How to choose a receiver, with Ratings of 17 models.
* Page 36 How to choose a home theater in a box, with Ratings of 12 models.
Do you want surround sound?
There's plenty of surround-sound material to enjoy, and more is on the way. At last count, there were more than 4,500 films on DVD using Dolby Digital, the leading surround-sound format, along with a small but growing number of TV programs. These movies and programs are produced with six-channel sound that can be piped to six speakers around the room. And the technology is still evolving. Some new formats now offer eight channels.
Multichannel music is less prevalent, but it's starting to gain momentum. Standard music CDs have two channels, while newer discs using DVD-Audio, SACD (Super Audio CD), and DTS 5.1 music formatting can offer up to six channels of sound, simulating a concert experience. By year's end, it's projected that there will be about 500 DVD-Audio releases, 1,000 SACD releases, and more than 100 DTS 5.1 music discs.
The case for surround sound is getting stronger all the tame. Should you get on-board? Consider the following.
What kind of entertainment do you enjoy? If you watch mostly run-of-the-mill TV programs received via an antenna or basic cable or if you listen to regular CDs, a stereo setup is usually enough. (See Key Decision, at right.) For DVI) movies, some digital-cable or satellite programs, and multichannel music, a surround-sound setup would be better.
What equipment would you need? The typical home-theater setup includes a receiver, two to …