Baby's First 5.1

aspidistra

Standard Member
Firstly, you're dealing with a TOTAL N))B. Please be kind.

I have a pc connected to an hdtv via hdmi. I would like to have a 5.1 surround sound going but am lost in an impenetrable thicket of options and jargon and need a bit of help. The tv has an optical audio output and two analogue stereo outputs also. What sort of proper 5.1 could I get myself for, say, under a hundred quid (aim for about sixty/seventy) and can I even do this? I suppose the optical output is digital and should do it, right? right?

Please Jimmy, fix it for me so that me and t'missus can get ********* playing Skyrim proper loud and watch blurays and that.

Ta!
 
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BlueWizard

Distinguished Member
What you are missing is a ZERO in your budget.

You could get a 5.1 system meant to connect to a computer and tap the sound, presumably, off the sound card.

The Audio Outs of your TV would be great if you only wanted stereo.

What you need is a device like an AV amp that has HDMI input, connect the computer, then use the pass-through HDMI output of the amp to continue the signal to the TV.

Then add 5.1 speakers to the AV Surround Sound amp. That can be done relatively cheap but not for £100 or less.

I think RicherSounds.com in its preconfigure AV system, has a complete system for roughly £300. A separate AV amp plus some very small 5.1 speakers.

If your TV really does have Analog AUDIO OUT (Red+White RCA-Style Phono connectors specifically marked OUT) then you cheapest route would be a stereo system.

But then, that's just my opinion.

Steve/bluewizard
 
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davepuma

Distinguished Member
Your budget is too low I'm afraid. If the budget is firm, I would check the classifieds and ebay for an all-in-one home cinema system with an optical input. The result will more than likely be a pseudo surround sound effect e.g. dolby pro logic as the output from the TV will be stereo. You would be better off connecting directly from the PC sound card/mother board depending on the audio output it has but in the end, the budget is not sufficient to buy anything decent. If you think about it, you have five speakers, a subwoofer, a decoder/processor and amplifier. That's eight components, not counting the built-in player that is usually also included as people who are spending that sort of money will expect everything built-in. Separates obviously cost more.

I would look for a second hand set of Logitech Z5500 speakers or similar or add a few more beer tokens to the budget.
 

aspidistra

Standard Member
Thanks for the advice so far (discounting the aspersions cast on my fiscal situation ;)), I'll have a few more questions soon no doubt.

One thing, is optical not 5.1?
 

davepuma

Distinguished Member
Optical (spdif) can pass SD discrete multi-channel audio e.g. DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1. However, many TV's do not have the necessary decoders on board and will output 2.0 PCM stereo over optical. What TV do you have?
 

Matt_C

Distinguished Member
Lets keep it simple.

What you need;

Soundcard with optical output for your computer
A 5.1 Surround system (either seperates or an all in one package - must have optical input)

How you do it;

Fit soundcard to PC. Connect optical cable to surround system. Connect HDMI to TV. Turn TV sound off. You may need to install AC3 filter on the computer and set the options to pass bitstream AC3 (Dolby Digital) and DTS to the SPDIF (optical output) so that any films, games, etc that have 5.1 Dolby Digital or DTS is sent directly to the surround system.

Cost;

Optical card will set you back £5-£25 second hand
Surround system will be dependant on make model and features, but I'd wager you could get a decent-ish all in one for not much more than £100
 

aspidistra

Standard Member
Matt_C, thanks for the clear and concise advice. I'll look into it. I knew it wouldn't take hundreds and hundreds of quids like the others said.
 

Matt_C

Distinguished Member
You're only drawback to the lower budget is the lower quality of the surround system. Granted, go second hand and you can get something that would have been in the upper tier in terms of cost, and pay lower tier money for it. My set up isn't the greatest, but new it would have cost thousands, and I paid hundreds - probably a third or even a quarter of the new price.

What you need to make sure of when buying a system to use with a computer that has an optical output on it is two things;

1) it needs to have an optical input
2) it has onboard Dolby Digital and DTS decoding

Now, the reason for 1 is fairly obvious, but easy to overlook! The reason for 2 is that the computer will be outputting whats called a bitstream - it's the raw digital data inside which the sound "information" is carried. The computer won't be outputting "5.1 surround sound" as such, just the information. The surround system needs to be able to read that information, and decode it before sending the right signals to the right speakers.

THIS SOUND CARD will be fine for what you need.
 

aspidistra

Standard Member
Ok, thanks. I'll investigate further.

If the telly only has stereo output and optical, does this mean it probably won't output surround, just stereo? It's a samsung syncmaster by the way.

I'm so embarrassingly clueless...

Are amps and systems with hdmi pass-through (is that right?) quite expensive then? Is an optical from a soundcard and stereo from the telly a more affordable option?
 

Matt_C

Distinguished Member
Forget the TV regarding sound. You run the optical from the computer to the amp/surround system; the computer outputs the bitstream and the amp/surround system decodes it and sends it to the speakers. The TV only shows the video stream.

I got a friend of mine a Sony system, which included a reciever (no integral dvd/bluray) and 5 speakers and a sub, off here for £125. That had HDMI in's and out's and would be perfect for you;

http://www.superfi.co.uk/P-7309-discontinued-sony-htss1200-home-cinema-system.aspx
 
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aspidistra

Standard Member
Cheers, looks like a winner. I'll let you know if I go for it. Thanks again for your help, really looking forward to my asbo for noise pollution.
 

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