Living in the suburbs can be a constant competition to keep up with the Jones. It starts with the quality of the real estate you live in, extends to your pay grade at your job, your kids' accomplishments in their activities, and ends in the electronic toys you buy. These days you really can't be considered well to do unless you've got a home theater, complete with huge flatscreen and surround sound system. If you're thinking of buying a surround sound system, read this article first.
What is surround sound?
Surround sound is the auditory equivalent of 3-D viewing. By the use of speaker placement in your home or the movie theater as well as the use of different frequencies and qualities of sound, the listener can be made to feel like he or she is actually experiencing a sound event. Paired with a large television or with one of the recently released 3-D televisions, surround sound can create a home theater that's the closest you'll come to actually experiencing the events in the film.
How to set up your system?
Surround sound is more than just playing the same audio track from speakers placed in a 360 degree arc around the listener. It also utilizes separate channels (usually at least 5) to pipe different frequencies of sound at you from different angles so that it can create the impression of (for example) a train going past you. Therefore your standard DVD player can't play the discs you had made in surround sound. The disc has to be engineered to be compatible with surround sound technology and the speakers have to be connected to a control system. Several companies are involved in surround sound development (e.g. Dolby, Sony) so check your DVDs to be sure the surround sound on it is compatible with your system.
Where to buy?
Most electronics retailers sell surround sound systems of varying qualities. You could theoretically set one up by buying the pieces individually, but it is usually cheaper to get a system designed for use in your home and pre-packaged. Your electronics retailer can outline the features of each system to help you choose one and can also arrange for a store employee to install the system in your home.
The cost depends largely on the quality of the system. A 'cheap' surround system for a computer (which can act as a control box) can cost as little as a hundred dollars. Meanwhile the high end name brand systems with multiple large speakers, subwoofers, and a control box can cost in the thousands of dollars range.