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GF Tech Class: Session 3 (HD/Home Theaters/TV/Surround)


Well-Known Member
Alright it's been a long time since I've done one of these. (almost 3 years)

Let's see how this works out.

You can go back to the first session and look that over if you'd like. http://www.generalforum.com/basic-c...ech-class-session-1-parts-computer-44109.html
And if you're dying to get to session 2: http://www.generalforum.com/basic-computer-discussion/gf-tech-class-session-2-upgrading-45182.html

Mods when you get the chance I'd like to edit/update those to make them more accurate to todays standards.

This session we will be discussing general home theater equipment such as TVs, Media players (Blu-Ray & DVD), and surround sound systems. There's quite a bit of equipment in todays home theaters that I find most people I know don't anything about, it annoys me greatly so this thread is going to discuss most things that I can think of. :lol:

To start off let's look at the many connections that are commonly seen in Home Theaters. This may seem overly complicated but it's necessary if you actually want to understand all of this stuff.


HDMI (High Definition Multimedia interface)- Probably the most common connection seen in modern home theaters, HDMI comes in 4 different types which we will see more and more as technology improves. HDMI is the standard for HD connections if it's an XBOX 360, the PS3 or a Blu-ray player. Many computers are equipped with HDMI capabilities. All of the cables carry complete surround sound as well as a picture of at least 1080p or greater.

Type A - Has 19 pins and can support bandwidth that supports SDTV, EDTV, and HDTV modes. It is electrically compatible with single-link DVI-D. This is the most common type of HDMI seen around today. This can support up to 1080p.

Type B - This type of HDMI has 29 pins and has the ability to carry double the video bandwidth of type A. This can support a maximum resolution of (3840x2400) that's a huge display. It is compatible with dual-link DVI-D however it is very rare to find it anywhere so far.

The connection looks like this. (A & B)

Type C - This is better known as mini HDMI (also called HDMI 1.3) it is mostly used for portable devices. Though it is smaller it does still have 19 pins making it fully compatible with a Type A connection. C can be connected to A through an adapter or a cable with C & A at the opposite ends.

Here is a type A/B to C cable.

Type D - This is an even smaller version of type C (also called HDMI 4.1), it retains it's 19 pins once again giving it the same capabilities as types A and C but it is smaller making it more easily compatible with smaller portable devices.

DVI (Digital Video Interface)

DVI was the standard for HD sources before HDMI took over in 2010 (due to audio support on HDMI)

There are 3 types of DVI

DVI-D (Digital)
DVI-A (Analog)
DVI-I (Integrated - Digital and analog)

Let's take a look at what all of these different connections look like.

DVI-D (digital) is very similar to HDMI in the respect that is uses the same encoding technology however HDMI can also carry audio which DVI cannot do. Display-wise there will be no difference between HDMI and DVI though. There are 2 types of DVI-D they are defined as single and dual link. The difference between the two is that single link can only support resolutions of up to 1920x1200 (16:10 23" screen) if you use anything larger than that then you will need a dual link cable. Dual Link can display up to 2560 x 1600 over a digital signal.

DVI-A (Analog) is significantly less powerful than DVI-D (Digital) in the respect that it simply cannot transfer data at nearly as quickly making support for higher resolutions impossible at acceptable refresh rates. It is very much not in use anymore as most DVI devices do not have pin slots for Analog anymore.

DVI-I was sort of a transitioning stage between DVI-A and DVI-D, it included connectivity for both types of connections making it obsolete in todays world. Most (if not all) newer devices have support only for DVI-D.

Most modern LCD screens use DVI-D and may include HDMI connectivity as well.

Composite (Analog) video/ A/V

Here is a connection that has been commonly used since the 90s, it was revolutionary in the respect that it was a huge jump from coaxial which was standard at one point in time.

here's what it looks like

It's the very simple yellow for video, white (left/mono), and red (right/stereo).

This connection does not offer any type of HD capabilities and the picture doesn't look great but it works.

The connection was later improved to S-Video which basically took the video signal and divided into more than one part.

Component Video (Analog)

Component video was the next step from analog to HD. Though it can offer HD it is not as good as HDMI or DVI-D.

Here is what it looks like.

The concept was to divide the video signal into 3 parts.

Y - This is the green cable is handles lumas (brightness) (purely black and white image)
Pb/Cb - This is the Blue cable, it handles blue and its difference from Y
Pr/Cr - This is the red cable, it handles red and the difference from Y

A cable isn't needed for green because it can be determined from blue and red combined with the lumas (Y)

This is used for getting a much crisper picture on a TV that cannot support HDMI or if the source cannot support HDMI or DVI this is likely the best option for connection. The cables usually include the red and white audio (analog) connections.

The connection is very similar to RGB (VGA) except RGB had a better more precise syncing method on the vertical and horizontal plains. The concept is very similar though.


If your TV has computer connectivity support it more than likely has one of these though DVI-D and HDMI should be used when available. The concept is very similar to Component video taking on the idea of dividing the signal into many parts making each pin dedicated to something specific.

The syncing is better on VGA though making it slightly superior. The image will be reproduced more efficiently vertically and horizontally because of this.

It looks like this (most CRT computer screens use this)

What is better than what?

HDMI (B) = DVI-D (dual) > HDMI (A) = DVI-D (Single) > Component = RGB/VGA > S-Video > Composite > Analog Coaxial

There are adapters that can make any of these compatible with eachother but keep in mind that there will always be the barrier of the sources quality being the best that you can achieve.


If you have and LCD or a plasma TV it is more than likely that it is HD (720p 1080i, or 1080p).

Whether or not a TV is HD depends on one thing how many lines of resolution there are (this may just be referred to as resolution.)

All HDTVs around today are sold in widescreen which is 16:9 or 16:10 depending on the set.

Here are all of the standard sizes that we see in today's world (larger resolution = bigger image retaining HD quality)

1080p - Blu-ray quality image (1920x1080) this offers 540 lines of resolution (an even and odd set both containing 540 lines) The sets continuously fire together giving the best image quality. 1080 refers to the number of vertical pixels. (approximately 1.9 k)

1080i (interlaced)- This offers 1080 lines of resolution, it has 540 lines of resolution (an even and an odd set 540 each) they continuously fire odd then even giving a better image than 720p but not as good as 1080p.

720p - A much crisper image than 480p this offers 720 lines of resolution firing every 30th or 24th of a second depending on the TV.

480p - DVD quality image, this is the most that you can get out of a tube TV, they also have a default (and typically standard) refresh rate of 60 Hz

And then the non-standard sizes

4k - A little over double the size of 1080p this is a massive and very crisp image 4,000 pixels tall (4k horizontal lines of resolution)

10k - A step up from 4k, it is 10,000 pixels tall and many IMAX movies are filmed with this.

15k - Not much is known other than the fact that it is 15,000 pixels tall and some IMAX movies are filmed in this.

Here is good chart for reference.

All HDTVs offer a refresh rate of at least 60Hz which means that the TV is going to refresh the picture 60 times per second. This may sound great but in fast moving action sequences or when the images flash suddenly the picture may appear blurred or out of focus.

The solution to fixing this problem is a better refresh rate (obviously). 120Hz is the next step up causing the image to refresh 120 times per second. The difference in image quality is astounding especially on fast moving camera shots. There are some TVs that support up to 240Hz giving superior image quality. Plasma TVs generally refresh at 600Hz due to the nature of the plasma. All 3-D/Real-D movies must be playing at a refresh rate of at least 120Hz (60Hz per eye) in order to reproduce the image correctly.

The best way to understand refresh rate is to imagine a flip-book featuring a man in different running positions. As you flip the pages, the man appears to move. If you flip too slowly, the movement looks choppy. If you flip the pages faster, the man "runs" more smoothly. The book can even have the same picture two or three times, but if you flip fast enough, you wouldn't notice the duplication.

All DVD and Blu-Ray movies standardly have a frame rate of 24fps, this is the amount of images the human eye can take in every second, though there are a few exceptions this is still standard. This means that whenever you watch a movie you are seeing 24 pictures every second!

Connections on an HDTV will include HDMI, DVI-D, VGA, component, and any combination of those.

Normally a TV will only have support for stereo sound but there are a few TVs that allow for a center channel as well as left and right built in.

HDTVs are not limited to LCD, LED, and Plasma though, Projectors are becoming more and more popular because they can display huge images at a generally low cost and often are just as good as the others.


Surround Receivers

This is generally the main connectivity center if you have surround sound or are running your sound through anything other than your TV.

They always look something like this.

The back is typically where things can get very tricky. Nowadays it is typical to see HDMI, composite/S, Component, and VGA connections, it is very rare to see DVI-D connections on a surround receiver.

On a receiver you can also edit bass, treble, balance, and exact specifications of your surround system such as speaker size, room size, etc.

There are many different types of audio configurations that one might have.

1.0 (mono) - 1 channel generally on the left.

2.0 (stereo) - 2 channels left and right.

2.1 (stereo) - 2 channels and a subwoofer

3.0 - 3 channels, left, right, and center

3.1 - 3 channels, left, right, center, and a subwoofer

4.0 (quadrophonic) - 4 channels, typically arranged as front (left & right) and rear (left & right)

4.1 - 4 channels, typically arranged as front (left & right) and rear (left & right), also includes a subwoofer

5.0 - 5 channels of audio, 2 possible configurations front (left/right), center, and rear (left/right) the rear speakers can be substituted for mid range/side speakers. (this applies for 5.1 as well)

5.1 - 5 channels of audio front (left/right), center, rear (left/right) again the rear speakers can be substituted for side speakers. This setup includes a subwoofer. Many times 2 sets of left/right main speakers can be used.

7.0 - 7 channels of audio front(left/right, center, mid (left/right, and rear (left/right)

7.1 - 7 channels of audio front(left/right, center, mid (left/right, rear (left/right), and a subwoofer

9.1 - 9 channels of audio front (left/right), center, read (left/right), mid (left/right), and forward upper/ overhead (left/right). Also includes a subwoofer.

Typically a surround sound setup will require digital audio input this comes in 2 forms and they are equal coaxial and optical.

If your system lacks sufficient power for your wishes you always have the option to add an external amplifier so long as you have pre-out capabilities. Personally I have a 2000 watt THX Lucasfilm external amplifier that I use a few times a week in one room.

A subwoofer is used to generate extremely low frequencies (120Hz and below), bass is non directional so as long as the subwoofer is in the room you shouldn't be able to tell where it is unless you are right next to it. If you lack a subwoofer or bass box it's very likely that those frequencies simply aren't being generated at all. This comes in especially handy for music or movies with many explosions or fight scenes. Subwoofers typically give a shaking or rumbling sensation when they run.

The center channel usually handles all of the voices in a game/movie while the other 6 speakers handle all other sounds, this helps voices to be more easily understood and makes the sound more real and immersive.

Rear and Mid speakers can be mounted on the walls around the viewer or can be mounted to the ceiling depending on the speakers.

Speakers should always be connected with threaded speaker cable unless your speakers and receiver can support coaxial pre-out connections.

Depending on your surround receiver you will typically have Dolby Digital and DTS options for encoding (others may include THX or other formats), both formats are acceptable however they are formatted a bit differently and therefore will sound different.


DVD/Blu-ray/PC - Sources

There are many different media players nowadays. Let's take a look at them...

DVD player - This was the standard for many years, it creates a picture that is 480p or 480i either way the resolution is 720x480. There are claims that upconvert DVD players can make the picture quality look nearly as good as Blu-ray, this statement is false and should not be taken seriously. DVDs have a maximum picture quality and simply cannot be upconverted. Deinterlacing the picture can have a significant effect on the picture quality but let's face it the picture quality is still less than half that of Blu-ray.

Blu-ray - Developed by Sony this is the current standard of movies, these discs play in 1080p (1920x1080) and are therefore much better than DVD. The picture quality is superb in every way to DVD. It follows the same concept of DVD however the discs are much more dense and can carry a lot more information. Blu-ray players are needed to play these discs because of the way they have to put information on the discs. You may think that it is a scam but the picture quality is far superior to DVD, if you have a TV that is 720p or 1080p it will be easy to spot the difference.

Video games - modern consoles such as the 360 or the PS3 can play in full 1080p while the Wii can play in 480p. All the connections are varied. Consoles can have any kind of connection including HDMI, Component, composite, s-video, and even Analog Coaxial (for the NES, SNES, Sega Genesis, etc.) All should run on a HDTV except the possibility of a lack of Analog Coaxial support on HDTVs.

PC - It's becoming more and more popular lately to run a PC (or any other computer for that matter) On your HDTV. While this is a great technique for getting a huge screen to play games on keep in mind that you will not be getting a better resolution than 1920x1080 on your 1080p TV. Some home theaters are even now being set up with computers to be the main system, movies are stored on a HDD and can be accessed at any time.


Your remote is your way of controlling your entire system. With todays technology it is not unheard of to have all of your equipment accessible from one remote. Many models have to be professionally programmed but there are some that can be easily programmed by the user.

A remote is actually a very complex (and very small) circuit board and pushing different buttons causes certain circuits to be completed giving you a signal to change the channel or turn the volume up.

There are 2 ways a remote works.

IR (Infra-red) These remotes are the most typical type to see around, they are made in masses, they receive interference easily (sunlight, other IR light sources) Max distance is typically around 30 feet.

RF (Radio Frequency) - Can receive interference from radio broadcasting but typically work at longer ranges and receives much less interference.


Well I sure hope that this is a useful thread for a log of you guys, if not it's always here for reference later.

These things take a long time to write! :lol:

If you have any comments or questions just ask! I'm sure that there are things that I missed in here though I do feel that it is fairly complete.
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Well-Known Member
dDave, you're amazing. What a great post! How did you learn this stuff?

I'm mostly self taught.

What can I say? I really like technology! :lol:

I want to update the one that I posted 3 years ago as many things have changed since then and I would like to keep them current and updated to make sure that they are accurate to the times.

Some of the stuff in this thread is rather obscure (such as HDMI type D) but I'm sure that it will be necessary to know what it is in the next year or so.

I just enjoy this stuff so every once in a while I make a new session. They take forever to write :lol:


Eye see what you did ther
I have a question regarding audio channels. For me to play audio on a certain configuration, is it necessary for me to have an audio file meant for that particular configuration? For example, all my mp3 songs are stereo (2 channel). At least that's what I think. What will happen when I play it on a 5.1 channel? Will it just duplicate the sound on the speakers, making it no better than a simple two speaker setup?

Does the woofer filter the sound and play only the lower frequencies, or is the headphone jack on my computer actually a three channel output (the usual stereo plus one woofer)?

My laptop doesn't have a digital output, just the usual mic in and headphone out. Am I correct in understanding that it will never be able to play anything but 2.1?


Well-Known Member
I have a question regarding audio channels. For me to play audio on a certain configuration, is it necessary for me to have an audio file meant for that particular configuration? For example, all my mp3 songs are stereo (2 channel). At least that's what I think. What will happen when I play it on a 5.1 channel? Will it just duplicate the sound on the speakers, making it no better than a simple two speaker setup?

Does the woofer filter the sound and play only the lower frequencies, or is the headphone jack on my computer actually a three channel output (the usual stereo plus one woofer)?

My laptop doesn't have a digital output, just the usual mic in and headphone out. Am I correct in understanding that it will never be able to play anything but 2.1?

Technically all of your music comes in 2 channels (stereo) but there are ways to simulate surround sound.

You are correct in saying that the subwoofer will simply play only the lower frequencies by filtering them.

In many setups the speakers are run through the sub due to the fact that they have a limited dynamic range. Other setups have the sub as it's own separate connection. On a 2.1 channel setup typically you are only getting 2.0 channels from the computer.

Yes laptops only have a 2 channel sound cards (typically) I know that mine does.

Lime Green Line-Out, Front Speakers, Headphones
Pink Microphone
Light Blue Stereo Line In
Orange Subwoofer and Center out
Black Rear Surround Speakers for 5.1 and 7.1 systems
Gray Middle Surround Speakers for 7.1 systems
Most laptops have the pink and lime green connections (mic + stereo (2 channel)) whether or not they are color coded does not matter.

I have a 7.1 channel sound card on my computer. Connected to that I have a Logitech x-530 (5.1 channel) system.

The connections it has are lime green, orange, and black. (2 front speakers, center/subwoofer, and surround)

If I play a game that is configured for surround or watch a movie that has surround sound then it will actually receive a true 5.1 channel input. Otherwise there are ways to simulate surround sound from only 2 channels. Generally a sound card will not have a separate channel for a sub on the lime green connection.

I know that windows has this feature called "speaker fill" what it does is simulate surround sound. I haven't looked too much into so I don't know how it works but I can tell you that each speaker is creating unique sounds. From what I can tell the center channel is the left and the right mixed, it certainly takes a lot more of the vocals than the other channels. The right and left channels are basically the same, and the rear speakers are only doing instrumentals and quieter than the front channels by quite a bit, it sort of makes it sound live if that makes sense.

I think that 5.1 simulated is an incredible step up from a 2.1 system.