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Questions on Surround Sound

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
Hello friends,
As much as I would love to say that I'm an audiophile, I have to admit that I'm probably just a guy who wants to be an audiophile but doesn't have the time or resources to really give the title justice. That and many years of Marching band, listening to loud music, and flying jets has rendered me partially deaf. Now then, let me get to my question.

Right now I'm mostly happy with my home theater set-up. I have 2 Klipsch RF 25 floorstanding speakers up front, 2 Klipsch Tangent 400s in the back, a Sony 12" Sub, some no name center speaker which kind of gets the job done, and a 700 watt 7.1 channel reciever. Overall it sounds pretty nice, but I have a few problems I was hoping someone could help me with.

First off, even though my tangent 400s are huge and more than capable of rocking a room all by themselves, I seem to be getting absolutely nothing out of them as surround speakers. So my first question is; is there some reason why full-size speakers aren't supposed to be used as surround speakers? I know that there's nothing wrong with the speakers because when I plug them into the "front speakers" wires they blast out pure bliss. When I plug them into the "surround speakers" wires the bass decreases substantially and they just somehow seem more hollow.

Second off, I know enough about sound systems to know that a lot of people recommend having a pre-amp. I don't know what a pre-amp is. I guess I understand it's material existance, but I don't know what crazy magic it performs that makes it so good. I would like to know. Please teach me sensei(s)!

Lastly, I know just enough about different brands of speakers to know that I like Klipsch and that Bose is nice, but charges way too much. I feel like there's some gaps in my knowledge. If anyone could fill them, that would be awesome.

So yea, I know that's probably a lot of questions for one post, but if anyone would like to take the time to help me out, I'd greatly appreciate it. Thank you all, and have a great day!

Herbie
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post #2 of 9
Have you went into your receiver settings to make sure it isn't crippling the range of output to your surrounds? There are also settings in the Windows audio configuration wizard that set front and/or surround speakers to full range, which might do something. Good luck.
Edited by t-ramp - 2/1/12 at 9:50am
post #3 of 9
It's usually names the speakers "small" or "large." Just set them to large and they should start playing full range as t-ramp said.
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post #4 of 9
Hi Herbie,

Look for those settings .... and...

surprise surprise, you already have a pre-amp, it's built into your receiver. A receiver is an all-in one salad mix consisting of a pre-amp, amp, signal processors, radio, etc etc.

"high end" builds will generally go with a signal processor/ D/A unit with (likely) built in pre-amplification, and then use separate power amps. An individual stereo amplifier for each speaker in the system is not uncommon for bi-amped builds.

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post #5 of 9
Thread Starter 
Hey guys, thanks for the replies so far. As for the settings on my reciever, I've had it set on large with the max freq. range. I've even tried boosting the signal by increasing the db and saying my speakers are further away than they actually are. I don't know if that really does as much as I think it should or not, but I still don't seem to be getting as much out of my speakers when they're in surround mode. I'm guessing from most of the posts though that there is no secret special rule that says I shouldn't be putting full sized speakers where "surround" speakers should be?

@mdocod: Thanks for the clarification. I kind of thought there was a pre-amp enbedded in the reciever, but I wasn't sure, so that's helpful. I guess my next question then is what is the difference between a pre-amp and any other amp? My Tangent 400s are rated for 125 watts max continuous and 625 max peak. My recieve is supposed to be pumping 100 watts through each channel. Do you think I need an amp, or is the difference close enough not to matter? Back when I was researching a new reciever, I remember seeing pros and cons for both having over 125 and having under 125, and decided to go under because I thought it would be safer. Was I wrong? Thanks for the info guys, it's nice having some brains to pick!

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post #6 of 9
A pre-amp raises output voltage and an amplifier supplies amperes (watts = volts x amperes).

A pre-amp raises or lowers system volume. Every receiver has a pre-amp, otherwise you wouldn't be able to change the volume! Some people, instead of having a receiver, use something called "separates." It is exactly as it sounds. Instead of a receiver, they use individual specialized devices--a video processor, a power amplifier, and a pre-amp.

Your speakers have a sensitivity of 97db @ 1m/2.83Vrms. With 1 watt of power you get 97 decibels of sound energy, more than enough to deafen anyone over a short period of time.

Surround channels rarely get significant output, which is why you aren't hearing much from the surrounds.
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post #7 of 9
Hi Herbie,

You already have an "amp." The only reason to buy a separate amp would be if you have reason to believe that the amplification built into your receiver is dirty.

Try not to get hung up on the wattage ratings of the amplifier or the speakers. It's a very poor measure of performance and is rarely the limiting factor for any system. Many people get hung up on this idea that wattage ratings need to be matched and it is a terribly misleading notion as it really distracts from the way in which the system actually works. Most of your listening probably takes place at 10W per channel or less.

The issue with your mains not working right must have something to do with the way they are hooked up or some setting on some part of the system. Making sure they aren't out of phase, or making sure that the sub is not set out of phase to the main system may be other options to look at.

Eric
     
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post #8 of 9
Thread Starter 
Thanks again to everyone, especially mdocod and astrallite. I think I've got most of my questions answered. My wife has been bugging me to get rid of my huge Tangent 400s because they take up too much space and don't sound as good in the back anyway. I've tried everyone's advice, and I think Astrallite may have it pegged with the surround channel output just not getting enough signal. I guess I'll have to succumb to my wife's will yet again and get smaller speakers.

On that note, I'm going to start a new post asking the obvious next question...what should I get? Catch you on the flip side!
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post #9 of 9
Another thing to keep in mind is that most surround sound content doesn't make too much use out of the back channels. That was the first thing I noticed when I initially set up my surround sound. The funniest instance of this is watching an HD football game. You hear the announcers out of the center speaker only, the background of the fans and what not from the front 2 channels, then every once in a while, you'll hear someone clapping out of a back channel, and that's it.

So for general TV, Netflix, Youtube viewing, I have my amp set to 5 channel stereo mode so it basically sends the same output to the front and rear channels, and whatever is the same between the left and right, gets played from the center as well.
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