HDTV and 5.1 Surround??? Help!

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by TheNumberOneFan, Jul 16, 2007.

  1. TheNumberOneFan macrumors member

    Jun 10, 2007
    I didn't know where else to post this but...

    I have a MBP SR15" and I'm going to college soon. I want to buy a new HDTV soon, between 26-32 inches big to bring with me.

    I also have a set of 5.1 Altec Lansing "computer" speakers per say. The connection that they have on the back is a set of 3 hardwired plugs designated for Center/Sub, Front L/R, Back L/R. These are the 3.5mm size headphone jack plugs.

    The question is, what options do I have if I buy a HDTV where I can get 5.1 surround sound with my DVD's.

    My other option was to just use my 15" to play dvd's and get the Firewave by Griffin to get the 5.1, but that's such a small screen to watch movies so often on.

    Any input would be nice, as i'm familiar with the technology (HDMI, optical, spidf, ect) but i'm not completely sure of it's potential always.
  2. zioxide macrumors 603


    Dec 11, 2006
    If you want to have true digital surround sound, you'll need a receiver that supports dolby digital and dts and a dvd player with a toslink (digital optical) or digital coaxial output.

    Then you'll hook the dvd player up to the TV via component cables for video so you can get progressive scanning (better picture, less flicker) and hook the dvd player up to the receiver via toslink or digital coax for sound.

    Or if you use your macbook pro, you can use the mini-toslink output to hook into the receiver. I believe DVD Player.app does AC3 passthrough so you should get your digital surround sound through there.
  3. TheNumberOneFan thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 10, 2007
    You sound like you know what's going on.

    The real problem here is that the speakers that I have. They have the outputs to each speaker from the main unit (the sub) and the only input is a fixed cable that is a group of three cables, one handling the Sub/Center, one for Rear and one for Front. These are 3.5mm size.

    Do you have any ideas?
  4. Frazzle macrumors regular

    Mar 1, 2007
    Connecting the MBP to analog surround speakers and HDTV

    You don't need a home theatre receiver to get surround sound from your MBP.

    However, you're correct that you will need some extra hardware if you want to use those speakers and get full surround sound. You have powered surround speakers with analog connections, so you will need a 6-channel analog output for surround sound. The Firewave is a good option, a more universal device would be the Creative DDTS-100. Anything that will take a dgital DTS or DD stream and decode it into 6 analog channels will do.

    Some Logitech speaker packages come with control units that have built-in Dolby and DTS decoders - great buys for Mac owners.

    A home theatre receiver is overkill and will not work well with your speakers. (The speakers have a built-in amplifier so you'd need to hook them up to the pre-outs on the receiver, meaning that you're using the receiver as an expensive Firewave device. Waste of money.)

    That's the sound sorted. As for video:

    To hook up your MBP to an HDTV, you will need a DVI-to-HDMI converter cable (not expensive) and a proper TV. For best results, you will want a TV that can switch off its overscan so it can act like a giant LCD monitor. Otherwise the image will be stretched to cut off the edges of the image and therefore look fuzzy.

    The most recent models by Sony, Samsung, Sharp, Pioneer, LG and Philips will allow you to switch off overscan. Check the (on-line) manuals to be sure. The feature is usually called '1:1', 'dot by dot', 'unscaled' or something like that.

    If the TV has a VGA connector or special computer connection, great. Usually these connections bypass any video processing in the TV. But in most cases, these ports don't support full HD signals. Using HDMI is fine for computer use, as long as you tell the Mac to output 1920x1080 or 1280x720. The TV will treat the Mac signal like any other HD source.

    On the downside, this 'no overscan' feature is usually only available in full HD screens (1920x1080) and not on cheaper 1366x768 models. In 26", you will not be able to find Full HD screens.

    Hope this helps.
  5. TheNumberOneFan thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 10, 2007
    Definitely helps!! Thanks a lot.

    I have one more question then, and someone else suggested this, but I'm not sure if it will work. If I buy a DVD player that is like "upscaling" or whatever and it also has 5.1 out (like 6 designated 'RCA' ports out), and I take my 3 Stereo minijack plugs that are hardwired to my Altec speakers, and I slap a Female 3.5mm to dual RCA on each corresponding speaker, would that work? Because then I could just use HDMI out from the DVD to the TV and then the 5.1 out to the speakers?
  6. TheNumberOneFan thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 10, 2007
    It also doesn't seem like i can get this dream machine DDTS-100 anywhere besides ebay for almost 400$!! :eek:
  7. crazzyeddie macrumors 68030


    Dec 7, 2002
    Florida, USA
    Whats wrong with the Firewave for $63 on Amazon?
  8. TheNumberOneFan thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 10, 2007
    well if I wanted to hook it up from my tv and dvd player directly to the 5.1 speakers, without using my computer, I believe this would render the Firewave useless. However, this may end up being my only option, as I can't find a DDTS anywhere.
  9. Angrist macrumors 6502

    Mar 11, 2005
    MI or NJ
    Yes, it should.

    That output should be line-level, which is what the Altec speakers are expecting out of the computer sound card. In that case the DVD player is decoding the 5.1 and outputting it to whatever amp you choose to use, usually thats designed for people with very high end equipment, but should be fine in your case. I assume that the speakers have some sort of volume control on them, in which case you're good to go. Otherwise the above may not work.
  10. Frazzle macrumors regular

    Mar 1, 2007
    Let's be clear, you only need the Firewave to get 5.1 from your MBP. If you decide to go with the standalone DVD player, I don't see why you'd need a Firewave.

    Using a nice, upscaling DVD player with built-in decoders is fine. It'll work. If you buy a good player you can even get Super Audio CD and DVD Audio in 5.1 from it on your speakers. It's just that I assumed you wanted to use your MBP as a player.

    One more tip: Make sure that the player you buy allows you some decent options to set up the decoders. Because if the DVD player is gonna do the decoding, you will need to tell it stuff like the distance of your speakers to your listening position, dynamic range, speaker levels etc. Modern players have nice graphical menus for this.

    All this has nothing to do with Macs anymore though...
  11. TheNumberOneFan thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 10, 2007
    haha, right.

    well, i'm still deciding between buying a DVD player and LCD HDTV, or just using my Mac and buying a firewave. It also depends on if I can find a DDTS-100 for a decent price, because that is the most desirable at this point.

    I just had nowhere else to post this question, and I know there are smart people on these forums such as yourself! :D

    EDIT: BTW, any specific DVD players you know of with good quality/price ratio. Thanks!

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