Surround Sound Problems

I spoke with someone today, and I believe your 1080p problem with your xbox is because your receiver does not support 1080p pass-through. I think you might only be able to get 1080i.

Also, I don’t think your receiver will be able to use the audio from the HDMI cable. Some receivers don’t.

I suggest using the digital optical audio for whichever components you’re going to use the most, or get selectors.

Now, Harmony remotes. I have the Harmony 550 and I love it (although I’m jonesing for the Harmony One). I have 6 components; one television, a Bose surround system, two satellite receivers, a Playstation 3, and a digital audio selector switch.

Whatever I want to do, I press ONE button. The TV turns to the right input, the right component turns on, the audio switches over, and the surround system chooses the right input.

The remote is programmed using your computer, and is dead easy. There might be a bit of a learning curve, but trust me, it is totally worth it.


  1. You generally need to tell your receiver the following:
  • How many speakers you have (I think you’ve done this)
  • Whether to use analog (stereo, RCA jacks (red + white) ) in or digital (optical or coaxial)
  • Whether to use several flavors of surround for a given device (the reciever will remember settings for each device, so that you can tell it you want Dolby Digital from your Blu-ray player, and stereo from your cable/sat box.

Fail any of these tests and you get stereo from analog in to speakers out. I think this is what you are experiencing. OTOH, it doesn’t seem right that you’re getting only television sound. I expect what is happening is you’re plugging a device directly into the television’s stereo-analog-in, so it works half-assed.

  1. You may need to tell your peripheral components (Blu-ray player, cable box, satellite box) to activate digital surround out.

  2. Broadcast television is never surround (and hence cable or satellite retransmission of television), its stereo at best. Your cable/sat box may generate a surround simulation, or more likely your HTR will split the audio among front stereo speaks + center speaker + subwoofer (and probably not to rear speakers) if you tell it to do so.

Sorry – RTFMA is all I’ve got to suggest at this point. Or call an installer. I think your components are probably all working properly, and its entirely a setup issue.

Another thought:

When testing the Blu-ray out -> HTR -> speakers, make sure you’re using a surround sound disk (it will say on the back something like Dolby Digital 5.1 (or 7.1 or whatever) ). If it says 2.1 or somesuch, its stereo. A television series Blu-ray, e.g. “The Sopranos Season 3” or somesuch will probably be stereo or similar (2.1).

At first I wasn’t sure you had hooked up your speakers correctly. According to the review of the Acoustimass system you linked to in the OP:

(Bolding mine.)

Is that what you mean when you said:

Have you run five speaker cables from your receiver to the subwoofer? And the five speakers are connected to the subwoofer? I wasn’t sure from what you’ve written whether you had done that, or connected the speakers to the receiver directly. (If that, I think you stand a very good chance of damaging the speakers, and should disconnect them right away.)

But since you have sound coming from all of them now, you’ve apparently done it right. As for connecting the subwoofer to the sub-bass out of the receiver, there’s no way to do that, as Hampshire and the review explained:

The Bose system extracts the low frequency component from the five regular channels it gets from the receiver, and sends the higher frequencies to the five cubes. It can’t use the receiver’s sub-bass output.

I can’t say I’ve heard the Bose system, but I doubt those tiny little speakers could put out a high level of full-range sound that I would find satisfactory for a home theater system. Just from looking at them, I suspect I would agree with your reviewer:

Of course, if you like the way the Bose speakers sound, that’s all that counts. But if you don’t, my suggestions for buying new speakers follow in the next post.

Here (pdf) are the setup instructions for the Acoustimass 10 (which I would guess hasn’t changed much in 12 years, yes really).

The basic setup is:

Take all of your receiver speaker outs + subwoofer preamp out, and hook it to the big Acoustimass cabinet using a big snake cable that Bose supplies (see fig 6). All of the little speakers then hook up to the Acoustimass cabinet. Yes, this is very different from every other way in the world to set up speakers. It’s Bose – think different! They’re kind of the weird Apple Computer of the speaker world.

If you don’t have that Bose snake cable, basically ditch the whole speaker setup and buy new, the Acoustimass is now a conversation piece. Well, no, not really – you can undoubtedly get a new snake cable from Bose. Its probably worth doing so – the Bose systems sound really damn good when its working.

If you have a ‘dead’ speaker, do some functional testing – go pull down one of the other speakers that you think is working, and hook it to the cable of the ‘dead’ speaker, and see if its still dead. Or hook the ‘dead’ speaker to a live speaker’s wires. Either way, this test tells you if its the wire or the speaker.

Re: the XBOX 360 –

  1. If using component cables, you need to set a switch on the video connector to HDTV to get greater than SD resolution. See Here (pdf).
  2. You need to tell the XBOX what HD resolution you want. Go to the XBOX setup screens (start the system with no disk), navigate to the System tab. Choose console settings-> Display->HDTV Settings, and choose the resolution you want to use. The default is 480p, which is what its probably set at right now.

ETA: I see commasense is going the same direction I was with the Bose setup. Hat tip.

Actually (unless the Bose system has changed since 1996) the Bose has an LFE-in. See fig. 6 and especially fig. 8 in the Bose PDF link I posted above, you’ll see an RCA connector on the end of that weird Bose snake cable that hooks to the subwoofer output of an HTR.

First, never buy speakers online unless you’ve heard them first live and in person with your own ears. Speakers are not like any other sound system component. Ninety-nine percent of people couldn’t hear any difference between a $100 receiver and a $1,000 receiver at normal volumes (assuming flat EQ settings, the same source material, etc.). Likewise with CD/DVD players and just about every other audio component.

But every brand and every model of speaker has unique qualities, and based on the kinds of music you like, your ears, and your own tastes, speakers that sound great to you might sound terrible to someone else. There’s no way to quantify in specifications the differences between different speakers, and no two people’s tastes are identical when it comes to those differences. It’s very, very subjective. So buying speakers that you haven’t actually heard is A Bad Idea.

Because speakers make a bigger difference to the overall sound of a system than any other component, I always recommend that they command largest part of the budget. A system with $1,000 speakers and a $100 receiver will sound immensely better than a $1,000 amp and $100 speakers.

Since speakers are so critical in shaping your system’s sound, and because speaker technology changes much more slowly than electronics, you should look at them as a longer term investment than the rest of your audio system. Once you find speakers you like, it makes sense stick with them even as you replace other components. Good speakers could last you ten or twenty years. This justifies looking at speakers that are more expensive than you might otherwise have considered.

So how to find speakers you like? The only thing that counts is how they sound to you. Not some reviewer, not the sales person, not your friends. So you’ll have to go to your local stereo stores and audition some systems.

Go to all the stores in your area – Best Buy, Circuit City, and more upscale stores – and listen to systems in your budget range. For the reasons I mentioned above, don’t be afraid to look at high-priced models. Take examples of the kinds of music and movies you like to listen to/watch. Try to find the setups where you can switch the output of a single amp to many different speaker sets. Set the receiver’s tone controls to flat (or to something approaching your normal home setup) and put on your favorite music or movie. (It helps if you can go at a time that’s not busy for the store so you can turn down or off all other sound sources nearby.)

Listen carefully to long selections of familiar music on each of the speaker systems you’re considering. Close your eyes, to reduce distractions. Listen for clarity and open, realistic reproduction of the instruments. Don’t be swayed by “sizzle-boom,” a flashy but unrealistic prominence of high (treble) or low (bass) frequencies. The best speakers are balanced. Don’t let the price or the salesman’s pitch or your friends’ opinions influence you. Ultimately you should find that some speakers are just more pleasing to you than others.

Don’t buy them today. Go to other stores, check other systems, make notes. Then, a week or two later, go back and listen again to your top contenders. See if they still sound as good to you as before. If not, go back to the others and see what differences you can notice and what you like or dislike about them. Rinse and repeat. Don’t rush this decision.

But if you do still like your top pick a week later, chances are good that you will be happy with them in the long run. Good luck.

I have some component cables for the cable box: I can get the HD TV in proper high quality with those? Then I could use the extra audio/HDMI jacks for the Blu-ray and the Xbox and not worry about splitters.

Taken, and success after a good hour of reading and poking at the zillion buttons :smiley: Planet Earth is so much more awesome now.

So no worries on buying speakers it seems at all, they all work perfectly, just need er, rearranging. I am definitely taking your advice in mind though commasense, as eventually I will have to buy new ones I am sure. They sound perfectly fine to me, but like I said, I’m not an audiophile (I kind of had to remove my sound card from my gaming computer due to electrical interference and I can’t actually tell that I removed it at all, sadly).

I’m now just struggling to figure out why the Xbox is now (surround sound) audio-only despite not messing with its cords, but I’m sure more fiddling will fix that in some order. Then I can see about the 480p v. 1080i settings again.

Yes, although most components will only go up to 1080i using analog component video. Personally I can barely tell the difference between 1080i and 1080p for most video, so try it and see if you find 1080i objectionable before worrying about how to use three HDMI cables. You will need to fiddle with the TV input control and switch it between analog component in vs HDMI in, unless your HTR can convert component in to HDMI out.