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It's Time to Graduate from 5.1 to 7.1 Surround Sound

written by: Bobby Ivie•edited by: Tricia Goss•updated: 6/23/2011

Most of us thought you couldn't improve on 5.1 surround sound, but now you can buy receivers that power two more speakers. The previous surround sound units technically did not surround you, but the 7.1-channel system does. So where do the other speakers go? Learn more about these exciting systems.

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    Sony STRDG820 7-1 There is a big, ground-thumping dinosaur coming from your left with bombs exploding all around it. There are people straight in front of you who are yelling for others to get out of the way, and you can hear people evacuating to the right of you. From behind, you can hear more artillery coming and aircraft flying over to drop bombs. No, you are not on another planet, and you are not even in a movie theater; you are in your own home.

    Thanks to Sony, that's where all the action is for you every day of the week. The Sony STR-DG820 is a 7.1-channel home theater system that brings you everything a movie theater does except for the popcorn. From explosions to glass-shattering opera notes, this receiver delivers exceptional digital sound that will make you feel as though you are right in the middle of the action.

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    Two Extra Channels of Surround Sound

    So what makes this unit so exceptional? It's the 7.1-channel surround sound system. Things seem to come at you from every angle because the system powers two rear speakers, two front main speakers, a subwoofer, a center speaker and two side speakers. Did you catch that: two side speakers? That's what makes a 7.1 system different from a 5.1 system, which does not have side speakers.

    The side speakers combine a little of the front and a little of the back channels to bring everything together to totally engulf you in the action. And with the advent of 7.1 systems and Blu-ray, you can expect more programming for the side speakers as more people own 7.1 systems. For example, you may hear someone standing right next to you that you cannot hear in the other speakers. Watch out for Freddy Krueger!

    Don't worry about trying to coordinate all of these speakers to sound their best in your home theater environment. Sony's Digital Cinema Auto Calibration takes care of that. They have included a microphone with the unit to make sure everything is as perfect as it can be in that room. Just set the microphone where you will be sitting while watching movies, and then instruct the receiver to optimize the audio. It does it for you automatically.

    The audio that is sent to your speakers is state-of-the-art. For your DVDs that have uncompressed audio, the integrated decoder plays LPCM audio. That's just a convenience, though, because the finest audio that you get from Blu-ray is decoded, too, just like in the movie theater, including formats used by Dolby Labs and DTS. That means you will hear the original mix the engineers made in the studio with little to no loss of quality.

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    Media Ports

    Sony has included all the other great features you need for convenience and fun. Digital media ports are the name of the game today, and you get them with the STRDG-820. Plug in your iPod, PC, Walkman or another similar accessory, even your XM satellite radio receiver, and you keep the entertainment going.

    If you have a BRAVIA television, you're in luck. It couldn't be any simpler than controlling all of your audio/video equipment with the BRAVIA Sync feature. Turn on the whole system or just a few select units with one push of a button. No more will you have to pick up three or four remotes to get everything going before you are kicking back with your home cinema system.

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    HDMI and Other Inputs

    If you're tired of all of the wires running all over the place around your entertainment center, this Sony receiver will take care of that for Sony STRDG820 7-1 inputs you, too. It can handle a full high-definition signal to send 1080 pixels of beautiful video from your Blu-ray to your HDTV. This makes it so you can hook most or all of your components right into the receiver and only have one cable, an HDMI cable, going to the TV. This receiver has four HDMI inputs. It is truly the heart and center of your system.

    There are more inputs than just the HDMI. Three optical audio inputs allow you to put the absolute best sound into your receiver possible. It is flawless; what is on the disc or accessory is what goes into the receiver with no coloring or alterations. If you don't have optical audio cables, you can use one of the other inputs: coaxial digital audio input, two RCA stereo inputs and three RCA stereo audio/video inputs.

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    Where to Get It

    The Sony STR-DG820 7.1 Channel Home Theater Receiver is a super unit. It has just as many great features as units that are more expensive. To get better than this receiver, you would have to pay at least three or four times what this one costs. Consider it to be highly recommended.

    You can purchase the STR-DG820 at Amazon for $240.

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