Can I put surround sound on my laptop?

Written by jason gabriel
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To put surround on a laptop, you need a computer that has a HDMI output. If your computer does not have this capability, then you need to buy a device with an external sound card, like a Creative USB Sound Blaster Audigy 2 NX. If your laptop is ready, then you also need to go to the sound settings on your computer and set to "Surround Sound."

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Laptop Supports Surround Sound

If your laptop is ready, you will need an HDMI cable, which can be purchased from any electronics store, depending on the quality of cable you want. Technically, the least expensive will work, as you are only as good as the weakest contact and the leads into the laptop are standard. You also need a 5.1, 6.1 or 7.1 home theatre system with HDMI input. The differences between the three are only the number of speakers and the placement of those speakers around the room. For a 5.1 set up, you have two front channels on the left and the right, a centre speaker, two rear speakers for the left and right channels, and the ".1" which stands for the subwoofer. With a 6.1 set-up, there is a back centre channel. With a 7.1 system, there are three speakers up front, two on the sides and two in the rear. Connect your HDMI cable from the output of the computer to the input of you home theatre. Remember to go into your sound settings on the laptop and set to surround sound. If you do not you will only have two speakers working in stereo.

Laptop Does Not Support Surround Sound

If you have a sound card that will only output stereo surround, you need to purchase an external device that will allow you to feed into your home theatre system. Online, this equipment can be purchased directly from the manufacturer (see link in References). You can also find it at some local retail stores, like Best Buy or Sears. Follow the manufacture's specifications for hook up and operating system requirements.

Not Quite Surround

The inexpensive way to add more stereo speakers (but not surround sound) to your laptop would be to use a 3.5mm plug stereo RCA cable adaptor and plug into the composite (red and white) inputs on the back of your home theatre. This allows all the speakers to provide sound but will not give you the surround effects of a true surround system. In this situation, look at the function settings on the home theatre and select the amplification that suits all speakers playing at once. The addition of channels still contain a left and right signal with multiple speakers dependent on the each other, unlike surround that operates with sound signals independent of each other. You will not get movie effects with your system hooked this way.

Places To Purchase Your Equipment

You can always go online to purchase equipment from retailers such as Sears.com or BestBuy.com. If you have either of these stores in your area, go in and talk to a knowledgeable salesmen to direct you to an external sound card and a home theatre system that will suit your room dimensions. Do not forget all the cables you will need.

Expert Insight

A 5.1 system works great in a 20-by-20 foot room. When positioning the rear speakers, keep them at ear level with the use of stands or on coffee tables. Speakers mounted in the top corners of a wall and ceiling do not produce the quality of sound and surround effects that a lower positioned speaker will do. Keep the subwoofer at least 5 feet away from the front speakers. Sometimes, the speakers can work against each other if they are too close and negate the benefits of your surround system.

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