Digital Audio 101 (...01010...)

The world we live in is inherently Analog. All the things we see and hear, for example, are the result of physical events which are fundamentally continuous in nature. Some portions of your Home Theater are also Analog. For example, your speakers are Analog devices, as are the audio power amps that drive them. And the electrical signals carried on the cabling between those amps and speakers are also Analog.

But modern PROCESSING of both audio and video is done Digitally. And the newest forms of storage and transmission of audio and video are also Digital. In this post we will explore the basics of Digital Audio, with particular emphasis on the LPCM and Bitstream audio formats.

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Calibration Discs <-- You NEED These!

EVERYONE interested in Home Theater should have a few Calibration Discs in their collection. This is true even if you intend to hire a professional to come in and set up your system for you. Professionals will bring tools and computer programs which are both expensive to buy and daunting to learn. But even though you can't fully match their professional results, you should STILL have calibration discs handy to confirm there are no silly setup errors in your system, and to check whether any problems you spot while playing real content are due to oddities in that content, as opposed to something you've overlooked in your system setup. Calibration Discs provide you with content of known "correctness" which you can use for this.

There are LOTS of different calibration discs out there at this point, and more likely to come out over the next year or so as UHD (4K) video becomes more mainstream. Some of them are pretty specialized. Some require you also have those professional tools mentioned above. Some are hard to find, or even out of print. The most sensitive test I know of to confirm that Speaker Distance Correction is happening properly, is found in the Avia Pro SD-DVD multi-disc set, which is long out of print. And even in that case, this particular test was included in an add-on disc to that set, which only appeared several years after the set first shipped! Try getting your hands on THAT one!

In this post I'm going to discuss two, generally useful Calibration Blu-ray Discs. And also, one specialized disc -- in this case an SACD disc -- to give you a flavor of what's out there if you go looking for such specialized, test content.

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"Dracula" (1931) on Blu-ray -- A Tale of Old Hollywood!

For his 21st birthday in 1929, Carl Laemmle, Jr., received an unusual birthday gift.  His Dad gave him Universal Studios.

The guy everyone THOUGHT was the heir apparent to Carl Laemmle, Sr., got relegated to doing B-grade pictures, as Junior jumped in with both feet and took complete control.  And he knew precisely what he wanted to make; a short list which included "Dracula".  Junior really got a kick out of horror tales.

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Does This Aspect Ratio Make Me Look Fat? (SD Video Edition!)

People are often surprised when I tell them Standard Definition (SD) Video can look gorgeous in their Home Theater.  The sad truth, alas, is that MOST people have never ever seen SD Video "done right"!  The problem is, at these resolutions (and data rates), there is NO margin for error.  ANY mistake in the content creation or video processing -- any corner cut in the setup at any stage -- WILL produce image defects that viewers can not ignore.  And such defects, once introduced, can NOT be corrected by any sort of subsequent image enhancement processing.  The critical information has been permanently lost.  At best you can blur such defects to make them less annoying.

This post discusses the technical details of image "Aspect Ratio", as found on traditional, SD-DVD movie discs, with tips for avoiding some common mistakes which will reduce your SD viewing quality.

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Out of the Bog and into the Blog!

Over the years I've been posting on, many folks have longed for something like, "The Collected Best of Bob Pariseau".  I suspect they were envisioning some sort of book.

A really really long book.  Perhaps in multiple volumes....

Well, I'm going to try a Blog instead!

In no particular order -- or priority -- this Blog will feature discussion of home theater topics, both technical and mundane, which I've found particularly confusing to folks.  Chosen, rather loosely, based on how often I've had to re-answer the same questions!

Hopefully, I'll touch on topics of interest to you.  In any event, it should be a lot easier to lift than that book!