The Sound Advantages of Blu-ray
In my recent post on Blu-ray, I approached my mother's dilemma of switching from DVD to Blu-ray discs based on Blu-ray's superior picture quality. I concluded the post by saying she'd need to buy a "new HDTV with HDMI and a Blu-ray player to take advantage of the higher image quality that Blu-ray has to offer." But that's just the bare minimum.
Blu-ray discs, in addition to being coded with the usual Dolby and DTS multi-channel audio formats, also offer Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. These latest audio formats from Dolby and DTS are lossless, meaning that no data is lost when it's compressed onto the disc. They also provide up to 7.1 discrete channels of audio information for a truly engaging experience. The superior audio quality of Blu-ray is about as close as you can get to that "movie theater experience" that everyone wants in their home theater room, and that movie directors intended for their audiences.
My parents currently use Bose's original 3.2.1 home entertainment system, which unfortunately doesn't offer built in decoding for Dolby True-HD or DTS-HD Master Audio and only delivers 2.1 channels of sound. My other recommendation to my Mom is that they purchase either a new A/V receiver and a nice set of (five to seven) speakers plus a sub, or a new pre-packaged home theater system. Not only would a new sound system let them enjoy high-resolution audio, but it would also give their setup a bump up from two to five (or more) speakers. I'm sure my mother would would enjoy movie nights more when she's surrounded by the story, and my father would probably love being in the center of action during his football games.
Choosing their own receiver and speakers will give them a little more flexibility, but I know that my parents might feel more comfortable choosing a pre-packaged home theater system with speakers and a receiver that are pre-matched. Some pre-packaged systems even come with a Blu-ray player built into the receiver, although there are some advantages to choosing separate components, including better video upconversion for their DVDs and higher-quality construction that's more reliable over the long-run.
Either way they choose to go, the pre-packaged or the component route, they'll need to make sure that the receiver has built-in decoding for Dolby True-HD and DTS-HD Master Audio, and that it has at least one HDMI input and one HDMI output to make the connections between their player and their TV. (Of course if they also plan on hooking up other high-def components, like an HD cable box, they'll want to look for a receiver with multiple HDMI inputs.) Not many components come with HDMI cables in the box, so they should also look for a good quality HDMI cable - a better quality cable will reliably transfer the digital audio/video signals between components, and be more likely to support future technologies.
Of course, my parents probably think that a sound upgrade to their home theater room isn't necessary at the moment, but Blu-ray's high-def picture is only half the story. To truly take full advantage of everything that Blu-ray has to offer, they'll definitely want to make plans for a new sound system. They won't be disappointed.