Buying Satellite





Are you making the most of your satellite system? You could be missing out on some spectacular sounds....



Has your satellite receiver got stereo sound? Are you making full use of it? If you can answer yes to both questions you might as well skip the rest of this piece because we'll be preaching to the converted. If the answer is no, or don't know, read on because you might not be getting full value from your satellite system, and those subscription fees you've been paying...


The first thing to do is determine which type of receiver you have; that's not as daft as it sounds, you may have a stereo receiver without knowing it! A lot of people have been sold satellite systems by inexperienced or uninformed salespeople, who aren't always familiar with the products they sell. Moreover, we know that a large number of  STV receivers -- mono and stereo -- are connected to the TV only by the aerial lead, either because the set has no AV input facility, or the installer hasn't bothered to use it. Even if you have got a stereo TV and satellite receiver the sound you hear will be mono, if they're connected together by the aerial lead


If you're still not sure what type of receiver you have check the instruction manual and in particular the section covering connection to other items of equipment, this will normally show what type of audio system it has. If it has a specification table that should also tell you whether or not it is stereo, if you find a mention for a Panda/Wegner noise reduction system that's a sure sign it's a stereo receiver. If your receiver is more than two or three years ago, and it was fairly cheap to begin with, the chances are it's a mono model, but if you're still in doubt take a look at the back panel.


The majority of stereo receivers have separate line-audio output sockets, usually a pair of  phono connectors marked 'left' and 'right'; they're the same sort of sockets as those used on  hi-fi equipment. The other possibility is that the stereo audio output is on a large multi-pin socket, variously known as a SCART, Peritel or Euroconnector, this will normally be made clear in the instructions. That particular arrangement is fine if you have a stereo TV, or you want to connect your STV receiver to a stereo VCR, but not so good if you choose to integrate the receiver with your hi-fi system, which for most people will be the preferred, or indeed, the only option.



We'll start with the simplest set-up, i.e. a stereo satellite receiver connected to a stereo TV or VCR, (the latter case assumes the VCR is already hooked up to the AV input of a stereo TV). All you need is a SCART  to SCART  lead, this carries both the picture and stereo audio signals and in some case, control signals as well that automatically set the TV to external or 'AV' input, when the satellite receiver is switched on.


Some stereo TVs have separate line audio sockets, so you could connect the audio out from the STV box to the audio input on the TV, and rely on the aerial lead to carry the pictures but this is rather inelegant, and you would not get the best picture quality, so if you've got the right connections use them!


If you haven't got a stereo TV, or no plans to get one in the near future, the fun really starts. Connecting the STV receiver to a hi-fi system is actually very easy; you will need a long enough lead (stereo phono to phono) to connect the STV receivers line-audio output to the 'aux' or tape input on the hi-fi amplifier. If your satellite receiver doesn't have separate stereo audio output sockets you'll need a SCART to phono lead, they cost a little more but they're widely available from good video dealers.


So what's the problem? It's usually the several feet of carpet, separating the TV and hi-fi system's in most people's homes. In order to create a realistic stereo image the hi-fi speakers have to be placed either side of the TV screen; that's the least convenient place if you and your family want to use the hi-fi to listen to music. Of course, you might be lucky and have an amplifier with provision for two sets of speakers, if not, you may have to re-think your system, and consider the possibility of buying some new audio equipment, or a stereo TV.



If you're really serious about getting the best sound from your satellite receiver then you're going to need an AV or audio-video amplifier, the core component in what's become known as a 'home cinema' system. There's a wide variety of models to choose from, costing from a couple of hundred pounds, to several thousand, but they all have two things in common; firstly they're designed to work with both audio and video components, acting as a kind of switching centre or telephone exchange for all of the different signal sources; and secondly, most of them now have built-in surround-sound processors which can unravel the Dolby Surround effects contained in the stereo soundtracks of pre-recorded movies on video tape and disc, as well as films and programs transmitted by terrestrial and satellite TV stations. Quite a few of them also come with multi-function handsets that can control all of the other components in the system, including the VCR, TV, video disc and CD players etc.


AV amplifiers with Dolby decoders normally have three or four channels, two for the main stereo speakers, and two more to drive speakers carrying sound effects, placed behind the listening position, and a centre-front dialogue channel, which is heard through a speaker placed below the TV screen. The better ones use the 'Pro-Logic' system, which creates a more realistic sound field, more akin to the kind of sound you'll hear when watching a movie at the cinema. Dolby Surround decoders are also built into TVs, VCRs and at least one satellite receiver but the AV amplifier remains the most flexible option



R.Maybury 0309



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