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Setting Up Surround Sound on a Computer

If you’re like me you like to watch movies and play video games on your computer at home and not just in your living room. We all know the best way to play some of these games is in the solitude of your Mancave late at night secluded from prying and often judgmental eyes.

Here’s a little known fun fact to help increase your audio enjoyment – You can easily set up a realistic surround sound speaker system with very little hassle using your computer, the exact same way you would with a television. You read that right! That’s why I’m going to break it down for you so you’ll know how to do this from now on. Then whenever you feel like watching a movie the way the director intended you to, or playing a first person shooter with the full effect of hearing shots going off behind you, you’ll be able to hook up optimal audio performance on a moment’s notice.

Check it out – you’re going to need a few simple things. First you’ll need to make sure that you computer has a 5.1 Surround sound compatible audio card. You’ll also need an HDMI cable, surround sound speakers, and an audio calibration disc.

Step One: Locate your 5.1 surround-sound-capable audio card into your computer. If for some odd reason your computer or laptop does not already have one you will need to install one. You’re gonna need an audio card that has an HDMI connection for audio and video. I highly suggest that you make sure your computer is all the way off if you plan on installing one, and that you RTFM and follow the manufacturer’s directions to the letter! Better yet get your “genius” or some geek at Best Buy to slap it in for you. Beats riding the lighting of 220 volts!

Step Two: Go out and purchase yourself some kick ass surround sound speakers. This is not as hard as it sounds. Eventually we’re going to run a series about how to tell if your speakers are primo or garbage. If you are not sure, ask the sales guy. He or she will always and without exception try to dial you into whatever their manager is pushing that week, generally a higher than average priced model that makes a great starter kit. Better yet take an expert with you. If you don’t know any smarty pants over-opinionated tech guru types, email me. I know way too many.

Step Three: Install those speakers! There should be a guide, but if there isn’t you can just hook up the speakers to the computer with an HDMI cable to your new audio card. If your speakers did not come with an HDMI cable, you will need to purchase one. Don’t act like we didn’t mention this before because we did. If you got to this point with no cable you skipped part of our guide bro.

Step Four: Open up your computer’s audio setup and change them to the surround-sound signal. It’s easy. Simply open the Control Panel and click on “Sounds, Speech and Audio Devices.” Got it? Good. Now select the “Volume” tab and then click the “advanced” button at the bottom, by “Speaker Settings.” Select the 5.1 surround sound setup.

Step Five: Calibrate the sound quality by using an audio-calibration disc. If it didn’t come in the speaker box don’t worry. You’re not boned just yet. A lot of audio store and even some music stores carry them. It may not seem like that big of a deal but it is. You may be asking yourself why you need to calibrate your sound at all. The disc will help you to determine that all speakers are working properly, the way they were intended to, and that you have the optimal surround-sound setup for your computer.

That wasn’t so bad now was it? If you did this right you should have even had some fun in the process. And guess what? Here comes the fun part! Now you’re ready to try out a surround-sound movie or video game in your computer to test the sound. Adjust the level of your subwoofer while the movie or game is playing to get it to the level you like. That’s it!

So how can you create surround sound on your laptop you ask? It’s simple, sort of. Check it out.

To put surround on a laptop you need to be sure your system has an HDMI output. If your laptop doesn’t have this capability (and most don’t) 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.”

Once you’ve got the gear ready and set the sound correctly you will need an HDMI cable. We’ve already gone over that part with your home system. You’re also gonna need a 5.1, 6.1 or 7.1 home theater system with HDMI input.

If you go with the 5.1 set up, you’ll have two front channels on the left and the right, a center speaker, two rear speakers for the left and right channels, and the “.1” which stands for the subwoofer. With a 6.1 setup, there is a back center channel as well. Last but not least with the 7.1 system you get three speakers up front, two on the sides and two in the rear. Simply connect your HDMI cable from the output of the computer to the input of you home theater. 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 – which is a huge waste of money and time.

So ideally a 5.1 system works great in a 20-by-20 foot room. To get the best effect you want to space those speakers out just right. When you set up the rear speakers make sure to keep them about head level with the use of stands, counters, bookshelves, or whatever else is handy. That way you’ll get that true effect of the sound creeping up on you. If you decide you want to put them up in the corners of the room, or hang them from the ceiling, the sound will definitely be off. Trust us on this one. You’re also going to want to keep the subwoofer at least 5 feet away from the front speakers. Otherwise the combined speaker sounds will work against each other, canceling out the intended effect or overlapping in a wonky way.

But what if you’re traveling and don’t want to lug around a bunch of equipment? How do you boost the sound of your laptop for movies and games when you’re off adventuring? Plug in a Boombot, that’s how! We’ve used ours while snowed in at Mammoth and at the crash pad in Cabo and on the bike path in Venice – and he’s never let us down. While it may not have that surround sound effect you were hoping for you can definitely boost your laptops original audio by simply plugging in your Bot and turning it on. We’ve become so used to it we keep ours going at all times. We dare you to try it and see if you don’t get hooked as well.

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