Electronics project notes/Audio notes - multichannel and surround

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This is for beginners and very much by a beginner / hobbyist.

It's intended to get an intuitive overview for hobbyist needs. It may get you started, but to be able to do anything remotely clever, follow a proper course or read a good book.

Some basics and reference: Volts, amps, energy, power · batteries · resistors · transistors · fuses · diodes · capacitors · inductors and transformers · ground

Slightly less basic: amplifier notes · varistors · changing voltage · baluns · frequency generation · Transmission lines · skin effect

And some more applied stuff:

IO: Input and output pins · wired local IO · wired local-ish IO · ·  Various wireless · 802.11 (WiFi) · cell phone

Sensors: General sensor notes, voltage and current sensing · Knobs and dials · Pressure sensing · Temperature sensing · humidity sensing · Light sensing · Movement sensing · Capacitive sensing · Touch screen notes

Actuators: General actuator notes, circuit protection · Motors and servos · Solenoids

Noise stuff: Stray signals and noise · sound-related noise names · electronic non-coupled noise names · electronic coupled noise · ground loop · strategies to avoid coupled noise · Sampling, reproduction, and transmission distortions

Audio notes: See avnotes

Platform specific

Arduino and AVR notes · (Ethernet)
Microcontroller and computer platforms ··· ESP series notes · STM32 series notes

Less sorted: Ground · device voltage and impedance (+ audio-specific) · electricity and humans · power supply considerations · Common terms, useful basics, soldering · landline phones · pulse modulation · signal reflection · Project boxes · resource metering · SDR · PLL · vacuum tubes · Multimeter notes Unsorted stuff

Some stuff I've messed with: Avrusb500v2 · GPS · Hilo GPRS · JY-MCU · DMX · Thermal printer ·

See also Category:Electronics.


Binarual and headphones are two extra cases we forget to think about

Earlier experiments

This article/section is a stub — probably a pile of half-sorted notes and is probably a first version, is not well-checked, so may have incorrect bits. (Feel free to ignore, or tell me)

Dolby glossary

This article/section is a stub — probably a pile of half-sorted notes and is probably a first version, is not well-checked, so may have incorrect bits. (Feel free to ignore, or tell me)

For context

Dolby is a company
Dolby Surround tends to refer to multi-channel matrix schemes (initially analog, later digital)
Dolby Digital are digital codecs.

Sometimes the channel stuff and the codec stuff is strongly related (or implied by context), so we generally don't need to be picky about terms, but knowing the distinctions can be useful.

Dolby Stereo (1976) seems to group both:

  • Dolby SVA - A matrix decoding scheme,
from two channels on optical film
to four: left, right, center, and a mono rear surround
was used in cinemas, to give the option for encompassing sound based on existing film (avoiding separate multitrack and possible sync issues)
playable on regular stereo as-is, and consumer SVA decoders existed
soundtracks were sometimes SVA as a selling point, in that they were playable everywhere, but would would sound cooler on specific systems.
  • Dolby Stereo 70mm - Noise reduction used on 6-channel magnetic tracks on 70mm film print.
...so not something any of us consumers would ever deal with

Dolby Surround (1982) is a marking used on players that used a simplified passive matrix decoder to play SVA(verify) into left, right, and surround (the center channel was fed equally from left and right, because that works out as phantom center)

(note: Dolby made things very confusing in 2014, see below)

Dolby Pro Logic (1987)

amounts to an expansion of what Dolby Surround does (still four channels)
implemented with ICs
does some gaining (and some frequency filtering?(verify)) depending on what's currently dominant, without changing total energy, which gives the perception of better separation (Dolby calls this 'steering')

Dolby Pro Logic II (2000)

takes regular stereo or Dolby Surround
produces five sensible full frequency channels (left front, center, right front, left rear, right rear).
Basically, the gaining/steering is better than before, meaning it adds a reasonable 'in the middle of the sound' feeling to most any stereo input

Dolby Pro Logic IIx (2003)

Can take regfular stereo, Dolby Surround, or 5.1.
similar, can output 6.1 or 7.1

Dolby Pro Logic IIz (2006)

similar, goes up to 9.1 height systems

Dolby Surround is, since 2014, used in a completely different meaning than before, basically referring to part of Dolby Atmos system.


Dolby Digital, a.k.a. AC-3 is just about storing audio, not about processing it. [1]

Dolby Digital Plus (a.k.a. DD+, DDP. E-AC-3 (Enhanced AC-3), EC-3) is AC-3's successor, though it seems less known outside ATSC?(verify) [2]


This article/section is a stub — probably a pile of half-sorted notes and is probably a first version, is not well-checked, so may have incorrect bits. (Feel free to ignore, or tell me)

DTS is a brand. When used to refer to digital audio, it typically refers to the DCA (DTS Coherent Acoustics) codec, as e.g. carried over SPDI/F.

DCA is a a compressed, digital surround format.

DTS Neo:6 is a similar idea to pro logic II: produces more channels from fewer.

DTS Neo:X is similar and goes up to 11.1 height systems

On layouts, and their relation to typical Dolby and DTS

Object-based audio

Sound fields over basic stereo setups



Dolby Home Theater