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Linux Multimedia Hacks by Kyle Rankin

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Hack #14. Surround Yourself with Sound

Get theater-quality sound out of your multi-speaker setup.

When you've invested a lot of money in your audio and speaker setup, you want to make sure you get the most out of it. Don't settle for basic stereo sound—make your bass go boom boom, your center channel speak, and your rear speakers provide ambience. Under Windows, configuring this is often quite easy, as the soundcard manufacturer usually provides a program to enable surround sound, but no such software exists for Linux, so you need to go a more manual route. This hack will show you how to enable surround sound, test it, and use it with MPlayer [Hack #48] .

For this hack to work, you need a soundcard that supports more than just stereo output and, of course, multiple speakers. The ideal setup, and the one I am targeting in this hack, is what is known as "5.1 surround sound." This means you have a pair of front speakers, a pair of rear speakers, a center channel speaker, and a subwoofer. As you can see, this is 5 speakers plus a .1 for the subwoofer. (Just to confuse things, some settings will call this a 6 channel configuration.) Here is what you can expect out of each speaker:

Front right and left

These two speakers provide basic stereo output. Most music CDs are designed to output stereo sound, which means these two speakers are all that is required to have an enjoyable music listening experience. Though adequate for listening to a DVD, you'll miss out on many positional effects (the ...

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