Surround sound formats, memory card types and airport x-rays

Week of May 9, 2004

Q: I recently purchased components for a Home Theater System.   My receiver is a Harman/Kardon AVR330.  

The problem is that I have only basic cable TV service (not digital, no converter box) and I have seen that some TV programs are broadcast in surround sound.   I am worried that I will not be able to view these shows in surround sound.   Presently, my cable goes directly into my new Toshiba flat screen stereo TV.   I then have L and R audio connections from the TV to the receiver.   Therein lies the problem, isn’t the surround sound signal lost at this transition and sent to my receiver in stereo mode?

John Vater, Pittsburgh, PA

A:   Your system is set up correctly and you can have surround sound.   Dolby Pro-Logic surround information is carried over the L and R audio connections.   It is invisible to your system unless you have a Dolby Pro-Logic decoder, which is present in all modern surround receivers.   This decoder will see the Pro-Logic signal, extract the surround information and send it to the center and surround speakers.

This process works with VCRs, TVs, satellite receivers, and cable boxes with stereo (L+R) audio outputs.   Just connect the red and white L+R audio cables from the device to your receiver.   If Pro-Logic information is on the audio track, your receiver will detect it and use it if you have a Pro-Logic turned on.

As you noted, not all programming is broadcast in surround sound.   If the show is not in surround, the center and surround speakers will be silent.   As you flip through the channels you will find some programs are in surround, some are not.

Your AVR330 has two additional surround modes that work with the Pro-Logic surround information.   These modes are called DTS NEO:6 and Dolby Pro-Logic II.   Both of these surround modes yield dramatically better surround speaker sound quality than standard Dolby Pro-Logic.   If your receiver has them, I recommend you use either NEO:6 or Pro-Logic II when watching TV broadcasts and VCR tapes.  

Pro-Logic II and NEO:6 also work with music from CDs, FM radio, etc.   Some people like me (purists) prefer music without the artificial surround enhancement; others prefer the immersion effect of musical surround.   Try it yourself to see which you prefer.
Q: My questions are about digital photography, specifically the memory cards. First. are all memory cards interchangeable (all brands, that is)?  Specifically, will an Olympus brand XD-PictureCard work in a Fujifilm digital camera?   Or must I use a Fujifilm brand XD-Picturecard?   And second, Can digital cameras go through airport X-Ray machines, or should they be passed around them?  How about checked luggage?

A:   Memory card types are interchangeable from brand to brand.   For example, most Canon digital cameras use Compact Flash cards.   You can use any brand of Compact Flash you want… Sandisk, Lexar, Transcend, etc.   As long as the card is a Compact Flash card, it will work. This holds true for the other types, such as XD-PictureCard, SmarteMedia card, etc.

Owners of older cameras must be careful with some of the new high-capacity memory cards as compatibility issues may arise.   If you have a two year-old digital camera and tried to use one of the 4 GB cards that are now available, you would probably find that it would not work.   Check your camera manual for details.

And the airport X-Ray machine?   No need to fear it anymore! As for checked baggage, make sure your camera is securely packed so it makes the trip safely and all should be well.

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