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Glossary of Home Theater Terminology

Glossary of Audio, Video and Home Theater Terms

There is a very large vocabulary of technical and descriptive terms that go with home theater. We've included the terms that you are most likely to encounter. If you are very technically involved you may find some of the more technical terms omitted from our list.

Click on a letter to jump to that section of our glossary
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SACD - Super Audio Compact Disc. A high-resolution audio CD format. SACD and DVD-A (DVD-Audio) are the two formats competing to replace the standard audio CD. Both SACD and DVD-A offer 5.1 channel surround sound in addition to 2-channel stereo. Both formats require special players although both will play in stereo on a standard player.

SAP - Second Audio Program. A second audio channel, used to carry an alternate sound signal such as a soundtrack in a second language on a TV broadcast channel.

SDDS - Sony Dynamic Digital Sound. Sony’s discrete multi-channel surround sound used in movie theaters.

SDTV - Standard Definition Television. SDTV is frequently used, incorrectly, to describe old analog NTSC broadcast television. SDTV is the digital broadcast television standard defined under the DTV standards developed by the ATSC. An SDTV is defined as being able to receive an ATSC signal and in most cases will have 480 lines of resolution.

SECAM - Sequential Couleur Avec Memoire. The analog broadcast standard used in France, Russia and Greece. It uses 625 scan lines, of which 575 are actually displayed and uses a refresh rate of 50Hz. Compare to NTSC and PAL.

Sharpness - A control on televisions that creates the effect of greater resolution by accentuating light to dark transitions. Setting the sharpness too high actually degrades the picture by exaggerating the transitions.

Signal-to-Noise Ratio - also S/N. Measured in decibels, this is the difference between the signal strength a system reproduces compared to the strength or amplitude of its background noise.

Solid-State - Electronic circuits comprised of transistors and integrated circuits, rather than vacuum tubes.

Source - Refers to the signal source material or player. For example, source can refer to a DVD player, the DVD being played or the signal output from the player. Sources include, but are not limited to, television broadcasts, DVDs, video tapes and CDs.

Surround Sound - Surround sound routes sound to individual speakers, which when placed around the room, makes the sound seem to come from the proper position relative to the film. As a plane flies from on screen, over your head and into the distance behind you, the sound follows the movement of the plane from the front speakers to the rear speakers.

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