hdmi surround sound and composite surround sound

i just got a new notebook. it comes with hdmi, so i connect that to my hdtv and it works great.  i read somewhere that hdmi supports surround sound 5.1 or whatever. if i got a surround sound speaker setup for my hdtv, how would that work. where would i enabled surround sound? on my notebook or on the hdtv?  right now i have a up-converting hd dvd player connected via hdmi and a cable box for our digital cable connected via component cables.  now, if i wanted to hear surround sound on my tv channels, is that possible, since the cable box isnt connected via hdmi and only the red and white cables?  how would i enable surround sound on my hdtv, so that every thing connected to it can hear surround sound.  it has been bugging me all day and i just wanna know why hdmi supports surround sound or i could just hook up my 2 red and white sound cables and it would support also. just wanted to know. thanks
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jsthursdayAsked:
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jhoekmanCommented:
Basically, you will need to get a 5.1 or 7.1 receiver as well as the necessary surround sound speakers (center channel, front right/left, side right/left (7.1 only), rear right/left and sub.  Once this is hooked up, you can run all your different sources through your receiver via HDMI and your receiver, granted it has the ability to receive HDMI, will break down the signal and deliver the surround sound experience you are looking for.  

Should be pretty straight forward, given you get the appropriate receiver.  A quick trip to your local Best Buy, Costco, etc will provide ample resources and specifics on what exactly you need to get.  
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jhoekmanCommented:
And to speak to the end of your question, you are going to need to do something more than your basic red/white connectors (aka RCA cables) to enable true surround sound with all of the components that you are attempting to run.
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jsthursdayAuthor Commented:
thanks...but how did they have the surround sound setup back in the day? like before hdmi came out. isnt hdmi connections fairly new.  how did the old tvs connect to the sound systems? because my uncle has a system hooked up to his hdtv, and the system is fairly old as well as the hdtv. thanks

great information, it helped me alot
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jsthursdayAuthor Commented:
if i hooked up my hdmi cable to my hdtv and then my hdtv to a surround sound reciever via coaxial, would i get the surround sound from my laptop? i was reading something about this. is that possible. or would i need to connect the hdmi cable to just the reciever, and i will still get the picture on the tv via the reciever? thanks
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jhoekmanCommented:
Two ways.  First, they were able to 'fake' surround sound where you would get sound out of all the speakers that surrounded the room, but they would all be playing the same thing.  The sound would literally surround you.  True surround sound as in 5.1, etc, sends different signals to each speaker individually, thus if a bus were to pass buy, it would start in the front left, transition to the center, and then to the front right and then out.  

Initially, this was done with a separate RCA connection for each speaker, and the back of your TV, DVD player, and receiver had an RCA output and input for each speaker option.  

Today, they are able to pass the sound through various other connections, the most recent of which is HDMI.  This carries a signal through a unified source and then is decoded appropriately to be sent out to each speaker correctly.  This requires a newer receiver, however.  

In the above example, you may be able to get surround sound depending on the coaxial you use and the quality of the receiver.  For ease of use, however, I have found that it is easier to run all of your external inputs (computer, DVD player, cable box, etc) to your receiver (video and audio - HDMI, optical, S-video, etc) and then run one audio/video to your TV such as HDMI.  What this does is allows you to choose which input you want on your receiver and it will automatically change what is being sent to the TV so you are not always having to change the inputs on your TV.  It also allows sound to come from your receiver, where it is going to be better, even with the most basic 5.1 surround system.  

Mine is set up like this and it is easy to add new connections to the receiver when I need them and get automatic surround sound as well as quickly and easily change between each input.  

I know this is a lot, but I hope it helps.  
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