Dolby Surround 5.1 = 3 speakers too many?
Jun 1, 2002 at 3:25 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 9

Nick Dangerous

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I'm still not sold on the whole 5.1 concept. It seems like a gimmick. Every consumer electronics store demonstrates their 5.1 setups by playing Top Gun and BLASTING the subwoofer as the sound of jets go LEFT RIGHT LEFT around the room as they pass each speaker.

Is this supposed to be impressive? This reminds me of the neighborhood kid who just got his new "Space Blaster" and is all too eager to demonstrate EACH and EVERY LAZER SETTING for the next hour:

blekitekitek!
wawawawa!
zeeeeeeeeeeritt!
taka PEEW taka PEEW!
moob moob moob!

Neat at first, but gets old quickly... especially to us post-pubescent types.

Can anyone recommend a home 5.1 or THX system that integrates well enough to surpass a quality 2-channel setup in terms of realism and musicality?

Ron Welborne's 2-speaker Oris 150 system was as holographic as anything I had ever heard. I don't understand how adding additional speakers around your head would do anything to improve upon that. If anything, it would cause all sorts of nasty soundstage interactions.
 
Jun 1, 2002 at 11:18 PM Post #2 of 9

Calanctus

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ND, I can't recommend a system for you (yet), but I can tell you what Robert Harley (author of "The Complete Guide to High-End Audio" and a reviewer/writer for The Absolute Sound) told me today when I met him at Home Entertainment here in NYC. When I asked where he fell in the stereo v. multichannel debate, he told me that a recording engineer friend of his brought some multichannel professional tapes to his house, and they listened together for a few hours. According to Harley, they did not actually consciously perceive much in the way of direct sound or reverb from the rear speakers...but the soundstage blossomed. When the rear speakers were taken away, it shrank right back down.

Gordon Holt (founder of Stereophile) falls into the same camp--he even refers to those who are rigid in their support of stereo-only, no multichannel, as "bigots" (his words, not mine).
 
Jun 3, 2002 at 9:42 PM Post #3 of 9

shorton

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The very first time I heard DVD-A was at my distributor's open house. I heard it from another room through an open door, but even then I knew something special was going on, because I did a double take as I was going into another room - I thought it was live! What it turned out to be was one of the first DVD-A discs - Big Band/Swing music - I think it was The Big Phat Band...or something like it - playing on Kenwood gear through Anthony Gallo Nucleus Micro's. It was gemmicky in that there where instruments coming from all 5 points in the room, but MAN was it fun! The sound was far better than CD in every way except for perspective. I could buy a ticket to get to sit in the middle of the band, but how great it would be.

That was just an amazing demo on good, but not great, gear. I'm hooked!

Just my $0.02...
 
Jun 3, 2002 at 10:19 PM Post #5 of 9

acidtripwow

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I don't know if I would want to listen to music all the time in a 5.1 setup. I use headphones for music listening about 90% of the time. I do like the Stereo 5 mode on my Denon Receiver which sends the same signal to all 5 speakers. For Home Theater though a 5.1 setup is awesome. I was watching "Behind Enemy Lines" this past weekend and the soundtrack kicks ass.
 
Jun 3, 2002 at 10:26 PM Post #6 of 9

gaineso

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Multi-Channel is very dependent on the engineer.

I personally don't want to sit on stage with the band, but wherever I am in the audience, there is sound coming at me from all directions.

A good engineer is going to use all the available resources to but you about row 5 or 10 and centered for a great sound, and it really is great done right. However, it's subject to the same abuses as 4 channel was 25 years ago. Hopefully, wiser heads will prevail.

Don't knock it 'till you've tried it. And stay the hell out of Best Buy and Circuit City. They're trying to impress the ignorant. In the meantime, they are depressing the inlightened.
 
Jun 3, 2002 at 10:42 PM Post #7 of 9

shorton

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"And stay the hell out of Best Buy and Circuit City. They're trying to impress the ignorant. In the meantime, they are depressing the inlightened." - gaineso

BRAVO! Well said; very well said, indeed.
 
Jun 4, 2002 at 12:24 AM Post #8 of 9

Calanctus

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OK, I dug out the April/May 2002 issue of The Absolute Sound. Here are J. Gordon Holt's 4 reasons for surround sound, in capsule form:
1. Surround reproduces the reverberative return sound present in any performance hall, while 2 front speakers cannot do this.
2. Some composers specify that choirs/performers be located behind the listeners--obviously impossible to reproduce with 2 front speakers. [C: Obviously very few pieces call for this.]
3. In paraphrase: stereo speakers can make a recording sound as if it had front-back depth, but at the expense of timbral accuracy--surround can have both front-back depth and timbral accuracy.
4. Good surround sound results in an increase in perceived solidity and three-dimensionality for the instruments.

Now, some of these seem to be duplicates to me (e.g. can't see the difference between 3 and 4)--but certainly the reverb return argument is unimpeachable, if you really want to reproduce the sound of a live performance in a given venue.
 

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