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Old 01-31-2007, 10:04 AM   #5  
What is HD?

Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 3

Originally Posted by CDWallace
This question is geared more toward audiophiles into surround sound, but can be answered by anyone who chooses. I only ask that if you have an opinion that you also supply a substantiated conclusion to you opinion.

I've noticed this more with focused audiophiles than those interested in surround sound. More audiophiles have the mindset that surround sound is a gimmick when it comes to music. Many have conclusions that music was not intended to be heard behind you and your typical CD has no surround properties recorded.

Of course, I completely disagree. Especially after learning that CD's do have surround properties, and that surround doesn't always mean hearing behind you.

Being a somewhat "reformed" (for a lack of better terms) audiophile, I understand how important things like soundstage presentation, for one, really are. I understand how it can easily be confusing to an audiophile to think the soundstage in surround will be misconstrude and elements misplaced. Just because a properly setup surround system (5.1) has 6 total speakers working as 1 in a 360 soundfield, doesn't mean the information EVENLY spread throughout the 360 degrees. (I hope I didn't loose anyone)

I'm hoping this thread can shed some light on the differences audiophiles have regarding surround sound and music.
(My first post here, but I have a long history with both consumer and professional audio - surround sound in particular).

This is a big subject!

The definition of stereo - from the Greek sterios, meaning solid - it doesn't mean two.

Stereophonic sound was developed to deliver a solid sonic image, first in the 1930s by a man named Blumlein, and then by researchers at Bell Labs, with its first commercial application with Disney's Fantasia (four channel sound - Left, Center, Right, and Surround). Every early demonstration involved three front channels; two channels can present a reasonable phantom image between them, but to this day it's a challenge.

Every sound we hear happens in a three dimensional space, and we have evolved with two ears that are positioned, shaped, and programmed (in our brains) to derive spatial characteristics from just these two ears.

5.1 was developed as the minimum configuration to deliver a convincing 360 degree sonic image (we still can't image height, or directly to the right and left, or from directly behind, without additional channels).

So, there has been surround music since the '30s, but only presented in theaters to accompany movies until the mid-'90s, when the first Dolby Stereo encoded CDs appeared. DTC-CD, DVD-V, DVD-A, and SA-CD discs have appeared, intended to deliver surround music to the over 100 million homes worldwide with surround systems, but the various formats have not taken-over CD or digital files, for various reasons. There are electronic ways to split a 2-channel stereo mix to a 5.1 speaker system, but I agree that these are silly (and not intended for audiophiles).

The surround music mixes on these discs have ranged from Mono (a 5.1 system is the ideal way to present a mono mix - anything from Caruso acoustic recordings to Beatles and Phil Spector mixes - using the dedicated full-range Center channel) to 6.1 (with a Center Surround matrixed in the Right Surround and Left Surround channels). Much recording from the early '50s to the mid '60s was done on three-track recorders, and some of these are currently being released in three-track stereo on SA-CD and DVD-A, like Miles Davis' Kind of Blue and the RCA Red Seal series, being heard properly in homes for the first time. These mixes have been either naturalistic, to present an acoustic event that happened in a room or a concert hall, or fantastic, to present an imaginary soundscape (the Flaming Lips Yoshimi... DVD-A is a perfect example), and they're all good!

It took many of the Hi Fi enthusiasts of the '50s years to convert from Mono to Stereo, and now it's taking many current audiophiles years to adopt surround music. By its nature, an audiophile 5.1 system should cost, well, a lot more than an audiophile 2.0 system. Many surround music mixes have been gimmicky, like ping-pong stereo mixes of the late '50s (and Beatles' early '60s mistake Stereo mixes). Some people just plain don't like change!

In general the intent of audiophiles is to hear the music presented as the artist, engineer, and producer intended, with no coloration (as with the "direct" switch, etc.). If something is remixed appropriately, or designed from the start for 5.1 presentation (like the Beatles' Love DVD-A), an audiophile should be compelled to listen to this as the creators intended.

The disc formats - DVD-A and SA-CD in particular - haven't been and won't be successes, for various reasons, but there is a bright future for surround music. With 5.1 being delivered on radio (XM has announced this), MP-3 and WMA surround, and downloadable files encoded with things like Dolby Headphone (so regular headphones on iPods can deliver a surround experience, consumers will demand the enhanced surround soundfield, and audiophiles, as always should lead the demand.
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