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Audiophiles and Surround Sound...

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Old 01-30-2007, 12:20 PM   #1  
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Default Audiophiles and Surround Sound...

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.
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Old 01-30-2007, 12:51 PM   #2  
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2 channel music should be listened to only in 2 channel...........IMHO.........Some audiophiles claim that it should be listened to in "Line Direct" mode that is w/out any treble or bass adjustments. I dont go for that but I'll always check to see if there's any extra ambiance to the cd before I go 2 channel.
I have a few cd's that are DTS cd's and dolby digital cds so the extra channels are already there.
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Old 01-30-2007, 02:21 PM   #3  
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Default IYO, what would change your mind?

Snap, if you had to change something about surround sound for music that would change your mind about listening to CD's in stereo only, what would it be?

I guess what I'm asking, to some degree, is if surround were configured to reproduce a stereo CD equally or better than stereo, being an audiophile, is this something you would consider? IYO, do you think, or do you feel most audiophiles think the above scenario is even possible?

To let everyone else in. I know its "mission impossible", but why not try to bridge the gap between surround and stereo playback, to the point where surround can be a viable, legitimate or even audiophile grade option for music playback. Call me crazy.

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Old 01-31-2007, 07:23 AM   #4  
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I had an interesting experience recently. I purchased the "Yanni Live" (OK, no flames please) DVD precisely because I knew it would challange my A/V setup. The first time through I just put the disk in the DVD and hit play. While good, the sound was a little "flat", lacking some of the spark these recordings usually have.

Then I checked the DVD on disk menu and there was a selection for Audio Options and "Stereo" was the default. I set it to 5.1 Dolby and the playback was noticeably brighter, more intense, more of a sound stage experience. I tried DTS playback next, and while the difference was subtle, there was a sense of expanded sound, richer mid-tones and highs, and my subwoofer got a little more of a workout - again subtle, but there.

I was surprised by the results, but now I will always check the on-disk options first. Even though the DVD may be menu selected for digital sound out, the on-disk menu may over ride the selection.
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Old 01-31-2007, 10:04 AM   #5  
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Quote:
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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Old 01-31-2007, 06:09 PM   #6  
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Quote:
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.
Start reading both. They will answer your questions.


http://www.theabsolutesound.com/

http://www.theperfectvision.com/
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Old 01-31-2007, 09:00 PM   #7  
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Default Thanks for the reply...

BMW, thanks for the suggestions, but the absolute sound and perfect vision have yet to answer the question or find a solution to the problem. Thats why I'm asking around.

Thanks
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Old 02-01-2007, 10:25 AM   #8  
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IMO the best recordings capture the original performance with the greatest fidelity which is maintained to the highest degree in the reproduction process.
A mono recording might well have greater fidelity than an inferior multi-channel recording, even though the ambience of the original venue might be perceived as very limited in comparison.
Audiophiles fretted over these same concerns when 'stereo' was first introduced.
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Old 02-01-2007, 02:02 PM   #9  
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CD,

I have cd's that are in surround sound and I love them. Those DTS cds are amazing. I also have a 2 cd set of John Barry's Greatest Hits that is actually in surround sound and it's also great.
I'm not one of those audiophiles that believe music should only be listened to in 2 channel.......line direct......That's soundproof walls, studio stuff...........I like a little ambiance.
And yes, those "true" audiophiles think it's impossible. And, no, you're not crazy.

Quote:
Originally Posted by CDWallace
Snap, if you had to change something about surround sound for music that would change your mind about listening to CD's in stereo only, what would it be?

I guess what I'm asking, to some degree, is if surround were configured to reproduce a stereo CD equally or better than stereo, being an audiophile, is this something you would consider? IYO, do you think, or do you feel most audiophiles think the above scenario is even possible?

To let everyone else in. I know its "mission impossible", but why not try to bridge the gap between surround and stereo playback, to the point where surround can be a viable, legitimate or even audiophile grade option for music playback. Call me crazy.

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Old 02-08-2007, 02:29 PM   #10  
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Why worry if we Stereo/HiFi addicts become surround sound converts or not? If you love your cd music in surround, be it 5.1 or 6.1 then you don't need me to agree to your opinion. My preferances are for the tv/movie system and the cd music reproduction system to be separate from one another. Part of the reason is the acoustic space needed to really reproduce orchestral music well. It really takes a pretty large room for a 32 foot bass wave form to propagate, and adding bass traps and absorbent material to tame standing waves is important here. The other reason is that the speakers and amplifiers are somewhat different in the two applications. A surround system usually has smallish speakers with a subwoofer and a many channel high power amplifier. Stereo system can use much larger main speakers and require amps that are cleaner in sound than most surround receivers offer, subs are not usually required or desired.

We have been very fortunate to have enough real estate to allow for a living room (tv/surround), library (78's), and a separate music listening room (cd's/music). We do not have to make one room/system serve all purposes.

There are two things I note about contributors to this forum and similar ones:

1) They want one room/system to reproduce both cd music and DVD movies but, lean heavily toward the DVD movie experience as their primary reason for building such a system.

2) They believe that if it is two channel stereo only (btw, there was has always been three channel stereo) then they are getting cheated because they invested in surround sound and half of their equipment is going to waste while listening to music recorded on stereo cd's.

Summing up...music reproduction from stereo cd's and audio production from movies sources such as DVD's are best handled by systems and listening environments designed for that experience.

Besides, who wants to to mix popcorn and Mahler?

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Old 02-08-2007, 02:58 PM   #11  
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Default Its this mentaility I'm reffering to...

Ed, please don't think I'm worried about it from a personal standpoint. My concern is the development of audio or lack there of then it comes to the intended "social status" boundries between those of High end 2CH, MC and HT. If there is no de-segrigation of audio, nothing will change and audio will continue to have a stunted growth.

Whether or not any agrees with my statement is a meaningless issue. But if the potential problem isn't addressed, then it will become an even larger distraction that it is.

"My preferances are for the tv/movie system and the cd music reproduction system to be separate from one another."

This is your preference and this is great. However, far to many feel that systems should not and can not be combined to reproduce both music and movies. They feels its "a gimmick" and non-audiophile.
(BTW, you should hear orchestra on a surround system setup for music...amazing)

"The other reason is that the speakers and amplifiers are somewhat different in the two applications. A surround system usually has smallish speakers with a subwoofer and a many channel high power amplifier. Stereo system can use much larger main speakers and require amps that are cleaner in sound than most surround receivers offer, subs are not usually required or desired. "

I disagree. Surround sound I'm reffering to is far from the HTIB people are use to. Its a whole nother breed in itself. We're talking the same quality and magnitude of gear (CDP, speakers, amps, etc) thats used in the same high end 2CH setups. Maybe I should have been a clearer on this point. The same equipment is used, same quality and both application can be used with the same setup. However, far too many are closed minded to explore this option. Thus the barriers between 2CH, MC and HT.

"There are two things I note about contributors to this forum and similar ones:

1) They want one room/system to reproduce both cd music and DVD movies but, lean heavily toward the DVD movie experience as their primary reason for building such a system."

This should not negate the fact that the same setup an be used for both applications. If you are fortunate enough to have the ample room, then by all means do as you please. But this shouldn't have any bearing on whether the system, be it for music or movies, can perform the task of both.

"2) They believe that if it is two channel stereo only (btw, there was has always been three channel stereo) then they are getting cheated because they invested in surround sound and half of their equipment is going to waste while listening to music recorded on stereo cd's."

This is a very sad misconception and part of the reason whey MC music and surround sound hasn't gone any further than it has. You'd be supprised how DSP can replicate the music venue and tranport you back to the recording...or as close as your system will allow I should say.

"Summing up...music reproduction from stereo cd's and audio production from movies sources such as DVD's are best handled by systems and listening environments designed for that experience."

MC and surround has advanced the industry to the point where both music and movies can be reproducted at audiophile level via one system. People (audiophiles, DIYer's and consumers alike) are not willing to take the time and see how. This is a hinderence to the growth of the hobby because it sets useless "social based" boundries.

Hence the original posting topic.

Last edited by CDWallace; 02-08-2007 at 03:08 PM..
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Old 02-08-2007, 07:28 PM   #12  
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Basically, you can go to either extreme. I prefer a system that has an edge in music listening vs. the other way around.
In other words, a speaker system that gives a good audition to music might sound just fine with cinema, but a system aimed at only cinema may lack finesse with music.
A lot of the film soundtracks are filled with music. Some is even good.
It all gets down to comparing with your own ears. And don't forget your acoustic environment. It is not always the hardware, but how it plays in your room.
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Old 02-09-2007, 02:17 AM   #13  
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Personally I can't stand c.ds in anything other than stereo, I put my dvd player on pure direct as well as my receiver(denon 2910 and a denon 3805) and listen that way.. stereo just sounds better and I wish I could afford a dedicated stereo only listening enviroment! UGH!!
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Old 02-09-2007, 07:33 AM   #14  
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Default Most people are happy with a one-room system

If we all had the resources, we could have a dedicated video room and dedicated audio room. Not sure how the sound setups would differ, but most of us do not have the space in our homes or resources for something like that.

My observation is that if your primary source of sound is movies, you can get by with cheaper (and inferior) speakers. My cheap Sony speakers sounded fine for movies, and if that is all I used my Great Room for, I would still have them. They were NOT great for the classical music I like to unwind with, hence the upgrade to the Paradigm speakers.

As far as surround sound with music CDs, I like what my system is putting out, especially the ones designed with surround sound in mind.

Just out of curiosity, how would the perfect setup look for movies vs sound?
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Old 02-09-2007, 11:26 AM   #15  
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Yes, you can 'get by' with cheaper speakers, because you are dealing mostly with voice and noise, and less with music.
But with MC it is important to have timbre matched speakers, especially at the front. It does make a noticeable difference for action across the screen, as well as dialog, and origin of sounds.
And you find, of course, the mfrs. that make good speakers for music also make them for movies, and are very aware those nuances.
Other than the 2 channel audiophile designed speakers, I think the better MC systems meet both music and movies nearly equally.
One thing to consider in a room environment, is matching it closely to your speakers. Some being more forward sounding, others more laid back. This is only one of many characteristics. This would be important whether listening to music or movies.
It is accuracy you are after, that is why I think a well designed room would serve both with little or no compromise.
Unless you are trying to fill an opera house vs. a movie theater...and I doubt many of us have challenges on that scale.
Interesting article on this very subject:

http://www.axiomaudio.com/roomacoustics.html

Last edited by daleb; 02-09-2007 at 11:32 AM..
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