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a sideways look at this 5.1/stereo thing

Discussion in 'Hi-Fi Stereo Systems & Separates' started by ditton15, Aug 7, 2004.

  1. ditton15

    ditton15
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    My tuppence on the 2ch vs 5.1 ch debate, as a report and some thoughts on how/why I've tried to combine:

    a) a stereo/music set-up with full hifi speakers placed either side of fireplace

    with

    b) a 5.1/AV set-up with 3 small speakers placed about a telly situated in a corner on the other side of the room.

    1) when I listen to music I prefer to sit comfy and look at flickering fire, at the art work above the fireplace or at friends also sitting about the fireplace, rather than I staring at a big blank TV

    2) I am more demanding of music/stereo, and expect more of the dac, amp and speakers than I would tolerate when being entertained by AV, where I focus on the visual and am played about with by the audio in ways that the producer of the AV wanted - for which 5.1 is both necessary and sufficient

    3) for AV, the frontstage matters, both the presence of a centre speaker - 'cos that's where the dialogue happens - and having three speakers that intergrate well together, preferably the same make,

    but they dont have to be full size speakers because ...

    4) a subwoofer does really add something to the AV experience that a stereo only system lacks - and 'cos it can handle bass, my 3 front stage speakers can be small and discrete,

    I could stop there and have a disconnected stereo/music and 3.1/AV system, but although ...

    5) the information that goes to the surround speakers is less important to the AV experience, it does add something and gives the AV producer a chance to entertain like s/he meant to

    ... so I (am about to) play DVDs and SkyTV via digital feed into a Meridian 561, putting the centre and front channels into Denon amplification and out to a Gallo A'Diva centre and a pair of Gallo Micros (placed about a Tosh Strata telly), the LFE into an active sub (Velo VX10), and feed the (mono) surround into a (long) digital feed into my dac (the AS Dax Decade) via my stereo amp (AudioLab 8000S) and into my main speakers (JMLab Electra 905s).

    The latter set-up is clearly also my stereo/music set up, fed by a CD transport and an FM Tuner.

    (I plan to configure the Meridian 561 to allow me to feed the digital 'radio' channels, and other 'music', from my Sky+ box to be decoded by the Dax Decade.)

    I certainly was not happy that the 5.1 AV kit I had gave me what I wanted from stereo/music, and I cannot now envisage how stereo alone could allow me full enjoyment of AV. OK, I have to move the sofa & chairs about a bit, but I do think I'm getting the best of both, without too many boxes and wires: a high WAF has been achieved, well perhaps its just tolerance!!

    ps I've been home demo'ing the Meridian 561, but have just bought it today; I've been using my Denon AVR2802 (from which I am upgrading) but will be replacing this by the Denon POA3 three channel poweramp. So, I'll be selling on the Denon AVR2802.
     
  2. Nimby

    Nimby
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    Doesn't using a centre speaker add up to mono TV sound? You can't possibly cram all those people ino a normal TV. Isn't it more natural to have the dialogue spread naturally in front of you as is achieved comfortably with stereo speakers? Particularly if a very large screen is being used. Why does one want to "lock" the dialogue to the screen as is often stated? It just seems foolish to me. If the camera draws back to show two people standing apart and talking to each other. Doesn't it seem reasonable that the cowboy on the left and the cowboy on the right should have sound sources spread well apart in the "sound picture"? Or does the film sound (in surround) channel the dialogue to the centre speaker only when the actor appears full face or centre stage? (I'll readily admit to my very limited experience of "surround sound")

    Nimby
     
  3. MAW

    MAW
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    With top notch processing it's a progressive thing. There is no such thing as 'locking' the dialogue to the centre channel. A sound that is EXACTLY the same on both channels is sent to the centre speaker. Any other will make a sound in the L/R/ surround speakers according to processing. So your cowboys having a left to right gunfight will indeed use the front left and right channels, as long as it's a stereo broadcast, or Dolby digital/DTS. Obviously discrete 5.1 has audio delivered where the director says, and if he wants a bullet to richochet off the cow trough the sound of the bullet spinning off right rear can be made to do just that. With stereo TV it's a bit more complicated, but Pro Logic 2 can be 'manipulated' to get similar effects, by sending 'out of phase' sound, which the processing percieves as stereo, and the sound is spread progressively to the rears as the stereo separation increases. Clever stuff, but you still don't have to have it.
     
  4. Nimby

    Nimby
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    Thanks for the excellent description. Though I still maintain that even in humble stereo a solid central "image" is just as easily obtained from matching L&R signals. I would imagine that off-axis listeners would appreciate a centre speaker though.

    Using the "surround" feature on my DVD player has resulted in some fun effects even in stereo. No doubt "surround" purists will grin at a lack of sophistication here. :)

    I am grateful to the popular AV movement for making subs what they are today. If it had been left to stereo music enjoyment only I really can't imagine where we'd be today. :blush:

    Nimby
     
  5. MAW

    MAW
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    As an ex-stereo music enthusiast (british, glow-in-the-dark, and proud of it) I am now a full convert to multi channel. You need to hear a good surround setup to appreciate what it will do for you, and obviously this is not Bose in Bentalls... And you have much more than subs to be grateful for from mutli channel audio. They have spearheaded new development in DAC's, compact visually acceptable speakers (you can't fit 5 floorstanders in an average room) etc etc. BTW I still have the naim, and a 'gramophone', it's a real talking point!
     
  6. Nimby

    Nimby
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    I really haven't heard a decent 'surround' system yet. I suppose I carry a lot of excess baggage regarding my attitude to "inferior" components. As seen from a purely hifi point of view.

    The investment required to put to together a surround system remotely as good as (I perceive) my stereo + sub makes me a reluctant convert. What I need is an "add-on conversion kit". An amp and processor to give me surround while leaving the Naim alone to drive the front speakers.

    The other even more serious problem is the lack of interest in seeing a film more than once. The sub certainly adds to the drama. I've even built up a very modest collection of favorites. Though they go unwatched. I now prefer to simply borrow or hire them to be sure of a new 'fix'.

    If I "know what's going to happen next" a film quickly loses appeal. I suppose this is a conditioned response from decades of watching endless TV repeats.

    Music I can listen to repeatedly until the grooves are almost literally worn off.

    Nimby
     
  7. MAW

    MAW
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    Hmmm, yes you'd better start saving up for a decent processor and then a 3 channel power amp, and a centre and 2 surrounds, Yamaha do a budget integrated processor and 3 channel amp, bit dated now, but a bargain to try out the concept with, the DSPE800. Designed with your problem in mind, but really for less audiophile end of things. Nonetheless, they do the biz, and don't interfere with your music, unless you ask them to!
     
  8. Ovation

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    If I'm not mistaken, the centre channel was (at least in part) developed especially so off-axis listeners could clearly hear dialogue. The home cinema arena doesn't cater so much to a perfect "sweet spot" as it does to allowing the maximum number of people the room can comfortably hold to enjoy the sound of the film. (though even with a centre channel, properly set up, there is a "sweet spot").
     
  9. Nimby

    Nimby
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    Thanks MAW. :)

    I'll see if the Yamaha is available over here. I had no idea it would be so easy to get off the ground in surround. More toys! :D

    Nimby
     
  10. nikyzf

    nikyzf
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    Laurel & Hardy also spoke highly of the DSP-E800 in the other "2 vs 5.1" thread. I'm quite tempted myself :eek:) Only £240 from Superfi
    http://www.superfi.co.uk/index.cfm/page/moreinfo.cfm/Product_ID/145 :thumbsup:
     
  11. Nimby

    Nimby
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    Arghhh! Stoppit! :blush:

    I still have my Kans and Atacama 24's. :devil:

    Nah! It would only be the first stepping stone to a life of wretched poverty
    chasing surround nirvana. :rolleyes:

    I will resist. I will resist. :cool:

    Nimby
     
  12. Mylo

    Mylo
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    The DSP-E800 is a stonking bit of kit, I have one and love the sound of it. There is one for sale in the hardware forums this week as well :thumbsup:
     
  13. MAW

    MAW
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    I agree, the dsp is the bees knees for stereo enthusiasts, just the ticket. I had one as my 1st foray into 5.1, before I was a custom installer.... No pro logic 2, just PL 1, but hey, for that money and the excellent processing, you can't go too far wrong.
     

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