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Can multichannel be as good as stereo for music?

Discussion in 'AV Receivers & Amplifiers' started by michaelab, Dec 16, 2002.

  1. michaelab

    michaelab
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    You bet it can :cool:

    I went to listen to Lowrider's system on Saturday...wow! The vital statistics once again for those who don't know: Arcam FMJ DV27 (DVD player & CD transport), Tag AV32R EX, Bryston 4B ST power for fronts, 3x PowerPac 120 for centre and surrounds, Sonus Faber Electra Amator fronts, Signum surrounds and Proac Response CC2 centre, 2x REL Strata III subs.

    This was the first time I'd listened to a high end multichannel system and it was interesting to compare it to my experiences of pure stereo systems. Lowrider always listens to music using Dolby Pro Logic II on the AV32R so the whole idea of analog bypass and cutting out digital processing isn't an issue; bass management and DPLII processing are an integral part of the way he likes to listen to music and from what I heard it's a great way to do things if you have kit that's good enough. Obviously listening to music in DPLII on a cheapo AV receiver just isn't going to cut it compared to a decent stereo system. Even a £2000+ top of the range Denon or Marantz receiver probably wouldn't compare to a stereo system of half the price. When you're dealing with the Tag AV32R and Bryston power though things are a little bit different :D

    First let me just say that the whole thing sounded incredible. We listened to a wide variety of classical music (including a bunch of CDs I had brought a long) including Wagner, Mahler, Holst, Elgar,
    Sibelius and Richard Strauss. A predominantly late 19th early 20th century mix (my kind of classical music) and all sounded very impressive but the CD that made me realise the potential of using DPLII in a multichannel system purely for music was a recording of Allegri's Misereri (17th century church/choir music mixed with Gregorian chant) made by the choir of Westminster Abbey. If you shut your eyes you could imagine you were actually there in the abbey, the sensation of the space was so incredible and something I'm pretty sure could not be replicated with a stereo only system. I felt that if I shouted I'd hear my echo in the cathedral :eek: If "HiFi" can be defined as replicating the live environment then I've never heard anything else come closer.

    One advantage of using a high-end AV processor and DPLII for listening to music is that you get proper bass management and can use sub-woofers really well. That means you don't have to waste your money on very expensive floorstanders and an ideal listening room to get an excellent bass response. Four stand mounters and a sub or two will do the same job just as well. The bass response of the system was quite incredible, the ultra low pipe organ notes at the end of "Saturn" in Holt's "The Planets" really came through like I've never heard before.

    I could go on and on (alltough I'm not that good at writing this kind of stuff ) but I won't :D . The system compares very well with the best stereo systems I've heard and just shows what a multichannel system is capable of with good enough equipment. The only slight criticisms I have are that the soundstage isn't perhaps as wide and focussed as I've heard (allthough it makes up for it in depth) and maybe ultimate detail and clarity were not quite there. I should have brought some jazz and/or pop CDs with me (maybe next time :) ) as I find it's always easier to judge detail and clarity with that kind of music rather than classical.

    Michael.
     
  2. warrj

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    What a fascinating post! The question which occurs to me is: If one didn't care about movies would a given amount of money be better spent on a multi-channel system or a stereo system? Clearly, if you're only buying two channels then you can afford much better components. However if you go for multi-channel then you get potential advantages of surround sound representations of music.

    I suppose if you do care about movies then the problem is less difficult. Since you need (at least) 5.1 good quality channels then you may as well capitalise by exploring multi-channel audio (not that I have as yet).

    Regards,

    Jules.
     
  3. garmtz

    garmtz
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    My answer to the question posed in this topic is: YES!

    I am a movie fan, but listen to music even more (it's about 60% music, 40% movies). When I listen to 2-channel music, I always do so in Logic-7. This mode sounds better still than DLPII in my opinion. Switching back to stereo for comparison is always a big disappointment. It is very important though to really calibrate everything just right and use extremely well-matched speakers, or the effect will be spoiled. With stereo, this is less critical, as only two channels are used (duh). Meridian also does a very good job with its Trifield mode, which sounds more conservative and less aggressive than Logic-7. I hate DTS Neo:6 though, it really sounds very bad. I think Circle Surround II must also be pretty good, although I haven't heard it yet.
     
  4. paiger

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    This is indeed interesting. The few SACD disks I have in multi-channel, I much prefer that to the stereo mix. The difference here of course is that SACD has 6 dedicated channels in the mix.

    What you are talking about is applying processing to change the intended mix of the music. I am currently using a Sony 1080 and Sony 700 DVD player to listen to CD's and it's bad enough in stereo. Applying DPL2 ends in a messy, flat and unexciting mix. It's not good at all.

    I have demoed Tag AV32 and Arcam AV8 and will be upgrading to either, early next year, have already decided on Arcam power amps. I only demoed in stereo though and didn't ask to try DPL2 as I assumed it would be the same as my system at home.

    Your posts states that this is not the case and I am now very keen to try this for myself on both processors before I make my final descision.

    The point about speakers is also correct. They must match. I was using Ruark Epilogues and Dialogue for front and centre and cheapo Kef Crestas for rears. When I finally got Ruark Preludes for fronts and moved the Epilogues to the rear, the whole experience improved tenfold. I finally got that sensation of instruments actually floating in the air.

    Interesting post.

    steve
     
  5. Ian J

    Ian J
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    I have good M&K speakers at the front and cheapo Mission bipoles at the rear and have convinced myself that I am not missing much by not having better rear speakers so I wish that I hadn't read this thread.

    I am very taken with the new Copland valve pre-amp which has no digital processing and relies on the DVD player's internal decoders. According to Hifi Choice this is one superb piece of kit if you can live without the bells & whistles crammed into modern AV kit and is as good in stereo as multi channel.

    One point that concerns me is that multi channel music is recorded differently and the rear speakers should be the same distance away from the listener as the front speakers. This is clearly impossible in my house and, I would suspect, the listening rooms of many others.
     
  6. michaelab

    michaelab
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    In Lowrider's room he has managed to have the rear speakers the same distance away from the listener as the fronts, making the rears a lot further away than in most multichannel systems but it does mean you don't have to configure any delays into the processor. Of course with the Copland it doesn't have any delay feature so you would have to try and arrange the speakers equidistantly.

    Michael.
     
  7. sconepanman

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    Surely, if you can afford the Copland (and sources/amps/speakers of appropriate quality) you can afford the listening room to house it :D
     
  8. Ian J

    Ian J
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    It's not a matter of room size but room layout. The Manor House is large enough but I have my AV setup in the sitting room and the room layout isn't appropriate. I suppose that if I listened to enough music I could always change use for the snooker room and chuck out the table as I don't think that my wife would let me use her gym.
     
  9. Lowrider

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    Thanks Michael... :blush:

    Yes, I thought I saw your jaws drop a couple of times... ;)

    I have Keith Jarret ready for the next round, anytime you´d like...

    By the way, what did you think of the duel on the "Tiger and the Dragon" I played to give you an idea of movies performance too ?

    My room layout:

    [​IMG]
     
  10. GaryG

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    I use the the Music Surround mode on the Lexicon DC1 to augment my stereo system, it widens the soundstage and adds extra ambience. Can't remember if I tried Logic-7 as it's been such a long time since I set it up, will give it a try to see what the difference is.
     
  11. michaelab

    michaelab
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    Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon is the English title :p - yes that was incredible. I forgot to mention it but of course it goes without saying that movie performace on the system is spectacular :eek:

    As I suspect is the case with a number of home AV systems the sound is considerably better than what you get in most movie theatres!

    Another thing I forgot to mention was that both with movies and music you are never aware of sound coming from any particular speaker - it's all just one smooth soundstage :cool:

    Michael.
     
  12. Steve.EX

    Steve.EX
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    If i may interject,
    I feel that TMS (5/7) is a much better alternative to PL2 Music, it seems less "processed" and much subtler in it's effect.


    Steve.
     
  13. Branxx

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    Almost all modern recordings are mixed in such a way that DPLII or similar processing can recreate correct ambient. The practical mix is 2-channel but the intended sound in multi-channel.

    I also found Logic-7 to be more open and spacious to Dolby Prologic II.
     
  14. Lowrider

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    I believe that wich processing depends a lot on each person´s taste and equipment, but I couldn´t live without one anymore...

    I personally don´t like TMS very much, it is too "soft", I much prefer the added ambience and versatility of DPLII...

    As for others, I cannot tell, as I never tried, but I have every reason to believe they are at least as good as DPLII, wich is good "enough" for me...
     
  15. alexs2

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    Of course it can,but just as with stereo,it all depends on the software,the source and playback components,but maybe to an even greater degree.
    Certainly a lot of the SACD and DVD-A material available currently is culled from the major recording companies vaults,and is of pretty variable quality.....for a good listing of what's available in multichannel audiophile formats,www.vivante.co.uk has pretty much all thats going.

    Like Lowrider,I have a Tag AV32R but still prefer to listen to most CD's in 2 channel mode,but with the data upsampled and interpolated to 24/96 using a Perpetual Technologies P1-A....this is very similar to dCS's £10K elgar and really should be heard by anyone hankering after 24/96 now(and not in X years time when the record companies etc get round to providing it).
    The improvement in sound quality gained by running the DACs at their maximum resolution is quite something.
     
  16. paiger

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    On the Sony 1080 (not that you will be interested) DPL2 Music is naff and Neo6 is far better. Get what you pay for I guess. Roll on next spring.
     
  17. Ian J

    Ian J
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    I also tried it on a Marantz 6200 and didn't like it.
     
  18. garmtz

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    Music Surround and Music Logic both use Logic-7 algorithms. What I mean when I say I use Logic-7 is: I use Music Logic... :)
     
  19. michaelab

    michaelab
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    Allthough I don't use DPL II for music (my Marantz SR4200 isn't nearly up to scratch to my stereo system) I do use it when watching MTV and it's pretty good there. Also use it when watching NICAM videos where it's amazing what a difference it makes.

    Michael.
     
  20. GaryG

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    Thanks for the clarification garmtz, saved me a listening session.


    For the people who have contributed to this thread and commented on not hearing an improvement are you using your AV amp for the stereo as opposed to a separate amplifier?

    The trick I'm using (don't know if everybody else is doing this) is to have a separate CD/amp stereo system to get the best possible sound for music and feed a signal from the stereo amp into the AV amp and use the AV amp's DSP modes to provide fill in sound on the center an surround speakers. This is similar to using the old Haffler effect of using a third speaker connected across the left and right +ve terminals to get the out-of-phase information. I realise not everybody has a stereo amp knocking about but for those that have it's worth giving it a go.
     
  21. Guest

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    Hey Garmtz

    Good to see you back mate.......always cracks me up to see your avi on the side of a post.

    Here's a thing.
    I tried a 2 channel pro studio power amp which costs about £325.00...It has Balanced XLR & TRS inputs & speakon outputs.

    I hooked it up to my 568.2 and was absolutely gobsmacked at the resulting sound.......

    It outclasses my soon (hopefully) released Parasound HCA-2205

    It really was quite a revelation.


    Adzman
     
  22. garmtz

    garmtz
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    My pleasure... :)
    Wow, that's quiet interesting indeed! Could you elaborate on the exact brand and model of this mystery amp? :)
     
  23. Guest

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    Garmtz.

    It is a UK company called Matrix.
    Their designs are no nonsense slabs of grey metal, although, surprisingly slimline.
    They are cosmetically industrial (i quite like that).
    They are intended for PA work and/ or DJ / Mobile touring.
    Naturally, they do have a fan attached, although, when listening to CD's & DVD's it isn't audible......No more than a good CRT PJ anyway...Perhaps you could disconnect them?..depending on the model you have...I'll see if i can find out.
    They have amps ranging from 100 watts or so to 3000 watts...and all have different specs & abilities.
    I used the UKP500 into 4ohm Dynaudio studio monitors.
    See http://www.matrixamp.com/4frame.html for a read....
    You can select mono/stereo/bridged on certain models, and as i say, mine was XLR balanced input & Neutrik Speakon Outputs...
    Typically pro-studio design......

    Performance wise, it added audible improvements to both CD & DVD playback....Even my fantastic girlfriend said 'That sounds much clearer than that big black thing you have'..(Parasound)
    Naturally, i used the Balanced stereo outs from the 568.2 into the
    balanced XLR inputs on the Matrix.......

    Just sounded cleaner, louder, stereo repro was fantastic...Movie soundtracks were awesome in depth & scale..
    I was quite shocked!!!!...

    I'm getting it back this weekend again as it belongs to a mate who doesn't use it in his studio anymore!!!!!!!!!
    Perhaps the design & specs wont be to everybody's liking, but i am gonna put my head on the block and say that i thought the overall sound outclassed the considerably more expensive Parasound HCA 2205.

    Interesting developments for me...and time to have a re-think.

    Adzman.
     
  24. garmtz

    garmtz
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  25. NicolasB

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    I've only seriously listened to a Parasound 2205 once, but I have to say I wasn't very impressed with it. For films, okay, but for music? Ugh. If you were to use, say, an Arcam P7 or Meridian 558 amplifier you might get much better results with it.

    But it'd still cost a whole lot more than £325. :)
     
  26. daninthemix

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    Back when I was using my Tosh SD900E for music, I spent a while listening through both two channels and six. I concluded that the detail and fidelity remained in both modes, but six channel really nailed down the imaging and added ambience. I think no loss was detectable because the quality of the output stages in the player are the same for stereo and six channel, and presumably this is all occuring within one mega-processor/DSP, so essentially the same gear is being used to perform two functions. Which is better, is a matter of preference.
     
  27. garmtz

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    I think the Parasound isn't at all bad with music! I have had the Arcam P7, Sunfire Cinema Grand, Lexicon LX7 and Meridian 558 (among others, like the strange KR DVD 6) as a demo in my own system and thought it was best of all, although the P7 had a more transparant midrange and more detailed highs. The Sunfire was too warm and coloured, the Lexicon too much of a PA amp (not subtle) and the Meridian was laid-back to a fault (and I don't like that). I am going to try an Integra Research and the Theta Dreadnought in my system soon.
     
  28. buns

    buns
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    Surely this question is a matter of money? Fine these big AV processors can do a good job, but i dont honestly believe that they are going to match up to a really high end pre amp...... certainly i'll be shocked if say the tag could better a £2500 pre amp.... in whatever mode you wish to set them up.

    Likwise...... as i read above, i agree that separate power amps will better big integrated ones, at least in the ultimate case..... even the best quality multi channel power is liable to suffer from problems related to components in close proximity.....

    But i suppose for the majority of the population, the answer to the original post is yes.

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  29. Guest

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    buns.

    Some people underestimate just what these higher spec AV processors can deliver. Get the right one & it can deliver fantastic 2 channel & multichannel decoding. The world of audio has moved on from 2 channel CD replay & Turntable <warm sounding>...

    Personally, i like being on the cutting edge of modern day audio streams (Meridian 568.2) coz it offers me a choice of different flavours........

    You get all types of (some good, some pants) DSP parameters, like Trifield, Logic 7, DPL II etc...that can make your CD's come to life....

    I still think that (not aimed @ you) some people will be forever stuck in the dark ages and refuse to embrace the technology that enables us to really experience the new age of audio replay.

    I'll stick with my Meridian processor thanks.

    Adzman.
     
  30. buns

    buns
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    I understand your point..... but it is very hard to argue that digital audio is better than analogue....... i have tried it, but listening has proved to me that a nice turntable on the end of a tube preamp is a sound that cannot be reproduced by any digital source. Unfortunately, i am too young for the analogue era and am stuck on cd.

    Dont get me wrong, I would kill for the meridian for use in films..... but if it is like the tag, i wont even consider its 2 channel performance against my pre amp, because the differences are too stark.

    I am willing to accept the arguement that my beleifs are altering what i hear, I beleive that remixing into pl2 introduces inaccuracies, similarly i think that for any dsp. I also like a nice purist approach (my pre and power amps are about as simple as it gets), the presence of other components just adds possibilities for the music to become coloured.

    I almost consider mixing stereo into pl2 as analagous to pan and scanning..... it just doesnt sit right for me! :D

    Everyone to their own....... i like my hifi set up to be non reliant on cinema processing....... but everyone has their own!

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