Integrating 2 channel & HT, right or wrong?



Good afternoon All

Recently, within the last 12mnths, I have embarked upon adding HT capability to my existing 2 channel stereo setup.

I have many years of experience in 2 channel music systems, but am finding that HT is really another ball game, and some advice would be greatly appreciated.

My 2 channel setup is Naim-Audio, re CD player, pre-amp, pre-amp power supply, poweramp and speakers, the SBL's which are a back to the wall design as regards placement.

To this I have added Sony ES series gear; the 9000ES DVD player, TAE 9000ES pre-amp/processor, and 5 channel multi-mode power amp, the TAN9000ES, and a pair of Tannoy MX2's for rear surround duties.

The reason for integrating is primarily one of space, only having one room at my disposal to do both duties. The main left and right front outputs run from the processor, to the Naim pre/power, and thence the SBL's, and the rear outputs to the Sony amp, which runs in 2 channel mode and drives the Tannoys. I am happy enough with the sound, but wish to complete the setup with the addition of center speaker and sub.

Essentially, there are two possible routes that I have identified.

One would be to add an matching Naim center channel speaker, some matching rears (floorstanders) and either a 3rd party sub, or when it eventually arrives, the Naim sub.

The major drawback to this is primarily expense, and what I perceive as value for money as regards the HT environment, and priorities for spending that money to get the best improvements, and it is here that I am hoping that some of you much more experienced HT afficianados may be able to help.

What I have found, by auditioning, and some experimentation is as follows.

Much more expensive processors, such as the Naim AV2 I have auditioned, are better in 'traditional' HiFi areas such as resolution, transparency, detail in a particular sound, the ability to clearly separate sounds in the mix such that one can hear either the whole, but separately, or concentrate on any one part, dynamics, rythmn, tonal timbre etc, compared to my Sony, and the Denon, Rotel, Arcam units I have also heard (A/B'd the Naim/Rotel/Denon).

However, in the context of a total movie viewing experience, I found that whilst one could hear improvements re the sound with the likes of the much more expensive Naim AV2 as I've outlined above, over the 'lesser' units, unless one removed the 'distraction' of the picture and concentrated on the sound, those improvements did not lend themselves to improve the overall viewing/Involvement/satisfaction experience anywhere near what one would expect given the huge differences in price.

Further, I additionally feel from my own listening, that perhaps the major difference between 2 channel music and multi-channel movie sound, is the soundfield, especially it's size (as in suspending disbelief by tricking you into thinking/hearing you are in a much larger space than your listening room) and the seamless 360 degree sense of envelopment, involving both the placement, clarity and steering of effects. In that sense, again I didn't find the much more expensive unit to substantially better the cheaper receivers, if at all.

Indeed, and most surprisingly, coming from a 'purist' music approach/background, I have been VERY surprised to find upon playing around with the Cinema Studio DSP modes on the Sony, that whilst one pays a slight penalty for their use as regards traditional HiFi areas of importance such as transient response, leading edge detail etc, the resultant increase in soundfield size and coherence actually seems to 'fit the frame' of the picture better, and actually leads to a more involving and satisfying movie watching experience, which is completely the opposite of what I would've expected re the slight tradeoffs re softening of detail etc in specific areas of the sound should you concentrate upon them. Which of course, whilst being absorbed in the picture/plot/ dialogue etc, one doesn't tend to do unless you stop and think about it.

This leads me to think that whilst both sound and picture form an equal part of the HT experience, money spent on either picture size or quality would be more rewarding overall than similar amounts spent on upgrading the sound side of it. If I pursue my first option to expand my Naim speakers to include a center and rears, it becomes very expensive very quickly thus that I could see benefit I feel if surround sound music perhaps makes the 'mainstream' in the future, but for movie use alone, I doubt that there would be a lot to be gained for the outlay. Of course, I could be quite wrong, and would appreciate comments from other more experienced HT afficianados.

The other drawback is that with their back to the wall approach to placement, and the restrictions that places upon their imaging/soundstaging abilities, my thoughts are that the SBL's are less than ideal for a HT speaker, and merely spending more to get matching center and rears will never really correct/ameliorate that. I can see the point of it, if the use was going to be predominately music, both two and multichannel, but not for movie use alone.

So my second option is to add a Tannoy centre channel from the same 'family' as the Tannoy rears, and a 3rd party sub.

Question; would a center channel that is not matched to the main left and rights matter in the context of a movie, as I understand it is mostly dialogue. For music use I could see it being a no-no, but for movies?? I am running in 'phantom' because only recently has a Naim center channel speaker become available, albeit I'm questioning using it now for the reasons I've been outlining, and because I was under the impression that a matched center channel was basically the only way to go. I'm interested in adding a center channel spkr, as sometimes I feel the dialogue is not quite as clear as it could be, and would think a dedicated c/spkr would fix this - surely mixing the center into the front mains must have some slight tradeoffs re clarity etc I would think?

Lastly, if I was to take this a step further, and whilst being forced due space constraints to keep both systems in the same room, if I was to add a further pair of matching Tannoy speakers (floorstanders) to do main left and right front duties for AV, thus separating the Naim/Sony, would this be likely to completely stuff up the 2 channel side of it, via having an additional pair of speakers next to/near the SBL's at the front of the room. I would think it would, but have never contemplated doing it before, and am scratching my head somewhat trying to achieve the best balance for both systems.

Apologies for the long post - as I'm finding AV/HT is a whole new ball game and there is a lot to learn, and many questions to ask. :D



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