Surround Sound's a Gimmick

Artie Fufkin

Well-known Member
I had a eureka moment the other day.

I figured that surround sound {ss} is just silly. I mean this with particular regard to watching films.

Sure, in real life, sound is all around and we will [for example] hear a plane from behind and then see it coming over our head and into front view. BUT, when I'm watching a film, the screen and action is only ever in front of me, whether I am at home or in the cinema. The only way ss might make sense would be if watching a film on a surround vision 360 screen.

I have had three 5.1 ss setups over the last 15 years or so just because I thought it was a progression over stereo.

But it's just not a natural effect [OK, I'm slow - it took me 15 years to realise]...all we need are 3 fronts and a sub; the rears are, as I say, a gimmick and the more I think about it, the more I am amazed that ss has been embraced, not only by the average joe, but by us audio and videophiles too. ss is as cheesy as 8 track, quadrophonic, 3D and smellyvision.

Your comments would be interesting.
 

Bee-Man

Active Member
To a fair degree I agree with you wholeheartedly - and have always thought of it as more like a 'surround sound effect' as opposed to straight out surround sound...the fact is that regardless of the system, 90% comes from the centre and the two front speakers essentially proves your point here.

I have been surprised that people are spending some seriously big bucks on home cinema (I dont include music/hi fi in this) when at the end of the day, what is reflected is certainly an artificial reconstruction designed solely to add impact to what you might be watching on the screen.

I have a 6.1 Hsu Research for home cinema, (bought for US$300 and sold as a complete package and it is superb value) presently set up as a 3.1 till I move early next year and am pretty happy with the soundstage as it is in this configuration. It is definately budget and definately sufficient for my needs.

I will set it up as 6.1 when I renovate and move in (so I can embed the cables in the walls) and I am sure the sound effect might be enhanced say 20%.

Golf is a like industry for mine.... clubs allegedly get better every four months, when the new range comes out. Pretty much dressed up in a new colour and the best deals are for quality products that are no longer the latest and newest in the market....sound familiar?

We all love our toys, and work hard for our money. Spending it where we choose and to what dollar level is the hard part. To that effect, I love these forums and appreciate every bit of commentary that a lot of very educated hobbiest's bring to them..;)
 

maj74

Active Member
So what you're saying is that when you're in the middle of a thunderstorm, and you're facing forwards and can only see what's happening in front of you, the rest of the thunderstorm behind you is absolutely silent?

OR

When an aircraft flies towards you, as soon as it leaves your field of vision over your head, it suddenly stops making any sound?


Surround sound is designed (when it's used well) to give you the impression of the real world. The cinema screen in front of you represents your field of vision because unless you actually DO have eyes in the back of your head, you can, in effect, only look in one direction at a time.

Your ears on the other hand work in all 360 degrees. Just because you can't see something happening behind you, doesn't mean you can't hear it!

I agree people spend far too much money on surround sound setups...(I am one of them :D) but surround sound is not a gimmick (even though badly mixed dvd's and badly mixed 5.1 music use it as one)
 

AngelEyes

Distinguished Member
The ambience a good soundtrack adds to a film helps make what you are watching more believable... I'll admit there are a lot of soundtracks that seem to have overblown rear effects that just distract you from what is going on, on screen. if you have a good system, well setup (and a good film) the realism added is fantastic.

A good example of superb surround effects would be the gunfight scene in open Range, the echo effect is so realistic it makes the whole scene more believeable.

I watched Underworld Evolution the other night :)rotfl:) not a great film but the ambient thunderstorm effects were fantastic and almost made the film bearable ;)

Unfortunately sometimes you do have to spend a fair bit to hear what the sound engineer was trying to create. My latest surround speakers totally transformed what was audiable, so much more was present than before and it was more subtle too. My first surround system tended to be fairly quiet until something loud happened in the surrounds and it wasn't as realistic. For me the subtleness of the surround channels is what adds most to the atmosphere of a film.

Of course it is nice for something behind you to make you jump too, the scene near the begining of Jurassic Park 3 where the plane flies over your head, gets me every time :)

I never thought I would say this but I would rather lose my sub than my current surround speakers :eek:.
 

Bee-Man

Active Member
No argument that the surround caper makes the listening experience more enjoyable.....and far more enjoyable with certain movies.

But how far can they stretch things....unless your viewing room affords you ~ 6ft behind your viewing area and the equipment is of some serious quality/value....so 5.1 has grown to 6.1/7.1 with a large number of knowledgeable AV fans not subscribing to its worth. Now 9.1 is also available....and I am sure that in a year or so, 7.1 will be mooted as a poorer cousin to 9.1

Let me ask how often do you get a DVD or CD that actually has been manufactured so that decent equipment reflects the true quality of the original recording? Not an awful lot in my experience. Off the point for sure, but I think there is a cross over point, where the pursuit of a better sound experience produces dramtically diminishing returns offset by a disproportionate increase in cost.

It frustrates me that centre speakers are not better made within most surround sound systems, and that when I hear something like a YSP1000 with a decent sub offering a stunning cosmetic upgrade along with a pretty impressive reproduction of the surround sound effect in a variety of usual environments, then I begin to wonder how much consumer value the retailers have in mind.

I would suggest that for a lot of people, a solid 3.1 system would be good enough and certainly better value than six or so inferior components in probably over 70% of listening situations. I also expect in the near future that niche players will develop technology to make this layout even more impressive for theartre.

The ear hears 360 degrees of sound - but that is nothing to do with the surround sound effect that home theatre reconstructs so effectively (and enjoyably)...primary and secondary hearing are not location specific, but processed by the brain in a hierachal manner that is best duplicated in our home theatres by surround.

At some point stretching that 'surround sound effect' I think does become primarily a gimmick in that it is not of tangible benefit to the listener.....

The point of discussion might be when?

Cheers
 

MichaelWB

Standard Member
Maybe surround is a gimmick but at least it is a good one :)

For me, surround is all about enhancing the experience when I watch a movie. I have watched movies at frinds with very serious stereo systems, and the sound is great, but they at still missing something.

The surround effects might only be the icing on the cake, but to me atleast it is the difference between a good movie experience and and an excellent one.

AngelEyes said:
The ambience a good soundtrack adds to a film helps make what you are watching more believable... I'll admit there are a lot of soundtracks that seem to have overblown rear effects that just distract you from what is going on, on screen. if you have a good system, well setup (and a good film) the realism added is fantastic.

I agree! The "small" surround effects are often the ones who best illustrates the "power" of surround.
A little storie from real life to illustrate that. I was watching XXX with my girlfriend (not the best movie I know :rolleyes: ). One part of the movie takes place in the dungeons below a castle, there is a small sound of dripping water. When we watched that scene, my girlfrind looked outside, because she thougt it started raining and the dripping sound came from outside!

AngelEyes said:
Unfortunately sometimes you do have to spend a fair bit to hear what the sound engineer was trying to create. My latest surround speakers totally transformed what was audiable, so much more was present than before and it was more subtle too. My first surround system tended to be fairly quiet until something loud happened in the surrounds and it wasn't as realistic. For me the subtleness of the surround channels is what adds most to the atmosphere of a film.

I had a similar experience when I upgraded my surrounds. An example is musik dvd's where the sound of the audience changed from something like white noise to the sound of a lot of people applauding.
The music might be comming from the 3 front speakers, or in my case 2, but it is the surrounds that but you among the audience.
 

Knyght_byte

Distinguished Member
ok, i'm guessing someones never watched Master & Commander on a decent surround sound setup.......because if you have, you'll understand just how important those rear speakers are.......or Gladiator.........or WOTW........to name just a few of the more obvious surround test films.....

seriously, watch M&C on even halfway decent surround setup and just the opening sequence itself puts you literally right inside that damn boat........it is a somewhat extraordinary (a rare time that word really does deserve to be used) sensation, but if you are willing to be immersed, oh you shall be......

some films dont do a lot with the surround field, fair enough, they probably dont need to (The Wedding Crashers or whatever it was called, or Guess Who etc, ie comedies)...but a good action film is MADE by the surround field in my opinion...oh the film matters...but this is the modern age, move with it!......if only more film makers took care.......ok, i know the science boffs say something silly like 85% of our brain is used on the vision, but thats only because we are used to that.......let your brain grow and learn!!.......stop shackling it with preconception........let adventure take hold and run rampant!!!!

(ok, so mebbe posting after a couple of bottles of wine makes me a bit florid....but tbh i doubt i post much different on this subject when stone cold sober)
 

watermelonpip

Novice Member
We have two ears. That's how stereo works. 'Surround sound' is so you can turn your head all around the place and imagine you are in a field while also watching the movie on the screen in front of you. It's probably one of the silliest ideas ever.
 

John7

Well-known Member
Nah. The silliest idea is replying to a 15 year old thread! :D

Don't be embarrassed, we've all (well, some of us) done it before.

Welcome to the Forum!
 

Derek S-H

Distinguished Member
And now we're bickering about the merits (or otherwise) of Atmos instead!

That's technological progress for you - some things change, some stay the same!
 

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