2.0 or 3.0 or 4.0 for HT Movie Audio?

I'm simplifying my life on the audio end. Consolidation of my separate HT room and 2ch room to one room has me doing some out of the speaker-box thinking.

Just to be upfront, I do love 5.1 and this is what I would prefer, and may end up there anyways.

My question only applies to Blu Ray and DVD movie playback.

Curious if Audiogon Members have lived with and enjoyed any of these configurations, i.e.:

- 2.0 (L/R) or

- 3.0 (L/R/C) or

- 4.0 (L/R/SrL/SrR) [no center]

What have your experiences and impressions been? Any lessons learned?

Note: I'm keeping things simple by eliminating the subs; I am satisfied with the lf performance and extension I'm getting from my current speakers on movie sound tracks.


- David.
Just for clarification, I can run a sub or subs in a .1 or .2 configuration, just prefer not to at this time.

So if you are running a sub or subs, would like to hear your impressions as well (don't mean to suggest I'm only looking for feedback from those with sub-less configurations).
I know you don't want to use your sub, but IMO it is a big step down to eliminate the LFE channel, unless the movies you watch are all very talky. Having said that...

Watching movies in 2.0 can certainly be an enjoyable experience, but you are sacrificing frequency extension, dynamic range, scale, and dialog that is anchored to the screen. Perhaps most importantly, by listening in 2.0, you will not hear the sound mix as it was intended, which is a significant part of the technical creativity of many films, and not just big budget action films.

3.0 would be an improvement in some respects, with the same caveat I mentioned about eliminating the LFE channel. I do not recommend 4.0 (i.e. no center channel).

If I were you, I would consider 3.1 (no surrounds). I am currently listening in 3.1, and it is a very close approximation of 5.1. In some ways, I prefer it to 5.1.

Good luck.

3.1 is as low as I would go, movies need the center IMO in most any case its a compromise to have the info spread across the front stage.
Many will no doubt chime in with their opinions of 2.0 bliss but I dont think its ideal. I did that in the 80's and am not into retro fads.
Still I would go 5.1 even if you just used some micro surrounds, as long as you can manage crossovers you should atleast enjoy some surround from most any speaker.
I dont know about the claim of no sub being a bad idea, my dad gave up his LFE when he upgraded to 2 subs to enhance his main speakers, he has 10 8in powered woofers in his rig with no dedicated sub (wired off the main amp signal) LFE is turned off on Anthem HT pre and it sounds fantastic for music and movies.
For my home theater set up, I ditched the center a long time ago and have never looked back. With good left and rigth speakers near the TV, I don't miss it. My understanding is that if I had people sitting very far to one side of the TV or the other it might be a problem with uncentered images etc. But that's not an issue for us. The "phantom" center that most pre/pros or receivers genereate is really quite fine IMHO. There is a separate thread on this. Many agreed.

I do have surrounds and a sub, and think they are quite important to enjoying movies fully. Sub adds significant bass impact for LFE and generally for dynamic parts of movies with lots of bass. Surrounds are very important to me for ambiance and the spacial references. So my system is 4.1 (L/R mains, surround rear L/R, and sub).
My main system is 5.1 using all Gallo Reference with an Earthquake sub. It sounds glorious. My bedroom system is 3.1 using Gallo Dues (L/R) with Paradigm Center and an Infinity Sub.

The main system absolutely rocks, the Gallos are *amazing* speakers. And my 60 inch Mitsu HDTV has a fabulous picture. The system is being driven with a Butler TDB-5150 Tube/MOSFET amp which is a stellar unit. The Pre-Pro is an Emotiva UMC-1, great unit for the price ($699).

The bedroom system is much more modest, using an Onkyo multi-channel receiver to drive the Gallos and the Paradigm. CD/DVD/BluRay via Oppo BDP-83. The TV is a 32 inch Vizio. Nonetheless, I get a lot of satisfaction from this system. Especially since I have only $1500 invested in it. It would be "nice" to have some surround speakers, but the room is small and I really don't do any critical listening there. For what I use it for, it suffices quite well...

Our system is 5.1, but 4.1 seems to work just as well. We project onto a 100" screen, and the voices seems to come from the speakers' respective locations with just the L/R mains. I think it's important to match the voicing of whatever speakers you do use. We use the same system for 2.1 and 5.1 music as well as HT, letting the source determine the number of speakers that receive input. Our sources are CD/SACD from a Sony XA5400ES, DVD & Blu-ray from a PS3-80, and DirecTV HD-DVR.

I think a well integrated sub is important for both music and HT. For one thing, it relieves the amps and speakers from LF duty, and it can be difficult to set up speakers for both imaging and LF response.

If you are sitting in the middle between your speakers, and the speakers aren't total garbage, then there is no reason to add in a center channel.

What is it doing for you? Dialog will already be anchored dead center for you.

If you have a bunch of off access viewers, then yes, a center channel would be good to anchor the dialog.

This is more a question for you. Do you care about surround? If so, go 4.0 and add in the surrounds. If not, go 2.0. If you sit off access, add in the center. If you like bass and want impact, add in a sub
I listen to 5.0 for most movies. Rarely do I turn the sub on as it is generally not required or forgit to turn on.
I'm planning on doing a form of 4.0. I have the front left & right set up as full range with a sub on each of these 2 channels to enhance the bottom octave. I'm waiting on the surround speakers to arrive. The rear surrounds will be crossed over at 80 or 100Hz into the mains.

Anyone ever try something similar?
>02-14-11: Dorfma05 writes:
I'm planning on doing a form of 4.0. I have the front left & right set up as full range with a sub on each of these 2 channels to enhance the bottom octave.

The problem there is that Dolby Digital is encoded to allow 105dB SPL from the screen channels and 115dB SPL from the LFE track. To avoid speaker damage from over-excursion and prevent clipping Dolby recommends entirely discarding the LFE channel when down-mixing in installations without sub-woofers.

Some processors make that configurable, some don't.
Thanks to everyone who has posted. Healthy feedback regarding the benefits (and limitations) of each configuration.

- Byron: You said: "I am currently listening in 3.1, and it is a very close approximation of 5.1. In some ways, I prefer it to 5.1." Can you explain further?

I was able to test a 2.0 downmix via PCM out from the bdp to my DAC with a few movies.

The center imaging is very stable and the timing matches the video lip movement. There are usually only two of us watching movies, so we are sitting in a very central position to the speakers.


- Drew: I plan on bypassing processing (when I get the Oppo 95/93) by using the analog outputs of the bdp. Any issues doing it this way given your comments re processing?
To answer your question:

Without the sub I would just to 2.0. The sub is what makes home theater. With a sub I would take 4.0 over 3.0. For what it is worth I have done 2.0,2.1, 3.1, 5.2, 7.2... back to 2.0, over the years.

Now my current setup is a little different. I run to separate systems in the same room. My 5.1 (Polk RTi A3 x5, 550wi subs x2) is mounted to the ceiling. I used their Key hole mounts and made mounts out of 2X4s/plywood (wireless subs in the back of the room behind the theater chairs). The rest of my room is "optimized" for 2.0 (currently thiel CS2.4 etc) music. Each system has its own electronics and they do not intermix.

My own thoughts:

To me the most important thing is keeping all the speakers the same. I don't mean the same brand or line I mean the same speaker. Now if you have a big budget you can put two systems in the same room and make the surround sound almost unnoticeable .

Use 5 Thiel Power point speakers and a JL Audio in-wall sub. It would make a very nice looking and sounding system that could be in the same room as your two channel room.

Just a thought.
An update.

Still playing with 2.0 for movies and have been pleased with the results from two separate sets of speakers: the Vaughn Pinots and Gemme Tanto V2s. Need to get the Charios into rotation next.

Once I move some gear, I will make a final determination.

In the meantime, if other Audiogoners have some thoughts and their personal experiences to share, definitely post.

- David.
As noted in my 2/14 post, I'm using 5.1, but have found 4.1 just fine, given we sit at the apex of a near-field triangle. I've tried to match the voicing of the five channels by using speakers with the same model tweeter, and it seems successful. But I've been thinking of 7.1, and wonder if 6.1 might be the way to go. I'd use the speakers that now provide the center channel instead at the rear of the room. I have my doubts about how important it is to match the voicing of channels 6 & 7, but it couldn't hurt.