4 speakers/two channel

In my system, i run four speakers --- two in front and two in back -- driven as two channels. I drive the back speakers (Vandersteen 1c's) through the pre-out of my main integrated amp (an Ayon Spirit 2) into a McIntosh integrated. The main speakers (PBN Montana EPS2's)are driven by the Ayon. This way, i can tailor the volume of both sets of speakers.

With the four speakers in 2-channel, the stereo image is 16 feet wide (going from 3.5 ft to the left of the left speaker to 3.5 feet to the right of the right speaker). When I shut down the back speakers the image collapse to ca. 9 ft wide. With all 4 speakers playing, the front speakers disappear (you just get a wall of sound.. w/o hearing directly the back speakers either). When I shut down the back speakers, and only the front speakers are playing, I stare at the speakers as I see precisely where the sound emanates. 4 speakers and you get an instrumentalist at size X, with the distance between instrumentalists at Y --- go to two speakers those numbers go to 0.6 X and o.6 Y. Fullness, body, palpable presence all are dramatically better with 4 speakers.

Once you go to the 4 speaker/2 channel mode (done right) --- the difference is staggering. Listening to the two speakers sounds like a veritable miniature toy in comparison.

Has anyone else tried this?
My Yamaha AVR basically does this with its '7ch stereo' mode.

As far as I can tell it is putting the same signal to all the other speakers, but at the volume that you set. You can set the level of the surrounds and centre at anything from 0 to 100 in 1% increments.

I am currently running my centre at 30% and surrounds at 61%. The effect is just as you describe. A wider and deeper soundstage, yet at the same time the stage is still up front and with good localisation of individual instruments and vocals of approximately the right size.

Proper setup and attention to detail is critical for this to work well I have found... in order to avoid total shifts or other undesirable effects. But once set up right, it makes straight 2ch playback sound a bit flat and boring in comparison.

When I have friends over and they hear the difference from the 4 speakers to the two you hear comments like "wow... if you went from your 8K speakers to 30K speakers the improvement would not even be close to the improvement here." It is staggering really how much better it sounds.

Some audiophile types say never do what I am doing --- until they sit down and listen. My total system is at 20K list --- and at the Vegas show I listened in 10+ rooms where the system cost was at least 50K -- and only one room sounded as good and one slightly better than my system --- all the others were less good (often by a wide margin --- and several of those had 80K or more in their system).

I can think of no improvement even close to this for the money that an audiophile can try.
I have bee doing this for years, using two int amps.

Main int amp with a rec out for a fixed signal to the other int amp. I even use a sub.

I know three other people who have done this once they listened to mine. Exceptional listening.

How do you drive your subwoofer? Is it self powered? and how does it get signal (from which integrated or which amp)?
Likewise I have had people tell me that "I shouldn't do that with 2ch music"... until they have come to my place and listened to my system, that is. For a start they wouldn't know all speakers are playing until I switch it back to the front speakers only. As they say, the stage is still up front with all speakers playing... but the separation of each individual instrument and vocals is much much better.

I often laugh when reading a review of a very high-end set of speakers, in which the reviewer is raving about the soundstageing and imaging of said $$$ speakers. If such a wide soundstage and 3D imaging is so desirable in music playback, then why aren't more people embracing surround sound playback..??? Why so hung up on tradition..???
I simply drive a powered sub from the pre-out on the int amp that drives the back speakers. It really doesn't matter which int amp you use the pe-out from. Using the pre out, the volume is not fixed and raises and lowers
with the regular volume.

When I originally did this it seemed easier to blend in with the rear speakers. I also get compliments how the bass blends in with the music. As all two channel guys know..........subs are hard to blend in right for music listening. Not a movie. I use Mcintosh int amps and a Sunfire sub.

I have used two different int amps from different
companies. Make sure your sources go to the best int amp or a pre amp. This is where your sonic signature comes from.
Which set of speakers is louder - the rear or the front?
Back in the quad days, we decided that using 4 average sounding loudspeakers was not as good as using 2 very good loudspeakers and the total cost was the same. I understand the room filling phenomena of using rear speakers but it doesn't last long when you upgrade your front speakers and your rear speakers can't keep up. Don't get me wrong, more drivers does offer this room filling sound.