MultiChannel too complicated for most...

I've been on the gon for a little while now, posting and enjoying all the spectacular virtual systems. There is one thing I've noticed though. It's that many seem to associate the terms 2 channel and simple, especially when heading and detailing their virtual systems. I don't see it too often in threads, but every now and again it'll show up their as well.

Me being the multichannel guy I am, this small and most times overlooked detail seemed to jump out at me. Its been a passing thought for a while, but seems to be a somewhat valid question.

Now...before I go any further, this is not in insight a riot and bombard the moderators with request to have this thread pulled because it "potentially offends" 2 channel lovers. This is not that kind of posting, but just posing a question that has crossed my mind more times that one.

Do 2channel only audiophiles shun multichannel (discrete or DSP based) because they find it too complicated?

If the concept of thinking in 360 degrees (Multichannel) were simplified, for a lack of better terms, would multichannel be more accepted?
I guess we all have our preferences;me, I am a 2ch. first, kind of guy. I do HT,but on a lesser level. I have a very high quality 2 ch.setup. For movies and such I use a receiver;that should tell everything.---10 years ago when multi first came out; I just hated the mixes. I sold my multi ch. discs and have never gone back.
The only part that was complicated was spending the bucks to properly match speakers and amps---you know;the same stuff all around.---I was ok at installing the cables. I know where they go on the receiver. I have a Sony sacd/dvd player. It does 2ch. or multi ch. sacd and have never played a sacd on it.I also have a 2ch sacd player;on that I play sacds.
I'll bite - here's my true confessions. My perceptions are based primarily on experience with multi-channel over the last 2-3 years (before that I simply didn't bother with multi-ch).

Inhibitors in rank order of significance:
1) Cost of the equipment - primarily the pre-pro that can compare to a good 2 channel pre.
2) Sound quality (results) - I simply haven't found the results to be as satisfying as 2 channel. The soundstage isn't as natural or vivid. (this may be a result of my lack of competence in set-up . . . see #3)
3) My lack of knowledge of how to set up and properly calibrate a multi-channel setup. When it's done for multichannel source material such as DD5.1 movies, it's easy, but for 2 channel analog material (vinyl) - it's a mystery to me, and I haven't the time to invest in learning this.
4) complexity - it is more work to calibrate 5 speakers than 2.

I presently have a dual purpose room with home theater. I'm using a Lexicon DC-1 for pre-pro - which fits my budget. I'm running a TAD150 preamp for my 2 channel, with the Lexicon mains running passthru to my Front L/R speakers. I have Von Schweikert speakers all around - VR4 genIII F-R/L, LCR-15 center, VR3 Rr-L/R , and Tower of Power SW. My amps are Electron Kinetics Eagles all around.

I have tried using this for multi-ch music and have been woefully un-satisfied and believe to approach the quality of my TAD150 2 channel - I'd have to break the bank on a pre-pro.

. .
Being long in this hobby and disinterested in HT and totally unconvinced by mc, I see no reason to undertake the expense of adding channels.
I’ve always interpreted the word simple in system listings to circuit design.
Less is more philosophy in audio circuit design often means better components, capacitors, resistors, transformers, diodes, switches, relays, exc.
One only needs to look at the internals tube or SS of a simple system and see what Im talking about. Multi-channel systems are difficult for manufactures to keep cost down using expensive high tolerance parts in their design, which is often quite complex to those of a simple 2 channel system.
It is not simple or cheap to get a multichannel system set up right, and not all MC discs realize the potential of the media. For music the 5.1 speaker array, designed for movies is not ideal. The 2+2+2 array (see is better. Too bad that audiophiles in this country won't support it. Blame the WAF. One surprisingly large genre of music, antiphonal, simply cannot be reproduced without MC.
Those who write they don't like multichannel (NOT multi-channel) music don't indicate what kind of music they prefer. I absolutely LOVE the new MC recordings of Classical music. They really do enhance the (artificial, of course) feeling of being in the hall with the musicians. Except in very rare cases, there's only ambient hall sound in the surround channels, and I use diffuse-sounding speakers for that--see my System.

My system is not complex, with a multidisc player, a 6-channel preamp, and several poweramps and speakers, but one piece of it, the conrad-johnson 6-channel tubed preamp, is expensive. I guess it's complicated in the sense that it has far more pieces of IC and speakercable and more channels of amplification--10--than most 2-channel systems, but I've managed to figure it out, and I'm sure the vast majority of 2-channel lovers, too, could.

I combined my audio and video systems a few years ago, and this not-as-good-as-2-plus-2-plus-2 5.1-channel system sounds not just good but FABULOUS, TYVM. :-)
Do 2channel only audiophiles shun multichannel (discrete or DSP based) because they find it too complicated?

I'm with Paracrine.

Audiophiles are normal people that want something differentiated for their music system, they are not immune to the logic of purity and simplicity, which is a marketing spin that is pushed heavily by the high end manufacturers. Often this is all about how high end audio chooses to differentiate; popular manifestations are designs with LESS features than low end audio and by packaging this in an impressive, imposing product with a new model number each year or two, and few, if any, LED lights/displays (synonymous with low end). These clearly visible external features and new model number are intended to be correlated by the buyer to the hidden significantly differentiated sound of the box/component. This all combines to propagate the widely held view that a DSP can't possibly play two channel as well as a dedicated two channel amp.
If I had the money to have both 2 channel and multi channel systems at the level I want my 2 channel.
I would own both.
Unfortunatly there is no way I am going to invest $$$$$$$ into MC music, when I can use that same money to make my 2 channel even better than it is now.
I listen to some MC music but it really is the material that keeps me from being more into optmized MC gear, I enjoy trying MC music and sometimes it sounds great, but 98% is 2 channel in my house. Perhaps if I had better Pro, better rear speakers, amps and set-up I would be more into the whole pursuit of MC music, but I just dont really care.
I'm 2ch and see the point of listening music from the "orchestra" seat. To my understanding music won't need surrounds even for the multichannel rather than having an extra center channel. I don't think that I want to hear some instrument(s) playing behind me except cases such as Pink Floyd "The Wall" when I'd realy prefere MC listening with all those helicopter sounds and other sound effects.
I've found quite a peaceful co-existence between listening to multichannel and 2 channel thru my system. Multichannel, done right, is downright fabulous - it blows two channel clear outta the water in many ways. However, 2 channel done right can sound awfully darn good and there's enough room in my audio world for both. The key is "done right"....

I spend the majority of my time chasing down superlative source material. That, and the speaker/room interaction, makes more difference in the quality of the reproduced sound than anything else. Nothing upgrades a system better than a great source!

Do 2channel only audiophiles shun multichannel (discrete or DSP based) because they find it too complicated?

If the concept of thinking in 360 degrees (Multichannel) were simplified, for a lack of better terms, would multichannel be more accepted?





John, let me say right on.
I'm guessing that Multichannel setup is a bit unfamiliar and inconvenient for many veteran audiophiles. It requires more high quality (forget HTIB) gear and a LOT more work to get it "right". Once you've heard multichannel correctly done, it's hard to go back to 2 channel.

Imagine going to a concert and having to stand just outside the open doorway to listen! That is now how I feel about 2-channel stereo! Don't we want to be IN the concert hall?
I don't do multichannel because I don't watch much TV.

I think that setting up a 2-channel system right is already extremely difficult. It has taken me 7 years to get mine right in the room I'm in now.

Chasmo, you are certainly right about how expensive it would be to match the quality of my two channel with at least three additional channels as well as how much more difficult it would be to deal with the proper placement of the speakers and setting everything to proper levels. Then there is the matter of software. I have heard mc setups at shows and in dealers. I heard nothing that interested me. Were it possible to go back and capture outstanding performances in the past in mc, I might be interested. I concede that there have been some efforts to do this.

You suggest that 2-channel is like standing in an open doorway rather than in the theater. I find that much mc is like being in the center of the orchester and having a blanket over your head. You may know the music is all around you but it has no realism.
Tbg...With excellent imaging speakers and with precise placement of them in an acoustically treated room a 2-channel system can create the sensation of three-dimensional space. But this is, in the end, only a psychoacoustical trick, and is easily disrupted by moving the listener's location. On the other hand, a good multichannel system, especially with the 2+2+2 speaker configuration creates a real (not in your head) three dimensional sound field. You can walk around in it.
Tbg, let me say right on. :)
Tbg and Jmcgrogan,

I agree that multi-channel music often leaves a lot to be desired. Concert DVD's are often a mixed bag. However many of todays compressed CD's leave a lot to be desired not all recordings are great, even in stereo.

IMHO, the first problem is NOT multi-channel as a concept but poor quality unbalanced systems (either a full set of very cheap multi-channel speakers or a hodge podge of speakers with some completely inappropriate rear speakers and sub compared to fantastic main speakers - no wonder multi-channel sounds no better or even worse than stereo). I believe the second problem is producer's budget and studios. Stereo mixing and mastering is easy or "cookie cutter" after 50 years of music recording; engineers are still mostly inept/inexperienced at surround sound and trained to master an entire stereo CD in a few hours for very little pay. Producers are used to this approach and are rarely willing to spend the necessary money to produce a decent surround sound for a music DVD.

How did I come to these conclusions? Simple, I just listen to any big budget movie sound track and it is comletely obvious that high quality surround sound done with a proper budget (often taking weeks/months of audio engineering) can be absolutely amazing! If you don't have a decent surround system then just go to a high end movie theater and you can appreciate the quality potential of surround sound. (BTW: Movie DVD recording standards are very DIFFERENT than CD's - CD's get abused and compressed to sound loud as there are NO recording level standards for a CD whereas movie soundtracks preserve dynamic range and realism as there are standards for recording levels like THX etc.)

I am convinced that a surround system with matched speakers of similar quality to the mains can sound awesome on a good mix. Far better and more realistic than stereo.

Unfortunately most peope are not prepared to invest properly in surround speakers and therefore criticise the format as being inferior. Why do I feel justified in making thes ecomments? Because I use a pair of ATC SCM 20's driven by a Bryston 4B for rear surround speakers - a $6,000+ rear surround speaker setup that many would find quite acceptable as MAIN speakers.
"You suggest that 2-channel is like standing in an open doorway rather than in the theater. I find that much mc is like being in the center of the orchester and having a blanket over your head. You may know the music is all around you but it has no realism."

Wow--we sure do listen to different music AND you've never heard my system. MC reproduction of MC Classical recordings sounds so much more natural and real than 2-channel reproduction that I too would never go back to 2-channel. I hear lots of real music--lots of highly skilled, real people playing in good spaces--and that's always what I compare reproduced music to. I have NEVER heard a 2-channel system sound even close to as good as my MC system when playing Classical music.

Complicated? I simply don't care.
Tbg wrote: "You suggest that 2-channel is like standing in an open doorway rather than in the theater. I find that much mc is like being in the center of the orchester and having a blanket over your head."

You just have not heard anything representative of what good MCH can do. I can understand the arguments that good MCH is too expensive, too complex (for some) or too bulky but I cannot understand not finding it superior to 2 channel.

Two channel would be preferable to two channel through a mc setup. There are just too few available mc recordings to undertake the expense, especially since no one at shows has shown the foresight to bother with good recordings. Often now days at shows the demonstrators seem indifferent even to the quality of two channel recordings.
In fact, well done pseudo MC (derived rear channels, ala Hafler) with good amplification and speakers, is very convincing for classical music and especially 'real' sounding on organ music.
My venerable Lafayette 4-ch decoder (SQ and derived) is the basis of my MC. Just don't crank up the rear channels so that you can hear them, about 15db lower in volume seems to be just right for most discs, that aren't SQ encoded, of course.
Salut, Bob
Impepinnovavations, SQ and pseudo mc, wow! Those are wrong words to say in my opinion. Probably 20 years ago I invested heavily in trying to generate rear channel sounds using Haflers, Lafayette, and Audio Plus, I think it was called. Not once did I achieve anything that I would listen to despite two instances with professional efforts made to tailor the settings for their best results.

If mc is not discrete on the disc, I am not going to listen to it or make any new effort to introduce it into my system. My disinterest comes from what I have heard with discrete channels on the disc. Until I hear a convincing demonstration on music I value, I won't spend a cent to get mc.
I won't be baited into this fiasco again. If MC works for you, enjoy it. I've 'been there, done that' with MC. Maybe I'm just old-fashioned, but 2-channel, vinyl and tubes rule. :)

Peace out,
I won't be baited into this [MC] fiasco

A fiasco?

2-channel, vinyl and tubes rule.

Of course they do.
"Now...(,)before I go any further, this is not in (TO) insight a riot (,) and (OR)(TO) bombard the moderators with request(S) to have this thread pulled (,) because it "potentially offends" 2 channel lovers."

Cdwallace? I count several grammer and spelling problems here. Do you have spell check on your computer? It's hard to read your post here. Thank you
Tbg...You are quite correct that matrix multichannel from vinyl rarely produced good effect. I think that two reasons are:
1...The rear channels were predominantly vertical groove modulation which is noisy.
2...Four channels from two is too much to ask. Matrix 3-channel (to drive a center speaker) is good.

With CDs, reason 1 does not apply, but the results are still poor. But, with digital, the oportunity for discrete multichannel exists, so why bother with matrix?
Were I to have ever heard a demonstration of mc with discrete channels that was not the "you are in the orchester" variety, I might be more tempted by mc. Even then the doubling of my investment in audio would be offputting as would the lack of music in mc discrete.
Tbg...Many MC discs do not put the listener "in the orchestra" although some people who play or played in an orchestra or chior enjoy such a presentation. I find it particularly appropriate for chamber music where live performances are ideally held in relatively small rooms that do put the listener in the midst of the performers. Jazz too.

Some DVDA let you select the mix you prefer: "stage" or "audience".
"Were I to have ever heard a demonstration of mc with discrete channels that was not the "you are in the orchester" variety, I might be more tempted by mc. "

Most have the traditional perspective with the orchestra/soloists up front and ambience in the rear/surround and offer a more accurate recreation of the original venue's acoustics than does stereo. Of course, SOME actually want to be inside the orchestra.

Kal, again all I can say is that I have yet to hear a demonstration with the traditional perspective at CES, THE Show, or the RMAF. Have you?
Yes, at CES but it is rare.
No, for THE Show.
Never been to RMAF.

Peter McGrath (of Wilson) and I have talked about this problem at length because we know of no place that we can recommend where the interested can satisfy their curiosity about MCH. I have many stories about conductors/composers who had not heard their own work on MCH (SACD) but were stunned when they finally did.

To answer your question, I simply dislike multichannel. I enjoyed the newness of the experience in a home built in 1992 (and sold in 1999) but quickly grew tired of multichannel music and movies. It has nothing to do with simplicity; it has to do with unnatural sound IMHO. But to each his own. If you enjoy the experience, then by all means, do not cheat yourself out of this musical environment. However, it is just not my preference.
I definately agree with you on the great sound of multichannel. Been listening in one form or another since 1971. However, cannot agree that matrix isn't effective. I use matrix for all my 2 channel sources and it sounds great. I have an Angstom processor and Mike Moffitt has developed an algorithm for surround matrix that is astonishing imo. I have a problem with SACD mc because of the noise in the rear channels. I do not have this problem with dvd-a, dd or dts (which is my favorite surround mode)
Take dark side of the moon. Playing the mofi cd in my matrix is easier to listen to than the SACD. However, if the noise factor wasn't there, the SACD would be great. Also, I use the matrix to play back SACD 2 ch cds with good results. Same with HDCDs which I think sound even better than SACDs. I understand that mixing and mastering are a big part of the eqation, so I wont get into that. Long live multi-channel!!
I think it is apparent that some find mc enjoyable and others find nothing that tempts them. It is not a matter of complication anymore than it is that the mc group have low resolving systems with poor speakers that need the added clues from mc.
Madhf: Can you explain what you mean about noise in the rear channels of SACD mc? I have never heard such. If you are referring to music/sounds in the rear channels, that has absolutely nothing to do with the format and everything to do with the mixing/mastering. As a result, it is at least as prevalent in DVD-A as in SACD and, in my experience, more so.

Distortion mostly. It could be in the mixing/mastering, but it's in every SACD I have. The best of the bunch is the Stones Sympathy for thr Devil. I cannot speak for classical or most jazz but in the other genres it's there. I pointed this out to a local high end dealer (a strong advocate of SACD). We compared some 2 ch (Moody Blues Question... for one) SACDs vs Mofi gold thru a pretty high end rig and he had to agree that there was more distortion on the SACD. IMO SACD just doesn't compare with DTS or dvd-a. If you don't experience this you're lucky.
tbg-- Your assumption that those who enjoy multichannel over 2 ch because their systems are low resolving with poor speakers is way off base. I for one have a pretty decent system (full range Apogee speakers all around driven by quality electronics, so resolution is not an issue. I think those who prefer well presented surround like the concert hall ambiance that quite frankly is somewhat lacking in 2 ch not matter how good the system. My Diva's present an incredible soundstage in 2 ch, but when I enhance it with surround it becomes even more incredible. Some love 2ch because they think it's the most natural way to listen. To appreciate the effects of good surround music takes a desire to train one's listening habits in that direction. It may not be for all and that's fine, but it shouldn't be "bashed" until it is heard properly heard. Everyone who has heard my system (including some musicians) have been extremely impressed.
Well, Madhf, I wish you could give me one example of the distortion and, perhaps, a better description of it as it applies to a disc that I have. If you listen to the rear channels only, the sound is, of course, quite strange in most cases since it is a pick-up of the hall sound and a very remote pickup of the main performance.

Now, you are also pointing out the difference between two renderings of an old performance (Moody Blues), neither in MCH and, again, I question the relevance of this to a general conclusion. It is possible that you are hearing a difference in the mastering that has nothing to do with the formats.

Do you ever listen to modern recordings in any of these formats?

BTW, I think it is less that one needs to learn to listen in MCH than that one needs to unlearn thinking that 2 channel is an accurate representation of a real event. We have listened in 2 channel for so long, it has become the de facto standard for us.

To mirror the comments above, I've heard MC reproduction at CES and I wasn't particularly impressed, but my lack of satisfaction could probably be ascribed to both a horribly (un)treated hotel room and a music selection that - for me - left a great deal to be desired. That session reminded me of my old LP stereo demo records. However, I'm certainly open to another demo, should such an opportunity arise.

But, I don't necessarily agree with Kal that I need to 'unlearn' my preference for 2 channel reproduction. Living near Seattle, I have access to three outstanding jazz venues and, on numerous occasions, after enjoying a live performance at Jazz Alley, Triple Door or Tula's, I have returned home, warmed up my system and heard the same musicians perform the same music in a much more 'realistic' setting. Of course it's an illusion, and of course I'm easily suggestible (perhaps more than most), but my simple (meaning as few components as possible in the chain) system continues to sound better than what I generally experience at the clubs...excepting audience reactions and the general disturbances caused by cutlery and clinking glasses.

Moreover, while there are quite a few MC jazz or blues remasters, they represent a very, very small percentage of the artists that inhabit my library...and how many copies of Kind of Blue do I need?