Pick your poison...2-channel or multi?

This post is just to get a general ideas among audiophiles and audio enthusiasts; to see who really likes what. Here's the catch!

If you were restricted to a budget of $10,000, and wanted to assemble a system, from start to finish, which format would you choose, 2 channel or mulichannel?

I'll go first and say multichannel. I've has to opportunity to hear a multichannel setup done right and can't see myself going back to 2-channel. I'm even taking my system posting down and will repost it as a multichannel system.

So...pick your poison! Which one will it be, 2-channel or multichannel.
"I've ha(d) (an) opportunity to hear a multichannel setup done right and can't see myself going back to 2-channel." You must have heard mine, CD! :-)

I love big-orchestra Classical and film music, and MC is REALLY 'where it's at' (as the semiliterate diddeeboppers say). MC sound is MUCH more spacious and natural sounding to me. The people who record big-orchestra stuff in MC seem to realize that we want the sounds of real orchestras playing in real spaces; hence they back the mics off a bit and do NOT play with them* (much, at least) during the performance. I have almost a hundred MC Classical and film discs and am buying more all the time.

$10,000? I'd still have Eminent Technology 8s in my system, a 6-channel analog preamp, and a separate poweramp, altho I might have to use a single MC poweramp instead of tubed separates.

* except DG in the Philharmonie; those MC recordings sound gain-ridden, as if the engineers/producers STILL can't stand the thought of having, say, a solo flute actually sound as if it's 10 or 15 feet farther back in the orchestra.
On a $10,000 budget - 2-channel!
Thanks for the spell check. I'll try to be a little more careful next time.

Glad to see your horizons have been broadened. Enjoy your days in MC bliss.
I have a hard enough time working with two speakers and a room. But, I would love to have 10k to blow on a pair of Wilsons. Stereo for me.
Don't you mean a $6000 multichannel system and a $14,000 two channel system?

That is a more fair distribution of $20K in this contest.

See the 6K/14K causes a real problem because with some luck I could sell my $14,000 two channel system to some unsuspecting noob, for $7,000+ easy, thus I could then buy a $7,000+ surround system, which is even better than the $6000 surround system....am I off topic? Can I change the rules mid thread?, because I think the question is too easy?

OK, I'll shut up now, I'm voting surround.
Cinematic_Systems - You bring up an interesting point that I really didn't think of when I started the thread.

OK EVERYONE, let mix things up then. 14k is the budget for 2channel, 6K for MC. You rooms are equal; you have enough space to properly setup a 2channel or MC system. This is your realistic budget, you can't spend a dime more.

Well Neo, which will it be? The blue pill or the red pill?
If the budgets were the same, I would go 2-channel. A high quality 2-channel system IMHO would be more enjoyable than a not-as-high-quality multi-channel system. Most of the music I listen to isn't available or wasn't recorded in multi-channel, and I wouldn't sacrifice the high end sound quality to get surround effects in home theater movies...
No doubt - 2 Channel. It would have been the other way around not too long ago.
Philnyc - I have to disagree with you on one minor detail. IMHO, Mediocre MC systems have now become just as good as "High Quality" 2-channels systems. High end MC systems are on the same playing field as High end 2-channel, when kept within the equal budget limitations. Of course, if you exceed the budget of even $14k, or a $30k high end budget for that matter, I'm more than sure you could assemble a system that would rival a MC system within the same budget perameters. I'm beginning to realise that there are many recordings, especially those of a grand scale, that are recorded originally in MC. This is where the most if not all of your delays and room/location ambience comes from. However, most mixes are done in 2-channel. It's restructured to fit in 2 channels, but that doesn't mean it was originally ment or intended to be there. Your not gonna find a recording done with only 2 mics, one on the left and one on the right. But instead of hearing it in it's proper perspective, it's held to the front soundstage. More and more mixes are done in MC now. They may not be released in MC, but they are mixed.

I'm starting to see that most audiophiles think rear channals are only intended for movie effects. IMHO, this is quite the contrary. So much information is compressed to the front soundstage in 2 channel. Imagine, for a moment if you will, you have orchestra seating at the Myerhoph Symphany or take someones experience of Jimi Hendrix at '69 Woodstock, and compressing it to 2 speakers in front of you. I mentioned that some scenario to a audiophile friend of mine...his response was "That's (2-channel) was the way it's supposed to be." Try telling that to someone who was there to see Hendrix live!!! It's tolerable if your in an auditorium or in a stadium, but if your in you 17x25ft living room, how can it accurate reproduce your experience with speakers? It can't compare. But if you can take all the benifits of 2 channel...accuracy, imaging, etc., and reproduce that live feel??!! No, your not back at the original performance, but certainly won't get there with 2 channel either.

By no means am I a 2 channel basher or anti-audiophile belief system, but so many audiophiles have been closed minded to MC...by choice. There are great times to be had in MC, but we're too scared to break the mold. Not because our ears may tell us something different, but because "I won't have Conrad Johnson's or Wilson's in my system" or "I won't be able to say I have an all tube system."

If that's how you choose to listen to music, then by all means enjoy. There's just more to the material than you think. Once MC sound reproduction becomes produced, setup, configured, and marketed more effectively, 2 channel may become a thing of the past. The average consumer just hasn't experienced MC the way it was originally intended...with the same effort and energy as 2 channel.
When you go to a concert is the music playing from all directions or from in front of you? I realize that you have sound waves bouncing off walls in a concert hall but, I have walls in my room for the waves to bounce off too. I can see having some of the crowd noise and such in a live recording coming from the rear but, that's it.

I try to make my system sound as close to live music as possible on the budget I have.

I vote 2 channel.
Eldarado - You have a valid point. The music is coming from in front of you, and possibly from the sides...depending on how close you're sitting to the source. But does your listening room sound like a concert hall? Can your listening room replicate...60% of the locations where your music was recorded? If so, whats the secret. I would love for my 12x15 living room to sound like the concert auditorium my classical pieces were recorded in.

Maybe I'm a little misguided. I've had the priviledge to sit in on a recording session or two. IME, Mics are specifically set up in the farthest portion of the room to record the ambience of the room when the instruments are played, as well as the instruments played in the room in order to achieve the intended echo attack and delay. The recording location is meticulously picked out for the purpose, among others, of ambience. If the entire recording staff...as well as the production staff...intentionally had these mics setup in their specific locations...BEHIND the would-be listening position, they why do I wanna ONLY listen to them in front of me on my stereo? If the purpose is to replicate the ambiance of an unusually large room, why do I wanna replace that with the sound of my 12x15 living room walls? Thats not what was intended, why do I wanna change it? If that were the case, it's pointless to record at a live venue in or in a studio any large than your musicians can fit in.

Please excuse the enthusiasm, but I know what my ears heard. Does anyone else hear what I'm hearing? I do need insight on this, because obviously, I'm a little lost...or am I?
I think a good MCh system evolves once you have a "good" (whatever that is, to each of us) stereo system. If the 2 Ch system is too harsh in the highs or has boomy bass, or uninteresting mids, an expanded MCh system might give a more impressive venue but still have all the irritants. And this at much more cost. And the amplifier(s) for MCh is a greater cost at perhaps lesser quality. Moreover, it is EXTREMELY difficult to set up a MCh system in the average room correctly, as opposed to the flexibility of a stereo set up. SO... I say, given a large room with adequate flexibility for both set ups and careful component/speaker matching, the MCh system can offer more in music. But for 10k? I might just have to go stereo.
I'm not on the fence - I enjoy my MCh system greatly but also often listen to it in 2 Ch; and for 10k I think it would be hard to put together a quality 5 channel system.
I used to have an $6k MC system and now have a (roughly) $10 stereo.

To me, it's no contest, Stereo. If I had a bigger budget I'd have a $15k or $20k stereo. A good stereo in a treated room can do everything that the same priced MC can do, ambiance/reverb/echo behind and around you, or instruments placed above or behind the listener.

The trick is to work on the room and good quality masterings.

I'd much rather give up some wall and corner space for acoustic treatments than floor space for equipment and gadgets.
Jimmy2615 - You bring up excellent points about MC. MC does require a little more intuative preparation than 2 channel and, yes MC is no good without a solid 2-channel starting point. But how many races have you see where the runner starts from the beginning and stands still shortly there after. Thats like a Nascar driver completing 10 laps and going home.

I am a true advicate of 2 channel. I've heard some of the best of what 2 channel has to offer. But if there is more to offer, then why are so many affraid to take consider that option. A thick juicy steak is great, but its even better when its cooked the way I want it. If you like your steak rare, then great! Thats how you like it, rare! You like it medium well, fine medium well it is. But should someone settle for rare when you can have it the way you want it. Then again, how do you know what you like unless you've tried it all.

I'm not saying that everyone should listen only to 2 channel or only to MC. I'm saying take the time to try correct MC and then make a decision. I've notive just by this thread that those who have listened to MC, have some likes and dislikes. But those who have never tried it are the ones that are completely dead-set against it. I'm almost positive that those are the ones who say "2-channel and nothing else. Thats the way its supposed to be." They probably didn't come to that conclusion on there own. There just repeating what some else said or what they read in Stereophile or Absolute Sound.

Also, IME I've heard excellent sounding MC systems in average size rooms, ie 15x21 and so on. Its far from the extreme as you might think.

A general question to the audiophile crowd. If I were to present a properly setup and configured MC system, in the same size as your current listening room, for half the price of your current system, and the only catch is for your to maintan an open mind about what your ears are really telling you, how many people would take the time to listen? Or has high end audio closed its doors only to what Dave Wilson says?

* As a side note, I have nothing against either Dave Wilson or the mentioned magazines and happen to consistantly read both in a monthly basis.
Let me help out a little with this thread,

First of all if you want a mediocre surround system, build it from the left and right speakers. Its not how you do it. You can sell it that way but you don't design it that way. The processor is almost as important as the speakers, yes really.

Strabo don't be so cryptic, what was your $6K surround system? And what is your $10K 2 channel system?
I think that could be quite enlightening to us and help us understand your experience.

BTW when people refer to rear and side channels as "Gadgets" and thinks their listening room can effectively be used to create surround...you're not going to be able to explain anything, you will just have to wait until they have an experience like your's CD.

I think with these kind of threads you get more information on the wrong way to do things than the correct way. Simply the wrong approaches mentioned above. They sound "logical" but they don't work out at all. Which is why the ones explaining all the obstacles to surround in the end say two channel. Hmmm, now that's the only thing that makes sense to me :)

I'm not opposed to multichannel. This thread posed the question that if you had $10,000 to spend, would you choose to spend it on a 2-channel system or a multichannel system. At that price point, I feel that the money would be best spent getting the best pair of speakers, amp, preamp, and CD/source affordable at that budget. Because for a multichannel system at that pricepoint, I'd probably be looking at a great AV receiver, 5 speakers plus a sub, and a DVD player which IMHO would not satisfy my high-end listening needs...whereas a 2-channel system at that price could probably get me some nice separates, full range high end speakers, and a nice source.

If the question was "if you had $50,000, which would you choose", I might go for the multichannel system. Because at that budget, I feel like I could get the level of components that would satisfy my high end needs.

And before anyone jumps on me, I do realize that its more than just about the quality of the components...it's about synergy, setup, room acoustics, and all the other stuff that makes this hobby fun. My response is with all that stuff being equal...
Cinematic_systems, sorry, didn't know I needed to be verified.

I jumped into MC early (1992?) with a Pro-logic system centered around Klipsch Forte II's (bought new)and various center and surround speakers (read: tried different things over 10 years time).

Bit by the upgrade bug to go dedicated surround a few years ago with a Denon 4802. That lasted a week before being returned.

Picked up an entry level Sony SACD/DVD player for a new digital source.
Upgraded to an Anthem AVM-20 and PVA-5,
then a Lexicon NT-512 before trying tubes for the mains.
Used Quicksilver KT-88 monos for a short time. Liked it for low level listing, Sold.
Tried a SuperAmp DJH version. Sold.
Upgraded the speakers to Sonus Faber GP Homes with Solo center and Wall surrounds.
Then picked up a VAC PA100/100.
Added a Denon-3910 Universal player.

Currently using the Anthem, VAC combo to run the mains and I love it. Lost interest in listening to MC so I rearanged the listening room for two channel and sold the rears.

I did keep the Solo (center) to widen the sweet spot for movie night. It's powered by the PVA-5 the once a month (maybe) it is used. Not bad using a 5 channel amp to power a center speaker. :)

I sometimes do miss the rear channels for movies but not at all for music. I did try the center with a couple of three channel recording (JT - Hourglass SACD comes to mind) but for the trouble, I'll take the stereo version.

Does that help? :)

Funny thing unlike many, you pretty much own the right equipment, except the SF center channel does not work like it should BUT its serviceable.

If you brought the rears back and afforded me a GP Homie for a center channel, I am CERTAIN that your opinion would change quickly and absolutely. Your VAC100's would be a likely looking for a new home. Heck you don't even need that expensive Denon, rip that out too. Cambridge DVD87 will fill in nicely.

BTW, we're not talking about using multi-channel recordings we are talking about all your 2 channel CD's playing on a level that your current more expensive two channel system can only hint at. Using Prologic II. Trust me if I was afforded the opportunity to show you what that Anthem can REALLY do, you'd bang your head against the wall because you've had it all this time. (Even with the homie Center!)

Promise. My insurance is the Anthem is so good as a processor, I can probably make your multi-channel playback sound just like your current two channel system...if you REEALLY wanted it that way. :)

Thanks for the extra info, I appreciate it.
Philnyc...your even more an enthusiest than I imagined. Thanks for explaining your thoughts even though your really didn't have to. Please excuss the spontanious venting, but it really irks me to here "MC is not for audiophiles" or MC is a joke when most audiophiles really haven't heard what MC is supposed to sound like.

Keeping all things equal I can understand how you may have come to your conclusion. IME I recently heard a $6k MC system that competed with a $14K 2-channel system that a local audioshop is selling. I won't name any names, but they're household named companies amongst audiophiles. You'd be supprised if you had the chance to audition. And heres the kicker...get ready to call me crazy and a novice! The $6k system....based around Cambridge Audio gear. No, it ain't high end, but it was rather convincingly close. I'm sure there are other components that would run circles around the Cambridge. But hey, this is what was considered to be the bottom of the totem pole. The systems just get better from there.

I'm presently making arrangements to here the upgraded versions of the system. When I give them a listen, I'll definately fill you in.
Cinematic_systems...I don't think Strabo REALLY wants that. It will complete destroy the audiophile belief system. IMO, I think Strabo gave MC a shot, but with little to no extra guidence and lack of exposure to its true potential, Strabo, like so many others, got frustrated and conseeded to 2 channel. If you show him how its done, what will his other audiophile buddies think? He may even be banned from audiogon! Dave Wilson may even disown him! :0

Strabo...I'm just yankin' your chain. But I will say this. It seems as if Cinematic_systems is willing to go the xtra mile and offer further assistance. Are you willing to give it a shot? Not completely give up 2-channel, but give MC another shot and do it the right way? Well Strabo...will it be the blue pill or the red one?

**Before I get threatning notes, I have nothing against Dave Wilson. Lighten up! Its what some call a joke :)
You can have both!!! I just recently went back to multichannel and for those guys that say they aren't missing anything b/c all their music is two channel or it's less realistic b/c all the info comes from the front anyway probably haven't heard what surround formats like Prologic II can do to recordings. I love the subtle ambient info my rear channels pump out. It pulls you on stage with the performer rather than in the audience. Is it as realistic? Maybe not, but in a good concert hall you'll have a domed ceiling which will greatly amplify the reflected sound you hear and almost mimic a surround sound setup. That said, I built my system around the front 2channels and when listening to music the rears are set to small and slightly attenuated, and the center is off so the majority of sound still comes from 'stereo'. I have a seperate 2ch amp which helps as well. I don't think a center channel does a good job with music (it sits in a cabinet shelf below my TV which isn't great for sound). For movies and concert DVD's all five are properly balanced so the soundtrack determines speaker volume.
Perkadin...thats just one of the many benifits audiophiles are missing with MC. I personally prefer the center channel on a blended in with the fronts. But thats the option that I can choose. Its flexible to my taste. With 2 channel, your just stuck. What you see is what you get, unless your willing to part with another $5k. Glad to see you've come back to light.

Any other converts among us?
I'm sorry, I guess you haven't heard 2 or 4 track pre-recorded factory Reel to reel tapes. Played through one of the many fine systems that so many of us in paritcular have. You can't even think about going to put on a CD let alone a Multi track recording. Capturing the musuic in this way opens up ones senses to the art of reproduced music.
I have both. All ALON speakers on the multichannel set-up.
$10K to spend... I'd be happy as a pig in #$% with the 2 channel set-up I'd be buying.
Surfgod...Your guess is correct. I have never heard 2 or 4 track pre-recorded factory reel to reel tapes with musuic. I'm not sure if many people have heard such a thing. I'm sure that you could probably count on your hands and toes as to how many people still have cassette players, let along reel to reel players. I was born pre-1975. Can't say I've had the experience. Actually, the recording sessions I've been involved with didn't use reel to reel either. They've used 24 track digital Hard drives or ADAT type tapes. This is for pre and post production.

I would assume however, 2 or 4 track reel to reel doesn't compare to CD. Nevertheless, how would this be better than multichannel? Superior quality? Ambience? Does it capture the recording accurately for future reproduction? I would believe not!! But hey, I never heard 2 or 4 track so what do I know???!

Wait a minute surgod...but wouldn't 4-track be multichannel? Wouldn't anything more than 2 tracks be considered multichannel for that matter? Sooo...I'm a little lost here. Care to explain?

Let me guess, you've been an audiophile since you've heard your first 4 track reel to reel recording?

Pardon the snideness, but I can't get the point.
Let me chime in again and offer a formal appology to Surgod and all others I may have offended. It's not my charactor to be so "in your face" and rude. It's truely not my intention. Don't piss on my leg and tell me it's raining, though!!! But I never want to be rude.

My goal is to figure out who knows what they're talking about and who doesn't. Apparently, I've started weeding out the one's who don't. I haven't seen a response from Surgod or anyone else since 5/25/06.

Back to the original purpose of the thread. You've got 6k to spend on a MC system and/or 14k on a 2channel system. Which one do you pick and why?

As a side note, it's benificial for everyone, espceially the newcomers to the hobby, if you post answers based on 1st hand experience! If you haven't heard a properly setup MC system, and can come to conclusion based on your experience and preference, please don't respond. It doesn't take much to resite what you see in a magazine or have heard from a friend who's friend's cousin told you something he read.

PS - Am I in the twilight zone or are more of the 1950 era recordings being remastered in thier original 3 channel and quadrophonic setups?
If you have to distribute $10,000 over 5+ speakers, a subwoofer, 6+ channels of amplification, a processor and the usual digital source, in music fidelity terms you've got nuthin'. Put that money into two channels only and the quality of everything goes up dramatically, without spending a dollar more. And you'll get satisfying sound out of movies too. You can also have better vocal clarity than any center channel speaker can provide you. In all ways, the 2 channel alternative will be better, except one -- you won't have primary sonic events happening behind you. So what? -- You don't in real circumstances anyway. Moreover, the number of multi-channel recordings that make any good use of the format is tiny, and as we've seen in prior attempts at more than 2-channel sound, very few engineers have any clue how to use the format to contribute to fidelity, as opposed to novelty and special effects. It might be that some "audiophiles and audio enthusiasts" will accept the sonic degradations of multi-channel in that budget, but musicophiles who care about genuine fidelity won't.

213 Cobra

"in music fidelity terms you've got nuthin'"

So unwise, your choice of words. Harvard's School of Medicine and Bell Labs disagree, they say we've got more fidelity and musicality. They said it not me...like in the 50's and 60's

CDwallace is trying to tell you that he's heard differently, and if you read carefully what you "think" now is no different from what he "thought" before his experience.

See he strolled into a situation he wasn't prepared for, and you also would not be prepared for either. And he embellishes in the comparison as the surround system was less than $10K and the two channel systems $15K+, 30K+....hmm. Some pricey lambs.

I can tell you have very little surround experience;

Know where you went wrong,

"You can also have better vocal clarity than any center channel speaker can provide you."

I'm sorry, you're just plain wrong. Even the physics is against you on this one. And this extra clarity is not at the expense of a uniform deep soundstage, just incase you were wondering.

It appeared also that you trying to tell us what we can use for a center channel? I suppose I MUST have a BIG TV in this system to satisfy your vision of this system too? You can't make me have one!:) If you burden us with what you think a surround system is, of course you would be correct about its sound quality. But I must say your imagination is not quite up to the task of outlining what you are missing, it certainly has nothing to do with things behind you as most would incorrectly assume. Although the rear channels are critical and must be on, they do so much more than just make noise in the back....much much more.

Just so you know; any speaker designated as a "center channel" should not be used in a music surround system if it can be helped...there are some exceptions to this rule but just a few.

Two channel is the sonic degradation, but I know the masses of musicophile's opinions are overwhelmingly on your side.....for just a little while longer. But keep an open mind, "cause times they are a changin'" :)
213cobra - Thanks for the response. It's funny you say that a $10k MC system is "nothin'". Even funnier that you say a 10K 2channel system is "dramatically goes up in quality." Care to elaberate?

What about the performance of the systems. No, the names of the manufactors don't even compare!!! I will say you are 200% correct. But what about the performance of the system? I've notice the majority of "audiophiles" do a lot of name dropping, which is "nothin'". Who cares about what brand name you have, isn't it supposed to be about performance anyway?

And your right...few do have the know how to bring the best out of MC mixes. What are you implying by this? If more engineers had a clue as how to use the format better....? What are you not saying by this comment?
I really love multichannel, and have set up my system for it. Dynaudio Temptations for the mains, Dynaudio Evidence center and C4-s for surrounds. The player was an EMM Labs CDSD/Dac6e until recently. Now it's an Esoteric X01 limtied. The v=center and rears go through a Theta Casablance courtesy of a Theta 6-shooter. Having said that, the problem is that there isn't much well-recorded music that I like. Yes, movies are spectacular (a retractable screen is a necessity), but that wasn't the point of the room. One of the few is the recent Ray Charles. When you go from MC to 2 channel, the sound just seems to collapse. It is also worth noting thast the acoustics of a 2-channel room is different than for an MC setup. I use diffusers rather than absorbers at the first reflection point as well as in the back, and room has very lively, dynamic sound.

David Shapiro
Hey David if you're interested in getting the most out of your system on two channel CD's drop me an email and I can help you setup your system playback to enhance your 2 channel discs to the same degree multi channel discs play.

There's a free upgrade hidden in your system.

email me you number and let start using it.

One has to be definitive to be heard in these debates. So I take a clear position which also corrseponds to what I believe, advise and have experienced.

Look, it doesn't matter what has been posited academically or by research labs regarding the psycho-acoustics of MC -- no system made available to date has been anything close to convincing. But more to the point, they have been destructive of tone, corrosive to holistic representation of sound, and any damaging to realism in spatial presentation.

But let's put even those flaws aside for a moment. $10,000! What compromise must you make in quality of power amplifiers and speakers to spread much of that money over 5.1 or 7.1 channels, instead of 2? I can promise you it is a vast qualitative difference in gear, and no amount of processing makes up for it. In fact, the processing exacerbates it.

That budget is much too low to be able to match in 5.1 channels the tonal, spatial, musical and emotional fidelity that can be attained in 2. Moreover, very few rooms can intelligently accommodate more than 2 channels. I've been through, in detail, the promise of matrixed and discrete 4 channel; DTS; Dolby Surround; SACD Surround, etc., etc., etc. For $10,000, $20,000, $30,000, $40,000 and probably beyond, I can always pull together a system in which 2 channel reproduction will be more convincing.

I've heard the 20.2 system under development at USC with Tom Holman's participation. It was fascinating but not encouraging. High Fideltiy in music is not being achieved by maximizing the number of drivers. It cannot, at least today, be achieved by software correction for all the physical errors introduced by many imperfectly-matched drivers attempting to do the same thing. It is not being attained by discrete approximations of absorbed, reflected and reverberant energy. All of these attempts are sucking life and tone from musical sound. But even if you don't agree, surely you grasp that you can afford much better fundamental-performance speakers if you're only buying 2 on a capped budget, rather than 5. Surely you can agree that much better sounding amplification is available if you're buying only 2 channels of it. If you're buying at Best Buy, perhaps not. Let's assume you're buying elsewhere.

I have no argument with someone who likes MC for its gimmicks and novelties. Whatever entertains you! But if you want the highest possible music fidelity, communication of emotion, and tone, then 2 channels are your optimum solution at your stated price, and well above.

Oh.. CD... you had more questions:

1/ I didn't drop any names regarding equipment. I can but I didn't.

2/ If I set your expectations for fidelity with $10,000 of 2 channel system, you will not want to degrade it by subbing in 5.1 lesser channels. Instead you will be trying to figure out how to afford another $10,000 to TRY to avoid screwing up what you're hearing from 2.

3/ We're still plagued with enough recording engineers that don't have good judgement with stereo, after 50 years. You might be too old to hear before you can listen to a well-crafted multi-channel recording.

4/ Performance -- Go ahead, strip the labels. You can go into the hifi underground and find any number of ways to spend $10,000 on beautiful, solid, satisfying 2 channel by brands you've never heard of. You won't get brand seeking from me.


Surround in a pure music sense, sans center, sans TV, sans any expectation of ever being used for a movie soundtrack with the associated image in view, is still the same problem -- on a fixed $10K, one can easily assemble 2 channels that will sound better in every way, unless you are assigning inappropriately disproportionate weight to the artifacts that are ham-handedly represented by the non-primary speakers.

It's hash, unfortunately. All you have to do is listen.

Hey Phil,

Thanks for the thorough responses,

Let me give you an analogy to make something clear;

Scotty Pippen and Micheal Jordan in their prime, could not beat a Division II college team by themselves.

What you fail to realize in many instances, but this one inparticular, the power of five can elevate above the power of two. We are not building the same animals and that is what you have to realize. Surround divides labor, spreading the load making compentent speakers and amplifiers work well above and beyond their two channel capabilities. That's why audiophiles simply have terrible surround systems for the most part. They build off the front two channels, not the optimum way to approach the problem.

Surround fares much better with normal room conditions than two channel. One of two channels biggest weaknesses is its deleterius interaction with the room. Very very problematic.

"What compromise must you make in quality of power amplifiers and speakers to spread much of that money over 5.1 or 7.1 channels, instead of 2?"

Less than you think, let me also interject that I have no doubt in my mind that my skill assembling a two channel system is equal to yours. So what is preposed has been tested on skeptics like yourself time and again.

"We're still plagued with enough recording engineers that don't have good judgement with stereo, after 50 years. You might be too old to hear before you can listen to a well-crafted multi-channel recording."

I don't have any issues with poor recordings, must be your system is so revealing....or

Two channel is great for LP's which is why 40 years past Vinyls obsolescence we still play them. And why 23 years after the CD was invented we can't get the sound right, 2 channel is a boat anchor to digital, dragging it down.

"But if you want the highest possible music fidelity, communication of emotion, and tone, then 2 channels are your optimum solution at your stated price, and well above."

I'll see if I can't get some Zu Definition 1.5 speakers, compare them to my cheap surround system. See if they can hold up under the pressure. Two of my most recent victims don't think so after hearing the Zu's, but you have to have them side by side to really get a sense don't you think?

What amp should I use? what do you recommend Phil? I don't play with that niche of speakers much.

Hey if you live close to Baltimore, your welcome to participate. Should be fun.

If I were looking to put together a system for music only, no doubt it would be two channel. I've gone down the multichannel route and to me it was a waste of time and money, for music that is. Most of the multichannel recording are terrible. There are a couple that were done correctly and this can be quite nice, but these are few and far between and just not worth the hassle.

Now if I was looking to put together a multi-purpose sytem to be used for HT and music, if would definately multichannel. I disagree with those who say you can get the movie experience from just two speakers. Just too much going on and with HT the effect to the rear and .1 channels are essential IMO.

BTW, you can put together a system that does both very well at this price point.
Phil, hears the deal. I would believe everything you said about how 2 channel is far superior to MC....if my ears didn't tell me diffferently. It's wasn't novilty or special effects I was listening to. I EXPERIENCED the musical performance! To be honest with you, I think your partially ashamed to admit it, but your more "MC" than 2 channel anyway!!! The fact that you think with a larger budget, MC can even compare to what some call "the holy grail of music", tells me your borderline MC. Phil...there is still hope! There are programs out there tailored especially for you too. :)

No doubt there are systems that are spectacular when it comes to music reproduction. But lets face it, the majority cost more than 10K. I'm saying, IME, I've listened to a properly setup MC system that will smoke a lot of the 10K "budget systems" , and it costs around 6K. And thats just the entry level system.

You right, it doesn't matter how many speaker you can cram into a system. Its about maximizing performance with the one's you have. I'm saying, IME, I've heard a systems that will more convincing and/or encouraging than you think, and it won't cast 10K or be a 20.2 system.
Jack_Dotson...get ready to call me crazy. You haven't heard a proper MC setup until you can take your 2channel CD's, play them over the MC system, and it sounds mind-numbingly better in MC then in stereo. I can say that because I've heard it for myself. Your MC system can be setup to smoke just about any 2 channel system...while playing stereo CD's. And guess what...It may be less expensive than you current 2 channel system.

The only reason it was a waste of time and money is because whoever you went to for product and advice had no clue as to what they were doing!!! But all is not lost! You can get a MC system for both HT and Music. Interested? Let me know!!

OK...you can call me crazy now!!! :)
No, D, we don't agree. The "power of 5" is less than the power of 2 in placing realistic music reproduction in your home. The basketball analogy is a non-sequiter. More drivers in more positions with more crossovers, lower quality all the way around for a given sum of money; worse amplifiers, etc. etc. only translates to worse. Time confusion, magnified room interaction, phase confusion, etc. Nothing is really clear.

I have no idea whether your ability to set up a 2 channel system is comparable to mine, worse or better. And neither do you. But I live in the epicenter of the entertainment industry, saturated with multi-channel advocates. Sometimes they visit. I've had doubters of 2ch, full of multi-channel zeal, media or sound professionals all, forced to admit that they underestimated what can be achieved with 2 channels after hearing my system. They've also admitted that they could not possibly equal the tonal quality and music fidelity of my 2 channels without raising cost and seriously mucking up the aesthetics of my rooms.

For me, hifi must be in the living spaces, not sequestered to some kind of dedicated geek cave. Not that I would have multichannel sound if I elected to build a system in a dedicated space. But multichannel as comprised today is a joke as a technology to integrate in a social living space.

Up to any practical spending level I can think of, I can achieve a higher level of musical fidelity in 2 channels than in more than two, on the quality differences of the gear choices alone, as budget dictates. If I built a 2 channel system for the original poster's hypothetical $10,000, and then tried to extend that tonal quality to multichannel for perhaps $20,000, I'd then be able to spend that 20Gs on 2 channels better still. If you're paying attention to tone and realism, you just can't get away from that reality. However, if you put multichannel artifacts ahead of realism and tone, then nothing will convince you otherwise.

The original poster asked: "If you were restricted to a budget of $10,000, and wanted to assemble a system, from start to finish, which format would you choose, 2 channel or mulichannel?" My answer is unconditionally 2 channel, and it would be the same at 10X that budget, too.


Would you consider the acoustics department at USC, working with THX, to be competent at MC setup?

20.2 ch, way beyond any retail configuration, in a room engineered for optimal MC "realism." Stereo or MC was interesting as an acoustical phenomenon, and better than any MC setup I've heard elsewhere (plus I live in an area where skills for this are high, and installations are many), but it wasn't up to the acoustic truth I can get from my own 2 channels.

Economically, MC is good for the industry if people bite. And movies are the bait, notwithstanding the music crowd here. Unfortunately, MC is another unnecessarily complex and intrusive dead end for anyone seeking convincing tonal and spatial fidelty to the actual experience of listening to music live. Nonetheless, many will be seduced by it. As an economic choice I have no argument with their / your preference. Buy it and be happy. But anyone asking my advice is going to be steered clear of it by me.

Well Phil...What is the intended purpose of the 20.2 system? Is it MC music or commerical cinema theaters? If its theaters, your mixing apples with watermelons. In fact Tomilson Holman is a professor at USC...of Film Sound at the USC School of Cinema-Television. Where does this compare with MC music? Your right, it doesn't!

By the way, what was your take on the 20.2 system when you heard it? Have you heard the 20.2 system, for that matter? How was your experience? If you experience was a movie, then no need to answer, seeing we're attempting to stay on the subject!

Furthermore, you, as so many, have the mindset that MC is only for home theater!! You wrong again! Until you've experience what I've experienced, how can you call me a liar? But see thats the thing, I won't dare call you a liar because you've never heard it CORRECTLY with your own ears. When you do, you'll realize you've been lying...to yourself!!

MC is no more complex than stereo...if you know what your doing. If you don't then I can see how you came to the conclusion that it was far more complex.

That's all I'm hearing from so-called audio experts. MC is about movies! They've been crying that same sad tune, loud and wrong, for so many years! If you take movies out of the equation, and focus strictly on the music, take the time to listen, you'll see I know what I'm talking about.

Maybe its best we agree to disagree, although I am having a ball debating the issue. Until you've heard what I'm talking about, you'll never get it. By no means am I giving up on the fight, though. Especially with those who don't have a clue as to what I'm talking about. Many don't have a clue what they're talking about either!!

PS - Have you ever been misdiagnosed by a doctor before? They spend just as many years learning the craft with years in school, and guess what? They still can get it wrong!
The purpose of the USC system I heard was MC music.


I haven't called you a liar at any time. Also, I have extensive experience with MC for music as a discrete endeavor from MC for HT. My comments on this have been in the realm of MC for music, this being AUDIOgon rather than VIDEOgon.

Economically, MC is about movies, as movies are the hook the entire industry's marketing machine is using to entice people into MC. The music side of it is a sideshow economically, however. Just face that fact. Nevertheless, the movie aspect of MC is not the framing of *my* answer to your original question. I am giving you an undiluted music reproduction perspective. And by the way, YOU posed the question. Don't protest that you don't like the answer!

I have heard music MC correctly. It is not an advance in fidelity, IMO. I've probably heard more diverse and correct music MC installations than 99.99% of people who have heard MC of any type. It's not a scheme for convincing fidelity, in my view, but I do understand why some people are seduced by it and enjoy it. That's OK. Do what you want.

20.2, 20.1, 10.2, 10.1, 7.2, 7.1, 5.2, 5.1, 3 channel, 2 channel SRS, SACD MC, DVD-Audio, yadda yadda yadda, none of these schemes in expert configuration are unfamiliar to me. It's plainly reaching to say that MC is no more complex than stereo. I can assure you, I have heard what you're talking about, and my reaction to it is it's worse in every elemental way for music fidelity, than 2 carefully chosen and configured channels. Especially when you stipulate level cost. That doesn't mean I won't continue to be curious and listen for some future iteration of MC when someone gets it right. Today is just not that day.

Thanks for the quick response. Where can I find more information on this 20.2 MC music system?
"I haven't called you a liar at any time."

Phil you are correct. You haven't called me a liar, you just said my opinion and belief is a lie. But you didn't call ME a liar, yes!

"Economically, MC is about movies, as movies are the hook the entire industry's marketing machine is using to entice people into MC. The music side of it is a sideshow economically, however."

Save the hogwash about economics. It's not about marketing or the industry fooling consumers. It's about the music, remember.

"YOU posed the question. Don't protest that you don't like the answer!"

Your right, I did pose the question...and I'm not protesting the answer. Your opinion is your opinion. I'm protesting the content of your answer, because its just plain misguided...dare I say wrong.

"I have heard music MC correctly. It is not an advance in fidelity, IMO. I've probably heard more diverse and correct music MC installations than 99.99% of people who have heard MC of any type."

I've heard the 00.01% system you haven't. You'd be shock how it sounds.

"It's not a scheme for convincing fidelity, in my view, but I do understand why some people are seduced by it and enjoy it."

Everyone hasn't been seduced! We've sat down in the listening chair and come to our own conclusion that MC picks up where 2 channel leaves off. They've experienced how music can be...outside of the 2 channel box.

"I can assure you, I have heard what you're talking about, and my reaction to it is it's worse in every elemental way for music fidelity, than 2 carefully chosen and configured channels. Especially when you stipulate level cost."

Phil...I'm sorry but this statement tells me that you like so many others still don't know what I'm talking about. If however many systems left such a bad taste in your mouth toward MC, then you don't have any idea what I'm talking about!

"That doesn't mean I won't continue to be curious and listen for some future iteration of MC when someone gets it right. Today is just not that day."

This statement proves that there is still hope for you and MC music. Your still willing to take the time to listen and even learn something.

Phil...somebody got it right!!! And I heard it for myself about a month ago! Your today came a month ago.
"Where can I find more information on the 20.2 MC system?"

I don't know. My contact is no longer there. It was also a system in progress and I am sure it is different today.


No, I did not call your belief a lie. I merely disagree(d) with it. I don't question the sincerity of your belief in MC as a conveyance for fidelity. I just don't share it.

I didn't say I heard 99.9% of all systems, I said I probably have heard more correctly-implemented MC music systems than 99.9% of PEOPLE who have heard MC. I am fully confident I have heard what you've heard, in terms of competence and quality of system. I just do not draw the same conclusion as you do.

MC hasn't left a bad taste in my mouth. It has a certain entertainment flavor to it. It just doesn't correspond to fidelity, unless you prioritize secondary characteristics over primary ones. I don't need hope. MC-for-music schemes are not enticing today and may never be. It's an ambitious objective beyond the current state of design and software expertise.

Further, my 2 channel systems do not put sound in a box. They achieve excellent spatial projection appropriate to the recording, outstanding tone, realistic timing of events -- everything MC claims as its exclusive purview. From the perspective of a monaural devotee, I'm already multi-channel, so let's just say I am experiencing your epiphany through a superior implementation of the same objectives via a few channels less. You could too.

Did you have a chance to hear the system at any stage in progress?
Well Phil...your in luck. My contact is still good. You owe it to yourself to reach out to him. I'm sure he can even help with your 2 channel system as well.