Surround Processor / Pre Amp / 3D Sound Field

A couple of years ago I purchased a Marantz AV8801 surround preamp but I was never happy with it. It hasn’t gotten much use and since then I haven't put too much effort and attention into surround sound. Sure it was able to decode the latest formats but the sound field was boring, lacked impact, and the 3D sound field it created was mediocre. I remember back in the days I had a Sony STR-DE series of receivers that had an enhance/exaggerate function where for each sound field, one could increase the effect of the field. This created excitement while watching movies and a huge dynamic range. I also remember even before this receiver when Dolby Digital was first coming out Yamaha had an external DD decoder DDP-1 to add this capability to their receivers. Well I still remember that the DDP-1 had the best 3D sound field that I have experienced. All 5 speakers were working with each other to precisely place the sound where it belongs and was simply not just noise coming from multiple speakers. It sounded truly 3Dish and the sound moved around in open air. I really miss those days.

I am not getting this with my Marantz in a 5.1 setup (I have no desire to goto Atmos at this time). There is nothing to enhance the 3D field to exaggerate the effect. It has been calibrated multiple times with it’s built in Audyssey. I wanted to know if there were any current surround preamps / processors that would provide a better 3d field or have this as a feature to adjust the effect?
I use a Bryston SP3 that I think is very good both for stereo and surround.  The front LR are passed through a Parasound JC 2 BP, but I think that's entirely unnecessary -- I had the JC 2 before the SP3, so I use it.

I would recommend Meridian, specifically the 861 processor. I've been using the 565 for a number of years with no complaints. Frankly, it still out performs the receiver market and the 861 performs better than the 565, with greater flexibility. Yes, they're older models, but Meridian got it right.

Side note: I recall Cambridge Audio making a pretty good surround receiver a few years back. Performed nicely as well as a receiver, but the Meridian processors are superior.

Calibration (that's for another thread) and room correction is essential, regardless of which you choose. I agree; when all speakers operate together, it makes for an amazing experience.


I think that based what you are describing, the issue has less to do with needing better DSP modes such as "3D" and more to do with one of the following: the class and output of your amplifiers, how you might have the processor set up, and/or the Audyssey room correction software that you are using. To start with, check to make sure that you have your channel levels, speaker types / distances and subwoofer crossover correctly set to ensure that your system is properly configured, and if that doesn't correct the issue then it's likely down to either your amplifiers or the Audyssey calibration software - have you tried turning it off to compare the before and after effects?

If the issue turns out to be with Audyssey, you'll need to either leave it off and just accept the way your speakers and room sound on their own or look at purchasing a new processor or AVR with a better room correction platform. While not a bad product by any means, the problem with Audyssey is that is uses a very flat frequency response curve, which despite popular belief is not the ideal model to utilize for the majority of room layouts and equipment configurations; it tends to be too soft on bass and too strong on treble, creating a very hollow and tinny sound that can be quite harsh at higher SPL levels. The other issue with Audyssey is that is only corrects frequency response and does nothing with time (impulse response) or phase, which are just as important, if not more so.

If you are comfortable increasing your budget beyond what you would have likely paid for the Marantz, there are two options on the market that offer superior room correction software: Anthem's ARC, which is excellent, and Dirac Live, which is easily the most advanced platform on the market right now and is currently offered by a handful of companies such as Arcam (full version on all current AVR's and processor) Emotiva (LE version on processor, which is a scaled-back version), DataSat, and Theta Digital (full version on processors, but way beyond the price range you are likely shopping in). Since preamp processors tend to be more expensive than AVR's, especially those mentioned above (with the exception of Emotiva), I'd recommend that you look at an AVR instead, which you can use as either a preamp processor with your existing amplifier setup or on it's own as a turn-key solution.

Let me know if you have any other questions of if there is anything else I can do to help and I'll be glad to assist in any way I can.

Take care,


@savdllc Isn’t the intended purpose of Audyssey’s very flat frequency response to tame the room’s frequency response so it’s also very flat? Is the room really being corrected or is the signal being modified so the in room response reads flat? What’s the advantage vs room treatment?

My point is its more optimal to remove room coloration than modify the signal. Particularly if you say a very flat frequency response is less than ideal due to "too soft of bass and strong on treble" etc. A flat response across the system reveals the subtlies of the recording without coloration from the room or equipment.

As for surround processors, you can buy one piece that does 4 things - to include what want it to do - pretty well, or you can buy a piece that's designed to do exactly what you want it to do very well; even then to varied degrees. IMO, that’s the comparison between AVR, prepro and dedicated processors.
Thank you for the advice. I do not believe it is an Audyssey issue or any type of calibration. I think it is the limitation of the equipment. In the past equipment that I have used (mainly with Dolby Digital and DTS formats), the equipment will decode those formats and then offer an endhanced 3D sound field based on the sound mode you chose - for example "Sci-Fi", "Acoustic Theater", etc. The equipment that I am finding these days only decode the format and that is about it. I would want equipment for example can decode DTS Master Audio and then process it into a sound field of my choosing, such as "Virtual", or "Impact".
Hey Audoman,

I use an Oppo 103 via a Halo P7 preamp. So essentially there is no real processing, but just decoding. Movies sound fantastic.

However, what I spend a lot of time with is getting the subwoofer calibration correct and room acoustics. This includes bass traps as well as carefully matched EQ.

When this is done correctly it’s simply breathtaking, and no additional processing is needed.

I might suggest you start out with some room acoustics. Throw some blankets up on the walls and pillows on the floor, especially between the speakers. See if this goes in the way you’d like. If it does, look into GIK Acoustics for great help and value products.

I guess my short answer is, if your basic 5.1 or 7.1 decoding isn't thrilling, it's not that you lack additional sound fields. It's probably your room/speakers.


I'm sure improving the room acoustics will help but I still remember the days of the original Sony Dolby Digital / DTS receivers and the Yamaha Dolby Digital decoder add on.  Room then had no treatments either.  If anyone knows of any processor that does additional processing I would be interested in taking a look at.  
@audioman2015 I would submit that if the Sony or Yamaha DD decoder of old is what you're seeking, it may be best to search for the vintage stand alone processor. You're right, AVRs today don't produce like the DDP.

I'm biased to Meridian. The 568 is from that era (for the most part) but remains a very strong contender in the market. It'll handle DD and DTS. I'd also venture to say you'd be very impressed with Meridian's Trifield. It can take some time to really dial in, but once you're there, you may forget all about the DDP-1. Honestly, the DDP-1 was one of my first exposures to multi-channel processing.
I have done thousands of tests in almost 18 years of time. I am  working in sound&vision for almost 19 years of time. I am a born perfectionist and always compare and test to create and find the best possible. 2nd best and good in my world is for losers.

I had many expensive sysems over the last 18 years of time. 3 dimensional sound or even better to say 4-dimensional sound has become my trademark.

I stopped selling 2-dimensional sound based on the the fact then people all directly choose for 3-dimensional sound.

I did run an andio shop for about 2 years of time. I had all the freedom to choose the brands and products I wanted to sell.

I had a big room as a slistening room. I always had a 2-dimensional vs 3-dimensional stereo system ready. I always started to talk for about 15 minutes about sound and also about 3-dimensensional sound.

Each single person (men and women) all choose for 3-dimensional sound. This had such a big influence on me that I stopped selling any kind of 2-dimensional audio again.

Almost all systems are 2-dimensional. In ourt world each system what creates no depth till 1 meytre of depth is 2-dimensional.

We call a system 3-dimensional when it is able to creat over 1.5metre on depth. 

For stereo and surround we use the same parameters and rules. 

3-dimensional sound makes both stereo and surround addictive and so much more appealing. It is the level of emotion and excitement what makes it superior to any 2-dimensional system. This is based on the human emotion and brains.

We create each stereo and surround system by Tru-Fi. These are 8 different parameters who all influence the human emotion. Most systems are incomplete and miss different parts of Tru-Fi.

3-dimensional stage is one of the 8 parts of Tru-Fi. In real sound, music and instruments stand in a 3(4) dimensional room.

It is insane that by far the most sold stereo and surorund systems are all 2-dimensional. Never you will hear a band playing on the same line like any 2-dimensional system is playing the music.

A surround system or even Dolby Atmos cannot create a 3-dimensional stage. I had to explain the people of Auro 3D that their system was a 2-dimensional system. 

They demoed a plane flying over us. When when the plane was flying more away from us it souned like the plane crashed.

I explained to him that his speakers and amps they use are all 2-dimensional. This is the DNA no one can change.

When he would have used amps, pre amp, source and speskers who are able to create a deep and wide stage his demo would have been much more realistic and would have create a real 3-dimensional stage.

I know the dna of many brands and products. By far most amps, pre amps, sources and speakers are 2-dimensional. This meand that also not even a system like Auro 3D or Dolby Atmos  will change this.

You can only create a 3-dimensional stage when each single part of your system owns it. For example: when you put a 2-dimensional product into a system what is able to create a stunning deep and wide stage, the full 3D stage is almost gone.

We have created Statement Audio Pro measurement. We work by 0.5 mm precision. And use the best professional lasers. We also use Audyssey pro but at a totally different superior effective way.

The people of Audyssey are very kind and helpful. But their knowledge in how a voice, instrument and the acoustic can work is limited. The measurments are done at the wrond places, wrong heights etc.

We have done for over 6 years of time in measuring the acoustic. In both stereo and surround we can create a Statement in sound. What creates a new level in realism ib  sound.

And yess this is 3-dimensional sound as it sounhds in real. I owned the most expensive Meridian 800 stuff. In my world at this moment the dna is not good enough to use anymore. In stage depth and width it misses the level other products can create.

Marantz (I sold it for over 6 years of time) is a 2 dimensional brand. This means that each component can create less than 1 metre of stage depth. Also Dolby atmos/Auro 3D will not change this.
OP: forgive me if this seems like a thread hijack, but my question will likely shed some light into your search.

@bo1972 If you were to create a Meridian based system, what would it include? I'm partial to Meridian for a reason. They're been "getting it right" for a while now. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.
I owned the 800 series products and I also sold Meridian. When you want each part based on highend level Meridian is not precise enough.

The amps they use are 2 dimensional. You need a much deeper and wider stage to call it ’real’ highend.

A 3 dimensional stage is the most important part what differences ’real’ highend from hifi stereo. Based on stage depth, width and height there are differerent brands who are able to create this. Meridian will not be able to create this based on their DNA.

The 861 is a great pre amp, but for ’real’ highend you need and want a wider and deeper stage.

In the past I liked their Tri-Field mode. But I am a lot further than this based on Statement Audio Pro measurement.

With S.A.P. measurement I can create better dynamics, more diversity in the middle frequencies and also more resolution compared to Meridian.

These parts are essential for ’real’ highend. I also created stealth low frequecy. This puts the subwoofer(s) in phase with the loudspeakers. But the most important difference is that I can place the energy ecactly where it is at the recording.

For example; When a subwoofer is in front of your system and the surround speakers are in the back. The energy of an explosion on the rear ledt speaker will give you the feeling that the energy is overthere.

We work at a much more precise level what outperforms any other way of measering a room. A perfectionist only goed for the best. Seconds best alsways will be for born losers.

I owned 4 different 800 players form 2001 till 2012. I know the 800 cd players very well. But they lack in stage depth and width. A stunning holographic stage is being created by the level a source, amps and speakers can build.

The thread is also about 3-dimensional sound. Both for stereo and surround. 3-dimensionalk sound makes music and movies much more life like and realistic. And yess it is what makes music and watching mocies much more appealing and addictive.

Beside properties roommeasurement is essential. The acoustics fucks up the sound quality the most. But there are many more parts whick have a bad influence on sound and also on a 3-dimensional stage.

These are smog, magnetism and highfrequent noise. We spend a lot of time in the last 2 years on these parts. Sound is a very complex item what is being build en limited by many different parts.

You need to understand them all. Same as you need to understand all the different properties each part in your system owns.

The sound in your room is being created by all the properties of all the different parts in your room including the acoustics. And the parts which negatively influence the sound.

To create the best 3-dimensional sound is based on using the right properties of each part in your system ( speakers, amp, pre amp, source. cables, conditioners and tools to limited parts like smog, magnetism and highfrequent noise) togheter with the best roomacoustic measurement.

Since 2009 I only sell 3-dimensional sound in both stereo and surround.
Interesting responses.  It seems so complicated now.  I remember I connected the Yamaha DDP-1 and the only calibration I performed was the level of each of the speaker in 5.1 surround.  This was on a very entry level system.  It was able to create an immersive 3D field that I haven't heard today's systems create.  I wish there was something like it that existed today that can decode the newer formats.  Perhaps some of the processing techniques were lost/changed in the mastering of the audio of DVD movies when transitioning to Blu-ray?  
@bo1972 So where can one find more information about Statement Audio Pro measuring and related software...I presume? While I appreciate your response, it’s lacking in content. I get it "I owned’s not good enough...born looser..." Got it! But I don’t want other readers to confuse your response for a sales pitch. Break down the difference in 2 and 3 dimensional EQUIPMENT. Break down how Meridian differs from and compares to the rest of the market, and how S.A.P. differs from that. Does S.A.P. compare to Ambisonic?

Pardon if I come off a bit critical, but outside of one or two Audiogon posts, there’s not information available on the net regarding S.A.P. Understand enthusiasts here are becoming accustomed to multi-channel audio but have been fully immersed in sales pitches and snake pun intended.
@audioman2015 I doubt any information was lost during the mastering process. Understand everything relies on the sound field algorithms the manufacture programmed for the processor. Check out Cambridge Audio. I can vouch they are my second choice to Meridian and they can handle just about all your decoding needs.
Don't take words to personal. I want all people to get the best quality for the money they spend. This is only possible when you focus on the best possible.

When you would focus just on good, you will never reach the level what can create a difference for each single person.

I am working in audio since 1998, I met too many people who were screwed. Most products and brands will nevr be able to make people happy and satisfied with the products they bought .

It is our goal to give many people as possible a physical 3-dimensional sound without acoustic problems.

I sold Cambridge audio as well and I sold it a lot. But at the end the dna is still 2-dimensional.

This means that instruments and voices are standing almost on the same line. When you listen to music/sound in reals it stands in a 4-dimensional space.

3(4)-dimensional audio the music and movies are being played tangible fully free in space and in depth.  This gives your music and also movies a much more intens and emotional feeling.

What it does is that you will use your system a lot more and longer at the same time. I brought many people from 2D till 3D sound in both stereo and surround.

Their reactions says it all. We are now busy with our new website. Soon we will visit manufacturers to talk about our ideas and S.A.P-measurement.

Audiogon does not want people to make advertisement, I will not to this. Later this year the website wil be in english as well.

It is a new platform for sound&vision. With many professional 4K videos as well to explain and show how we work. We want to create a mcuh higher level in realism and quality.

The problem in audio is that over 99% is 2-dimensional. Based on our emotion it is not possible to be happy and satisfies for a long period of time. This is why people buy even after short time new stuff. Or they try new parts over and over again to become happy.

Based on the human emotion each kind of 2-dimensional audio will never satisfy any person. In the last 3 years I spoke to many people who spend a lot of money on audio.

There were many who said that they never have been happy to be honest. 2-dimensional audio is one of the main reasons for this problem.

Over 95% of all the products in audio speciallity shops is not worth it's money based on my personal opinion. We hope to create a more open and honest way for music and movie lovers.

It is my goal to be fully independent, this is based on the fact that I want to use most of the money for a foundation for people who have nothing.

Clients deserve more value for money and that is how we work. And not based on personal benefit.
The problem of most roomacoustic systems is that you loose dynamics, deversity in the middle frequencies and resolution  in the high frequencies.

I use Audyssey pro for our measurement. But I use it totally different. At different places and heights. Beside this we use different  lasers and measure with 2 computers. The results are superior to the way Audyssey uses it.

Their way of measuring has many limitations. I needed to solve all the problems they still have.

I spend 5000 euros on new tools and lasers to create a superior and new level. This can make a huge improvement for all stereo and surround lovers all over the world. That is why I call it a Statement. 

The results speak for themselves. I always say; the sound will tell the truth. Words are not worth a thing. Even my words are worth nothing before you have auditioned it yourself.
I see where the disconnect may be...EU/UK are years ahead of the US market. You're essentially speaking of a variation of an ambisonic-style system that literally includes 3/4 axis playback. I completely agree. No US recordings, music or movie, exist with this discrete information. Hence the need for processing power of computers and software.

@bo1972 your experience is WAY ahead of almost all of what we experience in the US. The market has it found it financially beneficial and consumers don't understand the concepts.

For $#!ts and giggles, what are your thoughts on the Ambisonic soundfield in the Meridian processors and what would you recommend for the US multi-channel consumer to get some level of exposure to this?
Everyone...check out the link to below to help get a rough understanding ambisonic or multi-axis surround sound, if you will, and how it would correlate with what we know to be surround sound. There are some similarities but many differences and improvements to immersive music playback.