Why is 2 Channel better than multi-channel?

I hear that the music fidelity of a multi-channel AV Receiver/Integrated amp can never match the sounds produced by a 2 channel system. Can someone clearly explain why this is so?

I'm planning to upgrade my HT system to try and achieve the best of both worlds, I currently have a 3 channel amp driving my SL, SR, C and a 2 channel amp driving my L and R.
I have a Denon 3801 acting as my pre. Is there any Pre/Proc out there that can merge both worlds with out breaking my bank? Looking for recommendations on what my next logical steps should be? Thanks in advance.
For the past 50 years or so people have been working to optimize the sound of the hardware in a 2 channel system. They have also been working to optimize the sound of 2 channel recordings. Then a few years ago multi-channel recordings were introduced. Since everything in the past 50 years has been optimized for 2 channels, it only stands to reason that the multi channel systems will take a while to catch up. There are tens of thousands of stereo recordings and a limited number of multichannel in various formats. We still don't have standard. SACD, DVD, 5.1 , 7.1 ????????

The other factor is that to match the fidelity of a 2 channel system, the 5 channel will be about 2.5 times as expensive with the extra speakers and amplifiers. The 7 channel will be about 3.5 times as expensive. Since the best 2 channel is already very expensive, the equivalent multi channel systems are out of reach for most people.

So to answer your original question, It is not that it can't be done. It is that the hardware will be very expensive and there is at this point in time, a limited amount of software.
While Herman nailed it on the head, you also have to consider that you now have an even greater amount of speaker to room interaction taking place. If you have actually ever taken the time to try to obtain optimum performance with TWO speakers, you already know that you don't want to mess with trying to set up a half dozen. Sean
Technically, it's not. A good multichannel system can provide far more spatial information than any 2-channel rig. The catch is the word, "good." 5.1 is a rather poor compromise essentially imposed by the movie industry. Then there are the cost and set-up challenges. I'm sticking to 2-channel (even for video!), but I won't claim it's inherently better.
I would agree with sean. When a two channel system is set up correctly, the soundstage needs NO speaker in the middle. The problem is that seldom do people take the time to learn and execute proper speaker placement, or people build the system without regards to the room volume and dimensions (Too big of speakers in too small of room with a rack of equipment or worse a big T.V. in the middle). This will lead to disapointment of two channel. It has taken years to get two channel right,dedicated circits, wires not crossing all over the place, dampening materials on walls,correct speaker width and distance from sweet spot, speaker in proper placement in relationship to room boundies, correct toe-in of speakers, amp stands and stereo stand dampend (which is major important with tubes). With all this done, critical listening can be done to really bring a system to life. You will hear the differance in tubes, wires and anything else you do to the system. Once you get to this point you will not want to add more because you will get less, less enjoyment! Keep it simple.
It seems that people try to improve sound by making things more complicated. I have tried this approach and have been disappointed. More speakers, bigger subwoofers, The typical american approach. Now I keep it simple and the rewards have been great


system: sony sacd-1 feeds to cary 805c with 40pt step-attenuators built-in feeding proac 2.5. two 20amp and two 15 amp dedicated circuits with kimber sockets. lots of sand and mdf board lamanted togeter for dampening. This is my path to bliss.
I should add that in many cases mono has better fidelity than stereo 2ch.
I do collect old mono records for their outstanding sound quality of the golden era.
The quality of imaging available in multichannel systems using height information (for example David Chesky's 6.0 audio layout) substantially surpasses what even the best of 2 or 3 channel stereo can do. Bomarc is right in stating that 5.1 is theater-driver and is not optimized for audio.
It will be some time before the recording community and audio industry at large learn how to record, produce and market multichannel audio in a practical way. This is a large subject and cannot be covered here.
However, as multichannel evolves, it's to be hoped that audiophiles will be the first to recognize the potential, since we care more about sound quality than does any other group.
Good thread. Glad to see some diverse opinions with valid points being made on both sides of the fence.

As to the stance that i ( and probably others ) took, let's just say that we have been pretty dis-illusioned with what the industry has had to offer. After all, they've handed us line after line after line of bogus advertising and propaganda regarding every "high tech" advancement that they've come up with. If this multi-channel does take off, will we have to buy a pro logic decoder ? Then what about an AC-3 decoder when that format arrives? Then what happens when DTS comes out ? I think that you get the point.

On top of that, it has "only" taken 15 - 20 years to get "redbook" cd's to sound good. While a lot of the digital knowledge that they've learned along the way can be applied to multi-channel sound, the question is will they ??? If so, to what extent and when ???

I hate to sound like a dinosaur clinging to existence as i know it, but i don't think that ANYONE wants to go through dozens of "upgrades" and "new investments" every time that they come out with a new format. Even if multi-channel SACD or DVD-A do take off, what is to say that these formats will last a reasonable amount of time ? Personally, i would put my money on DVD-A becoming a commercial success over SACD due to the multi-channel sound and video potential. I think that this is becoming more evident as commercial artists start to embrace it. While SACD may sound better ( when done properly ), quality has little to do with what the public likes or thinks is convenient.

As it is now, neither is good enough or has enough software available to make me think twice about becoming a hardcore advocate. Doing such would cause me to have to replenish my "software" collection with yet another format AND make me rethink / re-invest a large amount of time / money into making my systems "multi-channel" compatible. As such, i'm sure that i'm not alone in these thoughts or feelings.

Then again, the "commoner" with a small investment in their entertainment system might not think twice about buying the latest & greatest "full featured" multi-channel rack system from Best Buy / Circuit City for $499. To some extent, this type of division ( quality vs quantity ) pits the "audiophile" against the "average consumer". As such, we will probably end up becoming an even smaller "niche market" as things progress. After all, to the average person, "more" IS "better". Sean
When I listen to 2 channel audio, what I listen for is
realism ... Does a flugel horn sound like a flugelhorn,
a piano like a piano, etc, to my ears in a performing
environment. I have not heard a multi-channel audio
system which does anything to improve upon the basic
musical timbre of instruments. So what can multichannel
audio bring to the table for music listening? If the answer is a larger and more stable sound stage for more listeners without so much tweeking, without muddying
instrumental timbres then multichannel audio is for me.
If the cost of multichannel audio is loss of instrumental
realism in exchange for better imaging, or in exchange for
better reproduction of the performing environment - then
multichannel is not for me.

When I listen, I would like to be able to hear the
performance. If you can't hear the tight bass on a
Steinway grand, you have missed the majic of artist mated
with instrument. An artist doesn't just play an instrument
he/she responds to it. I want to hear the synergy.
the recording industry is in turmoil just now. i'm sure many of you had stories in your local papers yesterday or this morning about the dismal state of affairs facing those for whom the grammy's are the equivalent of life's blood. worse, there's been nothing close to consensus regarding the successor to the "redbook" cd format. worst, the internet keeps coming up with new models for the dispersion of music that provides little or no profit for those who pay to produce and record it. on top of this, we now see a seemingly endless array of multi-channel versions of unproven and much-less-than-universally-accepted software (and associated hardware). amongst all this angst and absence of a weltanschauung regarding how the standard for recorded music might eventually evolve, the two-channel red-book cd and stereo lp have survived for decades. likewise, the systems and components of those systems that have been designed to reproduce two-channel sources have continued along a steady branch, leaving cut off from evolutionary advancement species including 8-track and digital cassettes like so many australopetihiceans. put simply, two-channel audio is where we've been, mostly comfortable, for enough time to develop an economic model whose rewards to its many participants are proven. nothing yet has replaced that model. so, if you feel comfortable being a beta tester for billionaires and those who aspire to such level of "success," go for the multitudinous multi-channel and multi-sensory formats. but as for me: i'll stick with the good ol' rock & roll on nothing more than two-channel sources. -cfb
I agree with most of the above reasons why "2 channel is better than multi-channel". I have a more basic reason as to why I (will always) prefer 2 channel: I like music as it is performed. Maybe I don't understand 5.1, but how many of us ever get to sit in the middle of the orchestra during a performance? Most concerts I've been to happen in front of the listener. If reality is the goal, 5.1 has nothing to add to 2 channel (except maybe a random cough generator?)
Have you ever noticed that it's often easier to place instruments by ear at home than it is in a concert hall? There's so much reverberant energy in a "real space" that a two-channel rig in a home environment can't begin to capture. (Neither can a 5-channel rig, in my opinion.) In fact, the clear spatial cues in a stereo recording partially make up for the fact that you don't have the visual cues you do in a concert hall. And yes, Hindemith, I suspect you'd give up some of those spatial cues (which help you distinguish instruments) in a multichannel application. What you get in return is something closer to the concert hall experience. So there is a trade-off there, and you have to decide what you want.
Is anyone out there using the PANPOT? Is it worth to use an extra amplifier and a second set of speakers to send the (L-R) signal?
It's pretty logical and simple: Before the digital technology all recording engineeres needed is enough space and recording speed to place every detail of the live music onto the tape. Thus, 2ch recorders benefit with channel separation and amount of information stored per one channel on the magnetic tape to the multi-channel recorders. Also most of the professional recorders are using thick tape for the same reason. Mono recorders/reproducers are able to get maximum possible information(that's why I love mono recorded music)
Even in today's digital technology it does make a sence to still produce 2ch recordings guess why?... the same reason. Better channel separation and more information(bits) can be fit onto one track. Digital signal is nothing else but high analogue freequency with the phase shifts that we call digital samples.
Gboren: I think you don't understand the *possibilities* of 5.1. I've heard gimmicky recordings that put me in the middle of a barbershop quartet, and they sounded, well, gimmicky. What good multichannel should do is recreate the reverberant energy of a concert space. What should come from your surround speakers isn't instruments, but the reflections from the walls of the concert hall or whatever. Done right, it should sound like you're sitting in the middle of the hall, not in the middle of the orchestra. But not every recording engineer is equally adept at doing that. (Note the vast understatement there.)
Fair enough. I fully agree about the possibilities of multichannel. But it has always been my impression that audio engineers have been putting their energy into creating more realistic explosions. When these same Terminator junkies master a music concert, they tend to use the same sensibility: put the listener in the middle of it.

I would love to hear multichannel music that is properly mastered. But where is it? How many titles are out there? And given the increased cost of setting up a multichannel system, will there ever be enough demand for audiophile multichannel to drive a market?
What about from a signaling perspective? Is analog signals that much better than digital signals that have been processed then converted back to analog and piped thru multi-channel? Are we talking about significant signal changes that are audible to the ears? Aren't information on the CD coded in digital form in the first place?
Most of us have speakers in the front that cost 4 to 5 times the amount of the ones in the back.
Darryl, the speakers in the rear of my HT system are identical to my mains from 200 Hz on up. Below that, the mains have dual 12's in each cabinet and the rears make use of dual 10's in each cabinet. They all use a single 8" lower midrange driver, a dome upper mid and dome tweeter above that. My center uses identical dome mids and tweeters to those found on the mains and surrounds with two of the identical 8's going down to their natural roll-offs in the 30 - 40 Hz range. I also have two subs, each housing identical 12" drivers to what are used in the mains. For power, i have 1200 wpc driving the mains and 800 wpc driving the center, surrounds and two subs. Those are all factory ratings and from the testing that i've seen, somewhat conservative numbers.

As it is, i'm "fully equipped" to do "full range surround sound" in "audiophile fashion". Truth is, i have NO interest in music being reproduced in this fashion at this point in time. Truth is, most of the recording and production techniques are SO lacking that i think it would be more of a distraction than an improvement. They've been trying to get two channel reproduction dialed in for years and we still have drum sets that span the entire width of the stage, intstruments that wander from side to side at random, etc.... How much "better" do you think that they would be able to cope with a half dozen different channels to mix and pan between ???? Sean

PS... Supposedly, JJ's "Death Star" multi-channel recording process holds GREAT potential. He is one of the few audiophile scientists that tries to use both test equipment and his ears with common sense to improve upon what we currently have. Too bad he is retiring and the company is going to drop the project.
In response to Sean's post, who is the 'they', as in 'they've been trying to get two channel reproduction dialed in for years'?
There are poor recording engineers and companies around, and there are pressing plants that contribute to serious degradation in output, but there is also a strong and fanatically devoted group of recording and mastering engineers who take their jobs with the utmost seriousness, as well as artistry.
Regarding techniques for multichannel audio, there are people currently working with ambisonics, ambiophonics, 7.1 and other non-5.1 multichannel miking approaches, as well as JJ's. Those working in these techniques are in academics and recording studios, as well as the pro audio engineering industry.
There is much to be learned in multichannel. But it is a serious mistake to think noone is working in it, and that noone thinks beyond profitability. The more challenging issues are how to produce and market audio-centric multichannel, and what speaker arrangements (as well as types) make sense.
I like Sean's earlier post in which he suggests that the 'commoner' may be the early adopter. True. Audiophiles may be so heavily vested in two channel, that a younger and more flexible, home theater-acclimated group becomes tomorrow's multichannel audiophiles.
My comments were based on what i purchase in terms of recorded music. In plain English, i think that the "average recording" is strictly "average" at best. Those that truly stand out are far and few between. As such, i think that until the bar can be raised on 2 channel recordings to the point that the "average" recording is quite good, we are doomed for an even longer "learning process" and "fiddling with controls and effects" in multi-channel. While this is not to say that multi-channel doesn't have potential, it is meant to say that the old "K.I.S.S." theory ( Keep It Simple, Stupid ) is still quite valid. Even in these days of "high tech" and "digital ready" gear and recordings. Sean
I have been into HT for a while and currently have a system that rocks with movies that are produced well. My whole set up cost me less than 7K. Certainly not audiophile class.
I recently started to listen to more music and was trying to figure out what the best solution would be ie. upgrade home theater system or a separate system for each. Here what I have learned so far.
For home theater fronts and rears are best using identical speakers. Center channel would probably work best with the same speaker again. This usually becomes a problem with regards to shielding.
If you were to set up a system like this for music as well as HT it would work fine if you use a processer with 5 channel stereo (a dsp mode).
Problem is the cost/space for extra speakers.
For audio two channel seems to be the way to go since there is very little that is produced to listen to in any other format and even less that is done well.
I just picked up a pair of Joseph Audio monitors to use for music and will probably purchase a new amp to run them. Hopefully this will make a big enough difference in quality to justify the cost of additional equipment.
So here's the end result of my research so far. Ht set up is for HT and if you want to listen to music, get the best pair of speakers and amp you can afford and stick to two channels. At least until there is something produced for multi-channel listening that's worth doing an all in one system.
Just a newbies opinion.
"Certainly not audiophile class."

What are you talking about, man? Proper component selection and matching is what makes a system "audiophile class". If you know what you're doing, get your electricity properly filtered and your speakers and room acoustics setup right, you'll have "audiophile class" without having to spend outrageous money.

More than a few people have expensive systems that are not musical. A total waste of resources, I would say.

Musicality is the name of the game.

Take it from one of the kings of bargains...
Most engineers can't get it right with only two channels, I have very little faith that any will get it right with 5, 7 or 10 channels.
I'm using a Primare P30 pre/pro in my 2-channel system. It has a 100% analog by-pass mode which really helps sonically. I've compare it with an Ayre k3-x preamp in my home and the Primare was signifanctly better in most respects. It retails for $4k but you can probably do better price-wise.

There's probably a number of reasons that a good 2-channel is usually better than a multi-channel setup. I'll take a stab at a few reasons:

1. Perhaps because it has to do more, multi-channel equipment historically has usually been sonically inferior when compared to traditional 2-channel equipment. Though that is changing.

2. An excellent multi-channel system would cost significantly more than an excellent 2-channel system. Therefore, if one had a budget of say $10k, the sonics would hopefully be far superior in the 2-channel because one would be able to afford better quality 2-channel equipment than spreading that budget out for 5 pair of cables, speakers, amplifiers, etc..

3. I just don't know why. I've listened to some very pricy surround systems costing $50k or more and it just sounds, shall we say, different.

So I figure, why hassle with the added expense and headache of all those cables, speakers, etc. and just enjoy what one has.

I believe that if you purchase the right 2-channel equipment and setup your system properly, you'll be in want of nothing.

Besides, life's pretty complicated as it is.

My 2-channel HT is starting to sound *really* good. The Swans have finally broken in and dynamics have increased tremendously...

I've had a couple people listen to movies on my JVC XV-45 DVD player and they don't feel any need for surround speakers. The DVD is sitting on four Vibrapods which in turn rest on an MDF board coupled to the TV table with Blue Tack. The digital signal is sent via a 50' coaxial run to my Soundstream/Krell DAC-1 and the sound is really something! Pretty amazing for so little money...
There are some very valid points made in this thread both
pro and con for multi channel HT sound. As someone who has
owned a video editing and media duplication firm for the past 12+ years - I'm frankly amazed at the constantly
shifting standards for HT. Dolby Pro Logic, Dolby Digital,
DTS, THX, and on and on. Try and find a decent supply of
software in any of these "formats" that can be played back
with any sort of decent fidelity.
Quite frankly, I regard most of the lower cost HT hard-
ware as a way for the Sonys, Panasonics, and Kenwoods of
the world to separate the gullible from their money. Anybody
want to buy a Dolby Pro Logic Pre-Amp?
Just giving my two cents worth..... it's hard to enjoy your music when a big tv is in front of you even if it's not turned on. Not only is the tv an eye sore, but it takes up the space that the speaker needs to "work" in.
My current 2 channel set up does not compromise stereo imaging. I have a near field rig with a 27" Sony WEGA on which I attach a RPG Pro Foam panel when listening to music. It really works.

Avideo's got a point regarding all those formats...crazy, to say the least. Did someone mention 10.2?
I didn't read all the replys, so I'm not sure if anyone answered the original question...In my research I have found the new Anthem AVM20, Tag McLaren AVR32 or the Proceed Pre/Pro would merge the best of both worlds.

Good Luck.

It all depends upon the room and your listening position. In just about any shaped room you can adjust your system for an optimum spot. A properly configured 2ch system can create a lifelike 3d image but only in an area between the front two speakers. This is great, if the rooms sweet spot can accomidate the audience. When it comes to watching a movie with the fam, your talking a big room, with probably more then one couch. This is why muti-channel setups are so popular with movies. It sucks to be the guy sitting next to the big left speaker in a 2ch setup b/c all they are going to hear is that one channel. A center channel allows the sound to be pinned to the center, no matter how far to the side you sit. You probably have noticed this at the movies. The screen is pourous and there are huge speakers behind it. The side and surround speakers are mostly there for effect and don't carry nearly as much information. Another advantage of a muti channel setup is that you can adjust speaker placement/delay/volume to account for an odd shaped room, making it much less 'sweet spotty'. My listening room is L shaped and i like the envelopement of a 5ch setup even when listening to a 2ch source (i use a 5ch stereo effect). However, the added effect is much less noticeble in the sweetspot of my room. My advice, if you are an audio junkie and tend to listen to music alone or if you have a nice rectagular or squareish room, save your cash and get a 2ch rig. However, for a movie buff with an odd room, the added cost and hastle of have multiple speakers outweighs the benefits of a 2ch system, even if the quality of components is better in the 2ch rig. As for multichannel audio, i'm not sold on their use surround effects. Many of the recordings seem gimmickie and if they do sound better its pobabably b/c they use high quality samples. The recording industry still can't decide on a single format, and i don't see it catching on antime soon.
Excellent post, Perkadin. You've wrapped up this thread.

If you read my Bose 901 thread, you'll see that's what I proposed with creating a makeshift "spatializer" for the Bose 901's I was given. By directing most of the sound towards the center a "virtual" center channel would be created with a 2 channel system. Then I would not have to worry about Pro Logic, Dolby Digital, DTS, 5.1, 7.1, 10.2, etc.
All of the information that you need for multi-channel stereo can be captured in a two channel recording. The only advantage of multi-channel recordings is to create a spacious feeling. This can be done now artificially with surround sound processors. It's true that ten years ago surround sound processors that tried to create a live spacious feeling for stereo recordings were horrible at best. Today it's a different story. For a mere $10,000 you can buy a state of the art Lexicon surround sound processor
that will create that you-are-there feeling from two channel recordings, just as multi-channel recordings plan on doing in the future. OK, OK, $10,000 is a bit too expensive, but the price of these processors will drop in time. Remember, the price of a $10,000 plasma tv one year ago was $20,000. I'm placing my bet on surround sound processors for the future, not multi-channel recordings.

Until then, I'm very happy with my six speaker system using two channel recordings without a processor. Two stereo speakers in the center, two stereo speakers in front corners, and two stereo speakers in the rear create a wonderful three dimensional sound for me. The two pair of speakers in front provides a much more life-like image than one pair of speakers 60 degrees apart. This is a tweak that works for me.

No, a great deal of information is lost - irretrievably - when you mix down to two channels. True multichannel recordings have the ability to capture much more, and preserve more of the original ambience.

Artificially derived channels may very well sound good, but it's not the original.
See "Stereo Or Home Theatre" under the "Miscellaneous Audio" threads.
First I wonder how many of the 2 channel supporters have listened to well recorded multi channel on a well set up high resolution surround system. Those of you old enough may recall the same debates around moving from mono to stereo- not quite a vigorous, not that many people had experienced good sound. Try playing a well recorded surround recording (Diana Krall for one) on something like any good player, Anthem AV20, good amplification and good speakers properly set up. I think you'd be surprised. Don't forget there's a lot of poor quality stereo equipment out there and also good stuff that's poorly set up in bad room that would make most people wonder what all the fuss is about 2 channel. The possiblility of excellent sound in surround is there but just as it takes attention to many details to get stereo working well likewise with surround. Of course we'll still be waiting a while for most of the recording engineers to learn to record properly for it as well. There's lots of poor quality stereo recordings that sound bad on any system and the engineers haven't had 50 years experience with recording for surround like they have with stereo, but they will get there and just like the move from mono to stereo, there will be no looking back. Meanwhile there's no reason not to continue to enjoy good sound in stereo. There's also no reason not to persue the best in surround sound. But there's nothing inherint in the surround technology that will make it a lesser format than stereo- actually there is lots or reason to believe that it can overcome many of the room problems that stereo can't.
To tell the truth I love 1ch over 2ch. I always prefere to buy mono version of a record and might be planning buying mono cartridge when I accumulate large enough mono collection.
Hey guys- Except for one response above, it seems that everyone missed the point of Springowl's question. He's currently using his HT receiver as a pre-amp only, driving 2 and 3 channel amplifiers (separates). His question, I believe, is "can he purchase a HT receiver that will give him as good, or better sound that his current hybrid setup", or should he upgrade to a complete separates setup (high-end preamp with fixed gain HT bypass input, HT receiver for decoding multi-channel mixes, plus separates for amplification be it one, two, three or more channels in the amplifier.

Or, ultrahigh end multi-channel processor (Proceed, Meridian, etc.) instead of the HT receiver and high-end preamp combo. That is his question IMHO.

I don't know the correct answer but I'm about to look at the Proceed AVP-2 processor- preamp combo, which should be upgradeable, in the near future, to digitally decode SACD now that the fire-wire transfer scheme has been agreed to.
@ channel is better than multichannel because multichannel has a stronger need for a sweetspot for listening. 2 channel sounds better than multichannel when you are cleaning the rumpus room or working on stuff.

As far as 2 channel better than Multichannel HT i dont believe that it can really be said.
Music and theater are apples and oranges, they both feed ya, but they are different.
Besides, for 7,000 you can get a better sounding HT than your local 9 dollar-a-ticket cineplex.
Most of us only have 2 ears.
Can't say which sounds better, depends on the recording I guess. I don't have a whole lot of multichannel recordings yet, but of the ones I do have, some are much better in multichannel and some are much better as two channel in my system. I think my opinion may be a wait and see type of thing. I know some people like old mono albums and say they should never be mixed to stereo, could be the same thing with two channel recordings. Rock music such as: Beck, Frankie goes to Hlooywood, Mike Oldfield, Pink Floyd, Alan Parsons, Moody Blues, Grateful Dead are some that I have that sound much better in multichannel. Lyle Lovett (Joshua Judges Ruth) is much better sounding in surround and so is Alison Krauss and Union Station Live. Norah Jones, Diana Krall, Natalie Cole and another Alison Krauss I have sound good in both and depending on mood and whats going on, I seem to play both ways. Lots of stuff I would like to hear in surround some day: Dead can dance, Michael Hedges, Brian Eno, Enya, Peter Gabriel, leo kotke, all the pink floyd stuff. I guess there may be no correct answer as to which sounds better or works better as it would be a matter of the type of music which may lend it's self to one or the other, or both even. It's a great time to be an audiophile.
Springowl, if you're still out there, you must have upgradded by now. It seems that your original question was about improving upon your av-receiver as a pre-pro. I have a similar set up and I have thought long and hard about how to make the most cost effective improvements. I have two differing approaches.
1. Buy a Classe SSP 30, it will improve everything, with one purchase, especially the 2 channel.
2. Get a good CD player with a volume control, and a digital input. This will bring greater 2 ch improvement and make the DVD player sound better on PCM sources, like concert videos.
My plan is to go for #2, I want to make my stereo sound the best that I can afford, with the home theater side making small gains. I love the way the HT sounds now anyway!
I will also be upgrading my main amp very soon, I would like to get that and the CD player together. My choice for the amp will be the Spectron and probably Resolution Audio CD55 for the source. I will still consider the Classe as an addition, but not this year.
I have developed a hybrid of the two that, in my opinion, is better than either 2 channel or multi-channel. I have a 2 channel CD going through a 4-2 multi-channel stereo system. There is no multichannel processor to screw up the sound. The 2 channel music goes through two pair of identical speaker drivers (Klipsch Heritage)positioned at the front and back of the room powered by two identical ML stereo amplifiers. A pair of TacT W410 subwoofers are positioned in the corners to povide the deep bass. Three preamps are used so each speaker is controlled individually. The preamps are connected in series so all speakers can be controlled simultaneously by the first preamp. All preamps are passive so only resistors are used to control the volume. Placette preamps are used to to provide the cleanest sound with no added distortion. The back pair of speakers are raised to a level which is hardly noticeable, but provides a three dimensional sound that is out of this world.
The only reason 2 ch is better then 5.1 is becouse we (you at least) all live with missmatched speakers.
Have you noticed how in recording studios all 5 speakers are the same?!!!!!

Well actually there is one other problem. Most 5.1 mixes just plan stupid. When was the last time you sat front of the drum kit with the keyboard in the far right behind you and the jazz chorus coming out of ..humm...everywhere????
Izsssakmixer...You are absolutely right about having all speakers the same.

However, if you are part of a jazz jam session, or if you play in a classical string chamber group (eg: quartet), or even if you hear these in a small room without actually playing, you would be very familiar with the sound of different instruments all around you. Also there are so- called "Antiphonal" compositions that specifically call for two or more chiors or groups of instruments located apart from each other. There is a new SACD where E Power Biggs plays Bach fugues on the four organs in the cathedral of Freiburg, and the musical phrases are "answered" back and forth between organs in a most interesting way. Handel's "Water Music" works well in multichannel...imagine yourself floating down the river with barges of musicians floating along with you. (That's how Handel intended it to be performed). In Judy Collins recording of "Amazing Grace" Judy is front and center while the congregation is around and behind you. (This was not sold as a quadraphonic LP, but this particular song is the best example of matrix quad that I know of). At the end of the song, (on the LP more than the remastered CD) as the reverb dies away, you can hear people behind you putting their Hymn books back into the racks. As the saying goes "you are there". The cannons of the 1812 Overture are rarely located on stage. Etc...Etc..Etc.

Sure, multichannel recordings can be inappropriately mastered, but don't fall into the "I only have 2 ears" ridiculing of all multichannel discs that make serious use of the rear speakers.
There is definatly something to be said about having identical speakers. not just identical drivers, but identical units on all sides.

Sure you can get away with having some towers in the front, some dipole surrounds and a center all from the same manufacturer, but they STILL sound different.

Imaging this, if you have a 2 channel setup, and say you go with a KEF Q1 for the right channel and a KEF Q7 for the left channel. everybody will think you have gone mad.

Well the same applies to HT as well. however, its less noticable in HT because your FL FR do most if not all of the music in movies, and the rears are just for effects. (Primarily)

I refuse to buy a center channel and "Surrounds" for this reason. In fact, that is one of the reasons i sold my whole Deftech speaker set. 2 2004tls, 2 BP66s, and 1 procenter. and my THX certified Av reciever.

After hearing a HT setup with all identical speakers, and all identical channels i realized that going with different speakers even from the same manufacturer degrad3es the sound.

Now im running a DENON 3803, with 192/24b DACs on all 7 channels, 110W on all 7 channels, all identical amplifiers
I bought a set of KEF Q1's (incredible speaker, especially for the price), and now im saving up to buy another, then another. Im going to run all 7 channels of this with 1 type of speaker.

As far as integrated / sepeates is concerned, seperates are probably better, however, i just bought that denon 3803 and its sound quality blows my mind.
I dont think that seperates will always be better, i just think that AV recievers need to do some catching up.
Some day AV recievers will be able to produce as good sound as any pre / amp setup. It just needs more time and R&D

7 Channel stereo mode sounds pretty cool when all your speaks are the same

other than that, i dont believe 2 chan is superior to multichannel. I think multichannel is still a work in progress. I also think it is a matter of personal preference.

I like the versitility of a multichannel setup.
How about three channel? This is something that I have done for about 30 years. The center front can just be an A+B mix, or even a speaker bridged across a stereo amp where one channel is operated out of phase (of course with corresponding reversal of its speaker wires).

In most stereo recordings a solo performer is recorded equally and in phase in the two stereo channels. A center speaker therefore outputs this sound louder than the other two speakers and permits the left and right speakers to be positioned further apart without encountering the dreaded "hole in the middle" problem.

As a bonus, the third speaker increases the SPL (loudness) or gives you the same SPL while driving the speakers less.
I agree with the notion that not having identical speakers does somewhat diminish sound reproduction. I have experimented quite a bit with my settings and found a few things that I believe enhances multi-channel music. I use a B&K reference 30 pre/pro and previously owned a Denon 2802 receiver. The B&K gave me the ability to select specific channels with each listening mode(an option I never had with my Denon). Through trial and error, I learned that listening in 4 channel-mode(no center channel)improved the sound quality of music. I am assuming that this is simply due to the fact that the center channel speaker, a Paradigm Studio CC, doesn't quite match the Studio 80 front speakers. Furthermore, i noticed an audible difference when I set my rear speakers (Studio 40's) to "large" in the speaker setup menu. Since then, I always listen to music in 4 channel mode with all 4 speakers set at "large" and have been much happier with multi-channel reproduction.
Chucknms...In discrete multichannel recordings (SACD or DVD-A) the center channel carries sounds that are simply not there at all in the Left and Right channels. No amount of superb imaging can recover this information.

You really ought to take the time and trouble to get that center speaker set up right.
true...I should have been more specific and said multi-channel music, not necessarily 5.1 discrete as you mention. I would never recommend anyone not include the center channel for SACD or DVD-A playback.
A center channel is not a full range speaker, so, naturally, it would only be fittign to use one in prologic surround theaters.