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Surround - who's got a system? new
      #601995 - 09/04/08 01:46 PM
Who here has got a 5.1 home cinema system? What is it and is it any good?

And do you listen to 5.1 music or just movies?

Cheers guys,



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Steve Hill

Joined: 07/01/03
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Loc: Oxfordshire
Re: Surround - who's got a system? new [Re: DAN]
      #602019 - 09/04/08 02:21 PM
It's not what you listen to... it's whether the format has any future.

I record in stereo. It has a natural fit with the number of ears most people have, the number of outputs on an iPod and lots of things like that.

I have some good kit. I might route my final mix through two channels of (say) Crane Song EQ and compression. That's about £10k of hardware. To do that in 5.1 it's £30k (£40k for 7.1). Then we get onto consoles, monitors, monitor amps, proper surround reverbs such as a Lexicon 960, etc. To turn my mid-range studio into a surround facility would require a spend of about £100k to maintain the level of quality I already have in stereo, and which suits 95% of clients 95% of the time. The other 5% can go elsewhere, I really don't care... they are not enough of a voice in the market to make a difference.

Add in to the equation the fact that studios (including mine) are all struggling in a very difficult and declining market.

Then add in the fact that everyone's back catalogue is in (at best) stereo. You can mess about all you like with Dark Side of the Moon but surround was not part of the vision at the time and you can't retrofit it without taking outrageous liberties with the artists' original intentions. The Beatles' "Love" album, whilst superficially impressive... and no doubt even moreso at the Cirque du Soleil's Las Vegas show... is a case in point. It no longer has anything much to do with the Beatles, and what made the originals great. And playing Sun King backwards for a laugh is just beyond parody, even if the octogenarian Sir George gave it his blessing and said (with no evidence at all) that Lennon would have been up for it.

Without a credible back catalogue to fund investment in surround remixes etc (which no-one has) you have to justify it on the back of new music. A bare handful of "art house" albums a year.

You'd have to be crazy to invest in surround (unless you are mixing movies for theatre release, where budgets are implausibly large and there are proper, certified listening systems installed in the venue).

So it's as dead as quadrophonic sound, and nothing's going to change that, because you can't rewrite the economic imperatives in play here.

Dynamite with a laser beam...

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Re: Surround - who's got a system? new [Re: DAN]
      #602024 - 09/04/08 02:37 PM

Just a little one.

Front end. Denon DVD2930, universal player (DVD, SACD, DVD-A)
Amp/Decoder Arcam AVR100
B&W DM603s Mains, 601s Rears, CC6 Centre, Rel Q200 sub.

Obviously we watch a lot of movies on it (Infocus Screenplay 5700 and 2m widescreen screen) But I have a fair few surround audio discs in DVDA and SACD format. Personally I think it brings a new dimension to the music, but I realise I'm in a vanishingly small minority who gives 2 hoots about audio reproduction quality of ANY kind.

This has never been a problem when the best possibly quality media format also happened to be the ubiquitous one (Vinyl, then CD) but now with downloads and streaming fast becoming the ubiquitous media for audio consumption, and perceptual coding becoming the norm. I can see it will soon be time to hang up the audiophile pretensions and get myself an ipod and a docking station like everyone else

Ho Hum

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Joined: 20/01/05
Posts: 5582
Loc: Cowbridge, South Wales
Re: Surround - who's got a system? new [Re: DAN]
      #602069 - 09/04/08 04:12 PM
I don't have a surround system and I doubt I ever will.

Even if I had even the remotest interest (which I don't), there is no way that I (or the current Mrs Sun) would entertain the prospect of 6 speakers and the associated cabling strewn all over the front room of a carefully restored period house. The cables couldn't be hidden under carpets or floorboards as it's an exposed woodblock floor and I'm buggered if I'm gonna bury cables under that or in walls.

Stereo suits me just fine.

It's also worth reading a recent 'Sounding Off' in the fine organ that is SOS where it was suggested that even mixing in extreme stereo is largely wasted on a lot of people whose stereo speakers are stacked on top of each other and discretely tucked away on a bookshelf somewhere at the instructions of the lady of the house!



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Hugh RobjohnsAdministrator
SOS Technical Editor

Joined: 25/07/03
Posts: 25085
Loc: Worcestershire
Re: Surround - who's got a system? new [Re: Steve Hill]
      #602100 - 09/04/08 05:36 PM
Quote Steve Hill:

I record in stereo. It has a natural fit with the number of ears most people have, the number of outputs on an iPod and lots of things like that.

While I agree that the take up of surround is slow, and there is little surround equipment out there, it is actually a more 'natural fit' with human hearing which can, of course, do a pretty good job of locating sound sources all around.

It only requires someone clever to come up with a reliable, cost effective solution to surround sound via binaural headphones /earpods, and the market for surround will go through the roof.... and I don't think it will be that long. Various solutions aready exist (Studer BRS, beyer HeadZone, Dolby headphones, etc). They just need to be made cheaper and more usable...

As for the studio costs, well, yes, obviosuly it adds to many things -- speakers, amps, possibly the acoustic design costs, channels of outboard etc. But DAWS can generally handle it well already, and most of the larger (and nearly all digital) desks can too.

The fact is that film, TV, post-production, gaming, some radio and some theater and live sound areas of the industry have made significant inroads to working in surround routinely. It is only the middle market music arena that is dragging its feet for understandable and obvious fiscal and market penetration reasons -- although many of the high end mastering studios I hear from seem to be doing a lot of 5.1 mastering work, repackaging classic albums etc.


So it's as dead as quadrophonic sound, and nothing's going to change that, because you can't rewrite the economic imperatives in play here.

I'm not so sure... but it is certainly a very, very slow burn!

To answer the OP's question, yes I have a surround system (well, several, really). Partly because I am interested in it artistically and musically, partly because I'm interested in it technically, and partly because I train people in the subject and hence need to be aware of current trends, techniques and output. I enjoy listening to a lot of music and radio drama in surround, but also a fair amount of films and TV too.

The system is all PMC/Bryston (gosh, what a surprise), and varies depending on what I'm doing and where it is being set up, but the biggest variant comprises IB1s for the front left right, TB2s for the centre and rear, and a TLE1 sub. Smaller versions are wafer and TB2 or DB1-based.




Technical Editor, Sound On Sound

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Boston Green

Joined: 21/09/07
Posts: 408
Loc: East Sussex
Re: Surround - who's got a system? new [Re: DAN]
      #602103 - 09/04/08 05:46 PM
My mate just spent a grand on a home surround system, some Onkyo amp and Mordaunt Short speakers.

It sounds absolutely beyond friggin words ....... SHITE

Absolutely no mid range, no punch in the lows and very little deffinition in the highs.

He got a 'mate' who said he's a 'sound engineer' round to wire it up. First thing you notice when you walk in the room is the satellites (FR, FL, RR, RL) are mounted on the wall at a height of about 7.5 foot So some sound engineer he is.

I offered to strip it down and set it back up for him, but first suggested he get some decent stands for the satellites.

Maybe setting it up right might get it sounding right, I sure hope so, lol, at the moment it just sound soooo 'weeeedy'

PA Hire in Brighton, Sussex, Surrey and Kent.

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Posts: 491
Re: Surround - who's got a system? new [Re: DAN]
      #602117 - 09/04/08 06:24 PM
A correctly set up 5.1 surround system will sound great and Ambisonics, octophonic and other multi-channel configurations can sound even better. The reason being is that our ears and brain are very good at determining the location of a sound source. The effects can be astounding when we get as far in depth as Binaural recordings (only suitable for headphones but have a listen to this on your headphones, Holophonics).

As Steve pointed out though, the average consumer, i.e. the people who pay most of our wages on here, does not have the money to pay for or the expertise to set up an advanced system like this. A lot of systems are badly set up/designed for even stereo reproduction and mono would be better.

True multi-channel, in my opinion, is best for arty productions like those by the BEAST or other similar studios.

My 2p.

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Posts: 76
Re: Surround - who's got a system? [Re: DAN]
      #602132 - 09/04/08 07:07 PM
Don't know how typical my experience is but ...
We have a fairly decent surround set up in our living room, but it has always sounded naff, despite many attempts at setting it up properly. Anyway, about a while ago, I decided to see how surround would sound in the room I use as a home studio, which is basically a 12x8x8 ft box, but with lots of rockwool treatment. I used my sudio monitors as the mains, but fairly cheap hi-fi Tannoy and Yamaha speakers for centre and surrounds, a Mission hi-fi sub, and bottom-of-the-range Yamaha AV amp.

Well, the results amazed us, it was truly like our own personal cinema, so very involving, surround effects were precise and convincing, and the LFE stuff sounded wicked on stuff like Lord Of The Rings. I was sure it was the acoustic treatment that was making this so good.

But it is impractical for us to have that level of acoustic treatment in our living room (the wife says). I expect most people would find the same, so perhaps surround headphones are the only future.

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