2-channel vs. 5.1 channel

Discussion in 'AV Receivers' started by AlanZ, Sep 8, 2004.

  1. AlanZ

    AlanZ Screenwriter

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    I am in a position to have to downsize my HT, and was trying to determine the best course of action. I would rather just go to a nice 2-channel set-up instead of a lesser 5.1 set-up. With that said, I'm wondering how I would go about playing movies with 2-channel. I'm going to keep my SVS sub and my Outlaw 950 pre/pro......so when i watch a film, do I want to use DD/DTS and just tell the Outlaw that I have no surrounds? Or am I better off playing it in stereo? If I choose stereo, do I lose the bass effects encoded in the .1 channel on the DD/DTS soundtracks?

    thanks!
     
  2. Scott Oliver

    Scott Oliver Screenwriter

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    What kind of money are you looking to spend in addition to what you think you can get from selling off stuff?

    Also what type of sound are you after? Any particular 2 channel products that are making you itch to do this downsizing and reorientation?

    Do you have a preference for tubes or solid state? High efficiency or low efficiency speakers?

    Are you wanting to use the Outlaw as your 2 channel preamp or are you just wanting to hold on to it for movies and AC-3 decoding only?

    Just a few of the many questions I could ask, but I can tell you I went this route as well almost 3 years ago. I am very glad I did.

    One bummer for me at least is that large screen TV's suck if you go this route. Much better to get into front projection. Large pieces of glass between two speakers aren't very good for soundstaging and imaging. I eventually sold my 36" Sony for this reason after putting up with it for a 2 years.

    My system morphed from the below to what is in my linked equipment list.
    Klipsch Synergy 10.5's with matching center and surrounds
    Klipsch KSW-200 subwoofer
    Bag End Infrasub-18
    Sunfire Truesub MK2
    Theta Casa Nova processor
    Bryston 5b-st
    Harman Kardon 2.1 signature amp
    Sony DVD-S7000 player
    Meridian 500 Cd transport
    Tara Labs entry level Prism cabling

    Most of my big changes to begin with were financed through the sale of the no longer needed corresponding piece of gear from above. For example the sale of the Bryston and HK amps paid for almost all fo my new tube amp. So transistion wasn't too bad initially on the wallet.
     
  3. AlanZ

    AlanZ Screenwriter

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    Scott:
    For the time being, Im actually just looking to sell a few pieces for the money to help with bills. I am about 80/20% HT/Music.....so I will eventually go back to a 5.1+ channel set up. But I imagine the time frame on that will be a year or longer, so I'm trying to figure out how to live with 2.1, being that I'm mostly an HT person. I'm probably going to sell two of my four Outlaw monoblock amps in addition to one of my pairs of Paradigm studio (100s, 20s) speakers. Whichever pair I sell, I'll move the other to the front. I'll keep the Denon2900, SVS PB2-ISD and Outlaw 950 for now. I'm just trying to figure out if I want to break the news to my 950 that there aren't any surround speakers any more and run the DD/DTS signal in 2.1, or if for whatever reason I would be better off playing movies in "stereo".....I'm not sure of the difference, if any.
     
  4. Scott Oliver

    Scott Oliver Screenwriter

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    I run movies through my Casa Nova and set center and surrounds to phantom. Works great! Actually never even tried using the DVD player to send out an analog stereo signal to my tube preamp to compare, but since your keeping the Outlaw you won't need to worry about this anyhow. So I guess if your question is to run stereo or DD2.1, stick to the 2.1 solution as it will allow better integration of the sub.

    As for 2.1, I personally like my system a whole lot better now than I ever did with all the stuff I had before, music or movies. Of course I used my money to upgrade, whereas you are staying pat , but still 5.1 is a bit overrated. A center speaker is nice and probably necessary if you have a large room and a some seating well off center, but otherwise I would take the money saved on the center speaker for better mains anyday. Surrounds can add that wow factor of voices behind the head or something but I have never heard of anyone not enjoying a good movie due to the lack sound from behind their head. Again I would rather invest that money into better mains on a limited budget. In phantom mode with my acoustically treated room I can still get sounds seemingly coming from behind my head when sitting in the sweet spot with a well recorded movie anyhow.
     
  5. AlanZ

    AlanZ Screenwriter

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    Yep, I totally agree with you about the center channel. I actually got rid of mine last year when I accidentally realized that my system sounded BETTER to me (and to my ex-wife) without the center. Even after calibrating, the center channel seemed to add a sort of harshness to the movie soundtrack.....I've been running my studio/100s with a phantom center ever since and I don't plan on changing that.

    I was reading briefly about the Casa Nova.....I take it you are pretty content with that piece? You are using that for 2.1 HT, and have a tube preamp for music? Is that right?
     
  6. LanceJ

    LanceJ Producer

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    Alan: Watching a movie with plain old stereo sound can still be enjoyable--you just won't have planes zooming over your head or creaking doors opening behind you. That stuff can be fun but IMO is not essential to the movie-watching experience (well, for movies with crappy plots & lousy acting these special audio effects may be their only saving grace but that's a discussion for another forum [​IMG] ).

    Programming your processor with "no sub" and "no center" will make sure you hear everything from a dvd's 5.1 soundtrack but I have found out with some movies it might sound a little weird. For example, reverb effects in scenes featuring large churches/stadiums/etc intended for the rear channels that emanate from the front speakers sound all out of proportion to the TV's image; or quiet effects like that creaking door example can almost get lost trying to compete with all the other sounds from the other channels in that front soundstage.

    You might not ever notice this unless you compared this downmixed version with the stereo version. And that leads me to the next piece of advice.

    If a dvd offers the choice of a stereo track, use THAT on a stereo-only playback system.

    This is because stereo tracks--movies and music--are mixed diferently from surround tracks. Without delving into all the minutae of this brain-melting subject it can be said that when compared to stereo, working with 4/5/6 speakers, more detail can be resolved in such a soundfield created in a listening space by all those extra channels. This has to do with volume levels of all the different sounds and the actual physical space those sounds occupy. I.e. with a surround format it is easier to place sounds--especially small/delicate ones--because now they can have their own dedicated space to exist in:

    * the front sonic plane (between the left & right front speakers)

    *the left/right sonic planes (between one of the front speakers and its corresponding rear channel)

    *the rear sonic plane

    * and the space between the front/rear planes & the two side planes.

    Here's a rough analogy for all this: say you've got a large number of posters of varying sizes you want to hang up but your living room only has one wall suitable for this. You could actually hang them all up on that wall but some will have to overlap (i.e. volume level) another to fit, which means you won't see all the detail of that entire poster. But what if you decided to use another room where all four walls were available for use? Then you could hang up all your posters (i.e. instruments, vocals, special effects) with no problems. Even small photos can now have their own space with no overlap, and despite being small they can still be viewed easily.

    But with stereo all the mixing engineer has to work with is that one front plane. So, he has to prioritize which sounds are most relevant to the movie's storyline and carefully choose their left/right placement and especially their volume level. So you can hear everything that was in the 5.1 track but now it's more difficult, especially if your speakers don't image very well or aren't capable of resolving small sonic details.

    Remember, not all movies are cluttered with dozens of sound effects so for many movies two channels is all that is neccesary to allow full reproduction of the soundtrack (this is also partly why certain types of music don't benefit from a surround presentation).

    As far as the sub is concerned, if your processor can derive a LFE signal from a stereo signal just keep the Outlaw set on "yes sub". If it can't do this just use the sub's high-level inputs & its internal crossover.
     
  7. AlanZ

    AlanZ Screenwriter

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    Lance, thanks for taking the time to explain all that....it made a lot of sense [​IMG]
     

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