2.0 Home Theater

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by Josh Ray on March 16 '06

I posted an article called "7.1 Home Theater? Try 2.0" a while ago and now here's 6Moons Srajan with his take on how to tackle the home theater problem. He makes an excellent argument against the infamous center channel:

The wonderfully free thing about superior loudspeakers is that they cast a stunningly three-dimensional soundstage with perfect center fix when required. If stereo sucked as badly as the surround sound squad would have us believe, how come nobody is listening to music through a center channel? The best movies are nothing but music with dialogue instead of vocals. That's what stereo speakers thrive on.

Heck yeah. Two channel is more than enough except for the most hard core movie buff or those with the coin to do HT right. Of course, the big difference between the HT-in-a-box and the world we live in is ease of use. Where is the high-end-audio-in-a-box?

Oh, and check out Srajan's tour of Zu's digs. Word on the street says Srajan is converting to Mormonism and moving to Utah. You heard it here first.


Amen bro. Said it before, but who cares: My humble pair of Energy Connoisseurs/NAD/Jolida combo kicks the crap out of the Pioneer 5.1 HT/receiver that has been in the hall for years. Every time. You get your "center channel" and then some. Whoever says you can't get decent home theater sound without a center speaker definitely needs to be exposed to some *real* speakers I guess...
I'm on the "stereo till death" team too, but the center channel has its use for when you're watching movies with many people in the room and some have to do it from the sides, far away from the sweet spot of the two front speakers.
You guys havnt tried Ambisonics then I take it??? I have a Meridian kit and always listen to stereo tracks through there Trifield dsp mode based on Ambisonics work using a center speaker. I wont go back to two channell.
C'mon people. Get with it. More and more hi-res mutli-channel music uses the center channel and it sounds much better then stereo. Why the resistance? 5 "real" speakers should give you a more accurate sound reproduction image then just 2. I would love to see the audiophile geniuses (along with recording engineers) apply their talents to getting surround (and center) sound just right. Hundreds of thousands of people are buying crappy surround systems from the big-box retailers to go with their new big-screen TVs. But there is your sudden new market to harvest the next-gen audiophiles - and they all expect surround. Let's just make sure we get it right!
The issue here isn't 5.1 on the high end. Sure, Meridian is killer and HT done right (5.1, 7.1 or, hell, 10.2) is just wicked. One of the best demos at CES, imo, was Sunny Cable's new massive speakers playing the House of Flying Daggers scene where they fling beans against the drums. It was crazy. But then I saw the same scene on a Panasonic or some such HT system in the main CES area and was rubbish. Now, for the same price as the Pana 5.1 system, would a 2.0 be better? Heck yeah. A pair of $1000 speakers will be much more enjoyable than 6 crap speakers totaling $1000. So the issue here is people buying HT systems in the $500 to $2000 range. Above that, yeah, 5.1 can be done right. But for me, until I own Magicos or TADs with Pass Labs or whatever, I personally don't care about hearing beans bounce behind my head. Sure, a wicked HT system would be nice, but I listen to far more music, tv, and just party in general than lights-dimmed movie sessions. But, really, all this is in response to how to get people to appreciate 2 channel and undo Bose's "smaller is better" marketing strangle-hold. If that can be done, many, many more people will buy great 2.0 systems as well as 5.1 like Meridian. Right now, they believe Bose is the best.
I've installed a few SOTA home theater rigs, but I have no use for them at home. The only kind of movies I like surround for are the big blasters like Star Wars or King Kong. But really I don't watch these kinds of movies often. How many are made a year, eight or so? The rest sound better with the natural midrange for the vocal track, and the balance of a good stereo. The current DTS and Dolby Digital surrounds sound mechanical and forced. It's not the Home Theater gear, it's the format. It will be interesting to hear what these new video formats will sound like. Maybe that will change things. The musicians I listen to haven't recorded anything in surround yet, and aren't likely to do so in the near future. Everytime I have the opportunity to spend money on my rig, I ask what will improve all the music and videos I listen and watch. The answer so far has not been adding more channels.
The "phantom center" doesn't stay there if you're not centered. Stereo was developed at Bell Labs as a three-channel system. I think most people would be better off with very good single speaker—the center channel alone.