7.1 home theater? Try 2.0.

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by Josh Ray on February 28 '06

Hey guys, sorry for the tumbleweeds blowing through SF. Had to take care of some personal business, you know how it is...

In any case, here's an interesting little article over at tech site Design Technica about an anti-7.1 movement. Or, at least, an intelligent argument for the HT industry not to push 6.1 and 7.1 systems as the "next big thing" that people "must have" and "get right now" or else they're "big losers."

With the marketing of 6.1 and 7.1 surround, the industry has decisively outwitted itself. It has convinced many consumers to buy new receivers and more speakers. But it has also undermined the 5.1-channel standard, which is more appropriate for the home, slowing the acceptance of surround sound in general.

Interestingly, there was some chatter in the hi-fi biz about pushing two channel home theater. Not gimmicky surround sound speakers, but a unified movement to say, "hey, why have 5-7 junk speakers with a garbage receiver when, for the same price, you could buy a decent stereo rig that sounds so much better!" Makes sense to me. Furthermore, how often do you hear dinosaurs stomping around behind you? Most of the time you're listening to music or TV anyway. HT is inherently a sound trick, not sound enjoyment, so why not pitch 2.0 as a much better bang for your buck?


That'll never work. Your average consumer will look at a package that comes with a "magic box" DVD/Receiver and 7 speakers, as an obvious choice over a receiver, DVD player, and 2 speakers. It's just simply that people believe that more is better. It would take an army to convince these consumers otherwise. And keep in mind that your average guy buying a 7.1 system has his rear speakers at +10. He doesn't care that it doesn't sound realistic. He just thinks it's cool that sound can eminate from his rear corner, regardless if it's well blended and realistic.
Agreed. Give me two real good speakers over five (or six, or seven) craptastic half-assed, pea-sized, bass-wussy boxes any day. HT is so overrated, dude.
Agreed - on the typical limited budget (or at least my typical limited budget), dividing up your money across more than 2 speakers is only going to buy you junk. I've only ever been in one Home Theatre system where the rear speakers were even properly placed - unless you have a dedicated room, it's a real chore to put them properly in the rear. I think we've all seen the systems with both rear speakers on the same side, or even up front right beside the front speakers. msykes
You guys nailed it. Yeah, HT, unless perfectly done, is just terrible. Most of the rear speakers I've heard buzz because of the horrifically long cable runs needed. Besides, the cables are cheapies with zero shielding. And unless the rears are di/bipoles, you're going to get crazy beaming. I'd wager many, many, MANY more HT systems would be sold if they were pitched as 2.0 systems. HT is just a major pain in the ass. Of course, no company is brave enough to embrace hi-fi and those that do, don't have the advertising budgets to do any good. Sigh.
I am going to set up a surround system in my home. It's going to be mostly for music though. I'm planning on 4 speakers. I don't really need a center channel as i prefer a stereo image anyway. My surround sound for music will be via ambiophonics. My ultra-powerful home theater amps? Some integrated, 15 watt 300B SET amps :)
I use two higher quality speakers for two channel listening and two lower quality rear channel speakers (who needs a center channel?). In fact, 50% of my listening is 2 channel, 20% listening headphones (with tube amp) and about 20% behind a simple computer rig - the rest would be multichannel listening or HT.