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Why 7.1 Surround Sound is Overkill For Most Homes 408

RX8 writes "Home Theater expert Mark Fleischmann explains why you should not fall for the 7.1 hype and why 5.1 surround sound is adequate for most homes. From the article: '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.'"
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Why 7.1 Surround Sound is Overkill For Most Homes

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  • by deprecated ( 86120 ) on Monday February 27, 2006 @04:35AM (#14806904) Homepage Journal
    That is the Law. Are we not men?
    • by afaik_ianal ( 918433 ) on Monday February 27, 2006 @04:52AM (#14806953)
      True - and there's a pretty cool demo of what you can do with two speakers (well, headphones) here: http://www.dolby.com/consumer/technology/headphone .html [dolby.com].

      Of course this is a good example of why multiple speakers is a GoodThing(tm). The human ear is pretty good at telling where a sound came from (based on echos, etc). Doing what they do in the demo above would be pretty tricky if your speakers weren't stuck to the side of your head.
    • by ajs318 ( 655362 )
      Indeed. I for one would prefer to have two decent speakers driven by amps with a frequency range of 4Hz-20kHz +/-1dB at 1%THD, than to have any number of crappy speakers driven by amps with a frequency response of 100Hz-10kHz +/-6dB at 10%THD.

      Informal experiments with my neighbours would seem to suggest that when listening to music outdoors, THD is more noticeable than absolute volume: you can play it as loud as you like as long as it's coming through crystal clear, but the minute you introduce a little
    • The main reason is that you're not always sitting in the sweet spot. I was watching a movie with a large group of friends. I ended sitting so the voices were coming from a different direction than the television. While a lot of movies don't require surround sound, I definitely prefer to have a center channel for situations like that.
    • stereo? Bah! Real men listen in mono! I am currently perfercting a technique where I use my tongue to sense the vibration in the air. Hmm... taste that Britney Spears...
    • I could not agree more. Thankyou for saying it.
    • No, we are Devo [wikipedia.org]! D-E-V-O!

      For you youngsters who didn't recon the quote from the Devo hit and modded down this parent...*sigh*

  • stereo anyone (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cobbaut ( 232092 ) <paul,cobbaut&gmail,com> on Monday February 27, 2006 @04:37AM (#14806914) Homepage Journal
    Most non-tech people i know already have to make an effort to place two stereo speakers correctly in their livingroom,
    placing six or eight is often too much trouble.
    • Re:stereo anyone (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DrXym ( 126579 )
      Most non-tech people i know already have to make an effort to place two stereo speakers correctly in their livingroom, placing six or eight is often too much trouble.

      Replace often with always. I can understand how some audiophile might appreciate the ability to fine tune dozens or hundreds of parameters such as speaker positions, direction, tilt, balance, cabling etc. With such people the quest for perfection is neverending and sometimes exceeds common sense. I suspect that most other people would be happ

      • I suspect that most other people would be happy with a sub $6000 5:1 system from their local electrical outlet or nothing at all.



        Do you see what you are saying here? A $6000 system, do you want people to live like animals? You are what is wrong with the world today, denying the common folk the very basics of civilized living.

    • Re:stereo anyone (Score:4, Interesting)

      by ThePhilips ( 752041 ) on Monday February 27, 2006 @06:00AM (#14807120) Homepage Journal
      From what you are saying, one might think placing too is easy. But you are right: proper 5.1 system take quite much space. I would say the same amount as good stereo. And I yet to rent a flat which would allow me to put proper stereo inside. In U.S., in private houses it's quite possible. Over here in Europe, flats are terribly small and not quitable for any kind of proper stereo.

      As to 2/2.1/5.1/7.1. My friend at one time bought "expensive" Altec Lancing 5.1 system (~$250). When we compared it to sound of my home stereo (~$1.5k), guess what my friend did? He sent the 5.1 back to shop. Next week-end he came over to me and said: "Lead me to a proper shop". He purchased on my recommendation Harman system (Harman/Kardon + JBL) and never looked back.

      And even now, my cheap mini system from Yamaha (PianoCraft 400, upgraded cables and bit tuned speakers, $400 + upgrades $150) outperforms 5.1 system of any of my friends. At least that what _they_ say ;-)

      I can say that definitely there is progress in quality of 5.1 systems. But at the same time stereo goes on too. The main problem of most 5.1 systems (even if you managed to position it well) is poor stereo quality. Music is still stereo and music is what most often played on any system ;-)

      Sidenote. Many DVDs come with crapy stereo sound track. Most of my friends with stereos bought some kind of 5.1 systems just for sake of watching DVDs. IOW, popularity of 5.1 can be bit inflated.
  • by Alioth ( 221270 ) <no@spam> on Monday February 27, 2006 @04:42AM (#14806925) Journal
    Unless you're a real videophile, you're probably better off just buying two really nice speakers instead of 7 average ones. Not to mention the rats nest of cables 7 will result in.
    • Unless you're a real videophile, you're probably better off just buying two really nice speakers instead of 7 average ones.

      The terrorists have already won.
    • It depends on what you want out of your system. If you want to enjoy the audio portion of movies (and music), then spending money on the 2 front speakers and upgrading the rear channel (etc.) later might be a good strategy. If you are generally excited by the prospect of sounds occurring behind you, then maybe getting a crappy Worst Buy system is a good idea. (Surround in movies is mostly boring, but being able to hear the rockets in UT2004 coming from behind can be good for your server ranking :)

      Persona
    • Unless you're a real videophile, you're probably better off just buying two really nice speakers instead of 7 average ones.

      This is really akin to saying "unless you're a real videophile, you're probably better off buying a 13" CRT than a 47" widescreen plasma set."

      Sure, there are applications where a 13" TV and/or 2 speakers work fine. But if your goal is to watch even non-HD DVD's and you want to see them the way they were intended to be seen, then a) you need a decent TV, and b) you need a surround soun
      • This is really akin to saying "unless you're a real videophile, you're probably better off buying a 13" CRT than a 47" widescreen plasma set."

        Huh? If I'd said '...you're better off buying a pair of shitty Radio Shack speakers', you'd have a point, but I said 'really nice speakers'. For $300, I could get a fantastic pair of speakers (which I would be using all the time - most people I know who aren't videophiles maybe watch one movie a week, but listen to maybe a dozen CDs a week) which work great for the mu

      • Listening to these soundtracks with two speakers is akin to listening to all your favorite CD's in mono on a clock radio.

        Beep! Please read your own sentence. If you don't see how implausible and out of touch that sentence is, you need to delete your slashdot account and never ever reply to comments any more.

    • Unless you're a real videophile, you're probably better off just buying two really nice speakers instead of 7 average ones.

      I agree. Of all the components that contribute to a sound system, the speakers are the most important. Recievers typicaly are flat within a db or less from 20HZ to 20KHZ. Speakers are not nearly as flat. Good speakers do make a differance.

      My speakers are now over 20 years old. I bought good ones. They are still the most valuable part of my stereo.
  • Whatever happened to 3D positional audio? Last I heard, Creative bought out Aureal and now we're stuck with EAX, which is pretty lousy as far as positional 3D audio goes. Aureal had full-on binaural algorithms in development, so that (at least with headphones on) a whisper over your shoulder really sounded like a whisper over your shoulder. Adding more speakers is a pretty hack solution compared to the elegant stuff that was, at least once upon a time, in the works.
    • Games need hardware that do 3D positional audio because the scene is unpredictable. It needs to be calculated on the fly. Any 3D positional effects in a movie would be static, added when
      the movie is mixed, or else you'd have to include all the seperate audio tracks.

      Such effects are difficult to pull off in a large area like a movie theatre, and would be
      very dependent on the speaker configuration, which is probably why you don't see a lot of this.
      • Now imagine, REALLY high-quality positional audio in a theater making it sound to everyone in the theater that the 6th guy in the 5th row just farted really loudly. And then even the guy from the screen pointing at the seat and blaming the poor bastard.
    • "Whatever happened to 3D positional audio? Last I heard, Creative bought out Aureal and now we're stuck with EAX, which is pretty lousy as far as positional 3D audio goes. Aureal had full-on binaural algorithms in development, so that (at least with headphones on) a whisper over your shoulder really sounded like a whisper over your shoulder. Adding more speakers is a pretty hack solution compared to the elegant stuff that was, at least once upon a time, in the works."

      3D positional audio is just fine for

  • by Vo0k ( 760020 ) on Monday February 27, 2006 @04:51AM (#14806949) Journal
    Well, movies, music, such stuff where quality matters, if you're a connesseur you may want 5.1 or even 7.1. But 5.1 may mean difference between being alive and dead, and you NEED it in certain case.
    Friend's tale. He's the 1337, I'm just a n00b so it doesn't matter in my case. UT deathmatch. He bought his new 5.1 and configured it correctly. Some tunnel deep underground. And then he hears, left-behind, the sound of a Ripper, that deadly spinning disk that upon hitting your neck cuts your head off, granting the opponent an instant frag and counting as headshot. "Duck" and the ripper zooms over his head. Fast turn and a rocket into the enemy's face. One frag less for the opponent, one more for him, one 1337 tale more to tell, one more deathmatch won in total... Thanks to 5.1.
    • if you're a connesseur you may want 5.1 or even 7.1. Back in my day we spelt connesseur with an "i", as in "idiot", as in "idiot who'll be fleeced by the first hi-fi salesman that comes along".

      Properly mixed stereo is all you need, including games. Badly mixed stereo, I'll grant you, is not much use.

      TWW

    • And that is one reason why I don't play 3d Shoot em ups. When you have to go against gamers with uber video cards, sound cards w. surround sound speakers, and having their entire system build around max game play. Vs. me who uses my laptop for mostly work where I will need to lower my resolution to get smooth speed, thus missing that moving pixel which I could sniper. Or not having all the sounds heard in the real direction so when I hear something I will need to look around vs knowing where it is. I real
  • go Low Budget (Score:3, Interesting)

    by anagama ( 611277 ) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Monday February 27, 2006 @04:55AM (#14806958) Homepage
    When I was in school, I set up some ambience speakers "left minus right". Very easy, just connect the front two speakers like normal. Then connect a second set of speakers to sides and behind the listening area -- except only connect the positive terminals to the amp, and then bridge the negative terminals between the speakers. I about jumped out of my skin the first time I listened to some old "Dead Can Dance" album and it sounded like the shaman's rattle was right behind me. Hmmmm, maybe I'll set that up again -- except the extra wires are a real drag. Oh, Roger Water's "the pros and cons of hitchhiking" was great on this setup too.
    • Re:go Low Budget (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Monday February 27, 2006 @06:12AM (#14807152)
      That's Dolby Pro Logic, in essence. It's a 4 channel matrix of two channel sound. While the implementation is a little more complex in reality, the basis is this: Every thing that is either left or right is rent to the respective channel. Everything that is left + right is sent ot the centre channel. Everything that is left - right (or out of phase in other words) is sent to the surround channel which is two speakers in the back. It allows for the reasonable encoding of surround information in a stereo track, that also results in a good sounding stereo track.

      If you like that, and have more money, you might want to check out a Prologic II decoder, which most surround recievers are these days. It's a more advanced system and does a better job at upmixing to 6 channels.
    • Very easy, just connect the front two speakers like normal. Then connect a second set of speakers to sides and behind the listening area -- except only connect the positive terminals to the amp, and then bridge the negative terminals between the speakers.

      Hmm I can't see how you would even get a signal through the rear set of speakers, (let alone any of them?) if they're only reaciving the positive from the amp. In affect all you're doing is shorting the positive of the left and right channels.
      Now if you

    • A number of CDs (e.g., "Praise", an early-nineties new-age outfit) were processed with QSound to add some sort of surround effects (many of these albums had "sound-scaping" and stuff between tracks). It was quite effective when facing stereo speakers straight-on. Unfortunately, it didn't work as well with headphones and certain sounds ended up sounding "odd".
      • The ultimate Q-Sound demo disc is also from Roger Waters. On a stereo system that's aligned just right (with you exactly at the center), "Amused to Death" has sounds coming from all over the place; I'll never forget how spooked out I got when first hearing the "The Ballad of Bill Hubbard" for the first time, jumping when the first sound came from behind me.

        The Roger Waters album mentioned by the parent post here, "Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking" was recorded with holophonics, a variant of the binaural techni
    • This approach to generating rear ambience from recordings is generally credited to amplifier designer David Hafler, who popularized it in the 70's. For a clear diagram of how to wire this up that may be easier to understand than the text here see http://sound.westhost.com/project18.htm [westhost.com] It's also possible to insert a fixed or variable resistor to adjust the volume of the rear speakers relative to the front; see the "Can I play binaural recordings through loudspeakers?" section of http://www.headwize.com/fa [headwize.com]
  • by TheGSRGuy ( 901647 ) on Monday February 27, 2006 @04:57AM (#14806964)
    There's practically no content encoded in 6.1 or 7.1. And the stuff that is...well, most people probably can't tell a big difference. Example: Castaway is encoded as a DTS-ES disc, which is VERY rare. I'll tell you, I've watched the movie twice now: once in regular DTS and the other in DTS-ES, and I was hard-pressed to tell a difference. The latest DVD release of Top Gun actually has DTS Discrete encoding. Again, I really had to concentrate to hear that extra channel versus my older 5.1-encoded copy.

    I did like one point: why would you want more rear speakers than front? The center speaker produces the majority of dialogue in a movie, not the rear channels.

    I have a 6.1 system, yes. I didn't intentionally do this. I watch non-digital TV with PLIIx decoding, and watch my movies with Dolby Digital EX. Frankly, I can't tell the difference. That "center surround" speaker is more for bragging rights than anything else.

    So just to reiterate, I won't call 6.1 and 7.1 totally worthless, but yes, it is overkill. Movie experiences at home won't suddenly be way better. And the complete lack of 6.1 & 7.1 content makes the format rather pointless.

  • by JanneM ( 7445 ) on Monday February 27, 2006 @05:12AM (#14806992) Homepage
    There's so many ways to make mistakes when setting up sound - and with more stuff, more choices, more tweaking possible, all but the most dedicated sound geeks are simply getting more ways to mess it all up.

    The reality is that for most people, setting up two good speakers, or maybe two speakers and a subwoofer in the center, is going to give them the best sound. Add various little satellite speakers and stuff that is really dependent on the room layout, the prescence of sound reflecting and absorbing materials (table surfaces, soft couches etc.), the unpredictability of where people are sitting and chances are they will end up with a soundscape that sounds decidedly worse than they had with a simple 2 speaker or 2+1 speaker setup.

    It's like having high-end Öhlins shock absorbers on your bike. For the riders that _are_ (not just think they are) knowledgeable, interested, and ready to spend a week tinkering, they will give superior performance to the factory default shocks. For the rest of us, they're just an expensive invitation to utterly screw up the bike handling beyond all help.

    • The reality is that for most people, setting up two good speakers, or maybe two speakers and a subwoofer in the center, is going to give them the best sound.

      Except that DVD's and HDTV are recorded in six discreet channels!

      I'm having trouble figuring out why so many people in this thread seem to fail to understand this. Two speakers is not going to give you the best sound from six separate channels. It just isn't. Five full-range speakers or five satellites and a sub is going to give you the best sound fr
      • It's almost amazing to me the level of ignorance about this that pervades even supposed geeks hanging around Slashdot. Just remember the golden rule of everything (television standards, jumper cables, sex, whatever): you have to match the output to the input.

        It still amazes you? Technical knowledge at Slashdot has dropped over the years. That's just a fact. People want to post despite their lack of knowledge, another fact. If they really know nothing on the topic, they say something political (and inco
        • Maybe the problem is that you have expectations about the comments on slashdot. Don't expect an army of experts to give many useful tips and comments after every article. In reality it's full of chumps here who jump to the chance to flame, bring up their own favorite unrelated soapbox item, try to score points with cheap and obvious comments, and to shamelessly start talking about themselves. The latter is especially annoying here, everyone starts talking about themselves, what they want and dislike and wha
      • I'm having trouble figuring out why so many people in this thread seem to fail to understand this. Two speakers is not going to give you the best sound from six separate channels. It just isn't. Five full-range speakers or five satellites and a sub is going to give you the best sound from six separate channels. I mean, it's just common sense, isn't it?

        You misunderstand my post a bit.

        What I'm saying is that taking those 5+1 speakers and placing them badly, not connecting all speakers the same way, not mixing
        • I find that if you set it up badly (just throw the speakers in roughly the right areas, but nowhere near great), drop the volume on the surround speakers. A small amount of poorly placed surround tends to sound better than none or a normal amount.
      • "Just remember the golden rule of everything (television standards, jumper cables, sex, whatever): you have to match the output to the input."

        Willie "Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Fond Of Each Other" Nelson may disagree with you there.
  • 'kay, headphones beat the speakers in the efficiency of that, but headphones get tiring pretty fast. If your sister behind a thin wall turns on her stereo with Michael Jackson, you NEED a sound barrier. And in the meantime, getting stronger, louder speakers will just result in race of arms and neighbors getting involved for excessive noise. This won't work. You need a subtle solution and 5.1/7.1 comes to the rescue.
    Each of the speakers taken separately is pretty weak, and emits sound in one direction. 6 met
    • Nonfuckingsense!

      There is no "sound barrier" no one sweet spot and no cancelling out everything else. If you think headphones are tiring you haven't spent enough on them. A few hundred dollars will get you the equivalent in headphones as $10k worth of speakers (and that's ignoring powering them). Spend a grand on headphones and you start getting up into the golden ear brigade in terms of sound quality.

      Of course, for most of the slashdot crowd who would order their headphones from headphones.com you will a
  • by Quirk ( 36086 ) on Monday February 27, 2006 @05:15AM (#14806998) Homepage Journal
    There was a famous american conductor active around the mid part of the last century who was widely known for his refusal to record. He characterized recorded music as pancaked sound. Although this was in the vinly era his criticism still holds. More speakers, even properly spaced, don't lend a benefical comparison of recorded music to a performance.

    You can listen to any recording of say the Kronos Quartet [kronosquartet.org], but no matter how well the recording tech is matched to the medium the sound is flat compared to hearing the quartet play live.

    I sometimes prefer listening to something from a seminal jazz album like Bitches Brew [miles-davis.com] on a turn table because the vynil has a warmer sound to my ears.

    You can add all the speakers and present day tech you want it's still pancaked sound.

    • That's true. And why? Because even uncompressed audio doesn't transfer all the frequencies. And audio equipment is meant to record/play only "audible" frequencies.
      Sure you don't HEAR the extra frequencies below or above the standard spectrum. But you FEEL them. Ultrasound adds the "piercing" impression, "music reaching to your inner depths". Subsonic makes you uncalm, feels like fear, danger. It's what makes animals flee from incoming hurricane, it's what makes your skin crawl. And harmonics, acords with th
    • Yes, but it's not really practical to drag Queensryche over to my house every time I want to hear "One More Time".
  • I got suckered in to get 6.1 type speakers for my apartment until I realised that I was annoying the neighbors.

    I mean, it's great to have these fantastic stereos if you can get away with turning the noise up on them. Not so great for apartment dwellers though....
    • I got suckered in to get 6.1 type speakers for my apartment until I realised that I was annoying the neighbors.

      I had the same problem and then I figured out the solution... don't realize you're annoying the neighbors. Problem solved ;)

  • Since I wear an analog hearing aid, I cannot hear the directions of the sound (not even left and right) because my analog hearing aid only has one microphone (left side of my head). Basically, I hear everything in mono. However, I love bass so give me a big fat subwoofer any day. And it is even better if I turn off/remove my hearing aid to make more bass. [grin]
  • Summarized for Your Convenience: "Why 7.1 Surround Sound is Overkill For Most Homes: because seven plus one is eight, which is a lot." Thib ;-)
  • Equipment vs. Media (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mauthbaux ( 652274 ) on Monday February 27, 2006 @05:40AM (#14807063) Homepage
    I personally have a decent 5.1 surround system. It's far from the top end of things, but noticeably better than most of the cheap systems you see for sale at Wal-Mart.

    From the variety of movies that I've watched on it, my big complaint lies with the audio encoding of the movies themselves rather than with the equipment it's playing on. I have a few hundred DVDs, and there's only a handful of them where it seems that any real effort was put into the channeling of the audio. The Superbit version of the Fifth Element comes to mind as a movie that simply sounds incredible with the surround. Most of the rest of them fall short, even ones with dts.

    I have a suspicion that the dts tracks on some of them were just copies of the Dolby (or even Stereo) tracks that had just been resampled at a higher bitrate. It would be like using a casette to record a song from a radio broadcast and then encoding it into a 128kHz mp3. It's still not going to sound as good as the original (The original CD... not the radio recording).

    Anyway, perhaps I'm wrong but, it seems like the shortcomings in my sound system (and many others as well) is not so much the equipment, but the quality of the media being played. Anyone else seen a difference between DVD distributions of movies? Or perhaps have a preferrence in the companies you buy your DVDs from?
    • That's been exactly my experience; with HDTV as well as DVDs. Rarely do DVDs really put much effort into separating the channels; when they do it is *really* noticeable. Older DVDs simply don't bother at all and most new ones don't seem to have much going on. I also run HDTV signals through my 5.1 system; shows like 24 advertise "in surround sound where available" but I never notice much going on. I also play .avi and .mpg files through the system and have never noticed that they've been encoded for 5.1
    • Might be your setup. Have you checked your DVD player to make sure it's not compressing the audio? Theatre sound has a pretty wide dynamic range, and that doesn't always work so well on home systems, espically if there are small speakers in a 2-channel setup involved. Thus most DVD players compress the dynamic range of the tracks quite a bit. The AC3 file has all the info needed, it is noted as to the absolute SPL of the maximum peak and the level of the dialogue in relation to the effects.

      I doubt the DTS t
  • 2d video = stereo (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tobes ( 302057 ) <tobypadilla.gmail@com> on Monday February 27, 2006 @05:50AM (#14807095) Homepage
    I find it distracting to hear sounds behind me (any form of surround) when the picture is in a two dimensional field in front of me. Especially when the effects tend to be breaking glass or bullets pinging off things.
    • Your statement is almost a non-sequitur. If your screen showed imagery in 3d would it make a difference? The imagery is still in front of you. Is you meaning that you don't have visuals behind you, so why would should you have sounds? That doesn't make sense either though, because you can never see behind you. You don't need to turn your head during a movie - the camera does the head turning for you. e.g. say the camera was pointing at a wall during at a rock concert. you would hear the music behind
      • I think I understand what the original poster is referring to. I don't have my own surround sound system, but sometimes when I'm in a cinema and they have a particularly loud noise "behind" the audience, I find myself looking around at it instinctively, only to see a dark room full of people. What should have been an unconcious thing has now become a concious issue, which acts as a distraction. For a short period you are "disconnected" from the movie world and thrust back into the real world.

        It might make

    • Just imagine you are wearing some weird glasses that severally block your field of view and cover up one eye. Sound still comes from around you, just like on TV.

      I don't know, I'd be hard pressed to give up the sound of bullet ricochets being me during the Matrix lobby scene. :)

      Andrew
  • ...one of these [bbspot.com] babies.
  • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Monday February 27, 2006 @06:02AM (#14807129)
    This whole "clipping is a fact of life except in expensive systems". No, not so much actually. I'd be really supprised if most good reciever/speaker combos ever clipped. It's not hard to build an amp that has plenty of power for home theatre, espically when you are talking the distances at which the speakers will be placed. Generally people aren't going to be running them at a whole lot more than a couple watts RMS.

    The thing is that recievers are all transistor amps, and clipping is really noticable on transistors. Transistors are essentally completely linear up to a point, then they just stop hard and don't put out any more power. It isn't quite as harsh as digital clipping, but close. It's not smooth like tube clipping where the tube slowly enters a non-linear zone.

    Also, more channels wouldn't give a reciever any more reason to clip. Each channel is a seperate amp. What matters in regards to clipping is the amount of power going in to a single channel. If it's more than the channel can handle, you clip, if not, you don't. What's happening on the other channels isn't relivant.

    He's also wrong that there's no reason to want more speakers just because there's no seperate encoding for them. If that were the case, why the hell do theatres have more than 5 speakers? Well, because the sound would suck. You have people all spread out, you need surround speakers all along the walls to get a good, diffuse surround field that's pleasant for all of them.

    It's actually the same reason behind a centre channel. In theory on a good setup, such a thing sould be unnecessary. Indeed you find this is the case, if you have two quality speakers that are focused on a listener, they can generate a perfectly centred sound by playing in unison. No need for a speaker there. However, that relies on a very small sweet spot. If people are spread out, the illusion breaks. So, we just put a speaker in the dead centre, and send the sound there. It makes the sound seem to come from the middle of the screen, regardless of your angle to it.

    The real reason not to get 7.1 in most cases is you are wasting money because your listening area is too small to really benefit from more speakers. However, it's not going to make your reciever clip or anything, unless you've got a seriously screwed up reciever.
    • Also, more channels wouldn't give a reciever any more reason to clip. Each channel is a seperate amp.

      A receiver's amplified channels still share a single power supply. This is kind of the defining trait of a receiver, actually (and, along with pre-amp stage purity, the source of all the receiver vs. separates debates of the ages). If the power supply (with support from capacitors) cannot maintain rail voltage for the load across the channels at a given instant, all channels are generally going to clip,

      • Ok but that's a problem of overpowering the system as a whole and I don't think more speakers are more likley to make that happen. If you are driving the system too hard with 7 speakers because it's not loud enough, I don't think that's going to change moving to less, the system still won't be loud enough. The recievers I've looked at (like the Yamaha HTR series) ahve plenty adiquate power supplies for their needs.

        More likely, if you are getting distortion, it's from your speakers. Speaker distortion increa
    • Center Channel (Score:3, Informative)

      Actually the center channel has a specific and unique use. The majority (like 90%) of the dialogue comes from the center channel. This means two things; first your center channel speaker must be the best speaker in your setup so that you can hear the dialogue clearly, and second, this allows you to isolate the dialogue and alter the volume for it separately from the rest of the content.

      If you have ever played a surround sound DVD on a stereo setup, you would know what I am talking about almost immediate
      • I dunno, I have no trouble hearing dialogue when it's mixed in to stereo speakers. In my living room, I have a 5.1 setup, in my room I have a higher quality 4.0 setup. Generally I watch movies in the living room, hence the full 5.1, but I do wach them in my room on my computer sometimes. In that case, the centre channel data is mixed in with the left and right data and fed to those speakers. It sounds like speech is comming from the dead centre in front of me, and if I close my eyes it's easy to imagine a s
    • Also, more channels wouldn't give a reciever any more reason to clip. Each channel is a seperate amp.

      That's not completely true. TFA doesn't really explain the point he's trying to make in this area. Your typical home theater receiver has a power rating for each channel that's usually based on the transistors used. There's also a maximum power rating that comes from how much current the power supply can produce. If you have something with multiple channels being driven at once, there are plenty of recei
    • Also, more channels wouldn't give a reciever any more reason to clip. Each channel is a seperate amp. What matters in regards to clipping is the amount of power going in to a single channel. If it's more than the channel can handle, you clip, if not, you don't. What's happening on the other channels isn't relivant.

      It totally matters if you're using a cheap amp that uses a single power supply for all channels. Your typical cheap amp will claim 100W per channel but the supply can't actually deliver enough ju
    • Also, more channels wouldn't give a reciever any more reason to clip. Each channel is a seperate amp. What matters in regards to clipping is the amount of power going in to a single channel. If it's more than the channel can handle, you clip, if not, you don't. What's happening on the other channels isn't relivant.

      Actually cheap receivers have very cheap and limited power supplies. The more channels you drive the less power that is available to all of them. As such if you hit a loud passage with sound

  • I bought 7.1 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mark Hood ( 1630 ) on Monday February 27, 2006 @06:09AM (#14807143) Homepage
    And here's why.

    I had a TV with built in 5.1 surround (including some lousy satellite speakers but no sub), but it didn't support DTS, and without a receiver of some sort I couldn't add additional inputs.

    So I decided to buy a 5.1 receiver and speakers.

    At the store, they had a 7.1 receiver which I'd read reviews of, and they said sounds like it cost well over £1000 but was only £300. They had it reduced to £250.

    So I bought it. And a set of 7.1 speakers (the same price as an inferior 5.1 set) in which the rear 4 can be spliced together as pairs - reducing it to 5.1).

    Since I have a small room, and no 7.1 source, I've left it as a 5.1 system, but it's nice to know if I ever get a larger room I can split up the rear speakers and properly fill in the rear channels.

    That said, I agree wholeheartedly that I'd not swap a 5.1 for a 7.1 system, if it cost more. I went from a sort of 5.1 to a real 5.1 for a sum I was happy to pay - and can now upgrade to 7.1 should it prove useful for the cost of two speaker stands.

    Mark

  • The first question to ask yourself before going in for any "x.1" system is about your usage pattern. Specifically, how often will you listen to music and how often will you watch movies on your system(assuming of course that you do not have two separate systems of course)?

    If like me, and most other people in the world you listen to more of music than movies, then the entire "x.1" debate is, imho, DOA. Simply because a good stereo amp and quality stereo speakers blow the hell out of any(equally priced) "x.
  • These movies and more specifically todays 5.1 DD games support PROPER sorround sound.

    That means that in some movies you hear things all around you.
    You only need to pop in LOTR, Matrix or Saving Private Ryan to see the difference.

    What IS dopey is to buy a 5.1 cheap nasty 300$ system, if you can't afford something half decent don't buy a cheap version.

    Start with a good basic receiver (400$ US for a DD receiver with some half decent power and 5.1 support) - then use your crappy spare speakers and slowly build
  • As long as companies tout features that look better in a brochure, salespeople and people themselves can convince themselves it is necessary.

    Even 7.1 may have some passing benefit. But my case in point is power leads [hifichoice.co.uk], being rated by What HiFi as 5 stars. These are £50 per cord. I don't have a link to their magazine, but the blurb says about these Kords"you will notice more melliflous treble and more composure in the bass"

    To my mind if your stereo receiver needs a special cord to improve its bass

    • I once heard that you should spend 10% of the cash on a sound system on the cables. The rationale was something along the lines of:
      - they always chuck in cheap ones to cut costs
      - the sound is only as good as the weakest link in the system
      - good sound from good amp -> shit cables -> crap sound out of good speakers

      I don't know if higher-end stereos have better cables these days - I bought a Denon Hifi back in 1996 (the only good bit of kit I have, stereo-wise) after getting a building society windfall (
  • I wonder why the transition from DD or DTS 5.1 to 7.1 adds additional surround channels, and not additional front channels, like SDDS does (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SDDS [wikipedia.org]).

    I have a 6.1 system right now, and AFAICT the difference between 5.1 and 6.1 is quite small. However, I started with 4 speakers, then added a center, and loved the difference that the center made. Maybe that's just because my current screen is so small. My problem is: when I buy a projector and use a 2.4m (8ft) wide screen, I fear that

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