Are surround speakers necessary?

June 2, 2021
 by Paul McGowan

9 comments on “Are surround speakers necessary?”

  1. You have to calibrate the surround speakers in a home theater setup to match the fronts. If you just connect it up and expect to hear all kinds of sound coming from the surrounds and it’s not calibrated or setup properly the surrounds could be greatly under powered or over powered and yes it is also content specific. You will get more from an action movie then you will from a drama.

  2. This is a question that has long intrigued me. One aspect to it, from my viewpoint, is FOMO. Having invested a great many cents in my two-channel system, my financial resources just cannot be stretched to include a home cinema system of comparable quality. For many years now I’ve channelled the audio from movies through my (stereo subwoofer augmented) two-channel system with very satisfying results. At some point, I read somewhere or someone told me that if you use the unencoded front left and right channels from your player’s multi-channel output, you’ll still get the signals from the ‘effects’ channels (including the sub) as they’re supposedly mixed into the front left and right channels. I’ve never bothered to confirm that one way or the other. At any rate, I still seem to be able to get a very satisfying aural atmosphere from my two-channel (virtual) soundstage. However, if the mixing of movie audio does not work like that, I do fear that I may be missing out on the enhanced aural experience of surround sound. I guess my real question is, using comparable quality gear and room, how close is a well-calibrated two-channel soundstage to a well-calibrated multi-channel equivalent? I would dearly love to have the resources to test that hypothesis. πŸ˜‰

    1. Good morning MikeK!
      It’s been years sense I’ve played with a surround sound system.
      But however, I do have both my Hopper and wireless Joey sat to dhobi digital.
      Yay thoe they can output surround sound via their HDMI jacks, I’m kind of living in the past of yesteryears.
      I say this because, both dish receivers mixes the surround sound down to stereo via their analog output jacks.
      They can also display 4KUHD video too as well.
      But for me, there are two problems with that.
      #1. I can’t see it anyway.
      #2. I don’t own 4KUHD TV’s.
      But as for surround sound, I live in a relatively small house.
      Perhaps when I get and move in to a much larger place, I mite get back in to surround sound.
      But as of right now, I’m just waiting until I make enough money to do things like that.
      And one of those things, is buying a larger place to live.
      So I guess, I’ll stick with two channel stereo for right now.

  3. Music is usually supplied to the mixers as a 5.1 or 7.1 premix. (I have worked as a Sound Editor and supervisor for years). Even television shows utilize surround in the mix, but quite lightly. Paul’s explanation is acurate that the surrounds are subtly used for most of the feature or episode, only gets showy in a big action sequence. Also there are different playback levels utilized in mixes destined for theatrical versus those for home or streaming.

  4. I love my 13 channel surround sound system. It makes films of all kinds more immersive (and yes, I do include ‘those’ types of films in my collection). However, one thing I won’t listen to in surround is music. Live concerts in particular always sound horrendously mixed. For me, music is a two channel experience only and I have a separate room for that which houses a hifi into which I’ve invested a lot more than my cinema set up. But I also enjoy sound from a small TV in my living room that is only supplemented by a sound bar that from the seating position is essentially mono. It doesn’t draw attention to itself and sounds great. Whatever route you take and with whatever funds you’ve got, enjoy what you have is probably what I’m getting at.

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