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Am I right that most audiophiles have given up on multichannel, and moving back to stereo? Or never ventured away from stereo?
As example, the new high end Marantz SA-10 SACD player, where Marantz support hi-res stereo (SACD), but purposefully don't bother with multichannel. Do you think this reflects where the market is heading, or just a general disappointment with multichannel audio - perhaps the latter is more the confines of TV audio and hollywood movies?
Edits: 04/10/17Follow Ups:
While I sold Quad stuff in the 70's, the encoded software was usually not produced well. And as a young engineer it was pretty expensive to go Quadriphonic. I did invest in a Advent500 sound space and loved it - paired with the Advent 300 and a Carver Cube driving Shahinian Obelisks up front and a pair of Advent 4's in the back - with my liner notes recommending the settings for the rear channels based on the production of the stereo disk - I was thoroughly enjoying the hobby of listening to music.
While I still have the Advent combo's - my current system uses MMG's up front and MMG-W's in the sides and a KZ AVR520 receiver that is serving me excellently - with about 19 different surround modes - I use 5 Typically:
Logic 7 Music - is my go to for most recordings
DTS Neo6 Music is set up for live recordings with a little more rear channel and a tad more subwoofer
Dolby Pro Logic Music provides a little more "Upfront" presentation
VMax Far is a stereo enhancement (like Carver holography) that works very well on a lot of old stuff - bluegrass Country string and jazz quartets (Listen to "Kind of Blue" and you are there!
And Regular Stereo Just to set a baseline - or sometimes when the recordings have too much "built in" stereo enhancement.
Note that I am remastering recordings as they go on my server - and I use the Dolby Prologic and Stereo settings to evaluate my mix as I edit. Usually I'll add a little or compress a little stereo width depending on the music presentation. Mainly in the 2.5kHz to 5kHz range. I don't like wide drum kits unless they are upfront in the mix!
"The hardest thing of all is to find a black cat in a dark room, especially if there is no cat" - Confucius
Nope. The day I discovered Mch, a bit over 10 years ago, was easily the happiest day of my life as an audiophile. I never heard a bigger positive sonic difference in my life, and I was using my own system and room. I listen to little else but discretely recorded hi rez Mch.
Genre makes a huge difference, as others here have noted. My interests are classical and most recordings natively done in hi rez Mch are classical. I have thousands of such recordings. And, new releases keep coming. Mch choices are much fewer and of generally lesser sonic quality in other genres.
Among my 10 closest audiophile friends, about half are firmly committed to Mch. We all go to live concerts, all have systems in the $40k and up to over $100k range, and we frequently hear very costly stereos in over $100k systems. To us, the advantage of Mch over stereo is quite obvious. It is easily today's best sound reproduction, and it comes closest to replicating the sense of live performance, much more so than any stereo at any price can.
I think there is much ignorance and misunderstanding of it. Many Mch systems are not properly set up for music by audiophiles or even at dealerships. For some reason, dealers have a blind spot about it and relegate it purely to home theater.
The cost issue is also misunderstood. My sense is that at any price point at roughly $5-$10k or higher, one can always assemble a better sounding Mch system than a stereo. Part of that is just the obvious diminishing returns in audio we all are familiar with.
My sense is that at any price point at roughly $5-$10k or higher, one can always assemble a better sounding Mch system than a stereo.
While we are both electrostatic enthusiasts, I find the discontinuity of hybrids distracting. When most instruments in the symphony require the use of both monopolar woofers and dipolar panels to reproduce their respective ranges - each exhibiting rather different directivity - the resulting loss of coherency compromises the sense of realism for me.
Different strokes I guess. It's been that way for me since I first heard Dayton-Wrights in '76. :)
Well, we are off topic. I once did agree. But, I have found electrostat hybrids to have improved over the years. And, they definitely overcome many weakness of full range dipoles, such as dynamics, efficiency and dipole bass cancellation. I previously owned Martin CLS full range 'stat dipoles and even with subwoofers below 100Hz, they always had an artificial thinness in the mid/upper bass that was incurable.
Maybe I have grown accustomed to it, but I do not hear the discontinuity to which you refer, even in comparison to other purely dynamic speakers. Yes, the CLSs were wonderfully coherent in their range. But, I sensed no loss of that when I upgraded to my current aged ML Prodigys some time ago.
Perhaps also the time correction effect of the Dirac room EQ I use now plays a role. Also, it has been my experience that many criticisms of woofers and subwoofers, like "slowness", etc., really have to do with room modal effects introducing uneven frequency response, boominess and overhang.
I do not think we can directly hear dispersion patterns, but we hear only the diffuse effects of dispersion quite indirectly via the complex room reflections they induce.
Well, we are off topic.
It's certainly on topic for me regarding the assertion I quoted ("one can always assemble a better sounding Mch system than a stereo."). Always? I find that a great system always begins with speakers that achieve a certain level of performance. Indeed the CLS suffered from limited panel area. Even the larger CLX has but half the area of mine.
I find that 600 watts of tube power provides sufficient dynamic output. I get measurably flat response to 30 hz in my room (pic in gallery) which works fine for my needs. That was achieved with careful placement and a small forest of bass traps.
I do not think we can directly hear dispersion patterns
Perhaps I am just hyper sensitive to coherency as I definitely do. A piano, for example, should radiate sound as if it is a single instrument. I was never a fan of early JBL speakers because they operated the midrange driver a good octave too high for consistent directivity and possessed a "fun house mirror" sort of image perspective from a frequency standpoint. Delivering consistent directivity has been a design consideration for many speaker manufacturers as of late. Even with sound reinforcement companies like Danley Sound Labs .
All I'm saying is your "always" is apparently not shared by many other inmates given the limited responses to this thread.
To each his own. :)
My opinion about building an optimum system for a given price does depend on one's sonic priorities and other factors. My opinion was, as you can see, also qualified by a minimum price. You cannot do it for a few thousand bucks.
We may disagree, but I think sonic differences as a function of price have steadily declined, meaning diminishing performance returns with price are even more significant than they once were. That goes for speakers, too, in my experience. Note that I did not say everything sounds alike, no matter what you spend. I am saying, above a certain price point, spending a whole lot more does not buy you as much incremental performance boost as it once did.
I also believe I could assemble a better sounding system than my current one at a lower price than I paid if I had to redo it over today, even disregarding inflation. But, given the mostly unrecoverable sunk cost I have in my current one, that is not likely to happen.
I respect and admire your Sound Labs speakers. I have heard them a number of times, including at the home of a recording engineer friend in a thoroughly treated room. That was a 5.0 configuration driven by a Meitner DAC in pure DSD mode. The sound was really outstandingly good, but the deep bass was just not there driven by 5 Parasound JC-1 monoblocks, and what was there was still quite ragged and dynamically limited. I felt no need to imitate his configuration. Mine more than held its own against that, as have other Mch systems I have heard.
I agree about issues of coherence. They can be caused by a lot of things. But, I do not think dispersion is one of them, since we cannot hear dispersion unless we have many more ears than two pointing at many more angles. But, specifically, coherence between dipoles and dynamic woofers or subwoofers in hybrid configuration is important. But, it is likely more a matter of crossover implementation and control of bass room interactions. That has improved substantially in the past decade or so.
My opinion was, as you can see, also qualified by a minimum price. You cannot do it for a few thousand bucks.
Understood. You'll find I have several components in the main system which meet your minimum alone. I think you'll find a number of exceptional two channel systems found here like that of inmate Mike Lavigne's that also meet your requirements.
Harry Pearson was a dear friend and mentor for over thirty years. He certainly believed in the value of MC and Telarc released a sampler of his favorite cuts called "The Absolute Sound SACD Sampler". In the liner notes, he describes in detail why he chose each track. He gave me a copy in 2006 and provided a personalized overview of his thoughts while listening during one visit. And while he had a wonderful MC system (cabling alone was ~$30,000), he always returned to what I also found to deliver a more realistic sound overall with the spectacular two channel systems in Room 3.
I respect and admire your Sound Labs speakers. I have heard them a number of times, including at the home of a recording engineer friend in a thoroughly treated room. That was a 5.0 configuration driven by a Meitner DAC in pure DSD mode.
Wow, five U-1PXes would run $135k by themselves. Deep bass not there? Something was wrong.
But, I do not think dispersion is one of them, since we cannot hear dispersion unless we have many more ears than two pointing at many more angles.
I continue to disagree. I think trained listeners can tell when a wavefront's shape is frequency dependent and demonstrates different amounts of indirect radiation - at least if their head is not locked in a vise. What I like most about my arrangement is that the soundfield changes very little whether you sit down, stand up, are close to the speaker, further back, in front or directly behind the speakers. That's the kind of coherency I sense with live, unamplified music. Like regularly hearing wifey play her baby grand in the living room.
I think our exchange is simply another example of how different our listening priorities are. Why some folks prefer box speakers vs horns or planars. Tube vs SS. And so on. I guess I also differ greatly on a comment found in your profile:
"I almost never listen in stereo anymore."
I simply cannot imagine limiting my musical tastes so profoundly. I presume you refer to true MC recordings and not "artificially processed" results like Bigguy.
edits: math problem and lack of highlighting!
Yes, I also met Harry and visited Sea Cliff several times. I did not get to hear his experiments with Mch. He did come to prefer Mch as it gained momentum post 2000. He had his brilliant audio insights from time to time, but I think he was technically illiterate, much too cozy with the industry, and fundamentally much too full of himself and his own BS. I think he greatly helped growth and profitability of the high end industry, but he did that by planting so much utter nonsense in audiophile brains. Sorry to step on your toes again, but that is how I see it. I was really much more of a Gordon Holt or Peter Aczel guy back in the day, but nobody is perfect.
Yes, we disagree about the ability to hear speaker dispersion directly. But, if you believe you can, more power to you.
Saying I almost never listen to stereo anymore is not really true. Sorry. I actually spend most all day every day listening to FM radio around the house and in my car. It is when I plop down in my music room for a few hours to do serious listening that I almost never listen in stereo anymore. I have thousands of discretely recorded hi rez Mch classical albums on my NAS from which to choose. And, yes, I do not listen to synthesized Mch, just discretely recorded.
Yes, I also met Harry and visited Sea Cliff several times. I did not get to hear his experiments with Mch.
That's a shame. It was in Room 1 at the front of the house. You are likely aware he was also a video buff and used it as HT as well using a Runco projector and huge screen. Front end used EMM Labs separates through a Conrad-Johnson MET1 with Edge G AV amp driving Magneplanar 20.1s, dual CCR centers and 1.6s with five Nola Thunderbolt subs. Naturally, Nordost Valhalla cabling was used throughout. :)
...but he did that by planting so much utter nonsense in audiophile brains. Sorry to step on your toes again, but that is how I see it.
No problemo. HP could indeed be HP but overall his knowledge of music and ability to discern audible differences was incredible. His close friend Dr. Cooledge, another valuable mentor who introduced me to him was aware of that as well. Technical knowledge really wasn't required as he had a guy to take care of that stuff. During my visits, I would sometimes check tube bias and adjust if necessary. Which could be time consuming when he used the VTL Wotans! I didn't share the same set of priorities with him either. He tended to listen at higher levels than I find comfortable and usually had the bass towers cranked a bit.
edit: The first time I visited was 1980 when he was running the IRS in Room 2. While the big Infinity speakers were incredible in many ways, the bass towers sounded like they belonged to a different system. When he moved to the big Nola Exotica Grand Reference, things improved to these ears. But there was still a sense of listening to The Bass and The Rest of the Range. The Scaenas were the most coherent of the ones he used since the entire speaker operated as a monopole. The "depth charge" subs rarely spoke until the content required it.
But, if you believe you can, more power to you.
For me, it has never really been a deliberate "choice". Like those who possess perfect pitch (for which I am not), the ability can be both a blessing and a curse. Once I became aware of this kind of discontinuity as a teenager, I can no longer ignore it. Here is an example:
A few years back, business took me to the Cleveland area where an inmate that hangs out at Vintage lives. He extended an invitation to his condo and we spent a delightful evening well into the wee hours. As an engineer himself, he does lots of DIY and measures most everything. He had a really tweaked set of Advents and JBL L110s. We first listened to the Advents which are quite familiar to me as that was my first serious speaker and I still have modified pair to this day. Then we switched over to the L110s (the neutral brother to the Centuries). At once, the top end was more extended and tonal balance nore neutral through the midrange. What I couldn't ignore, however, was the fun house mirror effect due to inconsistent directivity. The midrange was driven an octave too high such that the upper midrange/lower highs shrunk dimensionally only to transition immediately to a wide dispersion tweeter sitting right in the middle of its optimum range. At first he didn't notice the difference until I explained the phenomena.
It is when I plop down in my music room for a few hours to do serious listening that I almost never listen in stereo anymore.
To each his own. I love classical, but some of my favorites were recorded long before MC. I also enjoy a range of other genres, too
And, yes, I do not listen to synthesized Mch, just discretely recorded.
Artificially generated *ambience* and other *effects* sound, well - artificial to me as well. I'm glad we agree on something. :)
My brother has a SOTA 2 channel system - discs, vinyl, files - for less than my long in the tooth 5.1 system cost me.
NO, I am a SACD fan and I only listen in mch which is very easy to achieve , combined with HT., I do listen to mainly Classical .However most of my collection is CD so much of my listening is in stereo.
"E Burres Stigano?"
I have a multichannel setup but can't remember the last time I played anything on it. I have the Quad DVD-A of DSOTM, and also Beatles Love.
DSOTM is a different mix than the original stereo done by Alan Parsons for a quad LP that I don't think was ever released. It sounds great, and it was the only version I would play for many years (as much as I could play DSOTM anyway). But then I upgraded my turntable and put on my old copy and the LP just blew it away. I was surprised myself. Love is just gimmicky. After a few listens I tired of the mash up.
All of the rest of the surround DVD-A that I had were audiophile recordings, and the performances in these is always lacking. Too much attention is paid to the recording, but nobody bothers to play. And usually it is a second rate orchestra/band/group. And to this day I still have never owned an SACD. This isn't for any particular reason, I just don't own any. Maybe it was that my original DVD-A player was only DVD-A, not the Oppo universal player I have now, actually for ~5 years at this point
And while Dave (below) may be correct that it would require more time to get the setup "just right", I've found that, for me, multi-channel is actually more forgiving of non-optimum speaker placement than regular stereo is. Just my two cents.
As a classical listener, I'm also truly thankful that there are companies such as BIS, Chandos, and Audite who continue to release new multi-channel albums each month, and who make these albums available as multi-channel downloads too. Yeah, the "majors" seem to have abandoned multi-channel (at least for the time being) - but, who knows, that could be a temporary phenomenon. (I'm hoping it is anyway!)
Audiophiles probably have never really heard good multichannel because it is so hard to achieve in a domestic environment. It took me years to get it right. Also the vast majority of MCH releases are classical music and the audience for this is comparatively small anyway. I suspect we are a minority of a minority.
Reminds me a little of 40+ years ago with quadraphonic.
I was certainly happy but then that was a long time ago and and it's improved considerably.
Quadraphonic sound was based on creating a totally immersive experience which was, also, totally unlike any real performance experience.
OTOH, modern multichannel is intended to recreate the real performance experience by incorporating the ambiance characteristics that make the actual performance sound unique to the time and place.
It is hardly a surprise that quad fans often complain about how their classic recordings are changed when remastered for today's multichannel.
Some of them work really well, Kal. For example the Pentatone reissue of the Boston/Ozawa Faust (PTC5186 212). I think the engineers had high aims but lacked the technology to get the results to the end user.
D.B. Would be interested to know your MC setup and why it took you years to get it right.
Setup is in systems - as for why it took so long, I guess it was partly space - I moved house a few years back and have a decent sized room now - and partly expense in getting each channel up to standard. Worth it though. A side effect is that stereo too is now better and as you note, a lot of listening is in stereo anyway. A good CD is just that, good.
Have you gone for the Official setup of having 5 equal size speakers, which I find unnecessary especially if floorstanders. now see you have IMO a very complex setup .
For a budget that's not unlimited, you must necessarily make some qualitative trade offs with your component selection when using five sets of everything vs. two. And as already observed, the range of available recordings (that don't sound hokey) is also pretty much limited. I've grown very fond of not having to spin disks any more using my computer and renderer based setups.
I've heard a pretty good MC setup (Harry Pearson's "Super Maggies") and while it did some things very nicely, I always preferred listening to the "big" Room 3 two channel systems.
The space and cost for upgrading the main system to MC using the same gear would be prohibitive for me. I have MC capability with my HT using an Oppo player, but admittedly don't use it frequently in that manner.
I suspect that many audiophiles never really embraced multichannel in the first place.
That doesn't mean outstanding results can't be had with multichannel but I would guess that the additional equipment, space, cables, speakers, complexity, cost, and relative lack of multichannel music was probably enough of a deterrent that it never really took off.
I think Kal Rubinson (R) who posts in the Asylum is running multichannel, but I don't believe many audiophiles do.
Just placed my order for Tull's "Songs From The Wood" with high resolution surround/quad/stereo mixes. I really enjoy surround sound especially the recent reissues of King Crimson, XTC & Yes.
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