Enjoy the Music.com
The Absolute Sound
March 2008
Guest Editorial By Andrew Quint

A Grand Multichannel Experiment

  For those of us committed to multichannel music, the doom-and-gloom attitude that comes from some quarters of the audiophile community can be pretty frustrating. It's de rigueur for these types to refer to SACD, for example, as a "commercial failure" — a big surprise to classical music surround-sound enthusiasts who find they now have more than 1600 titles available to them. A "commercial failure?" Compared to what? The latest Clint Black CD? Of course SACD is a "niche product." But so is classical music itself, when you get right down to it. So ate jazz and the more challenging stripes of rock. Are low-powered triode amplifiers and $2500 moving-coil phono cartridges "commercial failures" because they aren't jumping off the shelves at Circuit City? They, too, are products aimed at a select group of consumers with a highly developed interest in both music and good sound.

In this issue we inaugurate a new feature reporting on the finest multichannel recordings [Multichannel Marvels. The Best in Surround Sound Music]. It's certainly not that TAS has neglected SACD and DVD-Audio releases in the past. We've had write-ups of these discs in every issue for six years running now, and will continue to cover high-resolution software in our regular music section. But Editor-In-Chief Robert Harley has received many requests for more multichannel music reviews, and this column will substantially augment our coverage with a quarterly roundup of the crème de Ia crème, sonically and musically, of the latest surround-sound releases.

When the naysayers dismiss the future of the newer digital formats — and the picture is greatly enriched by the arrival of Blu-ray and HD DVD as potential music carriers — they are trading on an unspoken (and unfounded) neurosis among many traditional audiophiles. Their fear is that creating a multichannel playback system will involve not just untold expense, but also the tearing down of the two-channel systems they have so carefully tailored, over years, to their rooms and musical tastes. But although, like me, they could end up with a system that looks very different than what they had before, it's not at all necessary to throw the baby out with the bathwater to get some meaningful experience with multichannel.

Here's a Grand Experiment. Approximate the new retail value of your current two-channel system and divide by ten. If your rig is worth $40,000, your budget for this project is $4000 for three additional loudspeakers, a surround-sound receiver, speaker stands (you'll probably be getting smallish monitors for the center and rear channels) and cables. Consider used equipment. Note that this budget doesn't include the digital disc player. You may already own an SACD player with multichannel analog outputs and, if not, you can always continue to use such a machine for stereo playback of CDs and SACDs, even if you deem the Experiment a failure.

For the speakers, less expensive models of the same brand as your existing main pair are ideal, but not mandatory. Unless you will be using this system for video, you probably don't want a horizontally-oriented center speaker designed for use in front of a screen but, rather, another speaker like the rear surrounds. You may have to buy two pairs and leave one speaker in the box unused. Don't worry. Either the Experiment's a bust and you sell everything, or you'll be someday upgrading (and will sell it all, anyway.) Spend a third of the budget on the receiver, approximating the power rating of whatever it is that's driving your usual main speakers.

Take a Saturday afternoon to set it all up. Invest $45 in a Radio Shack SPL meter and carefully dial in the speaker levels from the listening position using the receiver's menus. It is true that, for a surround session, it will be necessary to do some cable switching with your main stereo speakers, but this is a minor inconvenience. You're an audiophile, right?

Then listen. You'll likely be astounded that, even with the new "lesser" equipment polluting your exalted reference gear, you are experiencing a spatiality you've rarely (or never) heard before with stereo, as well as better dynamics and detail. You may find yourself drawn into the music as never before, transported to specific venues and real performances.

Take a few months to be sure, listening to a wide variety of multichannel recordings in all genres. There's a good chance you'll be a surround-sound convert and then — let the upgrades begin!


-- Andrew Quint



Quick Links

Audiophile Review Magazine
High-End Audio Equipment Reviews


Equipment Review Archives
Turntables, Cartridges, Etc
Digital Source
Do It Yourself (DIY)
Cables, Wires, Etc
Loudspeakers/ Monitors
Headphones, IEMs, Tweaks, Etc
Ultra High-End Audio Reviews


Enjoy the Music.TV


Editorials By Tom Lyle
Viewpoint By Roger Skoff
Viewpoint By Steven R. Rochlin
Various Think Pieces
Manufacturer Articles

Show Reports
The HiFi Summit Q2 2021
T.H.E. Show 2021 Report
The HiFi Summit Q4 2020
The HiFi Summit Q2 2020
Bristol Hi-Fi Show Report 2020
Florida Audio Expo 2020 Show Report
New York Audio Show 2019 Report
Capital Audiofest 2019 Show Report
Rocky Mountain Audio Fest (RMAF) 2019
High End Munich 2019 Show Report
AXPONA 2019 Show Report
Zagreb AV Show Report 2019
CanJam Singapore 2019 Show Report
Salon Audio Montreal Audio Fest 2019
Click here for previous shows.


Audiophile Contests
Cool Free Stuff For You
Tweaks For Your System
Vinyl Logos For LP Lovers
Lust Pages Visual Beauty


Resources & Information
Music Definitions
Hi-Fi Definitions


Daily Industry News

High-End Audio News & Information


Partner Print Magazines
Australian Hi-Fi Magazine
hi-fi+ Magazine
HiFi Media
Hi-Fi World
Sound Practices
VALVE Magazine


For The Press & Industry
About Us
Press Releases
Official Site Graphics


Contests & Our Mailing List

Our free newsletter for monthly updates & enter our contests!




Home   |   Industry News   |   Equipment Reviews   |   Press Releases   |   About Us   |   Contact Us


All contents copyright©  1995 - 2021  HighEndAudio.com and Enjoy the Music.com®
May not be copied or reproduced without permission.  All rights reserved.