Ever since the show, I have been thinking about the true goal of an entertainment system, be it stereo or home theater. Here’s my point of view on this. For most of my life, I’ve been a 2 channel audiophile. I’ve spent plenty of time switching back between amplifiers, CD players, speakers, etc., trying to pick out the nuances that make one piece of equipment more expensive than another and worth it. As an audiophile, the Holy Grail has always been to recreate sound that gives the illusion that those who perform it are present in your room. To achieve this goal, some will spend enormous sums for even minute improvements.
In thinking about it, a live performance is a 3 dimensional event. All around you will be the acoustics of the concert hall, the audience, and the musicians. Stereo is only a 2 dimensional medium. So audiophiles will look for the best equipment that will attempt to make this 2 dimensional stereo system as realistic as possible. Some of the best gear may create a bigger sound stage with more depth and detail. I’ve heard some great systems in my time, but I can’t remember ever walking into a room with a stereo system and being fooled into thinking the performers were actually there.
However, when it comes to a home theater system, be it 5.1 or 7.1 it’s a different ballgame. The surround speakers draw the image out of the front speakers and place it into the room. They also paint an acoustical environment all around you. I believe that with well recorded source material such as a blu-ray disc, you’ll get closer to the goal of realism than with a megabuck 2 channel system. The interesting thing is that whereas 2 channel audio demands the finest, most transparent (and expensive) audio components, you can get this reality illusion with a reasonably-priced home theater receiver. A separate blog will tell you which ones our customers and us like.
I know that what I’ve said here will upset some 2 channel audiophiles. Some have purchased our 2.1 stereo speaker systems. So, when they call on the phone, I’ll ask them if they have any interest in home theater. Often, they say something to the effect of, “I wouldn’t be caught dead with a surround system. Two channel is only way to go.” Because, I want to be polite on the phone, I’ll bite my tongue and say nothing, even though I think they’re wrong.
A moderately priced home theater system (with our speakers of course; shameless plug) can often sound more lifelike than a megabuck stereo system.
One more item to support my case: In the 1970’s we did a series of recordings of famous artists performing at night clubs for a local radio station (KDAY 1580 AM, Santa Monica, CA). Even though it was AM radio, we recorded the masters in quadraphonic (4 channel). One night, we recorded the Everly Brothers (now you know how old I am) at the Palomino Club in North Hollywood California.
After the performance, we played the recording back at the club. Our system consisted of a Marantz 4 channel integrated amp (25 watts per channel and not audiophile quality) and 4 RSL 28 speakers. These early RSL’s were our least expensive speaker and nothing special at $39.95 each. We listened to the tape with 2 speakers in the front and 2 in the back. You could enter the room and feel that the Everly Brothers were in there with you! This was an unforgettable experience. I have heard audio systems priced higher than a new Lamborghini that couldn’t accomplish this! From this I learned the value of multi speaker surround systems as well as playing the right source material.