Surround Sound for Stereo Music…Sacrilege??

How Do You Listen to Two-Channel Music?

  • Keep it pure. Two-Channel all the way!

    Votes: 26 53.1%
  • I'm a minamalist. Give me Mono!

    Votes: 1 2.0%
  • 5.1 or beyond using Dolby PLII / DSU, DTS:X, etc.

    Votes: 22 44.9%

  • Total voters
    49
gene

gene

Audioholics Master Chief
Administrator
Ratings
4,802 25 9
#1
Is it worth revisiting some of your favorite stereo recordings in surround sound? Purists would disagree and would never listen to stereo music in surround, we get that. But true surround sound processed from a stereo source can be quite nice. This article introduces you to the ins and outs of stereo music and how it progressed into the surround we have today. I don’t listen in surround the majority of the time, but there are times when it really works well.

Tell us your preference in the related forum thread below.



Read: Surround Sound for Stereo Music…Sacrilege?

Don't forget to vote in our poll!
 
TLS Guy

TLS Guy

Audioholic Slumlord
Ratings
7,734 16 25
#2
I play most of my classical 2 channel recordings in Dolby PLIIx music. This gives by far the most realistic sound. As other s have pointed out this works much better on a 7.1 system versus 5.1 and is perhaps the best argument for putting together a 7.1 system.

There are good reasons why this should be so. Having the hall ambience coming though the front sound stage obscures detail. In a good two channel recording the phase relationships are preserved. The rear hall ambience is out of phase, and so audience noise and response does come from the surround speakers largely. In my large collection of masters that I made the result is as good as discrete. I used either crossed X/Y figure of 8 using a stereo microphone, or matrix m-s with one capsule omni and the other figure of 8 left right. Most often I used the m-s technique, as the recordings were for radio broadcast and those listeners with mono sets including desk top radios automatically got a perfect mono playback, as the figure of 8 capsule cancels. When I play these recordings, they are as good as discrete multi channel with pretty much complete front back separation.

If I play the discrete multi channel discs of the BPO form the Philharmonie, and compare them to the 2 channel stream the perspective is to all intense and purposes identical.

The works for most of my recordings but not all. I suspect it is due to differences in mic technique.

However on the whole the clarity is enhanced not having all the ambience included in the front sound stage, and left right localization remains excellent. Opera playback from streaming sites is markedly improved.

The other bonus is much better perception of depth. For instance orchestral perspective is much enhanced with the brass realistically coming from the back over the orchestra.

Music from cathedral spaces is just uncannily realistic.

I can get the BBC via a tunnel. I have been enjoying the Proms of late. In PLIIx the Royal Albert Hall is captured to perfection. I have watched the Mahler 3rd symphony from this years season and the off stage Flugel horn in the third movement was captured so well it was spooky. You could here the horn reverberating all round the hall.

The one caveat is that I have 7 excellent speaker channels from highly capable speakers. Both surrounds and backs make excellent stereo pairs. Although the speakers have unique designs, I designed them and they all have virtually identical tonal balance with none standing out. The system is also very carefully set up and calibrated. I have to say I have not been able to duplicate these results on systems with much less capable surrounds and rears. I was just lucky when I build my new front set 10 years ago, that I had one of my broadcast monitor pairs to use for the surrounds, and my former reference studio monitors to use as the rears.

So I can attest that Dolby PLIIx music really does deliver. The DTS Neural THX also works, but I think biases the stage too much to the center.
 
ski2xblack

ski2xblack

Audioholic Field Marshall
Ratings
795 6 4
#4
The more primitive surround formats seem to do the best with stereo recordings, IMO. Dolby pro logic in it's various iterations, and even something as simple as a Hafler Dynaquad, fall into that category. I use a home-brew Hafler approach in the basement rig.
 
MR.MAGOO

MR.MAGOO

Audioholic Chief
Ratings
372 9 11
#5
Glad I got up early today and saw this article, it made me blow the dust off my AVR user manual and actually read about the subject! During my experiment with my Yamaha RX-A1020 I find listening to NET radio, that mode cannot access Dolby PLIIx, whereas in CD (compact disc) mode, I do get a choice in the OPTION menu for it. NET radio comes across as MP3. :confused:
 
lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Audioholic Slumlord
Ratings
5,909 21 47
#6
Sometimes I use stereo mode, sometimes upmix it to 9ch with Dolby, DSX or DTS modes. Depends on the music and even mood as to which mode. If the poll had such a choice....
 
j_garcia

j_garcia

Audioholic Jedi
Ratings
7,395 9 26
#7
I used to try it out in the various modes and all of them sound pretty "fake". PLIIx/z seemed to do a decent job and gave parameters to tweak to taste, but I still prefer 2ch for 2ch :)
 
D

Diesel57

Full Audioholic
Ratings
128 1 2
#8
I mirror j_garcia's post and PLIIx/z sounds flat to my ears, maybe it boils down to one's preference but 2.1 stereo for now has a lock on my music listening:)
 
3db

3db

Audioholic Overlord
Ratings
3,630 11 12
#9
When I'm doing some serious listening, its 2 channel all the way. When its casual listening especially listening in a diferent room from my system, I'll use 7channel stereo.
 
C

Churbronz

Audiophyte
#10
I'm a month away from upgrading to atmos / dts:x. I'd be interested in the up-mixing capabilities of these new processors with stereo music. Anyone have any experience with this?
 
TLS Guy

TLS Guy

Audioholic Slumlord
Ratings
7,734 16 25
#11
I mirror j_garcia's post and PLIIx/z sounds flat to my ears, maybe it boils down to one's preference but 2.1 stereo for now has a lock on my music listening:)
It all depends on what you listen to. For the PLIIx algorithm to work there has to be accurate phase information especially from the ambient field.

The upshot of this is that it is not going to work for pop music that is close miked and heavily processed. In addition a lot of the electronic instruments are direct fed with no ambient information. So it is not surprising that this genre of music will sound awful with these algorithms.

Classical music on the other hand is largely miked in a distant field with sparring use of spot mics. In addition there is no processing such as artificial echo. Careful attention is paid to phase.

The upshot of this is that in a good recording there is an abundance of accurate ambient information. If a coincident technique is used, like I used to use, then the ambient information is totally preserved in the recording. Therefore a phase dependent algorithm can accurately reconstruct direction.

The other issue, is that reproduction is about the creation of an illusion. It only takes very minor problems to destroy the illusion. Therefore you can not have any inferior speakers in the mix. All must sound very close to identical, with the exception of extreme low end extension. One poor speaker pair will ruin it.

I spent enormous time in design and R & D to make my front stage absolutely seamless, and minimize interference from the center channel. Unfortunately most center channels have a dispersion pattern that totally precludes a seamless integrated front stage, because of severe lobing error of the center speaker.

Both surrounds and backs are powerful accurate speakers, with a tonal balance that matches the fronts. None of them are odd man out.

This all means that processed two channel sounds very nearly as good as discrete multi channel classical recordings. The BPO purchases have BD Mater HD 5.1 and two channel CDs in the package. They are almost indistinguishable, which convinces me that the Dolby algorithm does recapture and properly direct the ambient envelope.

Well made recordings which is the rule among classical labels and the exception in the pop genre do give a wonderful recreation of space and distance perspective with Dolby PLIIx music, on my rig any way. The improvement is not subtle it is overwhelming, and sounds anything but flat.

You can tell it works by the applause which appropriately comes from the surrounds and backs.
 
KenM10759

KenM10759

Audioholic Samurai
Ratings
888 8 1
#12
My choice is primarily 2.1 stereo, though in an uneducated fashion (as compared to TLS Guy) I also find that many classical and even many pop/rock performances sound just a bit better in PLIIx Music. My system is 5.1, works fine.
 
herbu

herbu

Audioholic Samurai
Ratings
1,405 10 36
#13
I mirror j_garcia's post and PLIIx/z sounds flat to my ears, maybe it boils down to one's preference but 2.1 stereo for now has a lock on my music listening:)
I am exceedingly curious what you found "dumb" about TLS Guy's post.
He is one of the most knowledgeable people here and has a lot of experience. His post was informative, and even his reply to you was full of information... in spite of your "dumb" rebuke.

Click on his avatar. See where it says:
Received:+5,518 / 10 / -2 Trophy Points:113
That means he has received 5,530 responses, (like Agree, Like, Winner, Dumb, etc).
Of those 5,530 responses, 5,518 have been positive... 10 have been neutral... and 2 have been negative like your "Dumb".

He has 113 "Trophy Points", which is the max you can have. Those points are determined by the responses you have.

My point: You should be prudent with your responses, especially the negative ones. And just because you may not agree with something doesn't make it "dumb". Reply in words about that which you disagree, so we can all see and discuss. Simply leaving a negative review with no explanation is very bad form.
 
J

John Rett

Audiophyte
Ratings
1
#14
This article, though otherwise is well done, is missing any mention of the elephant in the room: discrete surround sound mixes. For example "Amused to Death" won the 2016 Grammy for Best Surround Sound Album. This article fails mention this release or even this award (which has a long history of awesome mixes).
 
herbu

herbu

Audioholic Samurai
Ratings
1,405 10 36
#15
The one caveat is that I have 7 excellent speaker channels from highly capable speakers. Both surrounds and backs make excellent stereo pairs.
That may be the fly in the ointment for most of us. I would hazard a guess that most of us have more in our L/R speakers than all the others combined, (excluding subs). For TV/Movie effects, that's fine. For music, maybe not so much.
 
TLS Guy

TLS Guy

Audioholic Slumlord
Ratings
7,734 16 25
#16
This article, though otherwise is well done, is missing any mention of the elephant in the room: discrete surround sound mixes. For example "Amused to Death" won the 2016 Grammy for Best Surround Sound Album. This article fails mention this release or even this award (which has a long history of awesome mixes).
Well since the article is about recovering ambient and directional information from two channel recordings it is not surprising discrete multi channel was not directly dealt with as that would be off topic.

I did reference it in my posts. However the only relevance is how play back of discrete multi channel stacks up against "recovered" multi channel from the 2 channel version of the same recording. That is the acid test.
 
TLS Guy

TLS Guy

Audioholic Slumlord
Ratings
7,734 16 25
#17
That may be the fly in the ointment for most of us. I would hazard a guess that most of us have more in our L/R speakers than all the others combined, (excluding subs). For TV/Movie effects, that's fine. For music, maybe not so much.
Yes, it would. I just had what I needed for the surrounds and rears on hand. I think the issue though is similar to the adverse effects of a speaker whose off axis response does not closely mirror the on axis response.

When using the surrounds and rears in playing back and algorithm like PLIIx music or discrete DTS master HD, my strong hunch is that there can be no severe disconnect in the sound quality and balance between the front stage, surrounds and backs. If there is, I suspect the brain cries foul and the illusion is lost.

I know of no listening test to confirm this, but it a very plausible hypothesis.
 
KenM10759

KenM10759

Audioholic Samurai
Ratings
888 8 1
#18
I'm listening to Amused To Death in PLIIx (streaming Tidal Hi-Fi) right now and it's really surpassing my expectations. Just wondering if it has ever been released in something more "native surround sound" type of format.
 
M

Mark of Cenla

Full Audioholic
Ratings
85
#19
I listen to everything in Stereo 2.1 or 2.0. I do not care for surround sound, which I put up with at the movies only because I must. To each his/her own. Peace and goodwill.
 
KenM10759

KenM10759

Audioholic Samurai
Ratings
888 8 1
#20
I listen to almost all music produced as two channel audio in 2 channel stereo.

The entire rest of everything else I hear is 100% surround sound. :D
 

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