Surrounds match fronts and center? [Archive] - Audio & Video Forums


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Eric Z
08-05-2004, 02:10 PM
How important is it for the surround speakers to match the fronts and center channel? I'm thinking that the most important is the center matching the fronts for timbre and a even soundstage. How does it work with the surround speakers?


08-05-2004, 03:38 PM
You are correct. The surround timbre matching is not as essential as the center speaker match. The reason has more to do with how most movie soundtracks got mixed than anything, since most of them do not mix a lot of sounds so that they cover the front and surround speakers simultaneously. However, that is changing, and you have more and more recent movie soundtracks that include a lot of activity that plays the front and surround speakers simultaneously and at comparable levels. An example of this would be "Master and Commander" which is an amazing soundtrack in how it not only conveys directional panning effects, but in how it conveys a sense of space as well. A nonmatching surround speaker would not be able to convey this effect nearly as effectively.

With most movie soundtracks you can get away with nonmatching surround speakers, but with multichannel music like DVD-A and SACD, it's much more important to go with matching surrounds. This is because multichannel music very often plays the same instrument sounds through the front and surround channels at comparable levels, and any timbre mismatches will really stand out in a negative way. Timbre mismatches also take away from the surround envelopment and detract from the deliberate side imaging cues and depth perception in the 5.1 music mixes.

With most movies, going to matched surrounds will give you an decent improvement in the overall surround effect, but with multichannel music (and more recent movies that have more surround activity that melds together with the front speakers) matching surrounds will open up an entirely new listening experience that I've never heard with just two speakers.

08-05-2004, 03:49 PM
The front speakers will sound different than the rear speakers even if they are identical speakers because of their location and room effects. You don't need to match front and rear speakers. Just purchase speakers that have a good return policy in case they don't sound right.