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  1. #1
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    "It's the Multichannel, Stupid"

    I just read Andrew Quint's article in The Absolute Sound, Issue 162, with the above title. Quint has hit the nail on the head as far as I'm concerned.

    He says, "... I don't think it's the wider and more nuanced dynamics, the truer instrumental and vocal timbres, and the greater detail that high-resolution brings to the table". Well, I agree about that; in fact, whether it's my 60+ year old ears, or my mediocre system, I scarcely hear these advantages versus really good CDs. But multichannel is another matter: hear the advantages are immediate and obvious -- even though I currently have to listen to it on equipment that is a couple of notches down in quality for my stereo setup.

    Sorry to draw the analogy from classical music but that is what I mostly listen to. With stereo I feel like I'm listening at the very back of the hall or a doorway; with multichannel I'm transported to a great, 10th row orchestra seat. (At least this is the case with the better recordings.) Let me reemphasize: this is with lesser equipment. Notwithstanding, with large scale orchestral and choral works, I absolutely prefer the multchannel.

    Friends, forget vinyl. For that matter, for get tubes, kilobuck cables, and tweaks of minimal, not to say, imaginary benefit. For real improvement look to multichannel.

  2. #2
    Phila combat zone JoeE SP9's Avatar
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    I can't agree with you Feanor. In my system 2 channel recordings sound better (to my ears) when played back using 2 channels. I have over the years tried a variety of devices from the Dynaco Quadaptor to the Benchmark and I have always returned to just the front 2 channels for playing 2 channel stereo recordings.
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  3. #3
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    What can I say?

    Quote Originally Posted by JoeE SP9
    I can't agree with you Feanor. In my system 2 channel recordings sound better (to my ears) when played back using 2 channels. I have over the years tried a variety of devices from the Dynaco Quadaptor to the Benchmark and I have always returned to just the front 2 channels for playing 2 channel stereo recordings.
    A lot of people are going to agree with you, Joe. But I'm thinking, WOW! a multichannel Acoustat system: that must be great!

  4. #4
    BooBs are elitist jerks shokhead's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Feanor
    I just read Andrew Quint's article in The Absolute Sound, Issue 162, with the above title. Quint has hit the nail on the head as far as I'm concerned.

    He says, "... I don't think it's the wider and more nuanced dynamics, the truer instrumental and vocal timbres, and the greater detail that high-resolution brings to the table". Well, I agree about that; in fact, whether it's my 60+ year old ears, or my mediocre system, I scarcely hear these advantages versus really good CDs. But multichannel is another matter: hear the advantages are immediate and obvious -- even though I currently have to listen to it on equipment that is a couple of notches down in quality for my stereo setup.

    Sorry to draw the analogy from classical music but that is what I mostly listen to. With stereo I feel like I'm listening at the very back of the hall or a doorway; with multichannel I'm transported to a great, 10th row orchestra seat. (At least this is the case with the better recordings.) Let me reemphasize: this is with lesser equipment. Notwithstanding, with large scale orchestral and choral works, I absolutely prefer the multchannel.

    Friends, forget vinyl. For that matter, for get tubes, kilobuck cables, and tweaks of minimal, not to say, imaginary benefit. For real improvement look to multichannel.
    If you like classical,you should be all over SACD. My ears are abit younger then yours but i just cant listen to 2ch and the more SACD,DVD-A and DTS i listen to,the worst cd's sound. I hate to ask but have you sat down and listen to a good setup of SACD Classical?
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  5. #5
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Well, sort of

    Quote Originally Posted by shokhead
    If you like classical,you should be all over SACD. My ears are abit younger then yours but i just cant listen to 2ch and the more SACD,DVD-A and DTS i listen to,the worst cd's sound. I hate to ask but have you sat down and listen to a good setup of SACD Classical?
    My HT set up is far from SOTA but it's OK and good enough to appreciate what multi-channel SACD can deliver.

    It consists of ...
    Source: Samsung DVD-HD810
    Receiver: Pannasonic SA-XR25
    Fronts: Paradigm MiniMonitor V3
    Center: DIY: Vifa MG18 + BGCorp Neo3PDR
    Rears: Boston Acoustics A60
    Very ordinary stuff, but still shows what multichannel has to offer.

  6. #6
    If you can't run-walk. Bernd's Avatar
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    There is no way I would surround myself with 5,6 or 7 speakers and a boombox or two. I much rather take all the money and invest in a decent pair of Speakers and electronics, sort the room out and you will have all the holograhic imaging, dynamics, soundstage and an accurate ghost centre channel you can wish for. I do not need some noise coming from behind me.
    I never understood why someone want to split all their hard earned into several boxes when a much higher quality can be had with higher grade components.
    But I guess we all have different likes and wants and good luck to the Multi channel people.
    So in answer to the question: Yes ,I think for great music reproduction, it's stupid and a great marketing ploy.

    Peace

    Bernd
    "Let The Earth Bear Witness."

  7. #7
    If you can't run-walk. Bernd's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Feanor

    Friends, forget vinyl.

    I totally agree with my dear friend Feanor. So please if you don't mind sent me all your antiquated vinyl. I promise I look after it.

    Peace

    Bernd
    "Let The Earth Bear Witness."

  8. #8
    BooBs are elitist jerks shokhead's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bernd
    There is no way I would surround myself with 5,6 or 7 speakers and a boombox or two. I much rather take all the money and invest in a decent pair of Speakers and electronics, sort the room out and you will have all the holograhic imaging, dynamics, soundstage and an accurate ghost centre channel you can wish for. I do not need some noise coming from behind me.
    I never understood why someone want to split all their hard earned into several boxes when a much higher quality can be had with higher grade components.
    But I guess we all have different likes and wants and good luck to the Multi channel people.
    So in answer to the question: Yes ,I think for great music reproduction, it's stupid and a great marketing ploy.

    Peace

    Bernd
    Its no ploy.
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  9. #9
    If you can't run-walk. Bernd's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shokhead
    Its no ploy.
    No? So what is it?
    Surely not accurate music reproduction.

    Don't get me wrong you have the right to have as many speakers as you want, but for me it's 2 channel for music.

    Peace

    Bernd
    "Let The Earth Bear Witness."

  10. #10
    Suspended topspeed's Avatar
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    Hmmm...I'm kinda torn on this issue.

    On one hand, I have to admit that I listen to music in 2 channel, no sub, almost 99% of the time. I don't have many SACD's yet (jeebus they're hard to find!), but from my limited exposure I have noticed that just because it's a MC mix, it most certainly doesn't make it automatically better. For example, I picked up John Mayer's "Heavier Things" because I wanted to compare the quality of the SACD versus the rbcd, already one of the cleanest, most unfussed with rbcd's out there. This is a multilayer disc with SACD 2 ch, 5.1 ch, and rbcd. Much to my chagrin, the mc mix was done with surprisingly little care which created a wholly unnatural level of ambience. The effect was that of having another complete band behind me. OTOH, The Eagle's "Hell Freezes Over" DTS concert is much more convincing with much more subdued levels of ambience. Like any other recording, whether 2 channel or MC, the listener is at the mercy of the engineer who can get it absolutely right or horribly wrong.

    I will say that when the mc mix is done right, I enjoy it more than the 2 channel mix. The challenge of course, is finding the recordings where it is done correctly.

  11. #11
    BooBs are elitist jerks shokhead's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bernd
    No? So what is it?
    Surely not accurate music reproduction.

    Don't get me wrong you have the right to have as many speakers as you want, but for me it's 2 channel for music.

    Peace

    Bernd
    Why not be true and use single speaker mono? Now thats the way it is "true".
    Look & Listen

  12. #12
    If you can't run-walk. Bernd's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shokhead
    Why not be true and use single speaker mono? Now thats the way it is "true".
    I agree. That would be the way if you want mono. However as I am a child of the 60s and 2 channel stereo was what I grew up with, it is this what I use as a yardstick. I like the illusion created by my 2 channel rig. No multi channel, I heard, has come even close. I have listened to several set ups and to my ears it is just not real or pleasant, rather confusing. And I stand by the cost issue. You can buy so much better, for the money, on a 2 channel set up.
    But as long each individual is happy with what they got, that's the way to go.

    Peace

    Bernd
    "Let The Earth Bear Witness."

  13. #13
    Suspended superpanavision70mm's Avatar
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    For me ...I love both. I do not necessarily feel compelled one way or another. I will say that multichannel certainly has opened up a new experience for me with certain artists. I find them more interesting in 5.1 than in 2.0. Of course there are poor 5.1 mixes and there are poor 2.0 mixes, but I will gladly take a great 5.1 if I have the option over a 2.0 mix. I love 2.0 when that is all that there is to choose from....a la CD. SACD...I always prefer the 5.1 mixes over the 2.0 on the disc, if that's an option.

    To say that music is suppose to be heard from the front only is preposterous. Sound is a 360-degree experience. The truly great cathedrals and other listening venues like music halls have invested some of the best money in architecture that enables that experience to happen. You don't just hear the music from the stage, but rather it's all around you and you are immediately sucked in. If you go to certain cathedrals you may notice some variety in the placement of a choir...some place them on the sides and others place them in the rear (perhaps the earliest ES discrete experience HAHA).

    As far as 2.0 goes....I love listening to music this way as well...there is definitely separation that occurs here as well and I will always take direct stereo vs. pro-logic fake surrounds or other variations of such. So who wins the battle? Neither. Both are great, both are preferences and alot of my decision ends up in the favor of what it was intended to be like...or experienced. If the artist created the album with 5.1 in mind (The Flaming Lips YOSHIMI BATTLES THE PINK ROBOTS) than that's the way I love to hear it. On the other hand...if it was intended for 1.0 or 2.0 playback...that's the way I typically like to hear it.

    Anyone else agree?

  14. #14
    BooBs are elitist jerks shokhead's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bernd
    I agree. That would be the way if you want mono. However as I am a child of the 60s and 2 channel stereo was what I grew up with, it is this what I use as a yardstick. I like the illusion created by my 2 channel rig. No multi channel, I heard, has come even close. I have listened to several set ups and to my ears it is just not real or pleasant, rather confusing. And I stand by the cost issue. You can buy so much better, for the money, on a 2 channel set up.
    But as long each individual is happy with what they got, that's the way to go.

    Peace

    Bernd
    Grew up with stereo myself always using the Beatles as the stereo yardstick but i always wanted more. Guess thats why i like multi-channel.
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  15. #15
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Hmm!! Could be deal

    Quote Originally Posted by Bernd
    I totally agree with my dear friend Feanor. So please if you don't mind sent me all your antiquated vinyl. I promise I look after it.

    Peace

    Bernd
    I essentially never listen to my small vinyl collection of fewer than 200 discs and they take up fair bit of space. They are in very good condition and I might sometimes listen if my playback was half decent. Unfortunately my Radio Shack TT is not working well . I'd need a new 'table and cartridge, though my Apt Holman preamp might do; would probably cost >Cdn$1500 -- that won't happen.

    So I would say it's anyone's for yard sale prices. Maybe $2 per disc if you take the whole lot, plus shipping.

  16. #16
    M.P.S.E /AES/SMPTE member Sir Terrence the Terrible's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bernd
    There is no way I would surround myself with 5,6 or 7 speakers and a boombox or two. I much rather take all the money and invest in a decent pair of Speakers and electronics, sort the room out and you will have all the holograhic imaging, dynamics, soundstage and an accurate ghost centre channel you can wish for. I do not need some noise coming from behind me.
    I never understood why someone want to split all their hard earned into several boxes when a much higher quality can be had with higher grade components.
    But I guess we all have different likes and wants and good luck to the Multi channel people.
    So in answer to the question: Yes ,I think for great music reproduction, it's stupid and a great marketing ploy.

    Peace

    Bernd
    Very uneducated post. First two channel stereo is littered with spatial distortions when you exclude the room. It is unable to accruately place discrete reflections that are present in EVERY concert hall in the world. It using the rooms internal reflections as "spatial ques" which are neither present in the recording, or recording hall itself.

    Secondly, based on your comments you have never visited any live musical event, because every venue (depending on how the acoustics are treated) has discrete reflections that eminate from behind the head, and can be spatially located with the ears, and can be accurately reproduced in a 5.1 system.

    With a 5.1 system, audio engineers can spread the left and right channels to a greater degree than can be done with stereo thanks to the presence of a center channel. This makes information easier to hear, and imaging much more specific than with two channel sources.

    Two channel CD has some difficulties with certain kinds of harmonics. A muted trumpet, a glock, cymbals, and a few other instruments with high intensity high frequency harmonics tend to distort, sound flat and unresolved when compared to a higher sampled mastered tape that has been downsampled to this format.

    I cannot understand why someone would spend huge sums of money of a two channel format that cannot do something as simple as place a live audience in its proper spatial perspective, has no spatial perspective from the sides or rear which occur in live events, and cannot properly reproduce some harmonic of instrments accurately.

    Anyone who thinks that two channel is the pinnacle of audio nirvana is simply fooling themselves.
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  17. #17
    Loving This kexodusc's Avatar
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    Just to add to Sir Terrences excellent points:

    The absolute worst argument I've heard in favor of 2-channel rigs is the "fewer components, but higher quality" notion.

    Put simply, if someone has $5000 to spend on a rig, this argument suggests that 2 speakers of $2500 would offer superior performance to 5 speakers of $1000.
    There are many problems with this assumption. First, as I'm sure everyone can agree, the sonic benefits of a speaker costing 2.5 times are real, but not directly proportional to the increase in cost. The old diminishing returns law.

    The use of additional speakers can narrow the performance gap very quickly. Want proof, look at many a speaker company's product line. You're sure to find a small, 2-way bookshelf, and a larger model, with multiple drivers - possibly a 2.5 way with 2 woofers, a midwoofer-tweeter-midwoofer alignment, a 3-way speaker, or even models with far more drivers and greater complexity. Quite often the price jumps considerably as drivers are added...doubling even tripling the cost for the performance they provide.

    Adding speakers in a 5.1 or 7.1 setup can not only reproduce the same benefits, but expand on them. In addition to the excellent points Sir T made on spatial cues, the addition of the center channel alone on the front soundstage reduces a tremendous amount of stress on the front left and right speakers. You'll find the speakers maintain superior linearity in performance, keep distortion lower, transient response a bit better - all real, measurable qualities that can produce higher fidelity.

    The end result is a more effective, logical approach to reproducing audio, where the speakers are capable of doing "more with less". I won't suggest that a multi-channel approach is always better, or can always offer even comprable levels of resolution or detail or whatever buzzword you want to use. It can and does sometimes, but not always. And it's not that simple. Instead you'll have to think of the total audio reproduction as a basket of various characteristics. 2-channel rigs may offer slight improvments in the finer details of violin's harmonics. But multi-channel setups counter with improved imaging, separation, depth, soundstage and dynamics.

    I have 2 rigs. My 2-channel audio setup costs about as much for me to build as my 7.1 system. Maybe a little less but it's close. On cd's there's no comparison. But on the SACD's I have, I almost always prefer to trade the small loss in speaker resolution for the multichannel benefits. What multichannel gives up, it more than gives back in the far more realistic immersive environment it creates.

    The more you spend on a system, all the more it will cost you to make your next upgrade. Sooner or later it becomes more cost effective to upgrade to 5.1 (or 5.0, whatever) than to upgrade a 2.0 system to yield the same performance improvements.

    Multichannel audio's been around for what, 5 years for 90% of us and it's already converted alot of audiophiles. I suspect in a few more years it'll win over even more.

  18. #18
    Class of the clown GMichael's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kexodusc
    Put simply, if someone has $5000 to spend on a rig, this argument suggests that 2 speakers of $2500 would offer superior performance to 5 speakers of $1000.

    .
    I'm thinking, with $5000 to spend, I get two mains at $4000 a pair instead of $5000.
    The other $1k gets spent on the other 3 or 5, at $300 for the center & $300 a pair on the surrounds & rears. No need for all 5 or 7 to be of the same quality as the mains & center.
    WARNING! - The Surgeon General has determined that, time spent listening to music is not deducted from one's lifespan.

  19. #19
    Loving This kexodusc's Avatar
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    Good point, GM

    Quote Originally Posted by GMichael
    I'm thinking, with $5000 to spend, I get two mains at $4000 a pair instead of $5000.
    The other $1k gets spent on the other 3 or 5, at $300 for the center & $300 a pair on the surrounds & rears. No need for all 5 or 7 to be of the same quality as the mains & center.
    I don't think there's a good rule of thumb for how much to spend on each speaker in a multichannel setup...people can decide that for themselves..I personally would want the front 3 speakers equal in sound, whatever that costs, then go from there. The surrounds can be a bit lower in cost/performance as long as they match the system well. Some people might want 7 identical speakers. I've done that, and have discovered it to be unecessary and not even optimal in my setup. In the end, personal preference will dictate, as always.

  20. #20
    Suspended superpanavision70mm's Avatar
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    I am personally a fan of 70.1 sound. Where you have 70 speakers placed 7 feet from all 360-degrees around you like a giant sphere with a subwoofer in the middle that acts as your seat. But maybe that's just me....anyone remember the Michael Jackson Cow sound test????

  21. #21
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    It is still a personal preference issue.It's like whats your favorite peanut butter,i have a favorite brand and i won't eat anything else,someone could point out that a different brand could have better ingrediants,less fat or less calories,but i will still go back to my favorite(Kraft smooth).On the audio side i do like my music in 2 channel format,my cd player is my best quality source and my system is well set up for cd playback.I do have a sacd player and it is set up for multichannel playback,i have about 15 sacd but only about 6 are multchannel,not a delibrate act,it just worked out that way.I have tried cd with various types of multichannel playback and it just did not excite me much.I found it very inconsistant,some material would be alright,some would be terrible.I did get best results using neo-6 music,but not good enough to sway me over.Just my opinion of course.

    bill

  22. #22
    Suspended superpanavision70mm's Avatar
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    IN THE BEGINNING there was sound and God heard the sound and said it was good.

    Then He declared that the sound be from all around, but only gave us two ears to hear the sound. Because there are two ears does not mean that the only way is to have two speakers. Thus saith the Lord.

  23. #23
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    Feanor -

    I totally agree with you about the virtues of multichannel. As Terrence and Kex have already mentioned, a good multichannel recording along with a properly timbre matched and calibrated multichannel system can reproduce specific facets of live performance that I have never heard properly reproduced by any two-channel system. In my listenings, much of this has to do with accurately rendering the hall ambience, specifically placing the seating location and conveying the size of the space, and stabilizing the side imaging and giving the front soundstage depth.

    Doesn't matter how much people invest in a two-channel setup, there are specific things that two channels simply cannot do, and the limitations are evident by comparing a good multichannel mix with the two-channel mixdown of the same recording. For example, the San Francisco Symphony's Mahler series has been issued as 5.1 SACD/CD hybrid discs. As great as the two-channel mixes sound, the 5.1 tracks simply render an entirely different listening dimension that IMO is truer to how Davies Symphony Hall actually sounds (I typically attend 3-4 shows a year at Davies, and will go there again in two weeks for Mahler's Eighth [the epic Symphony of a Thousand]). From having attended one of those recorded Mahler concerts, I know that the mic position just forward of the podium. And accordingly, the 5.1 subjectively puts the listening on the stage at the conductor position, a perspective that two-channels simply cannot render.

    With Mobile Fidelity's reissues of the Vox quad recordings done by Marc Aubort and Joanna Nickrenz, the capture of the hall ambience gives the listener a sense of space that the two-channel mixdown simply does not convey as deliberately or consistently.

    I think a big part of the resistance to multichannel, aside from inertia and how strongly a lot of consumers associate multichannel only with movies and not with music, is simply the difficulty of finding a properly done demonstration setup. Optimizing a multichannel setup takes a lot more than simply placing the speakers on the floor and tweaking with everything by ear. In order to get multichannel alignment to sound optimal, you have to get the timbre match right, the angling has to be optimal and symmetrical (much more difficult to do with five speakers than with two), and the processor settings have to be accounted for, as do issues with the room acoustics and location. This entails measuring and using things like measuring tapes, SPL meters, and protractors to get the reference points consistent.

    Of all the stores I've visited in the Bay Area, only two of them demoed multichannel systems with the speakers in an alignment approximating the ITU-775 reference 5.1 alignment (which is what mixing studios use for multichannel music). The others used any number of different alignments (often just sitting on a shelf, or installed on the wall at an assymetrial alignment, or not timbre matched, etc.), none of which could properly render the full depth and imaging that multichannel mixes are capable of. And just in my time visiting store demo rooms, I've found that most of the receivers/processors are not set correctly, even at high end stores, because the customers will often tinker with the settings. If this is what people are using to judge multichannel audio, then it's no wonder they're so quick to dismiss its attributes.

    Recording engineers are only beginning to learn what to do with the extra channels. Just as there are bad stereo mixes, you'll find bad 5.1 mixes as well. But, in order to get the multichannel playback right, there are simply more steps that require optimizing.
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  24. #24
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    Wooch
    You are completely correct on the point about the set up.It takes a lot of work to do a proper mutichannel setup.A proper music setup and a proper movie setup are usually not the same depending on the room of course.The problem i have in my room is the rear can't be set up for a proper multichannel music setup because of the lay out.The front end is set up pretty well for music however.

    bill

  25. #25
    Forum Regular PAT.P's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by superpanavision70mm
    I am personally a fan of 70.1 sound. Where you have 70 speakers placed 7 feet from all 360-degrees around you like a giant sphere with a subwoofer in the middle that acts as your seat. But maybe that's just me....anyone remember the Michael Jackson Cow sound test????
    Thats alot of speakers 70.1 ,how big is your room?

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