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Do You Prefer 2-Channel or Multichannel Music Recordings?

A multichannel surround system is essential for the full enjoyment of most movies, but it can also provide an enhanced musical experience. I've always been bummed that DVD-Audio and SACD weren't more successful, because I love listening to multichannel music recordings—in fact, I tend to sit and listen to them much more than 2-channel CDs. Yes, early attempts were laughable in their gimmickry—who wants a cowbell clanking at them entirely from one surround speaker?—but as mixing engineers have gained more experience, the soundfield has become more integrated and cohesive. One of the best labels in this regard is AIX Records, whose multichannel releases are models that other engineers would do well to emulate.

In addition, multichannel recordings offer more options than 2-channel—in particular, a choice of perspectives. Mixing engineers can put you in the audience with ambience (room reverb, audience noises during live shows, etc.) in the surround channels, or they can put you in the middle of the ensemble, what AIX calls the "stage perspective." On the other hand, the sweet spot for multichannel is much smaller than for 2-channel—a point in the middle of the speaker array instead of a line perpendicular to the plane of two speakers.

Which leads me to ask: When you sit down to listen to music, do you prefer 2-channel or multichannel recordings? If multichannel, do you prefer the audience or stage perspective?

Vote to see the results and leave a comment about your choice.

Do You Prefer 2-Channel or Multichannel Music Recordings?
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loop7's picture

I'm completely black and white about this. Music should be consumed via a 2 channel system and video should be consumed via surround.

Bob Schaffer's picture

You are certainly entitled to your opinion, but what is the actual rational for it? I could say,"Movies should only be made in black and white." (which I don,t truly beleive) but that would merely be an opinion with nothing to back it up. Please share why you have made such a conclusive declarationn as though an unarguable fact. You must have a reason for this belief. What is it that backs this opinion up?

Dr. AIX's picture

Thanks for the shout out Scott! This is really question of personal taste but I have to say that most visitors to my studio/playback room prefer the surround over basic stereo when they hear something that was mixed well.

On of my favorite emails on the subject came from a member of the Bay Area Audio Society after I visited there a couple of years ago.

"Nice thing from this event was that I got to walk out of there with a free sampler of AIX releases with DVD-A on one side and DVD-V on the other. Not having a DVD-A player, the choice of sides to play was pretty easy. So, I put this disc into my player last weekend to give it a fair shake. Knowing that both the

uavCJLA's picture

I can never so be black & white about these things. Truth is that what is available is what decides for me. I have both 2-channel and multi-channel audio tracks. Sometimes I will put in a DVD like The Eagles, Hell Freezes Over, and then turn off the DVD and just listen to the music. I have multi-channel discs from Monster Music, which are excellent that also have audience and stage recordings built-in. I also have older remastered CD's from Mobile Fidelity that I love. Bottom line is that I will take what I can get when I have the money (& time) to do so.

royandlaura's picture

I still remember hearing stereo for the first time listening to one of my parents records. It was a big band recording and it was magic. I remember going through the entire collection looking for the, "Stereophonic Sound", or , "Hi-Fi Stereo", labels on the jackets. I still love it.

uavLordoftheRings's picture

Of course two-channel; I love simplicity and accessibility.

And a quality Stereo recording will transcend all that is truly neccessary to make you happy emotionally and physically as well.
The ambiance, the space, the width, the depth of the soundstage, of the venue is in that simple two-channel recording already! I'm talking about a well recorded album or disc here. Be it a 45 or a 33 1/3 LP, or a CD a Stereo SACD or a Stereo 2-channel DVD-Audio with high resolution PCM, or any other genre, format that is High Resolution 2-channel and well recorded by a PRO!

* Mutichannel Music well recorded with REALISTIC taste will have mainly ambiance in the surround channels, so...
The Subwoofer channel ain't really necessary either; if you're a true Stereo men your loudspeakers can reproduce cleanly the lowest note of a piano (at 27 Hz).
{Of course if you're into the 64 foot pipes of an organ, then you can add those two subs for that specific material.}
And the Center channel could be nice, so is the phantom image of two great positioned loudspeakers! => Just don't stack anything between them!

I like "Q" sound! {Roger Waters - "Amused to Death"...}

My type of music is Classical, Jazz, and Blues. I also like great Folk music with great lyrics and vocals.
I love Opera, Chorals and solo Piano!

And big Orchestra as well small ensemble. And other stuff to...


Dcbingaman's picture

Stereo is Latin for "solid". Stereo CANNOT be produced by only 2 channels. Anyone who has heard a well-mastered multi-channel high bit rate digital recording on a decent 5.1 system is deluding himself if he thinks 2 channel even comes close.

2 channel is great for portable audio, BUT becoming very old school for the home. 5.1 is the future, whether on SACD or Blu-Ray.

Scott Wilkinson's picture
You are exactly right that "stereo" derives from a word that means "solid," but that word is Greek, not Latin. Because of this derivation, I rarely use the word "stereo" to mean "2-channel." And I completely agree that a well-mastered, high-bitrate, multichannel recording played on a good surround system blows 2-channel out of the water, creating a much more solid (i.e., stereo) soundfield. But of course, that's only an opinion.
Bob Schaffer's picture

A well mixed multi-channel recording is by far my listening preference (I didn't originate the idea of DVD-A because I was satisfied with what 2 channels could do). Certainly, 2 channel recording DOES have it's limitations (whether 2 channel fanatics are willing to admit it or not), but a good 2 channel recording is preferable--even to me--to a poorly mixed multi channel recording. Of course, in my perfect fantasy world, ALL multi channel recordings would be perfectly done and I would never listen to 2 channel music at all, but untill the day when this is the actual case: I will continue to listen to a mix of both formats, depending on the specific recording at hand.

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