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Do You Use Your Audio System More for Movies or Music?

Last year, Steve Guttenberg wrote a great article for Home Theater called "How to Choose a Home Theater for Movies or Music" based on the premise that the system requirements for movies and music are quite different. Music is mostly 2-channel, while movies are mostly 5.1 or 7.1. Movies often have lots of non-pitched, extremely low bass and a wider dynamic range than most music recordings. And yet most of us must make do with one system for both types of content, compromising in one way or another to balance its performance toward movies or music depending on which is more important to us.

Do you use your audio system more for movies (and TV) or music? How have you balanced the system's performance as a result? For example, if you mostly listen to music, did you get full-range front left and right speakers to use without a subwoofer? Or are you lucky enough to have two separate systems, one for movies and TV and the other for music?

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

Do You Use Your Audio System More for Movies or Music?

Jarod's picture

In my basement dedicated home theater I feed my 5.2 surround a hefty dose of movies, but on weekend mornings I sneak out of bed and head down for some 2 channel listening while my wife sleeps in. So I choose mostly movies, some music. I watch alot of television I DVR'd on my plasma in the upstairs living room. In the future I want to add a 2 channel system with some full-range speakers in my guitar/jam room so I can have two dedicated systems. Oh to dream.

Jackhans's picture

I will spend around $5,000 and I will buy the speakers, sub, and receiver separate. I want to get a 12" Sub since it will be a big room, and I want to know which Sub, set of speakers, and receiver you would recommended for all around $5,000
20' x 18' Loft is the dimensions of the room will be in.No I'm not fooling around I have the money for it. I'm new to home audio which is why I ask the question...Thanks.
Kevin Roger

K.Reid's picture


I have two systems - one for home theater and one for 2 channel listening. I use an AV receiver as a preamp/surround processor since I have a standalone multi-channel amplifier powering my older, near full range speakers. No sub, but I am saving my pennies for one...maybe the HSU 15in. that Tom Norton recommended or saving ALOT more pennies and going all out for a JL Fathom.

My second system is two channel anchored by a 30 watt triode/ 60 watt ultralinear tube amplifier, Pro Ject turntable and Oppo BDP-95. I love listening to music through a tube amp - there's just something right about the sound to me.

msardo's picture

My Denon AVR 3311 allows a separate 2 channel configuration so when I listen to 2 channel music, I just switch to Direct/Stereo mode and then the 2.1 channel audio settings set there take over.

It works pretty well.

ca1ore's picture

I fundamentally disagree that one system cannot work for both music and movies - after all, in both cases you are reproducing sound, right? Although the practical realities may be that at the lower end of the range equipment chosen will have to make performance tradeoffs, and thus be optimized for one over the other; but as one climbs the performance ladder, better systems absolutely can do both well.

I'm a music first, movies second guy, so my approach has always been that if a system does well on music (good performance down to 20 hz.), it will also do well for movies.

applebyter's picture

I have a very good high-end main system, with 5.1 speakers. It is optimised for music, including surround music. (It was setup at the dawn of the SACD & DVD-Audio age.) Consequently it is very good for 2 channel music as well. The rear speakers are not in the best 5.1 movie surround position but still do a great job with movies. I agree that a good system can reproduce both music and movies well. I suspect a system optimised for music copes with movies very well too. A system optimised for movies may make compromises that affect music, particularly in terms of bass reproduction.

I have secondary music only and home theatre systems, but the main system far outshines both in their specific domain.

notabadname's picture

Plenty of top reviewed systems on this site, as well as components, that earn their "Top" rankings for both "musicality" and motion picture soundtrack reproduction. There is no reason why a high quality system (which by definition should have full-range left/right speakers) can't produce 2-channel audio for music with outstanding results. Especially in light of many system's "Pure" or "Direct" modes for music. I am personally more a movie buff, and use my system for about 80% film.

Evan.F's picture

I think most people use theirs for all of the above. I meant that is really the best way to get the most out of your system. Thanks for asking for input on these things. It is good for the industry to know.

Sackrat's picture

I got hooked on 2 ch stereo way back. Then HT evolved. Even though I use my HT room more for TV and such I did not want to compromise 2 ch Stereo. In my opinion it is a little more difficult to optomise the HT room for stereo so I started there with the two fronts out into the room and tweeked for my sweet spot. Once I got that correct I positioned the remaining speakers for a 7.1 system, even if I had to compromise a little. 2 ch stereo giving three dimentional sound is a very fine, delicate tweek that does not tolerate compromises. Wheras, Home Theater is more shake rattle and roll and complimented by Video as well and can perform very well with a few compromises. Just my 2 cents.

thx2468's picture

I live on an efficiency where I project movies and listen to music as well. If I had a big house I would dedicate an entire system for home theater and a stereo system for music only.

adk109's picture

It's very surprising for the vote results. It says Mostly movies and TV and some music. I think most of people must be going for the movies more than Movies and TV. As in our off timing we can only listen music rather watching TV and movies when we stay out of home. I prefer for movies when there are some New Bollywood Movies