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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?