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How Many Speakers Are Too Many?

At CES this year, there was a lot of talk about 3D audio and expanding the speaker array beyond 5.1 or 7.1 with extra width and height channels. Of course, Dolby Pro Logic IIz does this already by synthesizing two height channels, and Audyssey DSX can synthesize two height and/or two width channels. DTS demonstrated its Neo:X algorithm in Las Vegas last month with native 11.1 mixes as well as 5.1 soundtracks expanded to 11.1 with width and height channels.

Such an system sounds remarkable, with smoother pans to the sides and a much more hemispherical soundstage that gives new meaning to the term "surround sound." But during the show, I heard one question asked over and over—will consumers be willing to expand their home theaters to include 11 main speakers? Obviously, this requires a greater financial investment, and very few non-enthusiast spouses would be willing to accept a room crammed with speakers.

Of course, one could even go beyond 11.1—I've heard systems with as many as 45 speakers in the walls and ceiling, and the Iosono system (profiled here) places literally hundreds of speakers around the periphery of a theater. So at what point does this game go too far? How many speakers are too many for a home surround system?

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

How Many Speakers Are Too Many?