Hardware Updates, Ted's Corner

Be amazed with ANY five speakers: the surround sound experience

So I was chatting with some stereo and home theater audio buddies about multichannel high resolution music and the general consensus was that it required too much investment in full range ITU setups (i.e equidistant, full range and set up in circle, with surrounds at 120 degrees)! Then I realized the issue!! They were talking about the “aggressive” or what I call “adventure” surround mixes made popular by Elliot Scheiner, Steve Wilson and others. These are prevalent in highly produced pop and rock music where the multitracks are separated and any track is liable to show up in the surrounds; very strong full-range discrete guitar, drums, piano, vocals, or any other part of the mix is a candidate. This makes huge demands on the surround speakers, and has made ineligible the small to medium sized surrounds (satellites, often of a different manufacturer) used in home theater, where demands are more ambient and less full-range, like foley effects (bullets and spaceships whizzing overhead).

Guess what? This hefty requirement, usually voted down by things like space, budget and spousal acceptance, is NOT at all a requirement to begin enjoying all the incredible benefits of the “other” type of surround mixing, that is the natural “acoustic” or “ambient” mixes that are present in classical, world and jazz multichannel music presented at NativeDSD.com. And I’m not talking artificial ambience added to the mix, I’m talking about the very high resolution room cues recorded along with the performers.

Natively recorded/mastered DSD music has the enormous benefit of extracting exactly the information that is captured in the session microphones, in a live acoustic space. The bit rates are high enough to allow the user to recreate that exact space in his/her home, in either stereo or multichannel, the latter being an order of magnitude more realistic when done right.

Ok, so what is “done right”? It is simply to have five speakers arranged in a normal left, center, right and “somewhere behind you” surround setup.

You don’t even need an LFE sub. Why so simple? Because although the music information that reaches the surrounds is indeed full-range and very resolving, it is largely hall information. It does not, by any means, require the kind of timbre-matching that revolving guitars requires, yet creates an incredibly realistic re0enactment of the acoustic space. Yes, the better the speakers the more accurate the spatial cues are to the original, but most of us do not care if our own Carnegie Hall sounds more like Severance Hall. The cues are still there, and are meticulously recorded with state of the art surround microphones…so as your system evolves, so does the re-enactment.

In summary, for those of you with Oppo 103 or 105 machines, or exaSound, Mytek and other multichannel playback devices…try some of Native’s demo/free multichannel offerings in your home theater or even patched-together surround setups and begin to significantly broaden the experience from your current wonderful stereo playback to something that transports you to the venue. It’s really quite amazing what ANY five speakers can do. Try it.

Written by

Ted Brady

Ted has been an advisor for NativeDSD from the very beginning back in 2014. He takes a close look at all the tagging details before we publish new albums to the store, and offers great knowledge about the many technical aspects that appear when listening to DSD.


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