I enjoyed this conversation very much, very informative, confirming much of my previous understanding and certainly expanding on a couple of subjects. Although I generally understood compression, I am now more comfortable with the concept.
I am a huge fan of surround music and I am glad that you gave Steven Wilson his due on the matter. I completely believe that his more recent records have been though out tri-dimensionally, probably beginning with Porcupine Tree's Deadwing, and then his solo albums Insurgentes and The Raven That Refused to Sing. Too many recordings have gone the wrong way when remastered for surround, some examples focusing on the special effects around 5 channels and completely losing the soul of the record. As Mr. Guttenberg states, Wilson gets it.
By the way check out Wilson's brand new blu-ray, Drive Home, where the four concert songs presented execute the surround mix superbly. Of course he is paying from The Raven and from Insurgentes. There's also Audio only material and 2 music videos.
As far as systems are concerned I believe that it is not that difficult to mix the stereo and surround purposes in a single installation. Definitely you have to start with a good LR pair of speakers, but properly timbre matched center channel and surrounds do the trick. Large fronts and tiny surrounds may be OK for HT/movies, but you want closer family members in size when you are focused on music. My speaker set up started stereo with a pair of B&Ws DM602, and over time I added a CC6 and finally a pair of DM601 in the back. I would have preferred identical speakers on all 4 corners (affordability comes into play, even when searching for used gear) but I feel I have reached a very consistent sound from all parts.