Multichannel, with the caveat that often multichannel mixes are abominable, and I find some multichannel chestnuts (“Brothers in Arms” for instance) superior in 2-channel-expanded-to-multichannel-via-DPL2 compared to discrete multichannel.
IMO, anyone who answers 2-channel simply hasn’t heard a well-mastered multichannel recording. Surrounds needn’t be part of the picture, though they help. Probably the most accessible condemnation of mere 2-channel is the 3.0-channel Mercury Living Presence SACDs. These minimally miked recordings from the 1950s* provide a depth and texture and palpability to the performance that 2-channel can only approach when a recording is amenable to matrix expansion (DPL2, Logic7, etc). Even though modern players in 3d-tier orchestras are often better than the players Ormandy et al. had in the 1950s due to cumulative learning, the rise of blind auditions, multiculturalism, etc.
*remember, “stereo” was only degraded from a 3-channel format to a 2-channel format because vinyl sucks.
As for “stage” vs “audience,” I’m personally completely uninterested “you’re in the middle of the ensemble” perspectives. Whether the performance is acoustic or electronic, music to me is a “they perform, you listen” experience. I find it odd that people use Pink Floyd to support statements about an audience concert. Admittedly, they haven’t toured much recently - last time I saw them live I was in high school, during the Division Bell tour - but they’re definitely a live act with musicians and an audience.
That said, one thing I expected to see years ago but haven’t really seen yet is the ability to hear a concert from the perspective of different seats.
One of my most memorable concerts was seeing Vladimir Ashkenazy rip the DSO through Shostakovich 5 in 1999. From the front row of the “A” deck of Berlin’s Philharmonie. For those who have not had the good fortune to sit in this fine hall, here’s a seating chart.
Notice that unlike a Musikverein/Concertgebouw shoebox, the Philharmonie has most of its seating behind
the orchestra. The podium is in front of the “H.” Indeed, one reason that particular concert was so memorable is that I could literally see into Maestro Ashkenazy’s eyes.
But even in a Musikverein/Concertgebouw-style shoebox, it would be neat to have the option of a 7th row center perspective, a mid-hall perspective, etc. With the surround channels mostly providing the ambient cues.
Originally Posted by LairdWilliams
***The other issue is the following question - how many of the folks here have centers and surrounds that are on par with their front speakers? Yes, with a movie or TV show, most of the action is in the front 3 speakers. Your surrounds only need to be so good to be sufficient for movies, and most folks spend far less on their surround speakers than on the other 3.***
Any good system will use identical speakers across the front.
Surround quality is as uncritical for multichannel music as it is for movie sound. Actually, let me restate that, as I really don't know or care about plotless special effects wonders so I don't know/care what their requirements are. Surround channel quality is unimportant for multichannel music, though, as long as they're decent or better.
Originally Posted by GregLee
Is [a smaller sweet spot] really true? I don't see why it should be.
Yes, it generally is. The reason is simply time/intensity trading. I usually point my surrounds at the ceiling to minimize such cues. Toole discusses using line arrays or CBTs as "ideal" surround speakers in Sound Reproduction
, because they have much less falloff per distance, but to my knowledge nobody has really done that.