Millions of people love the sound of their stereo's "loudness button" engaged, or an elevated bass response, but that doesn't mean it is "more accurate" and more faithful to the original live performance. When I watch a movie I don't want "more enveloping spaciousness"; I want the correct amount of spaciousness that the recording engineers painstakingly dialed in for me to hear. For example, a scene in a small doctor's office should have almost none, whereas a scene in a large, empty lecture hall should have lots.
The thing is, it is difficult to compare their DSX front/wides system to an actual movie house experience, due to the fleeting nature of acoustic memory. Say their system makes the sound of a telephone ringing in the adjacent room, in the movie, seem diffuse and "all around us" yet the actual recording engineer wanted us to hear it from only a specific direction. Is that an improvement? Would we remember that subtle detail when hearing the alternate system, hours if not days later?
We know that early side reflections are critically important to our perception of spaciousness and perceived room size, true, so "front wides" makes sense if one were designing a new surround format from scratch. The thing is, Audyssey DSX, and some other systems like it, have to guess what to put there. The channels are entirely synthetic and are concocted from analyzing the other actual channels. The specifics of exactly how their proprietary algorithm works is a secret. All we are told is:
- it is very good, trust us, we have done lots of research
- we know all about psychoacoustics, so we know what we are doing
- how much better is it? It's like 512 times better (using some arbitrary unit we won't disclose). Oh wait, no, that's the XT32 system, sorry.
Unfortunately the science minded writers, like David Ranada, who would address issues like this with a critical mind and measurements, are pretty much all gone. All we are left with are the typical "audiophile experts" who do nothing more than repeat the manufacturer's company line, almost verbatim: "sophisticated proprietary algorithm", "wides are more important than heights", "based on psychoacoustics, the science of the perception of sound", "more enveloping", blah, blah, blah.
Me? Unless I'm shown exactly how their algorithm works, instead of being told "it's a proprietary secret", I'm sticking with the system which most closely reflects how actual movie theater systems work: No heights, no wides. The recording engineers didn't use them, the actual movie theaters didn't use them; I'm not using them.
The question is not "Will adding front wides make a noticeable difference?", the question is "Will the alteration be closer to what the recording artists intended me to hear, while simultaneously being free of any unwanted artifacts? Or is it more of a gimmick?"
Edited by m. zillch - 10/6/13 at 11:39pm