Originally Posted by Roger Dressler
If you go to a surround system, are you prepared to use identical speakers? Or at least very well matched speakers? It is crucial for good music performance, whether discrete or surround processed.
This is an excellent point worth repeating, so I am. Over the years, I've been through it all:
Nice fronts, center, and nice surrounds from different lines--Awk!
Nice fronts, center, and inexpensive surrounds from the same line--hmm, okay.
Nice fronts, center, and inexpensive surrounds and rears from the same line--bigger hmmm, better OK.
Nice fronts, center, and inexpensive surrounds and rears from the same line plus a basic sub crossed over at 100 Hz--getting there but some localization and cohesion problems.
Matching fronts, center, surrounds, and rears with a sub crossed over at 80 Hz--shocking step up in overall cohesiveness, but bass is uneven throughout the room.
Matching fronts, center, surrounds, and rears with two subs crossed over at 80 Hz--even more improvement with some of the bass issues reduced.
Matching fronts, center, surrounds, and rears with four subs crossed over at 40 Hz--ooh-la-la, Monsieur, your beautiful companion has arrived!
All of this is accompanied by a serious effort to position the speakers properly, calibrate the system, and treat the room if only subtly. There's a really big payoff doing this with a multichannel music only system that can be more gratifying than an HT. As the surround matrixing capabilities have improved over the years--and they've improved a lot--people have panned them when in fact their mix of speakers was inferior to the process or their lame disregard of set up and calibration were responsible for poor results.
You never have to buy a multichannel disc to reap the benefits from such a music system. That said, there's some compelling surround material out there that should be heard as the artist and engineer intended.