Originally Posted by flickhtguru
You know this sounds all too familiar to me. My father-in-law had/has a Sony speaker system with large 3 way tower speakers and 2 small bookshelf surrounds. This was from back in the day when quadraphonic sound was popular. I hooked him up with a Sony center, Sony sub (just cuz it was an extra that I had laying around), and an Onkyo 5.1 receiver.
My father-in-law infact hates true surround sound. He hates the fact that the center channel carries the voices and stuff. He likes the old quadraphonic or even just 2 ch stereo better.
Two-channel stereo also creates a center -- it's just a phantom center that's not as "hard" as having the true center channel. Anything that's in mono (usually vocals except for the stereo echo return as well as low frequencies like kick drum and bass) is usually recorded mono and will go to the center.
Even with 5.1 or 7.1 discrete, the classic view of multichannel systems is that they should be creating a sound field. This is especially true for surrounds, which is the reason why many are dipole. One can read up on the work of Tomlinson Holman (THX) for more details on this. For years, the "rule" for mixing was not to put anything in the surrounds that would distract the audience and take their attention away from the screen.
One instance that did this was when the alien spaceship makes a horn sound in Close Encounters that blows out the glass window in the viewing tower. In the original 70mm mag mix that came primarily from the surrounds. Surrounds were mono in those days (before Apocalypse Now) but you could still "steer" the effect by placing it in the mono surround + 1 front channel. That effect was placed (IIRC) in front right and surround, but appeared to be coming from the right surround. When it appeared, everyone in the audience turned their heads to the right. That was supposed to be a "no-no". Audiences have become much more used to stereo surround sound, so mixers can get away with it more today.
With the advent of theatrical digital projection and more consistency in the sound systems used by theatres as well as 5.1 or more in the home, mixers are now actually starting to get away from the sound field concept.
Quad sound (at least on vinyl) was a matrixed format, so there was actually very little separation between channels (which was also true for the original theatrical 35mm optical Dolby Stereo), thereby creating a sound field. And there was no center channel: it was Left, Center, Left Surround, Right Surround. I went to a demo a few years ago where they played digitally restored Quad recordings, but they were not remixed. They made a big deal out of it, but I don't think they sounded very good.
I'm of mixed mind when it comes to sound for TV. For most TV shows, I simply listen to the TV's stereo output, which I would sometimes prefer to be mono. If it's a big effects show, more like a movie, I do flip on the receiver and listen to the Dolby Digital. For BD movies, I always use the receiver, even if they're mono.
Meanwhile, the industry is trying to push more channels: 7.1 (rear surrounds), 9.1 (front wides) or even 11.1 (front heights). Tom Holman and others have been trying to push at least 10 channels for theatres for some time, but the most you'll find today is 7.1.