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Music Listening Mode: Which mode is the best combination for voice+music material?

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 
Dear All:

As a long time 2-channel enthusiast, I really had no choice a while back (maybe 10+ years ago?) but to succumb to 5.1, in light of me not having a separate dedicated music listening room and another dedicated home theater: i have a living room that doubles as both.

I have the Onkyo 929 (previous Onkyo 3008, but it fried last week, yet another casualty of the Network/HDMI board fiasco) now, and i use 7.1: the usual 5.1 + Front Highs. (I know the adage of wide before highs, but my room doesn't allow for front wides) I used Audyssey MultEQ X32 with 8 listening measuring points. One single subwoofer, but a highly accurate one from Revel. I often fear the complexities introduced with 2 subwoofers, plus, i really don't need more than the one uber powerful Revel subwoofer.

In doing my set up, i listened a bit more critically, similar to when i did during the 2-channel days, and discovered that of the many "listening modes" available on my new Onkyo 929, some modes direct FAR TOO MUCH to the Center Speaker!

I thought that since PLIIz is marketed to claim special benefits for Front High speakers, that it would be especially well suited for me. Instead, i discovered that for most music with vocals, way way too much of the human voice is directed to the Center Channel speaker!

After trying many of the modes, I then discovered that some of them, i.e. DTS NeoX Music, would have an OVERLY LAID BACK presentation, i.e. the voice recedes way way into the background, too much so!! In the parlance of high end 2-channel audio days, one would call that a "Row S presentation" or "Row Z presentation" or similar. It sounded artificially receded -- the voice portion, that is. On the other hand, if one were not sitting in a sweetspot, and say, one were milling about the Living Room, getting something to drink, or just simply NOT in the sweetspot listening position, this laid back, receded voice presentation actually presented a more pleasant sound field, however UNrealistic, UNintended by the original sound engineers!! How odd and unexpected. I say unintended by the original recording engineers because if one were to choose 2-channel or Pure Direct, or something akin to direct output sans processing, one would hear a far more up front, i.e. a "Row B or Row D presentation", so one may confidently conclude that THAT was the original intent of the recording engineer.

So...I don't know which listening mode to select!

I DO know that those modes which direct too much voice to the center channel speaker would be undesirable. My center channel speaker sounded like it was taking 90% of the load of the voice, if not the entire music track as well! i.e. the other speakers were not doing much whatsoever in modes like PLIIz.

May I ask for some advice, some recommendations, some direction please on this topic?

Thank you.
post #2 of 25
Don't use the center channel. Just use a stereo mode.
post #3 of 25
Generally speaking, I listen to stereo content in stereo mode and multi-channel content in a multi-channel mode...and it works well for me. smile.gif

Occasionally, I'll listen to stereo content using a surround mode because I find that the content sounds better that way.

IMO, for your content, go with the mode that sounds best to you.
Edited by eljaycanuck - 10/23/13 at 10:53am
post #4 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by FMW View Post

Don't use the center channel. Just use a stereo mode.

Sir, I'm not following your suggestion please.

You are asking me to use ONLY 2 speakers, despite the fact that i have 7.1. I would like to use all, if not most, of my 7.1 speakers, for a more immersive music listening experience, while not having an overly processed sound. I do realize that it sounds like a tall order to ask, yet, i would like to use as many of my speakers as possible.

Thank you in advance.
post #5 of 25
If you're a critical music listener then just use Stereo.

If you're using your music in a background setting just for ambiance then try 5 channel or 7 channel stereo. That will play the music equally amongst all of your speakers.
post #6 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by afrogt View Post

If you're a critical music listener then just use Stereo.

If you're using your music in a background setting just for ambiance then try 5 channel or 7 channel stereo. That will play the music equally amongst all of your speakers.

I agree on both counts smile.gif.

Bill
post #7 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by eieio View Post

Sir, I'm not following your suggestion please.

You are asking me to use ONLY 2 speakers, despite the fact that i have 7.1. I would like to use all, if not most, of my 7.1 speakers, for a more immersive music listening experience, while not having an overly processed sound. I do realize that it sounds like a tall order to ask, yet, i would like to use as many of my speakers as possible.

Thank you in advance.

I was just suggesting you listen to the music the way it was recorded, mixed and mastered. You can listen to it any way you like but, as you already know, it might not work very well. Sorry I interrupted the thread.
post #8 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Mac View Post

I agree on both counts smile.gif.

Bill

+2

I think Onkyo calls it 5-ch stereo, or 7-ch stereo, I know Pioneer calls it Ext Stereo. That's what I use for music - usually Pandora in the morning before going to work - and all Cable TV. just sounds the best to me - I don't use any of the processing modes, PLIIx, DTS:NEO, THX, Stadium, Sports, Gaming, etc, etc, except for movies. The multi channel stereo modes are still stereo - it's not the same content in every speaker.
post #9 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by eieio View Post

You are asking me to use ONLY 2 speakers, despite the fact that i have 7.1. I would like to use all, if not most, of my 7.1 speakers...

You can go into the setup menu and tell it that there is no center channel speaker, which will put you into phantom center mode.

though there's no guarantee what the results will be, but worth a try.

Also depending on the DPL IIx implementation, you can make parameter adjustments to tone down the center.

Or for that matter, just turn down the center channel level.
post #10 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by noah katz View Post


Or for that matter, just turn down the center channel level.

Bingo! we have a winner
post #11 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by noah katz View Post

You can go into the setup menu and tell it that there is no center channel speaker, which will put you into phantom center mode.

though there's no guarantee what the results will be, but worth a try.

Also depending on the DPL IIx implementation, you can make parameter adjustments to tone down the center.

Or for that matter, just turn down the center channel level.

Respectfully, thank you for your reply post, but turning down the center channel when listening to music, would affect the overall Audyssey MultEQ XT32 settings!

Once those settings are performed, why would anyone change the settings? If they were changed, it would mean having to go through that 8-listening position Audyssey set up again!
post #12 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by eieio View Post

You are asking me to use ONLY 2 speakers, despite the fact that i have 7.1. I would like to use all, if not most, of my 7.1 speakers, for a more immersive music listening experience, while not having an overly processed sound. I do realize that it sounds like a tall order to ask, yet, i would like to use as many of my speakers as possible.
Why do you want to use all your speakers when you don't like how that sounds (both with PLIIz or Neo:X) compared to 2-speaker playback? Shouldn't your goal be to find what sounds best to you, irrespective of how many speakers are used?
post #13 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by eieio View Post

Respectfully, thank you for your reply post, but turning down the center channel when listening to music, would affect the overall Audyssey MultEQ XT32 settings!

Once those settings are performed, why would anyone change the settings? If they were changed, it would mean having to go through that 8-listening position Audyssey set up again!

Bumping the trims a little after running Audyssey is perfectly fine and won't affect the calibration. Dramatic changes will affect reference level and DEQ but subtle changes are fine.
post #14 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by holt7153 View Post

Bumping the trims a little after running Audyssey is perfectly fine and won't affect the calibration. Dramatic changes will affect reference level and DEQ but subtle changes are fine.

I heartily agree - any of the Audyssey's or MCACCs work for you, not the other way around. Apparently Audyssey set up the system to where the OP didn't like the results, so why stay with them? TBH, I used MCACC to set up my system (on a Pioneer VSX-1121-k, 7 speakers + sub), and REALLY didn't like it. It just sounded dull and lifeless to me, so I went into the manual mode and set the levels and eq curves for every channel individually by ear, until I was happy. To each his own, right? Now I like the sound in my room a lot.
post #15 of 25

If you had a receiver from the Harman Group, Logic 7 would be the best. Out of all the "Music Listening Modes" Logic 7 by far is the best I've ever encountered. It's so good, I usually just leave it on; although depending on what I'm listening to, I always leave everything on direct/pure direct (or whatever everyone brands it as).

But in your case, its hard to say what would work best for you. Different receivers process DTS/Dolby differently. One one receiver I've had very good results with DTS: Neo while on other receivers I get better results with Dolby's ProLogic. Also, it depends on what kinds of music you listen to.. There are too many variables involved to simply say that "x" is the best.

post #16 of 25
Maybe this will be helpful, my receiver, actually has setting individually for DTS Neo and Dolby PL IIx. They each have adjustments for how much the sound is dispersed between the center and left/right.

I totally understand wanting to use all your speakers. I feel the same way, it sounds so empty with just two to me!

Personally, I've noticed DTS: Neo seems to be mixed more upfront as a whole, and PL IIx more surround. Both sound way better to me, way more enveloping. Certainly stereo is the way it was mixed, but you might have to choose your settings even individually based on the source.

Hope this helps! smile.gif
post #17 of 25
5 or 7 channel stereo is the only way to listen to music, just set the speaker levels to your preference.
post #18 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by colour View Post

5 or 7 channel stereo is the only way to listen to music, just set the speaker levels to your preference.

I would have to disagree. I've tried listening to 2 CH music using the 5 CH stereo mode and didn't like it at all. To me it just sounded fake. I think a lot depends on ones system especially the speakers whether stereo sounds good. Now surround music on SACD, DVD-A or Blu-ray is a totally different story smile.gif.

Bill
post #19 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Mac View Post

I would have to disagree. I've tried listening to 2 CH music using the 5 CH stereo mode and didn't like it at all. To me it just sounded fake. I think a lot depends on ones system especially the speakers whether stereo sounds good. Now surround music on SACD, DVD-A or Blu-ray is a totally different story smile.gif.

Bill

I grew up listening to 2 channel analog music, hanging with musicians in jam sessions. When digital came around It took awhile to get used to it. Other than being digital listening in 5 or 7 channel stereo just fills the room more. It's totally fake in anything else but stereo in my opinion. If there's one thing I can't stand it's listening to music that sounds like crap, today it seems people listen to music in any format and method and they think it sounds fine. I agree it does depend on the system, user settings and format.But I'm just the opposite if it's not in stereo it totally annoys me.
post #20 of 25
I mainly use stereo for 2 channel. Once in a while I use "Dolby Pro Logic II Music" and I increase the width so the center channel is spread out more to the left and right channels. I forgot what the setting is called of the top of my head.

Enjoy
post #21 of 25
Thread Starter 
as a long time 2-channel guy who eventually grew to use a Levenson power amp and a hybrid pre-amp, etc, i appreciate your comments vis-a-vis listening as the recording had intended.

on the other hand, so often in today's lifestyle, one no longer sits in the center sweetspot when the music is on! "life" sort of happens and one gets busy with this and that, so one walks around the room a great deal often, and the music is no longer there for "critical listening" as i used to do, when i had spectacular speakers.

today, i had been forced to opt for either unattractive and fussy freestanding speakers (very good ones), floating 5 feet from the rear wall, with a heavy duty speaker cable coming from its back side (or 2 heavy duty cables if bi-amping), and that wastes a great deal of space, especially for someone living in nyc.

as such, after my thought, i forced myself to opt for in-wall speakers - a serious compromise. on the other hand, what i got in return is a very clean apartment, and everything is "behind the scene", in-wall, with a media closet, a media rack for both the main living room/kitchen system as well as the bedroom system, all consolidated in one tall rack, including the FiOS DVR and cable box, and the FiOS-issed modem.

with this compromise, i now feel like i no longer need to be as critical with past dogma, and see if any changes to past habits just might make better sense in today's style of living.

Well, having said all that, I did discover that a few of the more processed modes (or rather, most of the more processed modes), do not treat voice appropriate for my personal, subjective, taste. The voice simply sounded wrong, incorrect. Either too much of the voice was coming almost exclusively from the center channel, or the voice is so incredibly dispersed that i think there is voice somewhere floating up higher than my head! (Note: kindly recall that i use a 5.1 + Front Highs for a 7.1 configuration)

The problem with using 7-channel stereo mode is that i'm closer to the rear speakers during most of the workday (work from home guy here), so i end up hearing my ceiling-mounted rear/surround speakers way more than the front 5 speakers (which are mounted on the same wall as the motorized screen for my projector)! This is not desirable. When i walk around though, it is better, but at my desk chair, i'm closest to the rear/surround channel speakers. (i only have 1 set of rear channel speakers which might be more properly referred to as Surround speakers)

so far, none have been perfect. it is possible that the front 5-speakers should be used for my 2 channel music, but i do not yet know how to do that on my Onkyo 929, which i just bought last week to replace my 3008 Onkyo, which died due to its fried Network/HDMI card, JUST LIKE MY BEDROOM ONKYO's problem last year with the 807 Onkyo. they really need to fix this problem!
post #22 of 25
Thread Starter 
any other suggestions, please?
post #23 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by eieio View Post

any other suggestions, please?

In all honesty what other suggestions could be made? I mean if you have tried all the options available with your current AVR, what more could you possibly do. As many have all ready suggested that using the stereo mode is the most accurate with stereo music. If you are not happy with just using your R front and L front speakers maybe it is time to look at upgrading your speakers. No amount of processing is going to help speakers that aren't good sounding speakers IMO.

Bill
post #24 of 25
I use JRiver that has a 2ch music to 5.1 or 7.1 or whatever you want cconverter upmix. Outputs fine over HDMI. I use 5.1 but put center to L & R. (plus I can control the volume to the extra speakers)

Sounds great with 2ch music plus you can use its bass management too if you want. My reserver just stays in 'straight mode' as if it was reserving a 5.1 track.
Edited by kiwi2 - 11/1/13 at 6:58pm
post #25 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by noah katz View Post

Or for that matter, just turn down the center channel level.

BTW... That won't be the best idea because if you go to pay a DVD/Blu-ray, watch TV, then the balance will be out. Any balance adjustment needs to be done within the playback mode itself.
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