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ironjaw
Oct 30, 2008, 10:32 AM
So I've been seeing here that alot of you are talking about 5.1 surround sound when it comes to the Apple tv. I don't have a 5.1 surround sound system so my question is it is really that important?

I'm just fine with stereo:D



spice weasel
Oct 30, 2008, 11:04 AM
It all depends on the viewer/listener. Watching a movie in 5.1 definitely adds to the experience, provided you have your speakers placed properly. In addition, having the channels separated makes it much easier to hear dialogue. Is it necessary though? No more than choosing DVD over VHS, or Blu-Ray over DVD.

I end up watching a lot of movies in plain stereo on my TV speakers because my downstairs neighbor is a cranky PITA who throws fits as soon as I put my subwoofer on. But when he's not home, I crank that sucker up!

darkwing
Oct 30, 2008, 11:14 AM
I bought a 7.1 HTIB (home theater in a box) and like to enjoy a blu-ray movie here and there that actually has that audio format. (Most seem to have 5.1) It does add to the experience but it really isn't that necessary. The only thing I could probably not live without is the subwoofer.

If I were you I'd spend my money on a nicer tv than a nicer sound system, but I'm probably in the minority. There are a lot of audiophiles out there and I hope they will not flame me for what I just said. :)

Killyp
Oct 30, 2008, 11:22 AM
*puts on audiophile hat*

Not at all. I'm always surprised at the number of 'audiophiles' who sit their $150,000 Wilson Watts either side of an $800 un-branded TV.

Either way, it's better to be running a good stereo setup than a mediocre or poor 5.1/7.1 setup. Remember, surround sound is not better sound, it's just more sound.

On top of that, I would never want to go for a surround sound setup if it's compromising the stereo performance...

Kilamite
Oct 30, 2008, 11:58 AM
It really does add to the experience.

I have a 4.1 surround sound system (DYI in a sense, I bought the receiver, then front speakers and rears then the sub. Just need to invest in a decent centre and some point) and I love the whole cinema experience.

Depends if you'd ever see yourself with 5 speakers positioned around your room.

sdschwendener
Oct 30, 2008, 04:34 PM
it is quite important. You may be satisfied with stereo but you can get Polk R50s for 60 dollars a piece from Frys; an amazing deal for low end floor standing speakers.

I'm running two book shelves in front, a center channel, R50 floorstandings in back and a sub.

The whole system paired with a receiver that you've played with will yield amazing music and movie experiences.

I use my surround sound mostly for music and while some people swear that stereo is the way to go for music.. I find that the right surround sound freqs coming out of the rears add hugely to the overall result.


However, I also know people who swear that a satellite surround system with a subwoofer works real well.. and that can be very very very cheap.

dynaflash
Oct 30, 2008, 05:18 PM
Who can tell you ? It's your call, no one else's. Its like anamorphic, is it important to you ? Depends. Personally I like it. But it depends from person to person. Try it. If you like it cool . If not, then cool as well.

Okay, just kidding, everyone likes anamorphic, right ? ;)

DYER
Oct 30, 2008, 05:24 PM
To be honest I prefer my quality stereo set up rather than my parents 5.1 system...
I have 2 Missions attached to a wonderfull Sony Amp (whcih is amusingly also able to drive up to 6.1) and it just sounds so much nicer
however if you have the money for a ful proper 5.1 fair enough...
HOWEVER it depends on you really I am a bit of an audiophile so id rather have 2 great speakers than 5 good ones...

camomac
Oct 30, 2008, 05:39 PM
id rather have 2 great speakers than 5 good ones...

i completely agree. also you can always build as you go.
(stereo -> 2.1 -> 4.1 -> 5.1...)

DYER
Oct 30, 2008, 05:41 PM
i completely agree. also you can always build as you go.
(stereo -> 2.1 -> 4.1 -> 5.1...)

indeed in fact its what im planning to do... just need to find a couple of hundred quid for a nice sub....

Killyp
Oct 31, 2008, 07:10 AM
What's your current setup?

ironjaw
Oct 31, 2008, 12:13 PM
But I do listen to music alot, so I guess I will invest in a good amp and 2 speakers. I've never been interested in 5.1 surround sound but I do see the advantages.

I remember I bought a plasma tv that came with a cheap surround system, unimpressed, whilst watching a film I really got scared and jump out of my sofa after I heard a wasp whizzing around in my living room at 1am at night only to realise that it was the back speakers behind me and the sound was coming from the film.:eek:

But I do still encode with Handbrake with surround sound:D

I guess I will be sticking with stereo. Any recommendations for an amp and speakers

JonHimself
Oct 31, 2008, 01:00 PM
For me it's not important, but if I had to choose I would certainly take a 5.1 set-up. I live in an apartment so I don't need a stereo system with a ton of bass and sound but when I go over to my friends place who has the 5.1 system it a nice thing to have (even if you're not turning up the volume).
As other people have said, a high quality stereo system might be better then a HTIB 5.1 set-up.
What I would do (and will do) is buy a nice receiver and just use stereo speakers, then bit by bit purchase a sub and a good set of speakers.

Killyp
Oct 31, 2008, 01:39 PM
How much are you looking to spend?
How large is the room?
What kind of music do you tend to listen to?

nathanjbrown
Oct 31, 2008, 04:24 PM
Sure, it's all subjective...But - to me - it sounds a lot like the following question: Compared to mono, is stereo really important?

Absolutely!

Sound designers...Video game designers...Musicians...They're all creating content for multi-speaker setups. In order to recreate the sonic experience as they intended, it becomes necessary to "upgrade" your sound system.

With that said, don't waste your money on junk. I prefer quality over quantity. Start with a fantastic pair of speakers from a company that you anticipate will be around for a while. Then, when the time is right, purchase a center channel speaker from that same company (and, of course, a well made surround sound receiver or pre/pro setup). Then, again from the same company, purchase speakers that will function well as surrounds.

Don't be fooled into thinking that a $199 HTiB surround sound system will give you anything more than multi-channel noise...Invest the money and you'll experience multi-channel audio the way it was intended. It'll blow your mind as stereo did back in the day!

A few of my favorite audio companies...
Receivers/Components
Rotel (beautiful to look at and some excellent systems)
Cambridge Audio (bang for the buck, one of the best there is)
Speakers
B&W (beautiful to look at and excellent sound)
Definitive Technology - Mythos Series (highly rated mainstream speaker)
Paradigm (been around for years and great quality)
Martin Logan (just thought I'd throw it out there...I love electrostatic sound)

Have fun!

Nathan

ironjaw
Nov 1, 2008, 06:57 PM
Wow Nathan: Thank you so much!

I've been looking at B&W especially the CM1 see image below. They look nice and are expensive.

But I have also been eying the Podspeakers the Minipod but I don't know good they are?

Kyllip: My room is about 5 by 3 m2, so its not that large but fairly okay. I listen mostly to classical but also electronic music but I have a diverse taste. I listen to more music than watching movies, but I do like the occasional sitcom. I'm a student so money is an option but I am intending to save up for a good system that will last years

Killyp
Nov 2, 2008, 05:24 AM
The CM1 is a nice little speaker, although probably way out of your price bracket.

I'd look at the 68x series. The 686 is the baby, and then it moves up to the 685, 684 and 683 (the last two being floorstanders). They punch way above their weight in terms of price.

http://www.audio.de/Testbericht/18705323_7137fb427c.jpg
The 686s

Match them with some Rotel electronics and you'll have yourself a superb hifi.

phrehdd
Nov 5, 2008, 05:50 PM
So I've been seeing here that alot of you are talking about 5.1 surround sound when it comes to the Apple tv. I don't have a 5.1 surround sound system so my question is it is really that important?

I'm just fine with stereo:D

I can't help but think of my father years ago with his small crt screen for his AT computer. He was very happy with it until I got him a newer computer and a larger screen. Within a couple of days, there was no way he was going back to the smaller screen or lower end PC. <G>

When watching movies, on your TV, its hard to go back to TV speaker once you have it hooked to a stereo system. Same applies for Stereo to surround sound set up when watching DVDs.

I would say (subjectively) that if you have a small TV then surround sound isn't all that great (stereo is nice here). If you have a fair size TV or large screen then surround really does add a great deal to the experience.

There are many low end "package" type setups that include a receiver and speakers. Panasonic seems to do very well in the low end offerings as do a few others.

If you have a few dollars for a set up and limited space - you might want to go to "Soundmatters" website and see their "Mainstage HD" product. It is a great setup for smaller and midsize TV's. Additionally their Slimstage "soundbar" is good for larger TV with limited space. It isn't a true surround system but adds depth and texture to sound (emulates a 5.1 speaker setup).

The Mainstage HD I believe is an ideal compromise. You get the "amp" section built into a 2 speaker system and one subwolfer that is very small in footprint but nice in sound. Mind you, this is not for blasting your ears but reasonable volumes.

In the past I had a 5.1 setup with great speakers and a Sony receiver. To play music, I used both right channels to play the same, left also, and the sub. No middle speaker output (my choice). For movies, went to 5.1 surround. This worked well in my last place. In my present location, I have a large TV and probably will be looking into either setting up a right and left channel, center channel and sub only. Alternatively a soundbar as I can't really wire all around nor found (from friends) great luck in wireless rear speakers.

- Phrehdd

mark34
Nov 6, 2008, 09:49 AM
It's not only about "surround". The immersive effect of having surround speakers in 5.1 or 7.1 set-ups is indeed a big part of what many find enjoyable about home theater. The most monumental improvement versus a stereo set-up, in my opinion, is the addition of a true center channel. You will be amazed how much more clearly you can articulate dialog (with a properly set-up system). If done very carefully with the right equipment, you can create a satisfying phantom center without a center channel, but a true center channel is going to be better and is more likely to stay sounding good.

Put me in the category of sound is at least as important as video. I am a home theater geek so I value both and a lot of more obscure elements of home theater nirvana. But I help many people who don't want to get that involved.

Cave Man
Nov 6, 2008, 09:57 AM
So I've been seeing here that alot of you are talking about 5.1 surround sound when it comes to the Apple tv. I don't have a 5.1 surround sound system so my question is it is really that important?

It's not that important on my puny 40" Samsung LCD, but essential on my 160" home theater. ;)

Diveflo
Nov 6, 2008, 11:11 AM
yes

cazlar
Nov 6, 2008, 12:14 PM
I think surround is fairly important, and unless you are an audiophile, a decent surround setup is better than a great stereo one, if you are more into movies than music. You can either go for a cheap 5.1 HT-in-a-box, or a more substantial setup. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.

I'm currently running a US$90 HTIB (total!) and for the small room it is in, it is fairly good. I deliberately didn't invest in more because I know it is only for a few years, and I have a better setup back in Australia for when I move back there. So if you just want to try it out, you can get a cheap set like this - just be careful it has the right inputs that you want (some have no optical or others no spdif). Some of these allow you to use other speakers than the ones they came with, some don't, but be aware the receiver part is likely underpowered and might not be able to drive "good" speakers.

The "better" option is to go buy a nice receiver (can be a few hundred to a few thousand $). I have a nice Denon one in Australia. This should last you many years. Then you can get a cheapish set of 5.1 speakers to go with it, and over time, you can upgrade them to higher quality ones (fronts first!). Or buy all high quality speakers at the start if you have the money of course!

Killyp
Nov 6, 2008, 12:43 PM
RE not being able to go back from surround sound to stereo, I in fact did this (and I'm a very demanding person when it comes to sound quality).

My setup before was a Rotel RSX 1055 and a complete B&W speaker package. Sure, it sounded stunning, but a good stereo setup outperformed it. Remember, surround sound isn't better sound, it's just more sound.

The basis of good surround sound is good stereo. If your system can't perform well in stereo, then there's no way it'll be able to perform well in surround sound.

phrehdd
Nov 10, 2008, 05:35 PM
RE not being able to go back from surround sound to stereo, I in fact did this (and I'm a very demanding person when it comes to sound quality).

My setup before was a Rotel RSX 1055 and a complete B&W speaker package. Sure, it sounded stunning, but a good stereo setup outperformed it. Remember, surround sound isn't better sound, it's just more sound.

The basis of good surround sound is good stereo. If your system can't perform well in stereo, then there's no way it'll be able to perform well in surround sound.

You sure do like to open up a can of worms with that statement <G>.

I guess that I agree that a good system, well recorded sound source will give you a better experience. However, I tend to listen to music more often than watch movies with surround sound.

Without offending audiophile movie enthusiasts, I would argue that a fair surround system is better than an good stereo system for a movie experience. It is not always about "pure" sound/music but the sense of texture and depth of the audio experience when watching a movie. In a sense it provides the 3D part of the experience. If you surround system can play a decent hrtz range and without too much distortion its a good start. Naturally, those into surround systems prefer not a fair system but a good system. Good then becomes either a measure of "spec" or what sounds good to one's ears.

For me, my Energy speaker system with Klipch sub was ideal. My system however was 5.1 surround. I found I wasn't fond of 6.1 or 7.1. In fact it was a bit annoying but that is what it's about - a subjective call.

At present, I am resetting up my "media center" and I am more concerned about left, right and center channels. - Akin to "stereo" with a center speaker for dialogue separation. This fits my tastes. Others would feel very cheated without rear channels and that is a legit concern for them.

On a side note - I have found with most people I know that if they get a "fair to excellent" surround system, their ears adapt and they are happy. At times, people do upgrade and then "realize" what they were missing and enjoy re-experiencing all of their music and movie collections.

- Phrehdd

rhett7660
Nov 10, 2008, 05:42 PM
I think it is. I have invested a nice little chunk of change so that I can enjoy it. I love it and in movies or concerts where the surrounds are pretty active it makes the experience that much more enjoyable.

There have been numerous times me and the wife look at each other and go, was that from the movie? Good times.

Bmode
Nov 11, 2008, 03:32 AM
*puts on audiophile hat* Either way, it's better to be running a good stereo setup than a mediocre or poor 5.1/7.1 setup. Remember, surround sound is not better sound, it's just more sound.

Oh my lord...I'll try my best not to flame, but that's just poor input. PLEASE TAKE OFF YOUR AUDIOPHILE HAT, AND PUT IT BACK WHERE YOU GOT IT FROM!!! Surround sound is not just more sound, it's isolation of sound! Thank god Mark34 understands. More sound would simply be more audio information! A 5.1/7.1 system is discrete audio channeling with cross overs for sub frequencies! Even a cheap home theatre in a box is more EFFECTIVE than a great two channel system for movies, but not necessarily better in frequency reproduction. Keep in mind, everything posted above is completely subjective, and a few are very misleading.

I've installed $50,000 systems and $500 systems. The ultimate goal in a surround sound system is too try and recreate the original mix that was done on a multi-million dollar sound stage and mixing consoles. We engineers spend weeks and sometimes months mixing movies and records to achieve a sound experience for you to enjoy. Not everyone can reproduce this expensive task, but let's just keep the facts straight okay?

Is surround important to you, that's the real question? It's very important to me, because I watch a lot of movies. Even live sporting events are broadcasted in dolby digital which sound incredible! In my audio/video world, it's 55% audio, 45% video. Cheers!

Oh bravo Rhett on the switch! It's good to have you on board!

koobcamuk
Nov 11, 2008, 04:10 AM
surround sound definitely isn't just more sound.

I love listening to music in stereo, and movies in 5.1 if I can.

garybUK
Nov 11, 2008, 04:39 AM
I kind of agree with Killyp, though not when it comes to Rotel!!!! DON'T WASTE YOUR MONEY ON ROTEL!!!

I have the RSP-1066 + RMB1075 Processor + Power Amp (5 Channel) and i don't like it, i prefer the Arcam FMJ range which i may upgrade to, though to me, As Killyp states a good 2 channel stereo setup can way outweigh a 5.1 setup.... I have the B&W DM602S3 and they are amazing speakers for the price, very very good stereo imaging......

My route now: Either upgrade to the Arcam FMJ range or go Valve with something like the EAR 509 Mono Power Amps + Tannoy Timension TD8's

rhett7660
Nov 11, 2008, 11:02 AM
Oh bravo Rhett on the switch! It's good to have you on board!

Glad to be on board!!!!!!! :)

fivepoint
Nov 11, 2008, 12:04 PM
I feel kind of silly... but these are the two systems I've been looking into purchasing:

ZVOX 425
http://reviews.cnet.com/surround-speaker-systems/zvox-425/4505-7868_7-32754990.html

Sony HT-CT100
http://reviews.cnet.com/home-theater-systems/sony-ht-ct100/4505-6740_7-32923460.html

Both are 'soundbars' which mimic surround sound. I know it's not optimal, but I'm trying very hard to maintain a clean minimalist design free of any additional cabling, etc. I'd love any advice you 'experts' and 'audiofiles' can offer. Maybe I'm making a big mistake with these two...

dynaflash
Nov 11, 2008, 12:22 PM
No matter how good the stereo (two channel) system is, I still can't hear the airplanes fly *around* me like they are supposed to in the original move as mastered from the audio engineers even when mixing down to dpl2.

But ... thats just me. :)

rhett7660
Nov 11, 2008, 03:54 PM
No matter how good the stereo (two channel) system is, I still can't hear the airplanes fly *around* me like they are supposed to in the original move as mastered from the audio engineers even when mixing down to dpl2.

But ... thats just me. :)

Here here... or the car door slam behind you, or the creatures in the jungle seen that appear to be alllll around you.

Bmode
Nov 11, 2008, 06:41 PM
Rotel is excellent audio, and audio only. The recent posting in the latest Home Theatre magazine of the new Rotel processor and five channel amp is very poor with video processing, it failed 8 out 10 of their bench tests. I've seen the older RSP unit at a friends, and it's very mediocre.

rhett7660
Nov 11, 2008, 07:12 PM
Heck.. I would head over here:

avscience.com
hometheaterforum.com

Check out some of the amps/processors/separates people have and rate. Lots and lots of reading.

I am in the market for a new processor, one that has multipal hdmi inputs etc. I have the amps, just need a new processor. Of course getting a blu-ray for christmas wouldn't be bad either! :)

carlgo
Nov 11, 2008, 08:48 PM
It sure depends on what is playing. Some sound tracks are just awesome in 5:1 and others actually suffer because somebody just added some sound to the back, if you know what I mean.

Modern action adventure movies, games and such do a nice job of making it meaningful.

If I win the lotto, I will also get a fabulous stereo system, and put it in its own perfect room.

Other things: for most rooms the 5:1 is enough. I resent having to pay extra for unused amps just to get other features found on the more expensive 7:1 devices. Not many of us have perfect huge listening rooms that make 7:1 useful.

Many of the new receivers have microphones to set up the speakers properly and that really can help.

Despite what people say, I have no problem going to smaller and cheaper rear speakers, but it is best that they are just smaller versions of the fronts so they match-up sound-wise. Also, it looks tacky to have different brands of speakers all over the place. The subwoofer is fine, though.

phrehdd
Nov 19, 2008, 06:00 PM
Oh my lord...I'll try my best not to flame, but that's just poor input. PLEASE TAKE OFF YOUR AUDIOPHILE HAT, AND PUT IT BACK WHERE YOU GOT IT FROM!!! Surround sound is not just more sound, it's isolation of sound! Thank god Mark34 understands. More sound would simply be more audio information! A 5.1/7.1 system is discrete audio channeling with cross overs for sub frequencies! Even a cheap home theatre in a box is more EFFECTIVE than a great two channel system for movies, but not necessarily better in frequency reproduction. Keep in mind, everything posted above is completely subjective, and a few are very misleading.

I've installed $50,000 systems and $500 systems. The ultimate goal in a surround sound system is too try and recreate the original mix that was done on a multi-million dollar sound stage and mixing consoles. We engineers spend weeks and sometimes months mixing movies and records to achieve a sound experience for you to enjoy. Not everyone can reproduce this expensive task, but let's just keep the facts straight okay?

Is surround important to you, that's the real question? It's very important to me, because I watch a lot of movies. Even live sporting events are broadcasted in dolby digital which sound incredible! In my audio/video world, it's 55% audio, 45% video. Cheers!

Oh bravo Rhett on the switch! It's good to have you on board!

Well alas, you kinda sorta yeah ya did flame <G>.

I expected at any point to see "Jane, you ignorant slut" show up in your post.

On a more serious note -

You made some good points about how surround adds a "3D" part to the movie experience with sense of depth and texture to sound. I can appreciate that. As well, I also believe that for music fans, they'll find a good stereo system to be their best bet.

Let's also be clear about what was said about "more sound" with respect to surround. - I agree 100 percent with the poster. "More sound" can be done poorly or very well. Surround sound is artificial and extremely subjective in crafting. - But then again, lots of sounds in movies are artificial but give the audience a sound that makes sense to their ears.

Many can find in their DVD collections some poorly done audio that plays in surround sound. We can also find Blu Ray where the video part is nearly the same level of DVD and thus, disappointing.

As for me, I like some sound separation when I watch movies. Most important to me is left, right and center channel, then sub and last is any sort of rear channels. For the next person, they might be like yourself and really enjoy a true 5.1 or 7.1 system far more.

For music, I'll enjoy stereo and for movies, I'll enjoy a multi-speaker beyond stereo experience. My bickers will remain with how well the audio and video are portrayed on the discs (CD, DVD and Blu Ray).

As for Apple TV user who is happy with stereo, continue enjoying but remember, if you do go to multi-speaker set up beyond your stereo system, you'll find it an entirely different experience as you are far more into a 3D audio experience which does impact overall perception of the media your are watch/listening to on the ATV.

- Phrehdd

Bmode
Nov 23, 2008, 10:51 PM
No matter how good the stereo (two channel) system is, I still can't hear the airplanes fly *around* me like they are supposed to in the original move as mastered from the audio engineers even when mixing down to dpl2.

But ... thats just me. :)

True. However, in a situation where you cannot have a surround sound system, a sound bar like the Yamaha YSP-4000 is an excellent solution. I just would recommend a sub to go with that to give you the full frequencies possible. I was non believer in the "sound bar" speaker system, but once we installed one in a entry room surround by tile and plaster, I was sold as the bouncing of sound actually worked. Yamaha did an excellent job to simulate the surround arena in one speaker.

phrehdd
Nov 25, 2008, 03:24 PM
True. However, in a situation where you cannot have a surround sound system, a sound bar like the Yamaha YSP-4000 is an excellent solution. I just would recommend a sub to go with that to give you the full frequencies possible. I was non believer in the "sound bar" speaker system, but once we installed one in a entry room surround by tile and plaster, I was sold as the bouncing of sound actually worked. Yamaha did an excellent job to simulate the surround arena in one speaker.

Agreed - soundbars do have their place and add some "texture" beyond typical stereo.

You would do well to check out "soundmatters" website. Their soundbars really are state of the art and include the amplifier section within the soundbar along with some nice bells and whistles.

- Phrehdd

Killyp
Nov 25, 2008, 03:56 PM
I've installed $50,000 systems and $500 systems. The ultimate goal in a surround sound system is too try and recreate the original mix that was done on a multi-million dollar sound stage and mixing consoles.

True, although I would more rather listen to the stereo/PCM mix on a DVD accurately than listen to the 5.1 mix inaccurately.

And also, don't call me an audiophile. I hate the term. It should only be used to describe those who talk the talk, but don't know a thing about sound.

phrehdd
Nov 26, 2008, 08:49 PM
True, although I would more rather listen to the stereo/PCM mix on a DVD accurately than listen to the 5.1 mix inaccurately.

And also, don't call me an audiophile. I hate the term. It should only be used to describe those who talk the talk, but don't know a thing about sound.

As someone ferociously pointed out - Movie audio is fabricated or engineered to create an audio experience to accompany the video. In a sense there is no concept of "fidelity" related.

On playback however, one can argue the fidelity of the output vs the recorded sounds themselves. Whether you prefer faithful audio playback on fabricated sound over a less faithful playback on a low end surround sound will remain subjective. As it has been said for years - get what sounds good to your ears.

Btw - I am one of those off types that likes to purchase film score CDs which I listen to while working. For me, this is where good stereo makes all the difference.

- Phrehdd

mrrory
Nov 26, 2008, 09:19 PM
Yes it is really important :) Once you've heard it, you'll never go back... I was the same about HDTV, now I can barely watch DVDs :(

Killyp
Nov 28, 2008, 12:40 PM
Yes it is really important :) Once you've heard it, you'll never go back... I was the same about HDTV, now I can barely watch DVDs :(

Again, I'm one of those who has gone back from 5.1 to '2.0', although that may also be because I listen to a lot of music with my system.

Now I'm not here to say stereo will always be better for you, use your own ears, but do listen closely. 5.1 has a tendency of blowing your socks off for the first 10 minutes, after which you realise that it's often more of a gimmick. IMO, for a surround sound system to perform well, it must be able to perform well in stereo too.

phrehdd
Dec 5, 2008, 05:50 PM
Again, I'm one of those who has gone back from 5.1 to '2.0', although that may also be because I listen to a lot of music with my system.

Now I'm not here to say stereo will always be better for you, use your own ears, but do listen closely. 5.1 has a tendency of blowing your socks off for the first 10 minutes, after which you realise that it's often more of a gimmick. IMO, for a surround sound system to perform well, it must be able to perform well in stereo too.

When I got my last 5.1 setup. I was very careful to make sure the front Left and Right speakers were "good enough" for stereo playback on their own. They were akin to large bookshelf style speakers and fit the room well along with the sub. The center channel was a good match and rear in terms of timber. This worked very well for both surround and "stereo" playback.

Obviously, this was a more thought out solution than buying a "surround kit" and not a pure audiophile solution either. It simply worked very well for me. - As this is all subjective, best I can say is you can have your cake and eat it too if you are willing to shop around for the right type of speakers for a surround sound experience and music only playback.

Surround - FL+FR, RL+RR, Center, Sub LFE

Stereo FL+FR, Sub.....or.....both Left same signal, both Right same signal, Sub and no Center. (rear channels reduced in volume)

- Phrehdd