View Full Version : 5.1 Surroundsound/quadrophonia

26-09-2005, 04:49 PM
reviewing this boxset of talking heads albums, dualdisc jobs with the second discs containing a few videos but also the whole album again but in 5.1 surroundsound -- of course i don't have the capacity to play them in surroundsound nor the inclination (not even sure what it would entail -- filling your entire living room with speakers?). but am just curious if anyone here has actually ever heard an album in 5.1 surroundsound and whether it's, like, an improvement/interesting/any cop at all?

also interested if anyone has heard an album in quad, owns any quad album, or has knowledge or theories as to why the whole quadraphonic thing never took off?

henry s
26-09-2005, 05:27 PM
I own a quad LP (Blue Oyster Cult, Tyranny & Mutation)...I honestly never could sonically differentiate it from other LP's at the time, and figured it was just another gimmick, ala Sensurround (which figured in the films Earthquake, Midway & Rollercoaster, and was really nothing more than the bass knob on high)...of course, I had a crummy stereo at the time...I also recall a radio station in Detroit in the late 70's which purported to broadcast in "Quad"...still have their sticker on my guitar case...

Grievous Angel
26-09-2005, 06:39 PM
My hifi is now a stunted mess and I can't play in stereo, or indeed at all, through anything but a battered five year old boombox... but it was sorted for a while, and I've had lots of demos of surround audio since 1994 or something, usually in studios with top end kit. And it can be really good.

Now, the obvious disclaimer is that surround, in and of itself, is a very proggy, beard-stroking thing to do. That said, you get this wonderful all-enveloping sound that goes all around you while still getting a powerful focused sense of the music, cos you've still got a lot of the mix going through the main speakers. And you get a lot of bass because surround systems have a subwoofer. It was absolutely wonderful on a Micky Hart DVD for example. Others that were good were the Super Furry ANimals DVD-As and the NIN 5.1 mixes, which were great.. I can imagine the orb sounding really good in surround but I don't think they've done one.

The problem with surround is that it's usually played through a home cinema system, which usually are crap at rhythm and sound tinny and boomy yet dull. You really need a dedicated music surround system and they don't come cheap. But as most home music systems get fused with home cinema systems, and as labels seek to control piracy by re-releasing albums on harder to copy DVD audio discs, there might be a lot more listening done in surround.

Or maybe not, because a decent two channel system will always sound better pound for pound than a surround system. And people are buying CDs -- they're just not buying DVD-As. Then again, with so many grime releases coming with a DVD -- and with almost all the music software out there now having surround functionality at least as an option -- I can see a few Grime surround mixes coming. Dubstep in particular could be great -- imagine Skream's stuff...

Overall surround gets a thumbs down from me but then I'm getting away from gear right now.

Quad didn't work commercially because hi-fi stereo was still such a big step forward for most consumers and quad systems doubled the cost for not enough return compared with stereo. I think this is still true today.

26-09-2005, 11:11 PM
OK...I was reviewing DVD's for a now defunct DVd magazine, and I was bought a 5.1 amp and player that could handle the DVD-Audio format. i came home from a dance party, and was still buzzing a bit from an E, and decided to try out my promo copy of the Doors 'LA Woman'. to be honest I wasn't a big fan of the album, but it blew my mind! Basically 5.1 seperates sound into a descreet 'surround stage. The Doors album was one of the first, so the mixed it really well. So you had Morrison's vocals in the front, guitar and drums left and right and other 'sounds' spread behind you, like the rain in 'Riders on the Storm'. a track like 'changeling' was quite amazing, not only for it's influence the Stooges, but when the fuzz-guitar solo comes it it swirls all around the room and then meets at a sweet spot as each overdubbed note converges - it's quite fantastic.

ANYWAY since then, I've been somewhat of an afficianado of the DVD-A format, and I'd hate to say, but it's 6 or 1, half a dozev of the other. It's all based on how well the inital albums were recording AND how well the ENGINEERS have 'spaced' the 5.1 mix. I would say that only 25% of the DVD-audio or surround mixes are duds. ANOTHER thing is can't control tone, or equalizer setting - there's no bass, treble, equ or whatever to give yr sound more warmth - what you hear is what you get, no matter how tinny or chintzy it sounds!

I have the following DVd-Audio discs:

Missy Elliot - So Addictive (not bad, but not great mix)
Outkast - Stankonia (a total mess, no bass, little bottom and shocking 5.1 mix)
Flaming Lips - Yoshimi (a good experiment that works fro most of it, but marred by the fact you can't change bass/teble etc, and also I'm not a huge fan of their recent stuff!)
Beach boys - Pet Sounds (goodm, but they only mixed it in 4.1, should put vocal in the centre rather than dispersed through each speaker!!@#!)
Fleetwood Mac - Rumours (pretty good actualy, but a bit 'tinny' sounding)
Neil Young - Harvest/Greedale - (Harvest suffers from the 4.1 thing, but 'Greendale' sounds like Neil and Crazy Horse jamming in yr room!)

It's innaresting as Sony have their 'alternative' 5.1 format SACD. I don't have an SACD player, but the prices have come down somewhat. They did Pink Floyd's 'Dark Side of the Moon' in SACD and it's meant to sound *brilliant*, and they've also done the early Can catalogue, Talk Talk's 'Spirit of eden', Bob Dylan, the Abcko Stones cat - basically better than 'lite' stuff on DVD-A. Thing is I'm not sure if all the SACD CD's are in 5.1 or just 'better' stereo, as alot of these formats are doing, simple because thats's how they albums were initally created.

Ultimately it's more 'modern' studio type music that will benefit from 5.1 - hence NiN or Flaming Lips and bigger name electronica acts, simply becuase it's suited to the technology.

Hope that gives you an idea. Cheers B6

27-09-2005, 12:06 AM
One of the big things about surround and quad set ups not taking off (for music) is that you have to stay in the one place to get the right effect. It's probably not going to sound shit if you're not sitting in the right place, but you're not really taking advantage of the whole surround thing.

27-09-2005, 02:17 AM
Not if you've got a reasonably sized room, as opposed to a bedsit.