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bereke70's picture
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Hifi vs Surround Sound
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Hi all,

 

I am looking for a system to play good stereo music as well as good surround sound. After reading various posts and reviews I understand that this is hard to come by with the same system.

Is a soundbar a good solution to provide good surround sound without all the hazzle of wires and multiple speakers. Heard the Yamaha soundbar is excellent.

 

For the stereo I need advise on what (pre-) amp and speakers I need to buy. I don't want a cd-player anymore. Very interested in streaming music and ripping my excisting cd collection. Would love to use an Ipad to control both systems. 

Is a DAC a good solution. A server/NAS?

 

As you can read I am a newbie.

 

Really looking forward to your expert feedback.  My budget excluding TV is around £ 3000.

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RE: Hifi vs Surround Sound

On this forum it will be stereo. On AVS forum the answer will be surround.

 

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RE: Hifi vs Surround Sound

You might consider a Linn Sneaky DSM, which is very good for 2 channel and has very versitile digital connections as well as pre-outs for a Sub. This will get you going and you can add 5.1 at a later date if you feel the need. It pairs well with the Kef R Series.

http://docs.linn.co.uk/wiki/index.php/Sneaky_DSM

http://www.linn.co.uk/all-products/network-music-players/sneaky-dsm

 

"We should no more let numbers define audio quality than we should let chemical analysis be the arbiter of fine wines."  Nelson Pass

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RE: Hifi vs Surround Sound

If I was starting again, I'd buy a network-enabled bluray player (with a good tablet based UI) and a good receiver from Marantz or Yamaha. I'd probably stick with 4.0 - no centre, no sub - because of the size and arrangement if my living room.

I'd use a good front stereo pair and a modest, small surround pair for discretion's sake.

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RE: Hifi vs Surround Sound

Most hard Hi-Fi people would only ever have a single stereo pair in the room at one time with possibly a powered sub, I used to be that way but eventually gave in to 5.1 and then when I moved to where I now live I bought a top Yamaha sound bar. Whilst the virtual surround is very good, two chanel stereo is poor. So bad that I have had to buy a seperate pair of powered Audio Engine+ speakers. This defeats the whole soundbar concept, but I do get first class stereo again. My previous 5.1 system was the first of the Kef egg ones and it must be in it's third incarnation by now. If you don't mind a compromise you'll find the stereo is very good without being exceptional, but if stereo is your priority then single pairs are the only way.

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RE: Hifi vs Surround Sound

can't see the point of loads of speakers when you only have 2 ears, and one brain to process it all.

 

 

 

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RE: Hifi vs Surround Sound

If you don't mind second hand, the Naim n-Vi is the weapon of choice. They go for about £600 on the second hand market. One of the few amps that is happy with both surround sound and stereo, it remains one of the greatest products that Naim ever made. Unfotunately at launch the screens kept packing up. just about every n-Vi ever made has been back for a new screen and they are now super reliable. Naim in their (lack of) wisdom pulled them soon after. 

Add a streaming device of your choice with a digital output. The Naim has 1 optical and 2 coaxial inputs. Speakers are very much a personal choice. You MUST listen to a few of the various brands out there to find what is best for you.

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RE: Hifi vs Surround Sound

If they did one with a bluray player in it, I'd buy one tomorrow.

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RE: Hifi vs Surround Sound

bereke70 wrote:

Hi all,

 

I am looking for a system to play good stereo music as well as good surround sound. After reading various posts and reviews I understand that this is hard to come by with the same system.

Is a soundbar a good solution to provide good surround sound without all the hazzle of wires and multiple speakers. Heard the Yamaha soundbar is excellent.

 

For the stereo I need advise on what (pre-) amp and speakers I need to buy. I don't want a cd-player anymore. Very interested in streaming music and ripping my excisting cd collection. Would love to use an Ipad to control both systems. 

Is a DAC a good solution. A server/NAS?

 

As you can read I am a newbie.

 

Really looking forward to your expert feedback.  My budget excluding TV is around £ 3000.

A good surround system can certainly be found for playing stereo, but not at the same price as a stereo only system. Multi speaker setups are also much harder to integrate into a room successfully.

If you have the time, money and test equipment to set it up, a good AV system can hold its own with anything that a two speaker system can throw at it, but it may just be easier and cheaper to go with plain old stereo.     

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RE: Hifi vs Surround Sound

Ditched stereo amps when they couldn't keep up with the pace of change in how we source our audio these days.  Bought my Onkyo 818 amp and never looked back.  Terrific amp, all the connectivity I need, all the functionality I want and it's got some futureproofing too to an extent.  The networked services built in are excellent too.  New £1000, bought mine end of line new for substantially less and you could expect to find one for around £500.  Andrew Everard, formerly of this parish, uses one at home and really rates it.  See also Noel Keywood at Hi Fi World who gave it a good review a couple of years ago.

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RE: Hifi vs Surround Sound

bigfish786 wrote:

can't see the point of loads of speakers when you only have 2 ears, and one brain to process it all.

Because with two ears your brain can detect what direction sounds are coming from in 360 degrees.

To make those sounds come at you from 360 degrees you need to have speakers behind you as well as in front.

Hi-Fi - Yamaha RX-V667 > AVI DM5 > AVI subwoofer

Head-Fi - Epiphany Acoustics EHP-O2Di > Sennheisser HD700

Portable - Sony NWZ-A847 > Westone UM3x

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RE: Hifi vs Surround Sound

so far little to no help given.

 

I would suggest as a complete newbie to not get awashed in the sea of online chat, opinions and reviews.

Go somewhere (good dealer) armed with your budget  and what you want the system to do - cut a good deal on it all and come home fully laden with a full system of new toys after listening to some setups / options and then come on here for advice on how to set it up to its best Smile

 

Its a falacy that Home Theatre doesnt do good stereo - most people just dont set things up right I beleieve.

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RE: Hifi vs Surround Sound

ellisdj wrote:

so far little to no help given.

 

I would suggest as a complete newbie to not get awashed in the sea of online chat, opinions and reviews.

Go somewhere (good dealer) armed with your budget  and what you want the system to do - cut a good deal on it all and come home fully laden with a full system of new toys after listening to some setups / options and then come on here for advice on how to set it up to its best Smile

 

Its a falacy that Home Theatre doesnt do good stereo - most people just dont set things up right I beleieve.

Great advice.

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RE: Hifi vs Surround Sound

The comment about 2 ears is just plain funny.  When you hear traffic in the street, or music at a live acoustic gig, are all the sounds coming from two isolated places in front of you? Nope.  Our ears and brain are more complex devices than you give them credit for.  In the real world sound is constantly coming from all directions and our brain is very capable indeed at processing all these sounds; figuring out which direction each of the sounds are coming from and which ones are important to you at that moment.  You can be in a crowded room, but if someone shouts your name your brain can immediately filter this out from everything else you're hearing and make your head turn in the direction the voice is coming from.

Surround sound makes some attempt to duplicate this real-world effect.

 

So anyway, here are your main choices:

1. Stereo only system using all your budget.  It ought to sound good playing all 2-channel sources, but will often be very limited when playing movies.  It lacks the control and flexibility of an AV system, in particular to control the dialogue which in many movie mixes is overwhelmed by the effects from other channels.  However if you use your system primarily for music, you might be able to live with this, as many forum members do and are very happy with their set-ups, 

2. Splitting your budget between some kind of AV system AND a stereo system.  The problem with this is that as you're buying more components, the quality of all of them reduces according to your total budget, and personally I've not yet heard a decent soundbar.  Massively overrated things.  The only one I'd consider demo'ing would the the Monitor Audio ASB2 plus a sub, but then it's starting to get pretty expensive considering its limitations.  Yes, you could use pre-outs of an AV receiver into a stereo amp, but this begins to eat up the budget again and does make the system that little bit more complicated in use.

3. AV only system.  The advantage of something like a Pioneer SC-LX57 with a suitable speaker package (KEF R for instance) is its flexibility.  You can stream from a NAS, stream native Spotify, internet radio and choose to present music differently.  You can go 'pure direct' 2 channel, or as I often do for most music types, use Extended Stereo through all available channels.  I've recently purchased a number of Bluray Audio-only discs mixed in 5.1, and they sound absolutely stunning.  This kind of system is also more flexible in how you use your budget.  You can begin by spending all your budget on sources, receiver and the front 3 speakers, adding subwoofer & rears later on.

 

I use my system primarily for music and 90% of the time I'm playing music I'm extremely happy with it.  However there are some types of music that show up some limitations that my old stereo system didn't have.  But then my stereo wasn't great at all musical genres either.

On balance I'm very happy with my 5.1 system, mainly because it'll play a variety of music sources with a number of different presentations.  If I sold it and purchased a stereo only system I'd really miss its ipad control, its flexibility, features and the type of sounds its capable of, but I accept that a system like this isn't for everyone.

If it was me with your budget, I'd ignore option 2, decide the percentage of the time you play music vs movies, take a bunch of CD's and Blurays or whatever you use as a source and ask a dealer to set up a music & movie demo session.  Just be sure to get the dealer to play stereo sound using Extended Stereo (or the non-Pioneer equivalent) as to my ears this sounds so much better than pure direct when you weight the fader slightly in favour of the front speakers. ALL the above options have compromises somewhere. You  just have to figure out with your wallet and your ears what's the most important for you.

Sorry for the rather waffly post; I hope at least some of it will be useful to you.

 

Bluray: Pioneer BDP-450; TV: Panasonic TX-P42G30B; AV Receiver: Pioneer VSX-2021; Speakers: MA Radius R270HD/R250HD/R90HD/R370HD; Spotify>iPad>Airplay

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RE: Hifi vs Surround Sound

For me I only listen to music, I rarely watch T.V or movies so I invested in stereo. 

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RE: Hifi vs Surround Sound

Firstly, if you're planning on playing more than two channel media, either now or in the future, then a stereo only system, is a waste of time and money, to be terribly blunt...   :wall:

Forget the naysayers that argue you can't have a good 2 channel and mulit-channel unified system.  

It's a rear guard action by die hard stereo purists, who would probably prefer a mono system if they could still buy it.

It was also a grand marketing ploy by various well known 'high end' stereo manufactuers to keep you buying so called 'superior' stereo systems over 'inferior' surround capable ones, until 'they' came out with their allegedly 'superior' add on surround sound processors for their customers exisiting stereo systems of course.   :boohoo:

I still own a Sony ES TA-DA9000ES 7 channel digital amp, which I prefer on sonic grounds to something hallowed in the stereo world, such as a Naim NAC552/NAP500 combination for example.  And yes I've heard it - quite extensively in fact.

IMHO & E it wold be hard to go past a good upper end Yamaha multichannel amp for value and performance.

Couple with passive speakers of your choice, plus sub, and you're good to go - and for a very long time if you don't read hyped up magazine reviews designed to make you uncomfortable with what you've got and get you to consume more kit, or listen to audiophile amateurs who get there jollies off by telling you how crap your system is, and how much better it will be when you listen to, suprise, surprise, them.

Funds permitting, an option would be a good SS processor, and couple with some active speakers from the Pro world - excellent value for money, and no amateurs involved in the design and mixing and matching audiophile mantra beloved by specialist (amateur) HiFi retailers

OK, that's a bit harsh, they will be professional salespeople.    :grin:

I wouldn't waste time with soundbars, as I'd wager whilst they're good at making up for the deficit of crappy TV speakers/audio, the phase effects they rely upon to 'create' a fake surround, are something that once the novelties worn off, you will quickly tire of.

I'm not a newbie, so the advice I offer might be a tad cynical, but it's born out of over 40 odd years of experience in this 'hobby', so I hope you may find something helpful to be gleaned from it nonetheless

 

All the best

 

JMac  :cheers:

 

 

 

 

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