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Do You Really Need Surround Sound?
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Speak Stands

Most 5.1 speaker systems do not come with speaker stands. I don’t know why manufacturers do not include them as they are a necessity if you want a proper 5.1 speaker setup. Of course, speaker stands do cost a lot and are heavy as they are usually made from steel. It is good though to know that certain speaker manufacturers at least offer special speaker stands for their 5.1 speaker products.

The other manufacturers should do the same. It's quite puzzling that there are still companies that do not offer speaker stands as accessories for their 5.1 speaker systems. I know some of you might think about wall-mounting, putting them on a table behind you, and even building your own speaker stands… but seriously, is it worth the hassle?

Even if you do buy real speaker stands, do not be too happy. Many speaker stands designed for satellite speaks are not proper speaker stands, so to speak. Many have very poor center-of-gravity due to their extremely slim and tall designs, and cheap construction. Thus, it's very easy to tip them over, especially with messy wires running from those speakers to your PC or amplifier.


Speaker-To-Ear Level

With a 5.1 speaker system, it is important for all the five satellite speakers to be on the same level as your ears. Otherwise, the overall auditory experience will seem messed up and unpleasant. I have personally experienced this problem.

When you use a 2.1 speaker system which isn’t on the same level as your ears, you don’t need to worry much as there are only 2 audio channels. You won’t really notice the difference. Furthermore, if only 2 channels are involved, the built-in pseudo-3D feature found in most sound cards these days will help create a better soundstage, minimizing this problem.

But if you are using a 5.1 speaker system, your typical setup would have the center and front speakers placed on your desk, with the rear speakers to your back. Even though all of these satellite speakers are on the same level as one another, they are usually located at a much lower level than your ears, distorting the audio positioning cues somewhat.

You can correct for this by placing your center and front speakers on mini-stands or items you don't use (like your textbooks for example!), and using adjustable speaker stands for your rear speakers. But if you can't do that, it might be better to just use a 2.1 speaker system. For me at least, the distortion sounds too weird and spoils the mood.

You might think that many 5.1 home-theatre systems do not need to follow this rule at all. Bear in mind though that home-theatre systems are meant for home threatres, where the distance between the audience and the speakers is relatively big. This minimizes any difference in angle and provides a greater soundstage to allow for the difference in level. Also, movies do not need this "leveling" as much as games because most surround sound tracks in movies are used for spatial effects, rather than the accurate audio positioning gamers need to pinpoint where various sound effects are coming from.


Surround Sound For Everything?

If you think that you can utilize your surround speakers for other things and not just gaming, think again.

For music listening, surround speakers would do no good as the music source is often recorded in only two channels. You could do a quadraphonic setup with the rear speakers repeating the same sounds as the front speakers, but that would ruin the listening experience in my opinion. Music to me is real music when you can imagine the singer/band right in front of you.

For movies encoded in Dolby Digital or DTS surround formats, I believe most people would prefer to watch it on a proper TV, with a home-theatre audio system and a cozy couch; or just stick to cinemas. Most video files downloaded from the Internet such as trailers, videos and such usually do not have a 5.1 audio track.

In other words, your 5.1 surround system would really be as useful as your gamepad - it works best for gaming and nothing else.

<<< Introduction, Sound Positioning, Space Constraints : Previous Page   |   Next Page : Conclusion >>>


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