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Is Surround Sound Worth It?

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Henrius

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Is Surround Sound Worth It?

PostThu Nov 26, 2020 5:14 pm

I passed on the quadraphonic craze when I was a young man. It was pre-digital back then, and I figured I would rather have two really good speakers than four mediocre ones.

More Hauptwerk sample organs are offered in surround sound. I have a rudimentary rig now with two speakers plus a sub. Would surround sound be worth it. I play in a small room with a tile floor and no upholstery.

What would I need? Another stereo amp and two more speakers, I guess? Do the surround speakers need to be the same as the primary speakers, or can they be cheaper? I guess a second subwoofer is not necessary for surround?

If somebody can recommend a resource for setting up surround sound with Hauptwerk, I would appreciate it. Still not sure it is worth the money to do it.
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josq

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Re: Is Surround Sound Worth It?

PostThu Nov 26, 2020 6:23 pm

Yes I think surround is worth it. The difference between simple stereo and 4-channel surround is not necesserily spectacular, but still significant. It increases the sense of envelopment. It is more like the sound is coming from everywhere, which resembles the situation in a reverberant church room.

The quality of the sound from the rear does matter. If the quality and/or the placement of the rear speakers is poor, in my experience you cannot increase the volume too much, or the effect will become irritating. So with optimal speakers and placement, you have more freedom to increase the volume of the rears and the resulting amount of envelopment. This is especially relevant in sample sets where the balance between front and rear can be adjusted with a slider.

You mention an (extra) amp. I think nowadays active speakers (which don't need an amp) are superior to passive ones: for less money, you can get equal or better sound quality. I recommend Genelec, but of course many other good brands are available.

I recommend nearfield speakers, to be placed at equal distances in a symmetric setup, distance to your listening position about 1 m or less. This way, you will minimize the negative impact of room reflections.

I have not very extensive experience with subwoofer, but in theory, multiple subwoofers will help to even out the peaks and nulls in the frequency response, so it can be worth it to have multiple ones. Optimal placement for subwoofers is typically in or near a corner.
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Henrius

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Re: Is Surround Sound Worth It?

PostThu Nov 26, 2020 8:17 pm

Thanks for the reply. I wish there was some way I could listen to a surround sound setup in a room my size to decide whether it was worth it. Funny, the most realistic sound so far comes from a pair of good Sennheiser headphones. I really feel like being enveloped in sound with those on my ears.

Surprising how far powered speakers must have come. I was advised against them years ago. People said they were prone to hum. Sure would be more convenient to have the amp in the speaker cabinet. I guess having enough power is not an issue?
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mnailor

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Re: Is Surround Sound Worth It?

PostThu Nov 26, 2020 9:54 pm

I use similar quality speakers front and back so 2 channel stereo samplesets can distribute ranks over all the speakers in a surround bus group, while surround sets work correctly using front and rear bus groups. Total of 16 speakers in 3 surround bus groups by pitch range (6 groups front/rear), plus one subwoofer. I haven't found that I can hear where the sub is located (front right corner), and one fills the room.

I have the 17 powered speakers split between 2 circuit breakers to avoid the possibility of an overloaded AC circuit.
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josq

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Re: Is Surround Sound Worth It?

PostFri Nov 27, 2020 2:38 am

Henrius wrote:Surprising how far powered speakers must have come. I was advised against them years ago. People said they were prone to hum. Sure would be more convenient to have the amp in the speaker cabinet. I guess having enough power is not an issue?


Power is not an issue. A small amount of self-generated noise (tweeter hiss) is present in active speakers when they are silent. You will hear it when you hold your ear close to the tweeter, but usually not at any larger distance. Noise from traffic outside, a ticking clock, a refrigerater, an airco system, or otherwise your Hauptwerk pc will be louder. Depends on the brand and type of speaker, again I recommend Genelec.
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magnaton

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Re: Is Surround Sound Worth It?

PostFri Nov 27, 2020 9:26 am

Yes, surround sound is worth it. For the simple reason you are placing the reflective sound behind you which is where you would hear it if you were actually sitting on the bench. With reverb on just 2 channels, it sounds like you are playing an organ just as it sounds on a CD recording. With surround, you're simulating moving into the respective location. The recommended config for a surround sound set is to shorten the reverb tail a bit on the front speakers. This way when you release a chord, the sound will linger longer in the surround speakers. Again feeling more like you are virtually there.

I'd recommend some quality bookshelf speakers to handle the surround. Active studio monitors are great since you don't have to worry about separate amplification. If you decide surround sound isn't for you, then you can move these to the front and experiment with multichannel distribution. If you search the HW forums, you can see some suggestions.

Genelec monitors are at the very high end range as their "individual" prices will show. Way overkill for just surround sound duty! There are several other brands you can consider for main audio and or surround sound. I'd check out Adam Audio's T series of active monitors as the design and build quality are rated at the top of the 'pro-sumer' audio line.

Danny B.
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josq

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Re: Is Surround Sound Worth It?

PostFri Nov 27, 2020 10:52 am

Adams certainly can be good, only drawback is that they are relatively BIG, so maybe a lot of visual impact in your listening room. You don't need a big speaker because you are using a subwoofer for the low frequencies.

I just checked...

Adam T5V
Price: EUR 160 (on sale) for a single speaker
Size: 30 * 18 * 28 cm v

Genelec 8010
EUR 250 for a single speaker
Size: 20*12*12 cm

I got a pair of 8020 for about EUR 400 second hand. That's comparable to the price of a mid-size sample set, nothing excessive. And they just are excellent. But yes, Adam measures excellent too.
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Henrius

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Re: Is Surround Sound Worth It?

PostSat Nov 28, 2020 8:58 am

josq wrote:Adams certainly can be good, only drawback is that they are relatively BIG, so maybe a lot of visual impact in your listening room. You don't need a big speaker because you are using a subwoofer for the low frequencies.

I just checked...

Adam T5V
Price: EUR 160 (on sale) for a single speaker
Size: 30 * 18 * 28 cm v

Genelec 8010
EUR 250 for a single speaker
Size: 20*12*12 cm

I got a pair of 8020 for about EUR 400 second hand. That's comparable to the price of a mid-size sample set, nothing excessive. And they just are excellent. But yes, Adam measures excellent too.


Thanks for the advice. I buy a lot of stuff off E-Bay and neither of these speakers is out of my price range. Need better front speakers anyway. Maybe I will try a pair out there first.

It is amazing how many speakers some of you guys run. It is almost like an outdoor rock concert!
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magnaton

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Re: Is Surround Sound Worth It?

PostSat Nov 28, 2020 9:10 am

Henrius wrote:It is amazing how many speakers some of you guys run. It is almost like an outdoor rock concert!

LOL, not quite. Multiple speakers used in HW is to divide the sound of ranks and notes among x number of speaker in a group. Another design (derived from the digital organ builders) is a pair of speakers per organ division. There are other audio distribution methods too. The idea is to get a more realistic pipe organ sound and reduce THD.

Danny B.
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Henrius

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Re: Is Surround Sound Worth It?

PostSat Nov 28, 2020 9:29 am

One disadvantage of powered speakers is there are more switches to turn off when the practice session is over. I can't imagine having a bank of many powered speakers. You cannot run them all off the same power strip. So at minimum, you must flip the switch on more than one power switch when the practice ends.

Would be curious how that is managed with many speakers. Or do you guys just have a dedicated circuit breaker for your rig and cut the power on that?
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josq

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Re: Is Surround Sound Worth It?

PostSat Nov 28, 2020 9:45 am

Some active speakers (including the mentioned Genelecs) switch on/off automatically.

I am at the risk of inciting a fierce debate now - but I am not convinced that large speaker arrays are the way to go. Better use your budget to optimize a single pair of speakers (or two pairs in the case of surround), than to compromize with many pairs of speakers.
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magnaton

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Re: Is Surround Sound Worth It?

PostSat Nov 28, 2020 9:51 am

Henrius wrote:Would be curious how that is managed with many speakers. Or do you guys just have a dedicated circuit breaker for your rig and cut the power on that?

I have 14 active studio monitors, HW computer, touch screen monitor, audio interface, and overhead organ/music light all on one 20amp circuit and never had an issue. I use 2 power strips with remote switches to start:
- 1 for computer, lights, and audio interface
- 1 for audio (all active monitors)
Having separate switches makes it easy to flip over to headphone use for late night practice. The computer's bios is set to startup when it senses a power failure which is simulated by turning off the power strip. Here is an example of one of my remote switches:
https://tinyurl.com/y59kk5sy

Danny B.
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jkinkennon

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Re: Is Surround Sound Worth It?

PostSat Nov 28, 2020 10:00 am

Henrius wrote:Would be curious how that is managed with many speakers. Or do you guys just have a dedicated circuit breaker for your rig and cut the power on that?


Power sequencers can simplify controlling the power to multiple speakers. Here's one that could easily handle 6 or more studio monitors.

https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail ... -sequencer

I've accomplished the same with Solid State Relays and a small Arduino or similar device for a lower cost, but have used the Furmans on commercial projects. With a pair of them the timing can be adjusted so that six power strips are turned on one at a time.
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mnailor

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Re: Is Surround Sound Worth It?

PostSat Nov 28, 2020 11:32 am

I use two power conditioners plugged into separate AC circuits on opposite walls of the room in order to split the amplifiers between two breakers. One always stays on, since I don't turn off the computer and interfaces. The console, lights, and half of the speakers are off that one, on a power strip that I do turn off. So two power switches to turn on or off.

Speakers are at about 1/3 gain. It's not a rock concert, it's a chorus of moderate voices... Nobody has to shout in a 17 x 17 x 17 ft room. :D

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