Stereo vs Multi Channel system

So, I’ve always thought that I would set up a dual channel 2.0 system and eventually build up to a multi channel 5.1 system or higher. However, I’ve been really content with the 2.0 systems that I have on my desk and couch setup for music, movies, and some light gaming, so sort of feel like it might not even be necessary.

If you’ve seen Steve (Guttenberg)'s latest video, he points to some trends of the past 10 years and notes that multi channel audio doesn’t seem to be trending compared to stereo systems.

So I started this threat just to get your thoughts on the 2 systems. I know many ‘audiophiles’ would argue 2.0 / 2.1 is the way to go for music. But I’ve also seen Zeos’ video on multi channel music (but feel it’s still kind of a niche thing at this point). Anyone with 5.1 / 7.2 systems want to share your experience?

When does dual channel come out on top and when to go with multi channel ? Is it more of a music vs movie / games thing?

*Edit - OCD typos

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I think a cheap 5.1 or cheap 7.1 system probably sounds better than a cheap 2.1 system or maybe gives the impression of doing more than the crappy Logitech speakers most people have on their PC. I got a pair of KEF LS50s and using them with a Sprout100 for near field absolutely blows away the crappy 7.1 Soundblaster system I have for my pc rig

Would you say your kefs & 7.1 system are in the same price range? All in?

*Add - do you think there’s a place for 5.1/7.1 though?

For movies with multichannel audio yes. For most music, no

If you are an avid movie watcher you may want a 7.1 or 5.1. If not not really then.

I paid full retail for the KEFs which was $1300. If you’re patient unlike me, you can often find sales under $1k. I paid another $800 or so for a subwoofer and the Sprout100 is $600. You can maybe do better than the price of the Sprout, but I LOVE it. Headphone amp is great and if you have or plan to have a turntable, it does that very well. Depending on the 5.1 or 7.1 you’re looking at, you’d probably need a $1k amp/receiver to get them where the Sprout gets the LS50s.

Please note that I’m a speaker noob compared to a lot of others here. I didn’t plan to do a speaker setup at all, and most of what I know I learned from this, and other forums. But I’m extremely happy with my setup for music, games, and movies in near field. If this was a living room setup I don’t know that I’d feel the same

The sprout100 is great imo. It’s a very complete all in one package

Yeah this is where I land at as well but just
left wondering whether it actually is worthwhile to invest in 7.1/5.1 since it’s a major investments in terms of a receiver + amps to power everything. It also doesn’t feel like the market is really pushing for multi channel audio much.

Well, the setup seems like a sweet system. I believe that’s Paul McGowan’s wife setup as well.

Yeah I suppose if you’re happy with a 2.1 system then there isn’t much of a reason to go for more. Which is precisely my sentiment.

Hmm, looks like I’ll save up for a Buchardt S400 instead of investing in a receiver & multi channel stuffs. Lol

IME 5.1 is much more forgiving than stereo.
The big issue is there is so little material recorded on the music side.
I have a 5.1 system in a room dedicated to movies and games, wouldn’t usually consider using it for music.

Forgiving in what way?

How much of a difference do you think it makes moving from 5.1 to 2.1 system even for movies and games? Night and day or night and later that night? Lol.

I mean I can’t imagine a 5.1 system to be that affordable so for that much more investment to the system, how worthwhile do you feel it is?

Cheap 5.1 is still pretty great sounding.
You lose a lot of the issues with room tuning that exists with stereo.
It’s nice to have 5.1 for movies if you have the space, it’s not critical. I just don’t believe we listen as analytically to movies as we do to music. A good sound system can certainly elevate the experience, but it’s not essential.
At one point I had two 5.1 systems in my house, I replaced the one in my living room with a definitive technologies sound bar for convenience. It’s not an order of magnitude worse.
If it’s a movie I want to watch I watch it in the dedicated space, if I’m just watching TV I watch it in my living room.

I missed this.
For point of reference, the speakers in my dedicated 5.1 system probably combined cost ~$2500, that’s actually less that my Stereo speakers. A $1000 5.1 system wouldn’t be a lot worse.
If your looking at entry level, if your looking at music buy stereo, if your looking at movies buy a good center channel, then a sub, and go 3.1. Then pick up surrounds for 5.1, the way movies are mixed the bulk of the content is in the center channel and the sub.

Haha. I’m actually pretty happy with my 2.0 setups right now. I’m thinking more of the eventuality of investing into a high end stereo versus getting a more average multi channel system.

I honestly think that’s the right approach.
A dedicated media space is a luxury, I bought my 5.1 systems a long time ago when I lived alone and watched a lot of Laser disks and later DVD’s, I own over 1000 of them, and I paid retail for most of them.
Content is king, If I had to choose to spend $ on content or equipment, content always wins.
And in equipment diminishing returns kicks in really fast.

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Content really is king. Different scenario but when I bought an iPad I found out that with the limited storage I couldn’t enjoy it much but back with my android tablet now I have a massive micro SD card and since I have my TV shows, music and Manga there accessible at all times I love it much more

If you have a decent room/space at starters. Leaving that to that.
You want to experience a good home surround with movies and maybe games. This has to be a mind set and goal before anything else.

Take the surround road, you need to buy AV-receiver and lots of speakers and subs and so on. Just remembering a detail -> Buy good front speakers (maybe three as center or close) so that way you will enjoy music as well.

That way there is no stupid audiophile BS “ooof stereo or multi channel comparing mumbo jumbo”. Cause can have both.
“Problem” in these debates usually is the “solid amount of money” or a single system. If you have 500 or 3000 to spend. Almost every time a stereo/setup pair wins with music vs. multi channel.
So spend the “solid amount” in front end plus maybe in the amp AND THEN ADD the rest. Get a equal set that matches gear for surround gear.
yea, you also need to dig way deeper on pockets but you get both sides.

Many seems to forget. You can save more to get more. Keeping the surround as goal. Start small, piece by piece build and get the gear.
It took me at least 4 years to get where my current systems is at now. Taking the time can and will pay off.

I agree with @M0N, 5.1+ multichannel is a must for an audiophile who is also a movie/TV buff - especially if you have a family or other group that enjoys watching together. To me the most disappointing trend that Guttenberg pointed out was the growing market share of soundbars. (I’ll probably totally sound like an old vinyl snob here, but I’m pretty confident there’s actual data to support what I’m about to say). I realize the convenience of soundbars attracts many, it’s just that with bookshelf speakers and miniature integrated amps out there now I have yet to hear a soundbar (and many of my friends have them) that can compete with even an entry level 2.0 or 2.1 setup - comparing roughly equal price points anyway. Still, for a fully engaging movie audio experience, multichannel is a big upgrade from stereo, IMO.

I also think 2.0 or 2.1 is all that’s really needed for music. I have some multichannel recordings and they’re fun, but don’t really don’t offer that much beyond stereo.

For gaming, full multichannel is also engaging…unless you need to use a microphone. Good Headphones do a decent job with positional audio and also allow for mic use.

Last point, if you enjoy watching concerts, I like multichannel. Two outstanding examples are Time Machine by Rush and Home Invasion by Stephen Wilson. The multichannel mixes on those blu rays are incredible and make you feel like you’re in the arena.


When you actually have a movie made for multichannel, a 5.1 or 7.1 can really enhance the experience and immersion, as you aren’t necessarily after the fidelity aspect, but more immersion and excitement and really getting into the movie. You can do a hybrid setup with high end 2.0 speakers and more budget or midrange other channels if you do both

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Yeah I feel like the general consensus is to build around the stereo system & to do add-ons to rear / side channels with budget speakers. I guess the main constraint to a multi channel system really is the space then, as opposed to the actual cost.