Thread: SACD: Stereo or multichannel preferred?

Posts: 2

Post by Borchgrevink September 22, 2003 (1 of 2)
When a SACD comes in both MC and stereo, is the one thing "better" than the other thing?

Post by Dinko September 22, 2003 (2 of 2)

It all depends on the music on the disc, and the mixing of every individual disc. Assuming you like multichannel to begin with, as a number of people don't like it at all.

Take for example, this item:

Hilary Hahn's Shostakovich & Mendelssohn violin concertos. The rear channels of the multichannel mix are so weak as to be completely useless. Actually they are not useless because the very small amount of data that they provide serves to dull the music. Suddenly you're hearing diffuse music. So on that disc, I stick with the stereo layer. Which sucks because when I got the SACD for the multichannel mix, I already had the CD, and I could have stayed with the CD since the 2-channel SACD mix is not significantly better than the regular CD version. But that's one disc where I find the stereo layer (much more focused) is preferable to the multichannel mix (dull).

On the other hand, take this:

This disc involves the listener. The multichannel mix is completely different from the stereo mix. The M/C puts the listener directly in the middle of the orchestra for a much more involving experience. This is the type of disc, where I prefer the multichannel mix, but I'm not sure it's better. It's just completely different and provides a different aspect.

And then there's the middle-of-the road position:

That titles uses the rear channels for ambience. The output coming from the rear is not as strong as what's coming from the front, but it's much stronger than what's available on the Hilary Hahn disc. In this third case, I think the multichannel mix is the preferred listening option. The stereo mix sounds flat and two dimensional compared to the 5.1 mix which suddenly opens up a whole new dimension of the music and makes you feel as if you had a good seat in a concert hall.

So it all depends. In some cases, as the first disc, the multichannel mix is completely useless as it makes the music dull in multichannel.

In other cases, the listener is put inside the band playing which provides a very 'unnatural' perspective, but has its own merits.

In a third case, the rear speakers 'open up' the music by providing an extra dimension of sound.
When that extra sonic dimension is well done, I think the multichannel mix is preferable to the stereo mix.