2 channel vs. Surround

I have run a full Naim 5.1 surround system in the past with a projector. That was many moons ago! Now in a new property and location and retired. Just a 48’ Sony TV, but a really excellent one, and the stereo - Chord Qutest DAC, Moon amp and Klipsch Forte III horn-loaded speakers.

This sounds superb. No issues at all. But I can’t help wondering if I’m missing out big time by not going 5.1 or whatever. We watch a lot of streamed stuff from Netflix and Amazon Prime. I have a keen liking for older movies and TV programs DVD and Blu ray, of which I have a good collection. Surround would be of no relevance here.

What I remember from my old surround set-up was that most films with surround soundtracks seem to use mainly the front 3 speakers, with so little from the surround channels that they seemed pretty redundant most of the time.

What are peoples thoughts on this? Do any of you still stick to 2 channel and have you ever tried surround?

It seems that whole surround sound area has moved on quite a bit with improvements in digital processing meaning that Dolby Atmos and multi speaker ARAYs seems to be all the rage again. If you go to the Audiophile Style website there’s lots of chat around developments and equipment in that area.
By all accounts it can sound amazing, with movies and music, but I suppose the question is, will it become the standard. Apple’s Spatial Audio is maybe another step towards the future, but personally I’m happy enough with maximising stereo audio quality at home for music or movies.
Interesting topic, I wonder what others are thinking/doing in this area? I’m sure manufacturers with love it as it’s the opportunity to make and sell more equipment, but Naim took up this area around the turn of the century and then gave up. (I believe that that was partly a driver of Naim losing the audio part of its name when they rebranded around the time the 500 series was introduced)

Hi Jim,

Yes, since I had my sorround set-up things do seem to have hotted-up with all the talk of Dolby Atmos etc. and it’s this that has really made me start wondering if I’m missing out on all the action.

There are things against it. Cost certainly. To install a decent surround set-up will cost probably an absolute minimum of £3K, and that’s really rock-bottom. More realistically around £6K - which is out of my league now.

Then there’s the requirement to run speaker cables around the room - messy, and to have speakers on the walls etc.

Also, and this is one of the things that bothers me most. The sound is currently routed via optical to my Qutest DAC and Moon amp and it sounds really excellent. Going surround would mean buying something like a Sony multi-channel receiver to integrate with the two-channel set up. Meaning that movie sound will now be processed by a much inferior DAC and pre-amp. Of course there are high-end home cinema amps but these are beyond my means.

So all-in-all I’m inclined to stick with 2 channel unless I hear a compelling argument to the contrary.


I have an older and relatively simple Denon set up. With a combination of Tannoy, Egg and recently bought Fyne Audio speakers. The difference between the stereo and surround sound is noticeable on even simple broadcasts such as the Rugby games. The crowd sounds become around you and enhance the atmosphere. TV dramas have a phone ring in the background and Mrs Bruss or I look at each other to see why we aren’t answering our phone. :rofl: Action movies are particularly enhanced. Whether it is worth the cost though has to be a personal choice. .


The only other option is a Dolby Atmos soundbar. This would certainly be neat and low cost but seems a bit silly when the TV is between my Klipsch Forte III’s. I know from the system pics that some here do use them but that’s mainly when the TV is not positioned correctly. Sound quality, albeit it pseudo surround, would obviously be vastly inferior to what I have now - (hopefully anyway!).

Dolby Atmos is a great experience, I have my Dolby atmos setup separated from the audio system in the same room, a soundbar will do something great but not at the level of a separated 5.1.2 or 7.1.4 dedicated amp.

Depending on the receiver, but most of them have pre-out’s you can use your main speakers and amps and add the rest of the speakers to your room, the center channel a subs, ceiling channels etc.

Also add a streaming box like an Apple TV+ and stream from most services, Netflix, Disney, Amazon prime and similiar in 4k, HDR with Dolby atmos, and if want the best of the best in audio and video go on the 4k Blu-ray Discs.

The two channel setup in movies will give lots of pleasure, but an atmos setup will offer you a complete and immersive movie experience that a two channel setup can’t.

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Tricky question, because I think this is almost as personal as choice of speakers.
If you are a massive film / tv fan, then its worthwhile. The difficulty comes if you are not able to accommodate a dedicated AV system and otherwise share with a stereo system in one living room.
If you have an AV room of some form, then its very attractive. I have a snug with bigger tv and 5.1 system, music system in a different room, which is all Naim.
AV was cobbled together over a period from a Denon and previous Linn system. My AV system now, all acquired s/h or ex-dem is active Ninkas (replacing old Keilidh) since they share aktiv boards, Trikan aktiv centre, Katans passive (prev Kan IVs) and a Rel sub (after the Linn unit expired). All cables are buried in the wall and soucres are Apple TV4k (latest model) feeding thru’ Oppo 4k Blu Ray then HDMI (for visual) to tv and audio 5.1 phono to Akurate 5.1 control, which also has toslink from Sky HD box (Dolby Digital). Amps are two Linn 5125s (10 channel combo). Buying and upgrading via used / ex-dem I intended to create a bargain system. All becoming slightly long in the tooth, to replace new with similar now would be significant. I enjoy it, but if it gave up, VFM would be a consideration.
Play Top Gun (1986) is a no brainer as a demo. Films vary on how well they do any surround sound - which really us the cruxt of the question. Even Dolby Digital via sky and also from the Apple tv box can produce great sound effects, just not everything is at the same level.
If I was replacing, personally I wouldn’t go beyond 5.1 - unless I was creating a dedicated room from scratch (wires again hidden); hope that helps.

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Thanks. A dedicated room is a no-go, although if I had the space and cash that’s probably what I would do using a projector.

Really to do it properly, and it’s almost certainly not worth doing unless done properly, will cost more than I can sensibly afford. If it were 30 years ago then I would go for it, but now being retired and having to be a bit more sensible with money probably best stick with two channel.

tv quality today may challenge a projector; for the sound though, detailed research may turn up bargains at less than you might imagine if you want to scratch the urge, ymmv.

I had my projector around 15 years ago. It was an ‘In Focus’ one. Cost around £1K so pretty basic. The picture quality on my Sony 4K TV that we now have is far superior, but being 4K probably that’s not a very fair comparison.

No idea how current projectors compare but yes I can well imagine that they would struggle to match a good TV, unless high-end perhaps. Also obviously a TV is far less hassle. It’s just that a projector, apart from obviously having the potential to throw a far bigger image, seems to have that ‘cinematic’ quality that I don’t think TV’s can quite match. Nothing to do with actual picture quality, more the ‘look’ of the image. Just more like the cinema. My old projector gave an experience which is the closest I’ve ever come to being at a real cinema.

Anyway, all irrelevant as I’ll never own a projector again - cost, inconvenience, just too much hassle!

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I run a 2 channel setup in the main lounge using a Uniti Atom + Focal 300 Series in wall speakers. No regrets going that route and have run multiple multichannel setups in the past.


I suppose it fundamentally depends on the recording - what and how. With music I’ve heard in both I’ve preferred 2 channel for most, though surround for live concert recordings where the live venue ambience is significant (and sound quality has been poorer in the first place).

There is also a matter of the quality of the various system components - e.g. up to the point of near limitless resources, for any particular gross spend, a two channel system can have much better components than any variety of surround sound, so in most cases the comparison would be higher quality 2-channel vs lower quality multi. My own listening with music used the same hifi system for both, with the side and rear channels of significantly lesser quality.


That is along the same lines as what I would need to do if I went ahead. I wouldn’t bother with a centre speaker or a sub. I couldn’t afford a centre to match the quality of the Klipsch’s (my 2 channel system) and the Klipsch’s go so low that although a dedicated sub would be better I don’t think it would be essential. Could always add later anyway.

The main issue is the AV amp. The new Sony at £1K looks tempting and has an excellent review by What Hi-Fi. This would be my choice as I have a Sony TV and Blu ray player and it all integrates seamlessly. That would also be my financial limit.

So I would really only be buying the Sony receiver and a pair of rear speakers. Probably wouldn’t want to spend more than around £200 - £300 on them! Something like Chord Leyline or Sarsen speaker cable for them. Just hung on the wall with brackets.

A bit of a rock-bottom and half-baked set up and vasty inferior to my 2 channel system with which it would obviously be integrated.

So I’m inclined to think is it worth bothering - probably not.

Also the source and the speakers you add to the home cinema setup make a huge difference, the center channel is a very important speaker to consider in an home cinema setup.

I have a denon avc-x8500ha on a 7.1.6 config and using focal flax speakers the projector is an epson tw9400 a great projector not very expensive. My brother has the same amp in a 9.2.4 config, monitor audio silver and gold speakers with a JVC laser projector and his setup is miles away from mine in sound and image quality.

These top of the line denon amps can sound really amazing even for audio, the entry line ones are ok.

I Am not a home cinema addict, but I have to say that some systems that are built with care can offer an amazing and rewarding experience, also can add that projectors have come a long way in quality, I have had one infocus projector in the past, it was good for that time, then some Panasonic ones that were really better, then Sony, then epson projectors, the new laser ones from Sony, JVC and even epson can give an amazing image, but a good TV will always be brighter and work in every light condition, but is very expensive to have a 3 or 4 meter image with a TV and a lot more affordable with a projector.


For movies my inclination would be yes worth it, likewise for any filmed live concerts where the side and rear information adds positively to the feeling of being in the audience. I’m sure better surround kit would improve the experience further, but that doesn’t negate the value of budget gear for such duties compared to 2-channel. (Though as I indicated in last post, for pure music then better with just the stereo. ) Although my main speakers are full range, I use a sub with movies for the extra bottom end boost possible on effects, beneficial with some types of film. This post [link] details my very basic surround system. For reference, source is not the projector, but the streaming or DVD source plugged into the amp.

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I’ve been using a Klipsch soundbar for about 5 years now and it’s been quite good. The dialog setting works well and it’s excellent for music. My friends have other ones and they are not as good. I would like something better soon though, and the unit that I thought would do the trick is the new Bose soundbar.
I’ve really only read the Bose info on it tho, so I of course, have some reseach to do, but possibly it would be an option for you?
My 2-channel rig is a separate item and I couldn’t be bothered with a 5.1 setup, so I’m really only looking for an excellent sounding soundbar for the 65" Samsung telly.
Sennheiser also makes a soundbar and I wonder how it sounds. Hmmm …
Anyway, best of luck.

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If you want to maximise your enjoyment of watching movies then a 5.1 system (or bigger) is essential and the movie sound tracks have been optimised for 5.1 or bigger, so a centre channel and a sub-woofer are essential otherwise you are not getting the best sound.
Netflix and Amazon stream 5.1 or bigger and it’s on discs (DVD, BluRay, 4K), so plenty of films to enjoy.
If like me you will be limited (by my wife in my case) to only 5.1 in your main lounge/family room and you already have a good stereo system then you do not need a high end AV Amp, just a good one that has Pre-Outs for Front L & R speakers into your stereo amp and the AV Amp just drives the rest of the speakers,
Surround Music is different, I have a huge collection of Music Concert DVD’s and BluRays all with Stereo and 5.1 tracks and I don’t think the venue ambient sounds coming out of the rear speakers adds anything, in fact I think its a distraction, but other people like it, so everybody is different, I much prefer the stereo tracks.
Same for Studio Albums on Pure Audio BluRays and some regular BluRays they have both Stereo and 5.1 tracks and although the 5.1’s sound better to me than “Concert” 5.1’s because its actual music coming out of the rear speakers, I still much prefer the Stereo tracks, again, everybody is different.
My rear speakers are in the ceiling and optimised for movie listening, however, if my rear speakers were high quality to match my fronts, fed by very good speaker cable and positioned in alignment height wise to my listening position, thus optimised for music then my 5.1 music listening experience would probably be much better, but that would be a very expensive 5.1 system and even Pink Floyds Animals 2018 ReMix in 5.1 which is probably the best I’ve heard is not mixed with much centre channel and sub-woofer content, so the 5.1 channel mix makes a huge difference to the ultimate sound quality you get.

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Thanks David. If my TV wasn’t between my speakers then I would definitely be looking at soundbars. Although they can’t equal a full surround set-up todays models are really excellent and much simpler and neater than surround. I would also take a look at Bang and Olufsen which has some excellent reviews.

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Thanks. Hmmm…I need to give this some careful thought. The only other thing that does put me off is that all the sound for movies would be routed through the AV amp DAC rather than through my Chord Qutest as it is now. So even though I would still be using my Moon amp in HT mode for the front two channels I’m thinking that the sound even here would be vastly compromised. The Qutest DAC does sound really excellent and adds so much impact to movies etc. So although I would get surround, overall I would be compromising the entire performance. How important this will be in practice I really don’t know…

There are a few sound bars with a pre-out. This allows you to route the stereo channels to the stereo amp:

It’s what I consider.