All Giz Wants: Virtual Surround Sound Done Right

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This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.
This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.
This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.
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As much as I love surround sound, I don't have the space in my living room to wire a 5.1 or 6.1 speaker set. So instead I rely on my Denon S301, a 2.1 system that emulates a 5.1 setup. But as much as I love it, the S301 (and most virtual surround sound systems I've heard) still have a few flaws. I realize virtual surround sound (VSS) will never replace a real surround sound system, but there are a few improvements I'd like to see...

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1) A virtual surround sound system that does a good job at emulating rear speakers. Most of the systems I've heard do an outstanding job emulating front and side speakers, but none of them trick me into thinking I have a pair of satellites sitting behind me.

2) A system that doesn't limit me to sitting in a "sweet spot," which usually ends up being directly in the middle or in front of the speakers.

3) Some VSS systems consist of one speaker, usually a soundbar. While I like the minimalism, often times these setups lack bass. Show me a soundbar with solid bass and I'll be first in line to buy it.

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4) Many of the VSS systems I've seen have been demoed in majestic hotel rooms. If I lived in such a room, I'd just buy a proper surround sound set up to begin with. So I'd like to see a VSS system that works with any size/shape room (including my funky L-shaped living room).

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DISCUSSION

While simplicity definitely sells the fact remains that every dollar you invest in tricky signal processing that only works great in a perfectly cube-shaped room with no pesky furniture or people in it is a dollar you cold have spent on better speakers, amplification and sub. Hell, you'll probably get a more immersive experience out of a kick-ass 2.1 setup with proper gear than the most sophisticated virtual surround there is.

I've had pretty much every number and combination of number of speakers and in my experience better equipment wins every time. There's plenty of good small speakers now like Orb Audio, Gallo, Paradigm Atoms, B&W LM-1, etc. You only have to run wire once and most speakers are fine with anything 14awg or smaller for runs under 50 feet.