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un1ess

Surround Sound

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Do you guys have any recommendations for anime or music that makes good use of surround sound? I was compelled to start this topic because the Steins;Gate movie sounds nice in 5.1 channels, especially the OP and ED.

I wonder why the music industry largely hasn't moved beyond 2 channels.

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Just now, Narcosis said:

Because humans have only two ears?

Your ears also can hear from more than just two static directions, though. Considering the importance of orchestral positioning and the like, that's not much of an argument.

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Just now, Vokoca said:

Your ears also can hear from more than just two static directions, though. Considering the importance of orchestral positioning and the like, that's not much of an argument.

That does not shift well into digitized music, though. If you want to hear actual "surround" sound, go to a concert.

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9 minutes ago, Narcosis said:

Because humans have only two ears?

Humans do have only two ears, but our brain can process the signals received from those two ears into a multitude of sounds emanating from different points in 3D space. It does this by taking into account the split second delay between when a sound reaches one ear and the other, the sound intensity difference between the two ears, as well as the difference in frequency response caused by the different positions of the ears.

1 minute ago, Narcosis said:

That does not shift well into digitized music, though. If you want to hear actual "surround" sound, go to a concert.

Concerts are great, but they aren't available at the touch of a button. Also, it depends on the concert. For example, at an orchestral concert you're not allowed to stand in the middle of the orchestra, rather the orchestra is on stage and you're sitting dozens of feet away. However, other kinds of concerts have speakers surrounding the audience, I imagine.

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Just now, un1ess said:

It does this by taking into account the split second delay between when a sound reaches one ear and the other, the sound intensity difference between the two ears, as well as the difference in frequency response caused by the different positions of the ears.

This is exactly what stereo sound produces at a fraction of surround sound's cost. The only difference you get is by adding more artificial sound channels, which still won't be able to mimic the realism of actual audio enviroment. If done well, it can slightly enchance the experience during movies, but in most cases you're better off with simple stereo sound and good headphones.

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I agree that stereo sound is definitely more economical. A six channel system doesn't sound three times as good as a two channel system. That's the law of diminishing returns.

About mimicking the realism of the actual audio environment: sometimes there never was an original audio environment. For example in lots of electronic music the instruments were sampled in an anechoic chamber and the performance doesn't exist before it leaves the speakers. In this case your living room is the original audio environment. Even on live albums, having a different speaker for each performer of a quintet for example should sound interesting (I don't have such an album, though, so I could be wrong) even though it doesn't accurately recreate the hall where they were performing.

Another thing I like about surround sound is that, with anime, you can turn down the center channel—which has most of the dialogue—and just listen to the music, sound effects and ambience that are in the other channels.

Edited by un1ess

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Interestingly enough, Japanese anime tends to mostly still be in 2 channel except when made for movie/cinema. The English dubs of the same anime are often in 5.1 or more channels. I'm guessing time and production costs with TV focused anime series is why they're predominantly 2.0. Even the biggest blockbusters are usually 2 channel if they were made for TV, even when remastered for bluray.

As for surround sound for orchestra music, that's been a gimick the industry has been trying to sell for ages but the reality is that an orchestra is always in front of you* and 2 speakers do a splendid job of recreating the full sound stage of what's in front of you. Rock bands are no different in that regard. Having chamber music with all the players in all directions sounds very unnatural (I've walked amongst quartets while they were doing it, the balance works correctly only if they're in front of you.) For electronic and ambient music I agree there are no real rules to obey, though no doubt the performing artist had something in mind when they created it.

The highest high-end audio is always still only 2 channel since it is aimed at regular performing music instead of audio-visual reproduction**

*Some special symphonies have performers off stage to the right/left/rear such as some Mahler symphonies but they're the exception rather than the rule.

**I'm a crazy audiophile...

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Yesterday I was searching the web for reasons why the original Japanese audio of TV anime is almost always stereo. I think that the predominant reason is that households with surround setups are even less common in Japan than they are in the United States. And as you said, the time and production costs of getting each episode out before the deadline are different (different from the constraints present when producing a dub).

Wait a minute. If they've made a surround mix for the dub release, wouldn't it only take a minimal amount of work to replace the English voices with the Japanese voices and so include a Japanese surround track? I'd want the original stereo audio on the disc as well, because that's what the Japanese team produced, but I'd listen to the Japanese surround audio too (even though the surround mix isn't by the original team).

Edited by un1ess

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On 2017-6-30 at 2:38 AM, un1ess said:

Wait a minute. If they've made a surround mix for the dub release, wouldn't it only take a minimal amount of work to replace the English voices with the Japanese voices and so include a Japanese surround track? I'd want the original stereo audio on the disc as well, because that's what the Japanese team produced, but I'd listen to the Japanese surround audio too (even though the surround mix isn't by the original team).

Yes but no. The anime industry in Japan almost never modifies its already-released material based on what happens to it in another country after it has already released it. The fact is that Japan markets their anime for bluray/dvd extremely quickly after the broadcast, and again there are time constraints and production costs required to get it out there. They usually start releasing the first episodes on disk before a season has even finished, often halfway through, making it only 6 episodes behind. The hard format releases are by far the most lucrative part of their anime releases and you'd be gobsmacked at how expensive blurays are in Japan - 5000 Yen ($50 USD) for 2 episode disks are not uncommon. They do this to capitalise on the hype of a show while it's still in progress. The same release in the west is usually out at the very least months but more commonly years later at a glacial pace by comparison.

As for why the west doesn't just remix the Japanese audio itself when it does the English audio in 5.1, I'm guessing licensing restrictions on the original audio make it not worth it. The English dub is by far the more popular one in spite of all us otaku in the west.

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