Get off the surround sound treadmill

An audiophile friend complained to me that the value of surround processors and receivers dropped hugely after a year, sometimes sooner, because of the fast pace of replacement models. This is both true and total BS. It’s true for the resale price — depreciation is amazing. But the value of the component is not the price you can get for it in the used market, it’s the fun you get from using it. I will admit that I am a surround sound skeptic, because I see little value in any system over 5.1, which is now the flip-phone of home theater. Yes, I have heard the multi-channel demos at trade shows and was impressed, but I have been impressed by many stupid things I would never buy. Bigger, better, louder, more channels: all are wonderful for some who crave that. But there is no need to heed the call to go from 5.1 to 5.2 to 7.1 to to 7.2 to 7.2 to 9.2 to 11.2 because next year … who knows what will come out to make your system “obsolete”? How surrounded do you need to be? The Internet says that 15.2, 13.2, 17.1, and 22.2 are out there for the guy who, last week, thought he was up to date. Is that the end of it? Of course not. To go with that surround fields keep popping up. Forget about ProLogic. Move on to Dolby Digital EX, THX Surround EX, DTS-ES, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD (lossless), DTS-HD™, DTS-HD Master Audio (lossless), and Dolby Atmos. The upside of this is that if you can persuade yourself to be a little bit behind the times many “obsolete” “superceded” home theater components can be astounding bargains.

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