Poles Apart Page 4

Chapter 7 has numerous helicopter flybys, which are part of the soundscape. Later, we hear birds and crickets along with staccato small-arms fire in the distance. All of these nonlocalized sounds are part of a larger sound field that's meant to make the space seem real. The dipole setting was simply better at creating that sense of a large space (it also created a larger sweet spot). The monopole setting did a better job of conveying details, but that undermined the illusion of being outdoors. While I give the nod to the dipoles here, the monopoles weren't bad, and I suspect untrained listeners wouldn't hear a tremendous difference between the two types of surrounds.

Music All Around Of course man - and woman - does not live by movies alone. We also need music. Randy Travis Live (Image) is a concert recording with lead vocals and instruments firmly placed in the front three channels. The surround channels, which carry delayed and reverberated versions of the front-channel content as well as copious crowd reaction (with relatively little reverberation), are clearly meant to put you in the middle of the audience. For this, the dipole setting of the M&Ks sounded great, imparting a good sense of hall size as well as giving a sense of depth to the ambient sounds.

But the monopole setting sounded terrific, too, and in the end I preferred it - perhaps because there was so much ambient information already in the surround channels and because the crowd noises sounded slightly odd when diffused. The scope of the ambient space was reduced in monopole operation, but musically it was a better match with the front speakers.

Rumours (Warner Bros.) is an entirely different kettle of fish. As on most pop multichannel mixes, here the surround channels go well beyond just providing ambience or reverberation. In a conventional stereo mix, the vocals and instruments are panned between the two speakers; on the DVD-Audio remix of Rumours, parts are carefully placed in all five main speakers. In "Dreams," both the front and surround channels carry the snare and high-hat, moving the beat firmly into the center of the room. Backup vocals and a guitar are also strongly placed in the surrounds, along with keyboards and other instruments. While the monopoles put me right in the middle of the band, conveying the location of the surround-channel vocals and instruments, the dipoles mixed all the surround information into a vague wash of sound. Similarly, the effect of the duet between the electric guitar on the left and the acoustic guitar on the right in "Go Your Own Way" is diminished unless the instruments are solidly placed in their respective speakers. A big win for monopoles.