The Monday Question: Surround!

Another Monday and over here it is a national holiday, so it is a long weekend for me. Recently I was listening to the Filmjunk podcast. They were talking about the way they were watching movies and one of the points which I found interesting was the sound part of it. There always is a lot of discussion of watching movies in 3D, but how about surround sound. When you watch movies at home do you insist of watching it with surround sound or don’t you care if the sound is only coming from the TV. I thought it was interesting since I always have surround sound when I’m watching a movie at home, but it made me think if it really made a lot of difference. To me it does when I’m watching an action film, but if it is a relative simple drama I do not think I would miss it.

Do you think surround sound adds a lot to a movie or don’t you mind watching it with TV sound (or no sound and subtitles)?

27 thoughts on “The Monday Question: Surround!

  1. Sound does matter and I love surround sound, so much so that when I’m watching a VHS it feels weird in the beginning. I do have a home theater so the set up is there. My only mistake was that I also have a bar in the same room, which means if I increase the volume too much the glasses start to shake 🙁

    • If you are really used to it I can imagine it sounds weird. Annoying that your glasses start to shake…maybe you could turn your sub down slightly 🙂 I can never play it at the volume I would like to since my neighbours will start complaining unfortunately.

  2. I like surround. We have it at home. What I don’t like is that the sound effects and music on DVDs is pretty much always badly out of balance. The voices are muffled and the music and sound effect very loud. We find ourselvees having to ride gain like we used to back in our readio days. It’s annoying. When they properly equalize the sound, surround at home with a large screen TV, a bowl of chips and our feet up, a few dogs to pet? It’s the best! The theater’s good too but almost always too loud for comfort.

    • Yeah, I have that problem with some movies as well. I need to adjust only my front speaker in order to fix that though. The theaters I go to are not as loud as you describe (or my ears have gotten really bad ;))

  3. I think you pretty much nailed my thoughts on it. For an action movie or something to that effect, surround sound is definitely better. But with a simple drama or comedy, doesn’t really make a difference. That being said, I’m not of the mind that I just have to have the surround sound going to watch an action/etc movie. I can be just as content to watch those types of movie in my bedroom with the TV speakers. But yeah, the surround sound does add an extra bit when I view it that way.

    • Yeah, action movies need sound. I sometimes even wait with watching an action movie because I do not want to watch it on the go 🙂 It does not happen all the time, but for the blockbusters I do prefer it. Thanks for commenting!

      • Yeah, there’s just something thrilling about hearing a bullet whistle by you or have an explosion rattle the floors or being engulfed by the sounds of battle scenes, etc.

        Does remind me too…I like horror movies cause I just enjoy being scared. Surround sound can be quite “fun” in that genre as well. Can’t help but laugh at yourself when they use front speakers primarily then suddenly throw some type of whisper or cat hiss into the back speaker, catching you off guard and sending your heart rate up about 100 bpm lol

        • Exactly, you just have to feel those explosions! I’m not a horror genre fan (I generally do not watch them), but I can imagine it adds a lot, especially with those jumpy moments.

          • lol Horror definitely isn’t for everyone I guess. My fiancee refuses to watch horror and tells me I’m a twisted bastard because I say that I like being scared by movies. And that I judge if a horror movie was good or not by whether or not I have to pull the shower curtain open to make sure no one is in there when I go to the bathroom after the movie.

            But definitely, those subtle surround elements can definitely intensify that tension and rack up a couple scares.

  4. My home TV is small, but a few years ago I did upgrade it with a surround sound system. I was happy before the system, I’m just happier now. I don’t think I would go back to without it, though.

  5. For us, sound is an issue. Garry wears hearing aids and even with them, he has difficulty hearing. If the sound is too loud, it makes the aids distort. Too soft, he can’t hear at all. Home is better because we can turn on closed captions and fortunately, most movies nowadays include close captioning. I have normal hearing, but I find the imbalance between the music/sound effects and voices very annoying. It used to be possible to adjust the different channels (front, back, left, right, center) and that would fix the problem, but now they don’t always put voices on the center channel. It’s annoying because if the balance is right, it’s great. I don’t know why sound engineers don’t adjust it when the DVD is produced to so DVDs are “home theatre” friendly. There’s a big difference in the way a movie sounds on a big theater system vs. a home system. Turning off the surround doesn’t help because the problem is the voices are disproportionately soft. But, in this house, sound is a much bigger issue than in homes where everyone has normal hearing. If someone has significant hearing problems, it really alters how you feel about movie soundtracks!

    • That’s quite annoying, having to find that right balance especially is the mix isn’t good. The balance sometimes isn’t good indeed. Just this weekend I was watching Moulin Rouge again and the voices were so soft compared to other parts that I did have some issues trying to hear everything (we had decided to turn the subtitles off).

      • I’ve heard this complaint from enough different people to think that they simply don’t bother to change the sound balance when putting a movie on DVD. The balance used for theatrical presentation should be different than for home presentation. I guess they figure we’ll buy it anyway. And we do, so they’re right!

    • Well, can the sub ever be too loud? 😉

      It was Pentecost, which over here is two days off (this year on Sunday and Monday). I have taken the whole week off, so I had to take less days 🙂

  6. I miss surround sound more than I could ever imagine missing HD (and also 3D, which is rubbish anyway). My last room had a 1000W 5.1 system in it, but my new house has a very strange living room shape – and no home theater, or sounbar can give me a good, balanced, sound mix.

    A good soundtrack can definitely ‘make’ a film, and it can make the most average of movies far more immersive. Nothing beats a properly mixed surround soundtrack, and since Blu Ray some of the non-compressed audio tracks have been amazing. I specifically remember being knocked out by the Blu Ray tracks for Cloverfield, WAR, Gamer, Watchmen and Celine Dion (Vegas concert – don’t judge me!) to nae but a few.

    Just writing this makes me want to move house again!!!

    • Wow, I can imagine you missing it if you had a system like that! I feel about the same as you about HD and 3D, I don’t think it adds too much.

      You are a movie lover when you want to move house just because you want better surround sound 😉

  7. Of course it does. Surround sound adds to the film, but a wise director told us once: take out the audio of the film, and if you still have a sense of what’s happening, that film is a great one. (I don’t even know if that’s appropriate here). Great question, Nostra! 🙂

    • Yeah, that’s true, but you would miss a lot with no sound at all. A lot of movies wouldn’t feel as tense or scary if it simply wasn’t there…

  8. Surround sound is essential for most movies, although I tend to think the talky ones maybe less so. It’s weird going from, say, a Transformers movie to an old Woody Allen film, and seeing the difference in sound. It’s astonishing how far we’ve come.

    Actually, perhaps a more pertinent question would be what people think of repurposed surround sound mixes for older films which originally never had it. Stereo mixes for films such as Bridge On The River Kwai and Lawrence Of Arabia have been remixed for 5.1 and generally sound okaaaay, but not terrific, and it might be intersting to see what folks think of this kind of technology being used to enhance older films for surround sound.

    • Interesting thoughts. I guess I never pay enough attention to the specific mixes in order to answer that question myself. Plus I have some fussy neighbours, so I’m never able to turn the volume to the level I would like.

    • …in regards to Woody Allen movies the difference is stark given he records most of his soundtracks with only a mono track for some reason.

  9. I’m sure this must be blasphemy to some audiophiles, but I’ve recently switched from a 5.1 surround sound system to a 2.1 sound bar. I was kind of fed up of the clutter in my living room. The sound bar has a subwoofer though, so it pumps out a nice, meaty sound.

    It’s definitely not as good as 5.1, but still pretty amazing. My abiding memory of my 5.1 system is watching Bladerunner, and hearing the flying cars approaching from behind before zooming into the screen. It was like they were flying over my head, lol.

    But the sound bar still does a pretty good job of creating the same effect — there’s a fake 3D surround sound mode. I don’t think I could ever go back to just hearing movies through the TV’s speakers however.

  10. I have to have the surround sound on at home – it is almost always on when watching TV shows or sport as well. But when it comes to movies, I insist upon it.

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