November 29, 2013

5.1 Channel Music Titles

I absolutely love listening to my favorite music, preferably by way of decent audio reproduction equipment. Unfortunately, due to finances, the lack of space, and self-imposed restraint, I haven't had a decent playback system for many years (I was an early adopter of home theater gear and DVD playback, but I got rid of my home theater rig a long time ago and haven't replaced it yet). That said, I have some decent portable music players, some great headphones, and a very nice computer-based 2.1 channel setup at the office. But nothing worth listening to at home . . . yet.

My Awesome Home Theater System
My place is undergoing a minor remodel to add a "bonus" room for everyone to enjoy. In this context, "everyone" includes me, so I've planned accordingly. At first, I wanted the room to accommodate a pool table, some old school pinball games, a dart board, a hi-fi rig, a shuffleboard table, a shooting range, a trampoline, and a poker table. The reasonable voice in the household scaled my plan back somewhat, leaving me with a small "hangout" and home theater room. Oh well, I'll take it.

My Awesome Media Room
So, I'm currently looking at various home theater equipment to outfit a room that doesn't even exist yet. Moreover, a good friend of mine (who happens to be a true audiophile and a big fan of quadraphonic music) recently gave me a demonstration of his awesome quad system, and I was instantly hooked. We listened to some Pink Floyd and King Crimson in high resolution 5.1 channel DVD formats, and the surround sound experience was something to behold. Suffice it to say, a new acquisition disorder set in that day, and I've been collecting and wish-listing various multi-channel audio titles since that day. This disorder is particularly troubling because I don't even have a compatible playback system yet. I do have a Blu-Ray disc player, but it's merely hooked up to my TV speakers. Unimpressive non-surround sound to say the least.

Here's the problem: it's not easy or fiscally painless to acquire 5.1 channel music titles. There are a number of reasons for a lack of new and used inventory. First and foremost, there is little demand for surround sound audio because most people listen to MP3 files on the go these days. Does anyone actually sit down and listen to music anymore? Second, rapidly evolving and competing surround sound and high resolution audio formats have made it difficult for content providers to sustain sales. For example, 5.1 channel music can be delivered on a standard DVD, on a DVD-Audio disc (which may be incompatible with some DVD players), on a SACD, on a Blu-Ray disc, etc. At present, Blu-Ray audio is the newest vehicle for delivery of high resolution multichannel audio. Unfortunately, this means that it's becoming increasingly difficult to score out-of-print titles that are only available in older "obsolete" formats.

What does one do about this? One gets addicted to hunting down multichannel audio discs. Thankfully, there are some old SACD titles that can be had on the cheap due to high inventory and little demand. There are a handful of newer Blu-Ray titles on the market, but they can be rather expensive if the disc that you seek is only available in a special anniversary deluxe collectors ridiculously priced edition.

Nothing To Hear Here
This post is not intended to be a "look at my collection" ego booster, and I know that my inventory is small compared to serious collectors. I'm not really collecting for the sake of ownership or investment; I'm simply trying to find my personal favorites before they go completely extinct so that I can enjoy them on my nonexistent home theater system in my nonexistent media room.

Speaking of ridiculously priced exclusive collectors editions, my stack of items includes the "Immersion" box set of Pink Floyd's "The Dark Side of the Moon", which includes a Blu-Ray disc that is chock full of audio goodness. The Blu-Ray disc includes a high resolution 5.1 audio version of the album - that version is currently ranked as the best surround sound title on the QuadraphonicQuad site. For this reason, I'll probably listen to Dark Side first. I regret that the picture does not include anything from Tool, Radiohead, Isis, Explosions in the Sky, or The Beastie Boys, but I'm pretty sure that 5.1 audio titles from those bands are not commercially available. No such luck.

Perhaps I'll post some comments about my listening experiences if and when I am able to actually play the discs. Until then, I'll continue in my attempt to acquire more titles (if anyone want's to unload their DVD-Audio version of Deadwing by Porcupine Tree, just let me know).

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