Is Two-Channel Home Theater Really a Thing?
Why Stereo Sound Can Be Perfect for Small Home Theaters
We already know what you're thinking, what heresy (not Klipsch Heresy—we’ll get to that in a moment) to suggest that a mere two channels of sound can make a home theater. Throw in the fact that our name used to be Georgia Home Theater, and you might think we’ve gone off the deep end.
All kidding aside, we know many of you two-channel audio enthusiasts in Alpharetta think movies and other content can be just as enjoyable with two channels of good stereo sound versus multiple channels. The other reality is that smaller spaces may not be conducive to numerous speakers, but you still want to enjoy great sound with your excellent picture.
For you home theater diehards that will only accept multichannel audio or bust with your movies, perhaps this blog isn’t for you. However, please visit our home theater installation categories for our many thoughts on multichannel audio. The rest of you, please keep reading!
What About Soundbars?
Soundbars are an incredibly popular option for TV and movie audio for many folks. It's an all-in-one approach for simplicity, combining ease of installation, built-in amplification, generally unobtrusive design, and with the right models, multichannel sound including Dolby Atmos.
So, if you have a smaller space, why not go with a soundbar? You can, and there are great customizable options like the Klipsch Heritage Soundbar. But most soundbars aren’t as musical as a pair of stereo speakers, and typically can’t deliver the soundstage a good two-channel setup can muster. Many soundbars have wireless subwoofers for extra bass punch, but rare is the one that can seamlessly blend the bass with the midrange as cohesively as separate speakers.
What Will I Miss with Only Two Speakers?
In some ways, not much. If you are a fan of action-packed Avengers movies, you might miss some of the surround effects and the bombast of many crashes and explosions. A subwoofer in your two-channel home theater can add the low-end rumble if needed, but the rest of the soundtrack will be mixed down automatically by your equipment into your two channels. So, the sound will be there; it will just not be all around you.
However, the vast majority of movies don't mix sound extensively into other channels. Some scenes take full advantage of them, but in many scenes, not that much is coming from surround or height channels. If you have good speakers with excellent imaging, you also are unlikely to miss center channel speakers, and the dialog will be well centered and clear.
OK, I’m Interested. What Should I Look for?
If you go two-channel for home theater, you want speakers that have superior dynamic range. You want to be able to hear the quiet whispered dialog one moment and the fury of the bomb blast the next. You’ll want a speaker with excellent bass response, a smooth but lively tweeter that doesn’t roll off extremes too much, and in general a speaker that isn’t on the analytical side; it’s one that moves you. Some of this will come down to personal preference, but a speaker that gives that type of dynamic performance with music will be able to do it for movie soundtracks.
As purveyors of many great hi-fi brands like Bowers & Wilkins, Paradigm, MartinLogan, McIntosh, and more, there are many choices for building an excellent two-channel home theater. But we're going to suggest one combination to get you thinking.
We were smitten with Mcintosh’s new C2700 preamplifier, an analog design for audio purity, but with a digital module that adds all the convenience of modern digital inputs. One of those inputs is for HDMI ARC, making it a breeze to connect to your smart TV. The C2700 expertly decodes and downmixes Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks into pristine stereo. This hi-fi preamp can serve as the nerve center of your audio system, with multiple digital and analog inputs, including a high-quality phono input for your vinyl. Combine it with any of Mcintosh’s superb amplifiers, such as the tidy and powerful MC152 with 150 watts per channel that outclasses the amp section of just about any AV receiver.
For speakers, there are many options. When it comes to dynamics, it’s hard to beat the Klipsch Heritage lineup. The new Klipsch Heresy IV is excellent for smaller spaces, but for even more dynamic sound, a move up to the Forte or Cornwall would add more heft. Klipsch speakers (from their professional line) are found in many commercial movie theaters as their horn designs deliver the detail, power, and range in large spaces. The updated Klipsch Heritage line has excellent bass that may surprise you, but if you really want a subwoofer, we can suggest some great options.
Let GHT Group help you create the ideal home theater installation for you. We invite you to visit our Marietta showroom, contact us here, or click the chatbox below to connect with us quickly. We look forward to working with you!