How could surround sound be used in an audiophile system?

I am an audiophile with a dilemma. I do not like two channel stereo, because the speakers are only 45 degrees apart. This gives me a bad case of tunnel sound. I realize that high end systems have excellent sound dispersal, but only within 45 degrees. That is not enough spread if one is listening to orchestral music. Separation of the speakers gives better sound dispersal, but it leaves a hole in the center. I could place an equally sized speaker in the center powered by an amplifier of equal quality. The problem is that there is no such animal as a three channel preamp with a mono center channel. Next, I would like to use back speakers to smooth out the sound of the front outside speakers. While the three channel stereo has better dispersal, the sound ends too abruptly at the corners of the room. This now would require a five channel preamp (two left signals, two right signals, and mono center).

I know, I know, this sounds like home theater. However, home theater processors are notorious for distorting sound as they "interpret" where different parts of the two channel signals are positioned. Even more distortion is added as the processor adds reverberation.

My goal is to have a pure sounding system that fills the whole room with the undistorted sound of an orchestra. I would like to be able to pin point every instrument in the orchestra from one side of the room to the other. What I need is a five channel preamp with a mono center channel. The problem is that this preamp does not exist, and never will. The artificial sound of five channel home theater is here to stay. This is really depressing. This is a real dilemma. Does anyone have any ideas how to solve this problem?
Thanks for your suggestions so far; all of you have been a big help. You are correct in saying that you need to know what my system has. Here is the setup: Klipschorns for the corners, Belle in the center, a pair of Forte II for the rear, Mark Levinson 334 amp for the corners, and 434 for the center, and a Proceed amp for the rear. The CD is presently a Proceed CDP. I have no preamp as you could surmise. I am splitting the two channels into five, and controlling the signal with a box I made myself from a schematic diagram given to me from Klipsch. It uses resistors to create a mono signal from the left and right.
I hope that this gives you some insight. Thanks again for your help.
You might be interested in the discussion of this very topic on the Chesky site. They hope to go with 6 speakers, ("6.0" instead of "5.1,") to enable the full feel of a concert hall ambience, etc... Check it out in their chat forum at
I share the same dissatisfaction with two channel as you do and use a Meridian 568 in trifield mode. Meridian is the answer and you owe yourself a duty to audition a Meridian processor. The Meridian 861 is prohibitively expensive whereas you can pick up a used Meridian 565 for a reasonable price and will perform almost as well for what you require. Until you hear two channel music played through the trifield mode, you will continue to experience that frustration.
I still have and use a JVC XL Z 1010 surround unit. This, I am sure, will horrify most dyed in the wool audiophiles but so what. The sound is much more alive when the effects speakers are running. The question of the quality of the effect speakers is bogus since the level at which they have to play to recreate ambience is so low that any decent speaker driven by a low power, clean amp will do the trick. Trying to get "soundstaging" and a broad, wide and deep image with two speakers is mission impossible. Audiophiles love to hear the illusion of music appearing not to come from the speakers themselves, so they set them up as far as they can from the front and side walls getting what I have always heard (my latest auditioning of a state of the art system consisting of Pass electronics and Dynaudio speakers having yet confirmed this) as an "outside looking in" sort of presentation. The use of dipoles, be they electrostats or dynamic panels or conventional dynamic driver speakers, confirms that openess is due to the later arrival of the wave coming from the back of the speaker. Don't get me wrong, I am not stating that electrostats get their sound solely from usually being dipoles, but I digress. With ambiance synthesis, you walk into a room where the system is playing and, unless you get a cue from looking at the additional speakers, what you hear gives you the distinct impression that you are inside the acoustic space. No it's not all perfect, since recordings normally have some ambiance built in, the whole thing can be overdone by layering on too much ambiance. Likewise, some of the settings are just way too obvious (who actulally needs stadium or cathedral, except, in the latter case, maybe for pipe organ or sacred music). I do not know where new formats will go in terms of additional ambiance channels, but one thing is certain: the purists will cringe and will bring out the purity and naturalness arguments and will trot out every well worn cliché to convince one and all that what is really needed in an amplifier with more "air", or some magic cable or better yet an a.c. cord that transcends the laws of physics... I am sure that if you took the guts out of a JVC unit, installed them in a chassis weighing at least 50 pounds, put in six regulated power supplies, cones instead of feet and a facaplate at least 3/4 of an inch thick, build it in America or Europe, associated it with the name of some ex-NASA scientist or Bell lab genius,and asked $20,000.00 for it, a goodly number of audiophiles would go for it. I am sure you could find a used JVC for little money to at least experiment. Simply hide the whole thing if any true blue audiophile friends show up. It avoids arguments to the effect that you are not hearing pure music, the occasional sneer and allows you to save face. Remember, the whole thing with reproduced music is that it is an illusion to start with. Sometimes it simply is a better illusion, you decide.
Whoah! Can't get soundstaging depth or width with two channels?? You gotta be kidding!? Alright, maybe if your room is a mess, or you are forced to set up your pair very near the front or sidewalls (ala typical HT setup), then synthesizing space requires more drivers.

But believe me, a tight triangle of a well-matched pair of great speakers, when set in the nearfield WELL out from the front wall, and at least reasonably away from the sidewalls
(more a function of furniture, dispersion, blah blah blah) will throw a HUGE soundstage!

To wit: I have a 7.5 foot equilateral trangle set in a 14x24
x8 room. The stage extends EASILY 10 feet BEHIND the speaker plane, and a couple of feet outside each speaker, too (12-15 feet wide). I credit this success to cheap and easy sidewall reflection control (furniture and pillows),
proper toe-in, and extremely well-matched speakers (Parsifal Encores). I have NO problem experiencing large and small concert halls, and have truly palpable, 3D imaging of full-sized soloists several feet behind the speaker plane.

As a somewhat-silly earlier-era experiment I set up a couple of old small cheap speakers in an adjoining small room behind my listening chair, in a "Dynaco" style rear ambience pair, with a 50 ohm pot via solid 20-AWG "invisible to Ellen" wire to my listening chair. Whereas I NEVER introduce any rear ambience in classical or most jazz recordings, I sometimes crank up a bit of rear level; I never hear it, per se, but sense a shortening of stage depth (darn!), but a sensation of moving closer to the front of the hall. This non-delayed ambience inducement is useful only for a fuller sense of immersion with rock or electric jazz recordings, especially if audience applause was mixed in too far forward. Whereas it can be a bit novel to dial in these rear speakers, I find that best staging depth is obtained with only the front pair on! I have several friends with high end 5.1 systems, and they're shocked at what can be done with 2 channel in a carefully designed setup. This room is also our formal parlor, and therefore has to be VERY acceptable to Ellen...and sports my Steinway B behind the speakers, too. (It's wonderful to see Tony Bennett standing BEHIND the piano belly while Bill Evans lyricizes with him on that great XRCD remaster!)

Sorry to belabor this, but I also consider the prospect of having to stare at a CENTER speaker where Sonny Rollins or Stan Getz like to prowl around is heretical...and a travesty. And what am I gonna do, sit it on top of the Steinway, where Diana and Kendra, or Jessica sit? Gimme a break!
Two channel is NOT anachronistic, nor necessarily limiting.
Good night, all. Ern