Stereo or Home Theater?

What do Stereo-only people think about Home Theater, and what do Home Theater people think about Stereo-only. I perceive that there is quite a gulf in ideas about proper reproduction between these types. My take is that Home Theater is the new mid-fi, with Video as the centerpiece, and audio going along for the ride. Some think I am anachronist. What do you think?
I personally have not been impressed by any of the music reproduction in multi-channel. By the same token, I am not impressed by movies reproduced in 2 channel. It seems each format is up to the task it was designed for. Now that music is starting to go multi-channel it's a little different. But you certainly don't see movies going 2 channel. I think the influx of music to multi-channel is a mid-fi aspect for now. That could change, but I think it is a "wow" delivery for the masses. Now, while I have not done this experiment. I wonder what 2 modest (< $300 a piece) book shelf speakers vs 5 of the same speakers and sub woofer would compare for music--perhaps others have tried this experiment.
I think one of the main problems is that people think that one system will satisfy both camps. I have found the best way to go is to have two separate systems in two locations. Unless you are an avid videophile, you will, most likely use your audio only system more (background or serious listening). Of course having the room or money for two systems can be a problem, but putting together two good systems with quality used or new gear can be done. In my opinion, I think it is worth it.
I agree with the two previous posts. After beginning by building a home theater system four years ago, my dissatisfaction with it's music reproduction caused me to build a 2 channel system as well. The only thing they share is the same subwoofer, and I enjoy both systems for their specific uses. However, It'll be interesting to see if the standard for music only systems becomes based on a multichannel setup a few years down the road.
I agree. The two formats serve two different purposes. The primary driver behind HT is to support the video experience. HT has come a long way and there are a lot of fine components. Is it mid-fi? Generally. But let's define hi-fi.

If hi-fi is getting the most you can out of your music system so you can closely replicate the live experience, then you generally need to spend a lot of time, energy and money to get there in a stereo format. Doing the same in HT may be impossible (if you are an analog and/or triode advocate) or very difficult since HT does not generally cater to the high end so it is difficult to find the same level of digital/analog conversion quality. Plus you need more high end speakers, cables ....

Folks may disagree, but it costs a ton more money (today) to get the audiophile experience in HT than it does in stereo. Tomorrow will be different and these may well get more integrated. That's not to say you can't marry these things together today. Great stereo speakers, amps, preamp, etc. and supplemental center, surround speakers, a/v preamp, extra amps can be combined cost-effectively (provided the supplemental equipment is at a more mid-fi level). My impression is that, to marry the two together in one room, you really need the two pre-amps and separate DACs and separate DVD/CD players to get this done right so you can still get the hi-fi experience for music without killing yourself financially.

My two cents. I'm sure folks will disagree. Again, tomorrow will be different. Today, there are two different purposes and neither system is really designed to do both.
From my perspective multi-channel material sounds best reproduced in a multi-channel system and Stereo sounds best in a stereo system. But a stereo system can be designed as a subset of a multi-channel system, 'cause conceptually a stereo system is a sub-set of a multi-channel system. I, for example, have a HT amp which allows for 2 channel bypass. It's Bryston. So the CD (and my record deck if I ever get it back) use the bypass stereo mode, the DVD uses the standard multi-channel mode, and the VCR and TV use a simulated multi-channel mode. I've put much more money in the main speakers, and compromized elsewhere.
My System started out as an All Tube 2 channel.Now I have added 2 Tube amps and 2 Tube pre's a center channel speaker and rear speakers for a 5.0 setup.No Sub.I'm setup for Music DVD's,SACD and of course 2 chan.[For 2 chan.Nothing goes through any HT processer.Two totally independant.]Good way to get some use of your older Tube pre amps.I'm sure I don't have the ultimate HT due to Tube amps responding slower than SS amps to fast action scenes,explosions etc.and no sub[I'm not an action movie fan],but The music and dialog sound wonderfull as well as concert DVD's.I am thinking also of trying SS for 3 channels with Tube Preamps.Its a lot of fun experminting and trying new things.This is a great Hobby!Home Theater all MID-FI?I don't think Albert Porter Thinks his HT setup is!JD
Hello there, in my opinion you need two separate system for music and HT. bipolar spreakers work best for HT(the sound stage is more diffuse) look at NHT VT 2.4 they have built in subs, all you will need is a center and a pair of surrounds. I have two seperate systems,
Ht in my leaving room and a 2 channel in a separate room in my house.
This is a great bunch of responses. Everyone seems to respect the fact that these two types of systems are for two different purposes.

As Jdlepera says, my HT setup is not mid fi, but certainly not equally competent on all channels. If I had the space and budget it would be nice to have a really big screen experience along with larger speakers, especially for the dialogue and side channels.

That being said, it's better to enjoy HT with good components, set up within your two channel than loose the opportunity to experience the fun of movies altogether
Apples and Oranges

It has been said before; these are two different mediums.

An audio system is about re-creating music generated in a controlled setting such as a recording studio or a concert hall. The experience is nearly 100% aural (except for those who are sight and / or visually impaired).

Home theatre is about creating a "you are there experience" regarding anything, anywhere. The experience is 50% (or more) visual and 50% (or less) aural (except for those who are sight and / or visually impaired).

The reason I make a big distinction between the two is that I prefer to listen to my audio system with my eyes closed (to reduce visual distractions) and I prefer to keep my eyes open for the home theatre experience.

Happy listening (and viewing)

I actually ignore the home theater idea all together in my home. For one or two simple reasons. I can't afford to build a really nice 2-channel setup yet. Let alone doing five or more channels. It's about the music for me. Movies are cool, but I don't really care to have them surround me. They are fun to kill time with, and I know a lot of people that love their home theaters. Just not my style. I never had the passion for it like I do for 2-channel.
I agree with all of the above. I do feel that home theatre or surround sound for that matter is really in the future. Combining the two has problems. Putting a video monitor between your stereo speakers is not ideal for stereo. This trade off might very well be the best compromise. Except for listeners out side the sweet spot, the center channel is usually an anethama to good stereo. The exception being those rare recordings with a discrete center channel played on an exact replica of the equipment used for stereo and placed equidistant from the listener. Ironicaly, this usually prohibits said video monitor. Playing back stereo recordings is bound to excite the drivers of unused speakers (unless strategicaly covered) causing added unwanted sound. The best way to make HT/SS work is to have all channels identical in equipment and placement. This requires an extremely large room with listener in the center. Using a good audiophile room the channels will have different speaker to side and speaker to rear relationships. As such the bass and wall reflections will differ giving different signals re: original sound vs. reflected sound which can smear and confuse the listening experience not to mention giving ample clue as to where the sound is originating from and thus putting cracks in the imageing. I have never heard any (at any cost!) rear channels sound natural. All is not lost. I think we can make HT/SS work. IMHO the best way would be using all an discrete channel media format, in a large room with flat monitor, all identical channels, equidistant from listener, omnidirectional speakers, room treatment and digital room correction. As for me I will continue to go with the best two channel system I can afford with tv in the center. If and when there is enough quality multichannel media format I will consider either upgrading my system ot incorporate it or using another room for HT/SS. As of now there is not enough software to justify the cost, which at current prices for the quality that I would expect is beyond my means. Any thoughts on using a round or (lets get really crazy) sphere shaped room (with listeners head centered)?
There is more activity taking places in your brain when you are asleep than when you are watch tv/ht! Listening to music is far more of a mental activity. I took my HT down and it's sitting in boxes or piles around the house. I'd much rather listen to music and exercise my brain than numb it with unimaginative or contrived movie plots.
I love music and I love movies. Practicality has led me to have the best system I can that serves both these purposes as best as possible. There are definitely compromises, but having bought a couple channels of really excellent amplification for the L/R channels, I figure it's easier to just use them for both purpose. Hence, a single system, where there's a bit of a sonic compromise (though I still have a smile glued on my face when I'm listening) as opposed to a budgetary compromise. -Kirk
For me, my system has to sound good with music first and foremost. With that said, I have been disappointed with pretty much every piece of home theater gear I've owned. I have owned pieces from the likes of Lexicon, Citation, Bryston, Marantz, EAD, and Proceed. I found myself rotating processors and amps about every 3 months because I grew tired of the sound. Just on a side note...the best "compromise" that I found was with a 5.1 upgraded Madrigal/Citation 7.0 THX processor and 7.1 THX amps. They were the most musical of any home-theater gear I tried, but still a fair disappointment in the end.

I agree with most people that have responded- they are two seperate beasts. I ended up going back to nice tube gear, although I do have a nice 32" TV and DVD/DVD-Audio player. My DVD player has an unusually good virtual surround processor. No, it's not as good as a full set-up but I'm more than satisfied since my main interest is music.

I have never cared for multi-channel music. If recorded well, i.e. the surround channels reproducing ambient sound and not distinct kick drums, guitars, and the like coming from behind you, it can sound good. Unfortunately, 90% of the multi channel discs ( both DVD-Audio and SACD) are poorly mixed. Most multi-channel discs drive me crazy with so much information in the rear channels. Call me a purist but this is NOT natural.

So there you have 2 cents worth. Enjoy the music!!
HT is the bastard sibling of stereo music. Personally, I don't find the DVD + rear projector to make for pleasant viewing, I am not in to film like I am in to music, and i just get bored watching movies at home. So I frequent the three great(one sports a bar:) theaters in the city that show independent films. -I usually have a few unused Blockbuster GCs running around from Xmas, etc. I send them to my Dad, the man loves movies.-
an emphatic Stereo

I have an extensive 2 channel setup that includes a proton 36" tv and dvd player. In the room I am using it in 14' by 27' it is more than adequate and the stereo sound is earth moving, friends who have been over have been quite impressed, and never missed the other 3 speakers

how many movies are truly recorded in 5 channel? a few action pictures. The only music DVD that took advantage of the 5 channel output is an eagles acapella on the Hell Freezes Over Disc. Many music dvd's throw the lead instrument in the back channels, it's very distracting.

the lovely thing is after a movie, I can disappear in great two channel musical reproduction

HT appeals to the masses not the music
Well, check out the latest U2 and Nine Inch Nails concert DVDs if you want to see current SOTA surround-sound music/video. Both are positively awesome. I saw U2 in Chicago and there were 25,000 people four nights running, all on their feet going nuts. It occurred to me that this was perhaps the masses getting into music. And I was loving every bit of the high-end investment I have put into my system to reproduce it - the better equipment made it a much more compelling experience. -Kirk
Unsound nailed it. If I ever do integrate multichannel with my stereo system, it will strictly be supplemental. My Line 1 has throughputs that should make it easy. I do wish a company would produce a high end multichannel processor and 3 channel amp in one box. It would work for most of us.
after several experiments, being interested first in music
, disappointed with with the commercail chip multi channel processing.
I finally settled on pre amplifier 2 channel
2 power amplifiers 3 and channels(ava omega star)
full range speakers front ,rear and center
and a efe passive decoder pro onewhich is good for music as well as surround sound.