Stereo or Surround Sound Systems? What is Better for You?

Stereo or surround sound you say? Well, first lets back up a little bit so you can understand where I’m coming from.

I started this audio journey in 1996 with a budget 5 channel surround sound system. That system wasn’t too great as its major flaw was the speakers were colored sounding… The DVD player sounded terrible, and the amp was grossly underpowered. Over time, I became wary of using it and sold the entire system.Quad-on-stand

Over the next few years I put together a stereo system that would probably be considered a midrange hi-fi rig. It cost me about $20,000 all told and it sounded pretty good to be honest. But times changed, the downturn after 9/11 happened and due to finances I had to sell the whole system.

In 2004 I started building my own speakers mainly because I missed my old system but could not afford the 20k price tag. I drew up a design and planned them out for a couple years. By 2006 I had started the building process in my basement. These were large speakers. I had no idea what they might weigh when I was done. I simply built them based on what I wanted from my years prior experience with stereo systems.

I built those speakers so that I could update them and improve on the drivers when I got more money and the opportunity. In the meantime I kept studying about enclosure volumes, driver, cabinet resonance, and speaker crossovers. This had become a hobby for me and I was loving it.

By 2008 the speakers were done. It had taken nearly two years to build them. They weighed 430lbs each. The paint wasn’t quite right but did they ever sound glorious. I was in heaven after finishing them and wanted even more of the sonic bliss they were delivering. Almost immediately, I set about improving on the design with more accurate and higher quality speaker drivers.


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For a long time my listening choice was biased toward high end two channel. Even when watching movies I enjoyed those movies listening to the movie through these high end stereo speakers. But after building many other designs I started to become curious what similar quality surround sound speakers could add to the movie titles that my wife and I enjoyed.

I decided to have 3 small speakers built and by this time I had designed many, many speakers for clients as a result of the Home Speaker website. I settled on the MC2 SE speakers for a center and surround.

You would think that a tiny speaker like the MC2 SE would not mate well with the very large Instrument II speakers. That would be wrong. They sounded great. I folded all the bass above 80hz into the subwoofers of the Instrument II’s and let the MC2 SE’s do the rest.

My point is not to sing the praises of EbenLee Audio speakers so let me finally get to what I was saying.

Surround sound is worth it

Surround sound systems, when done the right way, with high quality speakers that can deliver the nuance of the recorded movie soundtrack make a huge difference. Movies are much more involving now. My wife and I watch even more movies now then we did before and often I will get a movie just so I can hear the soundtrack that plays along with it.

The explosions and special effects of current movies can be breathtaking. Having a full surround system that is capable of delivering all these cues and spaciousness really does make a difference. If given the choice I would watch most movies (any that have special effects) in full surround sound and not stereo.

Stereo still Rocks

For music. Stereo is still king. Does multichannel audio sound awesome? Yes. But it has not received the recognition that it deserves and thus I still can’t consider it for most of my music listening.

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