SRS Circle Surround Review

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Obbop

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The moment thou hast been awaiting is finally here!!!!
Hubba Hubba!!!! Hooray!!!! burp.

Okay.... ya'll know how hard it is to convey audio impressions via written words but I'll try.

NuReality company. 1995. Model VHT-200 SRS 3D sound system. Basically, a decoder that plugs into a amp or receiver.

Luckily it has a bypass switch that routes the audio input PAST the internal circuitry and straight through to the amp, in this case a Sansui QRX-9001. Using it I was able to make easy comparisons between SRS on and off.

STS vs stereo. You know what plain boring stereo sounds like. When I engaged the Circle Surround circuitry the sound field did "expand." Closing my eyes I tried to "locate" where certain instruments were originating on various stereo CDs being played. Some instruments appeared to be coming from a plane higher than the speakers, which are at ear level to me. Also, the far left and right of the soundfield were extended around 3 or 4 feet beyond the speakers. I admit the physical characteristics of my listening area likely affect the soundfield. The area is small with too much reflective surfaces. Still, these limitations are equal for all playing modes.

There are two variable controls when SRS is engaged; Center, that adjusts the strength of voice or instrumented recorded so as to appear basically in the center of the soundfield and Space, adjusts the "ambience" and "width" of the soundfield. Both adjustments had obvious effects.

Have you listened to Dylan's quad Nashville Skyline? It is recorded for an ambient effect unlike what I hear in much of Santana's quad stuff. Well, SRS and its effect on stereo reminds me of the sound I hear on the NS Dylan recording. There is a sense of ambience and depth that I much prefer to plain boring stereo.

Stopping here so as not to "overload" the input. See next section.
 

Obbop

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Part 2.

Though the SRS effects were only coming out of the front 2 speakers I was pleased with the effects and prefer them to stereo. I payed $35 for the unit and feel at that price it is well worth the cost. If I made $75,000 per year (I wish!)
I wouldn't mind if I had paid $200 for the unit.

The SRS effects worked on the 25 or so CDs I played. From Green Grass and High Tides by the Outlaws to old Supremes, Creedence, Belinda Carlisle, etc. all the CDs were effected by the SRS circuitry and in a way I found pleasing. One thing I noticed but can't explain is that with SRS on I could hear individual instruments more clearly than with SRS off. On Green Grass and High Tides the two lead guitars were easier to hear than when played in stereo only. It was an obvious difference in clarity. Not that one or both guitars were louder... it was just easier to hear them individually.... less "blended together" as compared to when played in stereo w/o SRS.

Next, I sent the output of the SRS unit into my Vario-Matrix decoder that presently works only in the Hall mode (damn). I used stereo and quad CDs. Basically, I did not hear any distortion or undesireable effects as the Vario-Matrix worked with the SRS input. However.... there were differences!!!! I often use Santana's Black Magic Woman in quad as a reference to compare different decoders, etc. With SRS on the rotating effect on certain passages was still present and occurred in the same speakers and rotated in the soundfield the same way as when SRS is off. But.... the placement in each speaker was a wee bit "sharper". At first I thought it was just louder but, after switching SRS on and off and listening repetitively it does seem that the SRS is somehow assisting the quad decoder in isolating the quad encoding and getting it to the correct channel.

End of part two
 

Obbop

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Part 3

In old articles about quad I read of "psychoacoustic phenomena" to describe, at least in part, how matrix decoders function. I find the same term used in the SRS manual. It also mentions extracting ambience that originally came from the sides and rear.

In the past I have experimented with decoders, such as running a decoder's output into the input of another decoder. I tried different inputs.. F/R to the 2nd decoder, L/R Back into the 2nd decoder, etc. The effects were not satisfactory. Wuth this SRS unit the decoded output sent to my Vario-Matrix was quite pleasing. Black Magic Woman does sound better with the SRS working on it.

Another thing I noticed is the sound of a drum effect on Ohh Child by the Five Stairsteps. Synthesized from stereo to quad with Vario-matrix only a drum roll starts at L/F and crosses over to R/R. Later in the song the effect is reversed. In stereo it obviously goes from L/F to R/F and back. With the SRS engaged feeding the Vario-Matrix the drum roll was still L/F to R/R but it was louder and clearer. So much clearer that when it occurred it actually startled me!!! It felt like I was sitting in front of the drum!!!

The two controls on the SRS allow a lot of "playing around." I could make vocals sound like they were occuring in a large hall or place them directly in front of me. This may sould like what any DSP Digital Signal Procesor can do BUT, there is a difference from the DSPs I've heard and what I heard with this SRS. DSPs don't provide me with the sound I enjoy that good quad gear does. There is a difference in their output. I find the SRS to be closer to what I enjoy in quad than any DSP I have heard.

I owned a Yamaha DSP-1 with a huge number of variables in its functions. I fed it into my Vario-Matrix and did not care for the results at all... no matter how many ways I tweaked the DSP-1. However, the effects I hear from the SRS being fed into the Vario-Matrix are, to my ear, so pleasing that I may very well keep that SRS unit plugged in for regular use.

Just as I never went back to stereo after hearing quad.... everything went theough the decoder I am currently so pleased with what I hear in this SRS unit it, too, may become a permanent part of my regular listening.

The above describes the aural effects as ascertained by my ears in my listening environment with the equipment I have. perhaps the results would not be as pleasing to you. However, if you can find one of these, or similar, units for a low price it may behoove you to give it a try!!!!!
 

winopener

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Personally i share your enthusiasm for CS, it can do a good work on many discs.
Did you tried to pump more the rear channels? I'm listening a (stereo) mixed disc right now with the CS decoder and Kurtis Blow has spreaded the funky band all around. That's party!
 

Obbop

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After several listening sessions I have noticed that some sung lyrics that before were not understandable are now decipherable!!!!

For example, there are a few lyrics in the Outlaw's Green Grass and High Tides tune where previously I could not understand some of the words in the lyrics. However, with the CD pushed through the SRS decoder and that output into my Vario-Matrix the words are clearer and I could understand them!!! Cool. Out of curiosity I replayed the song without the SRS activated and it was back to the original sound with "muddied" lyrics.

Wanting to solve a decade's old question I tossed in I'd Love to Change the World by Ten Years After. At the very end of the song there are some spoken words I could never decipher. Yah' know what? With SRS on the words were clearer, louder!!!! I was THIS close to figuring out what they were!!!!

I am gonna' play that song repeatedly while altering the two adjustments on the SRS unit. Perhaps I will come up with the right combination that allows me to figure out what is said at the end of a groovy tune!!!! I know I am closer to hearing them than with any other audio device I have used!!!!!
 
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