Welcome to the latest GoldenEar newsletter. In this issue we're focused on enhanced surround sound enjoyment. The first article is about the importance of the center channel speaker in any surround system. You'll see why the center channel is considered to be the most important in any surround experience.

Next we have an article about the latest and extremely exciting new surround formats for the home from Dolby and DTS. Dolby Atmos and DTS:X  take surround sound to a totally new level, allowing engineers to place sounds throughout the listening area without regard to where the speakers are actually located.

In Sandy's Corner, Sandy shares his recent experience at the amazing Patti Smith concert at the Beacon Theater.

As always, we hope you'll find this stuff interesting and informative. And don't forget, we truly value your thoughts and feedback concerning these newsletters. Shoot us an e-mail at and let us know what you're thinking.

Happy Holidays and Happy listening!

The GoldenEar Team
How Important is the Center Channel to System Performance?

When the first home theater systems hit the market most gave short shrift to the center channel and the surround speakers. In fact, many early surround receivers provided only 10 to 15 watts for the center and surround channels. The speakers offered for these channels were often just as wimpy, often just using midrange drivers. This was primarily because the audio engineers really didn't understand the new-to-them requirements of high performance surround sound.

Audio companies quickly learned that these channels really needed much better devices in order to do their jobs properly. In fact, GoldenEar's Sandy Gross actually designed the very first true full range center channel speaker back in the early '90's. You can actually watch a movie with only the center channel operating and still pretty much follow what's happening in the film! This isn't true for any other speaker in the system. Why is that? Because the center channel provides up to 80% of the dialogue and without dialogue you'd have to be a lip reader to understand what's happening. The center channel also contributes significant special effects and other information as well, potentially up to 60%.

The New Surround Formats - what.what.what??

Distributed Audio for Music in Every Room

And now for something completely different (but first a little history)...

Once upon a time, long, long ago, music listening at home started with mono. Then stereo came along adding to the illusion of a performance on stage. For a brief moment Quad (4-channel) took us on a side trip. Dolby employed under license one "matrixed" (matrixed = two channels blended into the existing stereo L/R channels and retrieved upon playback) version of Quad (Sansui's QS) in theaters. They named it "Dolby Stereo" and the 4 channels were left front, right front, center channel and a single frequency limited surround channel using multiple speakers spread around the back and side walls of commercial theaters.

Dolby Stereo came to home theaters renamed as Dolby Surround , but, among other features, it didn't include the logic steering used in theaters to reduce the inherent bleed of signals between channels. Logic steering is an automatic volume control working on all 4 channels to reduce output when there isn't supposed to be sound there. Eventually logic steering was added to home theater electronics and Dolby Stereo was renamed Dolby ProLogic . Next came Dolby AC-3,  also known as Dolby Digital , with between 1 and 5 discrete full range digital channels plus a subwoofer channel for Low Frequency Effects (LFE) and bass management. The vast majority of films produced since have been created using some variation of the "5.1" system with three front channels, two surround channels (the "5") and the ".1" subwoofer channel.

Sandy's Place - Patti Smith Rocks at the Beacon Theater

Patti Smith is one the most idiosyncratic rock musicians on the planet, not to mention poetess, author and spokesperson for a generation. She hit the ground running in 1975, when she released her seminal album, Horses, and never stopped. I had always wanted to see Patti perform, but getting tickets for a Patti Smith concert in NY is a completely thankless task. I saw her about a year ago at a benefit fundraiser down in the village, along with Yoko Ono and a bunch of other performers. To say I was blown away would be a dramatic understatement. It was a small club and she exploded on stage and just ignited the club and the audience.
So when this 40th anniversary concert of the release of Horses was announced, I was at the ready for zero hour when tickets went on sale. This is a unique exercise with Ticketmaster in NY, getting ready to dial in, at the same time as being online. Ready, set, go: immediately all sold out! Nothing unusual with that, sigh....

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