Surround Sound Sucks

Quite some time ago I picked up a 2006 Toyota Avalon which I just love to drive. Quite possibly the best built car on the market. Strong reputation for last past 300,000 miles if you keep up with the oil changes and minor maintenance.

One thing which has annoyed me since day one is the stereo sucked. It had decent reception and seems otherwise capable, but the sound sucked. This isn’t a huge problem for me because I normally listen to NPR. Not the kind of NPR enamored with finding “new music,” rather the good kind of NPR providing me with non-spun news an interesting information.

Last night I decided to go to town for Chinese food. I hadn’t had any in a while. I also had received a Steve Winwood “greatest hits” type CD in the mail and wanted to give it a spin. As a rule, I try not to listen to music with words when working. If I’m budded out in an office I usually have on lots of “space music.” For those of you who are not familiar with space music check out the debut album from zerO One and the Sony Music Ancient Alien. THAT is music to code by. It might even be good music to write by if you are not a writer requiring total silence to hear the voices in your head.

Adding insult to injury, the 2002 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland I recently picked up seemed to have an incredibly great sound system in it. When I turned on the radio it actually sounded like music instead of something echoing in a box just out of reach.

When I popped in the CD I listened and thought “man is this a bootleg disk? It can’t be! I purchased it from Barnes & Noble.” While I was out on country roads I played with some stereo settings trying to make it sound better. When I got close to civilization I just tolerated the situation until I was at a red light. While sitting there I actually paid attention to the various settings brought up on the menu. This time I found it. Some fool, be it the previous owner or a detailer at the dealership, turned surround sound on.

Perhaps I’m old, but surround sound makes music absolutely suck. Maybe in a movie theater where you are trying to get the audience to feel the force of some crash as if they are in the movie it is fine, but music is supposed to sound like music. In truth, I sometimes think the single speaker radio my 1980 AMC Concord station wagon came with provided a cleaner sound that many of today’s car audio systems. Of course, being college aged I quickly put in a Pioneer (had to have the super tuner out here) stereo with Quadaxial speakers. I believe mine were 7×10 in the rear with Triaxial door cones. A vehicle the size of a station wagon with no overhead anything in the way turned the entire vehicle into one big speaker. When I finally sold it to some brothers heading off to college, they bought it because of the sound system. I didn’t have $200 in that stereo nor did I have an EQ or any of the other trendy things of the day, but turned all the way up the bass of any given AC/DC “Back in Black” tune could almost kick the glass out of the rear hatch.

Wow! They are charging nearly $25 for the Back in Black LP I seem to remember paying $8.95 for back in the day.

I’m not the only person who believes newer is not necessarily better. I heard an interview recently with a band called Maverick which recently released an album called Mono. Yes, it was recorded in single channel mono. Instead of ear buds you can have an ear monocle and still hear all of the music while remaining award of your surroundings.

Suffice it to say, with surround sound turned off my stereo sounds like it should. Music sounds like music and Steve Winwood sounds like I remember.

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