I'm in the mood for a conspiracy theory. Here's mine for the day. Surround sound was foisted upon the unsuspecting public by an evil consortium to sell a ridiculous number of inferior loudspeakers and all the silly hardware stuff that goes with it. The rationale for surround sound posits that we ought to experience movies as they were intended - i.e. like in a commercial theater. Except, most of us don't. At home, we don't sit in a hall seating hundreds. At home, we're 8 to 15 feet from the screen rather than 50 or 500. At home, we always have the best seats in the house (most of us simply don't have the huge families of hyper-critical viewers who all must enjoy the sharpest sonic image focus ever - and if you do, tell your kids to save up for their own monster rig when they get out of school).
The fact is, surround sound is a fraud. The image is flat and two-dimensional and unambiguously in front of you whereas the sound engineers place all manner of sounds behind you. That's a brain fart and sensory conflict of epic proportions. Why bother? Who needs it? Who asked for it in the first place? Nobody. That's the whole point. It was foisted upon us to reinvigorate a slow market and sell us more of everything we had stopped buying.
In the movies, it's a social experience that's bigger than life. Not only does nobody care about how artificial it really is, artifice is the very reason we go to the movies. We want to be whisked away from this reality for a few hours. To recreate that epic scale in the home (never mind that this scale simply doesn't fit into most our homes) by now requires a center channel in the front, one in the rear, side speakers, rear speaker, multiple subwoofers and the latest in alphabet soup steering logic. That's bitchin' for diehard videophiles. But say you're an audiophile and music lover. After all, why else would you frequent this site? Now you need two systems to do it right. Or you need those verkackte home-theater bypass schemes so you get to use your sterling preamp for music unmolested by the PrePro's DSP and video circuitry. Perhaps you even need subwoofers with separate music and cinema connectivity. Then there's the bloody cables required to reach the rears. Never mind that in many home scenarios, those rears aren't really behind you .They're at your sides since your viewing couch butts up against the rear wall to maximize your space. And they likely aren't remotely symmetrical unless your couch just so happens to be smack in the center of the wall.
As I see it for our kind, surround sound isn't anything one needs to underwrite or buy into. Instead, opt out. Put an end to this misery. It's called Stereo Is Enough For Home Theater. One simple system for music and movies. Especially with a popular flat panel screen, you've already abolished the greatest obstacles for speakers to soundstage properly - that colossal television which used to occupy the real estate between 'em. The wonderfully free thing about superior loudspeakers is that they cast a stunningly three-dimensional soundstage with perfect center fix when required. If stereo sucked as badly as the surround sound squad would have us believe, how come nobody is listening to music through a center channel? The best movies are nothing but music with dialogue instead of vocals. That's what stereo speakers thrive on.
So ditch the center channel. While you're at it, ditch the rears. Deep-six the separate PrePro, refuse the dastardly cable tangle across the room, throw out the additional remotes, forget about those expensive multi-channel amps. Do keep the subwoofer if your mains are little and bass-challenged. There's no way in hell that, dollar for dollar, a multi-channel rig with all the extra hardware could compete with a dedicated stereo system if you primarily listen to music and enjoy intelligent movies rather than mind-numbing Hollywood blood fests (i.e. flicks with plenty of catchy dialogue, good tunes and the occasional rustle in the grass).
That's it! As plainly as I can put it. Stereo is enough. Multichannel music on DVD and SACD never took off. Consumers were too tired to get hijacked by the next nefarious plot to install yet further hardware components and suffer the illusion of being on stage, surrounded by the band on all sides. (The only ones who ever experience that are the actual musicians. Been there, done that. Take it from me. It's loud. Very loud. And it's a very skewed perspective.)
Getting away from the frumpy speakers built into your television monitor and into bona fide HiFi speakers on the floor is the greatest leap forward in fidelity that's relevant to most television-watching consumers. Expanding from there to five or more mediocre speakers is a step backwards. It's unnecessary hassle, unnecessary complexity and a far lesser enjoyment. Why settle for two mediocre systems if you could have one that's truly spectacular? How often do you really listen to music and watch a movie at the same time? If you answer with anything other than "Never!", you're either primed for the looney bin or a highly advanced specimen of multi-tasking (which could be the same thing in the end).
Two channels are enough. Stereo rules. Whatever your exact battle cry on this theme, the audio industry could be promoting the 2.0 or 2.1 home theater concept in ads and on the retail floor. A lot of current consumer disinterest might get revived. Unless you of course truly believe that watching commercials in surround sound is an idea whose time has come. Unless you truly believe that tinny little flat speakers are a good idea no matter how many of those you end up with. Why not demonstrate how good movies can sound when played back over a properly set-up stereo system? Then follow up with a music demo. It's the classic two-for-one. It's simple, it's tidy and it follows the whole rationale of wedding an image that's in front of you with sound that's equally in front -- and only in front -- of you.
So much for my conspiracy theory on surround sound and why it's an idea whose time has long since passed...