Iâ€™m a firm believer in surround sound for watching movies and luckily I have a wife who's understanding enough to allow me to turn our living room into a home cinema auditorium. Thereâ€™s nothing quite like having the perfect setup, with the perfect listening and viewing position while you settle down for an evening of celluloid worship. But surround sound for music isnâ€™t quite so clear cut, at least not in my humble opinion.
Before I go any further let me tell you that Iâ€™ve heard some truly staggering demonstrations of music mixed into a multi-channel masterpiece, but thereâ€™s one problem that always rears its head â€“ the sweet spot. You see when you set up a multi-channel surround sound system for movies, you know exactly where youâ€™re going to be sitting and youâ€™re unlikely to move from that spot until the movie is over, but things are very different with music. Most people tend to put music on at home and then get on with other things, which often involves wandering around the room, or even in and out of it. Therefore youâ€™re never really in that sweet spot in order to really enjoy the surround effect. Of course I know that there are audiophiles out there who are happy to sit in the sweet spot for hours listening to music, but for the average punter, thatâ€™s not an option.
But there is one place where you listen to music and can guarantee that you wonâ€™t be moving around too much â€“ in your car. Even so, the tricky bit is making sure that everyone in the car gets the surround effect and not just the driver, and thatâ€™s something that has eluded in-car entertainment manufacturers for some time; until now.
I spent much of today in the company of Dolby, Alpine and Land Rover at Dolbyâ€™s UK headquarters out in leafy Wootton Bassett and was treated to a demonstration of in-car Dolby Pro Logic 2 7.1-channel surround. I got to take a top of the range Land Rover Freelander 2 TD4 HSE for a spin and aside from the white truck that tried to run us off the road at one point, I enjoyed every minute. Needless to say I wasnâ€™t there to evaluate the way the new Freelander 2 handled, I was there to evaluate the in-car entertainment system from Alpine.
Alpine and Land Rover have managed to squeeze no less than 14 speakers into the interior of the new Freelander 2, which is quite a feat in itself. More impressive though is the actual results of the Dolby Digital Pro Logic 2 processing. First up is the issue of the sweet spot and Iâ€™m glad to say that it didnâ€™t seem to matter where I sat in the car, the surround effect remained intact and balanced. This in itself is a major achievement and one that has to be experienced for you to fully appreciate.