I experienced my first 5.1 surround system in late December of 2010. At this point I don’t remember why I decided to finally get it at that particular time – perhaps it was a Christmas present to myself, or perhaps it was because we didn’t go anywhere for the holidays so we figured we’d stay in and watch movies instead. I remember being the only person at work on the day the receiver and speakers arrived and organizing the boxes on our hand-truck for moving to the TSX. As always, I enjoyed being alone and just doing my work without interruptions, and looking forward to taking my new toys home at the end of the day.
Getting ready to go home
Once I got home and set everything up, I was disappointed by the sound of the Sony speakers (pictured above). I was trying to save money and opted for them instead of trying to match my existing Cambridge Soundworks speakers. On second thought, I realized that for my first 5.1 system I should just do it the right way instead of cutting corners. The next day I ordered the Cambridge speakers and returned the Sony ones.
Now that all the speakers matched (though to be honest I don’t really know how much of an effect, if any, that has), I thought the system sounded pretty good. I spent a good amount of time reading the manual and tweaking the settings, from setting the speakers as “small” or “large” in the receiver to tweaking the low-frequency crossover threshold. It was pretty cool to watch movies and sports in 5.1, and I re-discovered many DVDs and blu-rays. Playing PS3 and PS2 games was a new experience as well. I particularly remember playing Catherine in surround sound in July of 2011.
We enjoyed our system from that time until May of 2012 (a little under a year-and-a-half?) when I left my job and we moved back home before embarking on Adventure 2012 and moving to Hong Kong. I gave the system to my brother-in-law who ended up not really using it. When JC and I came back from HK last year, he returned the system to us. After 3+ years, we got a chance to enjoy 5.1 sound again.
Recently we’ve been doing more downsizing, trying to become more agile as we try to figure out what our next move will be. We’ve been getting rid of a lot of stuff that went into storage back in 2012. As I’ve mentioned many times before, these physical objects have done us zero good sitting in a basement for the past four years. It would be more useful, and a better use of space, to take them out and use them or to give them to someone who can.
So this is where this Nostalgia/Museum post comes in. When I first gave the system to BIL, I packed it nicely in all the original packaging with all the manuals and plastic bags intact. When I retrieved the speakers last year, I grabbed the equipment only, without the boxes. A couple of weeks ago when we cleaned out the basement, I found the boxes with all the manuals still inside. These were the manuals sitting on our coffee table when I first got into 5.1 surround, referring to them every so often so that I could get the system to sound just right. Since this museum post would be too large if I showed every single page from each manual, below are the PDFs, some downloaded and some scanned:
Dolby Home Theatre Speaker Guide 5.1
Sony STR-DH510 Multi Channel AV Receiver
Cambridge Soundworks BassCube 821
Cambridge Soundworks MC55
Cambridge Soundworks MC105
Cambridge Soundworks MC155
Looking at and thinking about these manuals, I’ve actually changed a lot these past few years. I used to stress a lot about “perfection” and keeping everything in pristine condition, worrying about dust and fingerprints and what not. I did this with the speakers, my video games, whatever else. It was the same way with my car. There’s a photo in one of the TSX galleries of the engine bay. Yes, I actually spent time keeping it clean. And yes, it was something I did for myself, that I appreciated, but at the same time it’s kind of exhausting to live like that, worrying about things that most other people don’t worry about. Is that what overachievers do to make themselves believe that they’re better than everyone else, to think that they work harder than everyone else? I’m afraid to answer that question because the answer is probably yes.
Now, I try to be more relaxed and let things slide. It makes life a lot easier and less stressful. I still prefer to keep things clean and pristine if I can, but if I can’t then that’s OK too. Essence versus packaging. The essence of a 5.1 system is the surround sound enveloping you as you watch a movie; the essence of a car is getting you from point A to point B. While packaging may be nice, it has no intrinsic value, and at worst it is used to judge and look down upon others. I want no part in that.
As always, hope you’ve enjoyed this trip down memory lane.