Multichannel and Surround DSD Listening

More about 5.0, 5.1 surround sound and Channel Dedication

Jonas Sacks avatar
Written by Jonas Sacks
Updated over a week ago

The multichannel version of the music on this website is mixed especially for multichannel playback. The files have 5 (or 6, a.k.a. 5.1) channels that contain the music. Stereo files have 2 channels and will play back on the left and right speakers. If you are using a multichannel setup then we recommend choosing for multichannel versions where available so you can hear the beautiful music in surround multichannel. You can also opt for ST+MCH when making your channel selection, that way you get both mixes at a better price.

Channel Dedication is always

  • ITU-5.0, L,R,C,Ls,Rs (which we call 5ch in our file naming)

  • ITU-5.1, L,R,C,Lfe, Ls, Rs (which we call 6ch in our file naming)

5.1ch Surround is found here.

Playing Multichannel files on a Stereo setup

If you buy the multichannel version and play it back in stereo (without having a player or software try to downmix it back to stereo) you’ll get only the front left and front right sound, and the remaining musical information will be lost. If the mix is more ambient or acoustically live, you’ll miss all the ambience and hall reflections. If the mix is more aggressive, you may even miss certain instruments. In either case, you are missing valuable recorded content. If you instead have software downmix multichannel tracks to stereo you won’t lose information but the soundstage and overall balance that the software downmix gives you may not likely be as good as the native pure stereo tracks.

Are there 5.1 vs. 5.0 multichannel files available?

There are several labels, notably Challenge Classics, Aliud, and more in near future on that release in 5.1 DSD format, utilising the LFE channel (subwoofer). Unfortunately, at this time we do not break out the number of channels on the album description pages for you to easily discover which are 5.0 and 5.1. If you're interested in a particular recording, let us know and we'll confirm its format by sending a quick note to

Channel Classics, as well as most classical music labels, record and release their multichannel projects in 5.0 format. However, there are several, and it appears to be an increasing number of classical music labels also releasing in 5.1 channel. We can only guess this is to increase their marketability to listeners with systems equipped with subwoofers who must otherwise derive a low frequency mono channel in their receivers to drive that speaker(s).

These labels apparently feel it's better to have themselves derive and level control the LFE channel then leave it to the listener's equipment.

Any file that has 5.1 will be labeled as 6ch at the end of the filename as downloaded from this website.

Multichannel Discussed at Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2018 by NativeDSD's Technical Advisor Brian Moura

Multichannel Discussed at Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2018 by NativeDSD's Technical Advisor Brian Moura

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