The case for horizontal centers!

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by James R. Geib, Jan 29, 2003.

  1. James R. Geib

    James R. Geib Stunt Coordinator

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    Revel makes them. Wilson Audio makes them. Sonus Faber makes them. In fact, every major manufacturer of home theater speakers includes a horizontal center speaker in their line-ups.

    Why??

    For one, they add to a home theater's overall effect in a good way, if it is a well-made speaker. A horizontal center speaker can, and in fact does in my system, project excellent dialog and sound effects, seeming to emanate from the very lips of the character on screen.

    Secondly, they fit in smaller places than floor-standers. They fit on top of 35" televisions, like mine, much better than 40" floor-standing speakers. I have large floor-standing speakers in order to maximize my enjoyment of two channel stereo music. They sound damn good!

    The quest for audio nirvana has produced some very large speakers. It is well-documented that the loudspeakers regarded as the best sounding speakers in the world are large, floor standing speakers. At least when one is talking about the audiophile communities' opinions.

    Wilson Audio's Watt Puppy and Sophia, Sonus Faber's Amatti Homage, JM Labs Grand Utopia, and dozens of others are very large speakers, and none would fit atop a 61" Samsung DLP display! Owners of these speakers seeking audio bliss, who want to add 5.1 to their systems for the family to enjoy M. Night Shyamalan's "Signs", would have to add a horizontal center speaker to their system if their display device was anything but a plasma or front projector.

    Now, I will not argue that 5 identical speakers can produce a better image and better over-all sound, but it is not always practical to have 5 identical speakers, unless they are smaller than floor-standers. Again, unless one has a front projector and a screen transparent to sound waves. If that were the case in my own home theater, I would not hesitate to convince Paradigm to sell me one Studio 100 for my center. However, I have a typical display which does not allow placement of a large floor-standing speaker for my center channel. Were I to plop down another Studio 100 in the center position of my home theater, I would miss half the action on screen! I opt for the horizontal center option as my only option, which sounds very, very good!

    In my case, the horizontal center speaker is the only way to go sans phantom. It is much better than a phantom center to me. I have lived with both options, and a real speaker in the center makes a huge difference. Even though it is a horizontal configuration, my wife and I thoroughly enjoy each and every movie we watch, unless it is simply a bad movie.

    A case can be made for using a horizontal, center speaker. It is a fine choice for those choosing to use one.

    Five identical speakers may be better in some ways, but there are always alternative compromises which can make home theater owners extremely satisfied with their set-up, and a horizontal center is one of them.

    James R. Geib
     
  2. Khoa Tran

    Khoa Tran Supporting Actor

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    I really don't get the actually point of this post besides the fact that you really enjoy your horizontal center.
     
  3. James R. Geib

    James R. Geib Stunt Coordinator

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    Khoa,

    My point being that many people out there are beginning to argue against horizontal center channel speakers. A lot of people say it is better to have no center at all than to compromise the sound with a horizontal center. That is why I posted!
     
  4. Kevin C Brown

    Kevin C Brown Producer

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    James- There are actually a lot of horizontal center channels that are designed incorrectly. The typical woofer-tweeter-woofer setup, where the woofers both play the same range of frequencies. Very, very bad for uniform off-axis freq response. You get "lobing": unpredictable constructive (what you want) and deconstructive (what you don't want) interference patterns.

    If the woofers play different freq ranges, or one woofer is active, and the other passive, is a step up. Coax drivers are also a better way to go. And *some* horizontal center channels actually do have just one tweeter and just one woofer, one above the other, but it is still a horizontal speaker.

    Personally, if I was going to do full range for a center channel, I do 2 floorstanders (or 2 bookshelf speakers on stands) on each side of the TV/display, so the image still comes from the display itself.

    But to make a blanket statement that horizontal speakers are better than floorstanders or other designs isn't quite correct. [​IMG]
     
  5. James R. Geib

    James R. Geib Stunt Coordinator

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    Kevin,

    I never made a blanket statement that horizontal centers are better than floor-standers, if it was me you were directing that statement to. In fact, I said just the opposite!

    I understand that many center speakers are designed incorrectly to some people. But, what is incorrect?? If a horizontal center has a woofer-tweeter-woofer configuration, like my Paradigm Studio CC, and it sounds good to someone, then is it incorrect for them?

    As I said, there are theoretical, better alternatives, such as having three vertical floor standing speakers. However, there is nothing wrong with a woofer-tweeter-woofer horizontal center if that is what one likes, and if that is the speaker which best integrates into one's home theater system. The vertical configuration may not be preferred for some, and thus it becomes the incorrect design in that case!

    The same can be said for Bose. If it sounds good to someone, it's a fine system for them. Even if we all know there are more accurate speakers for the same price.

    It's a matter of opinion. The best speakers for some may not be the best for others. I like black cars, some like red. My horizontal woofer-tweeter-woofer center is just perfect for me at this point.
     
  6. Tyson

    Tyson Stunt Coordinator

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    B&W got it right w/the HTM center speaker. Tweeter over midrange construction. I wish more companies would take that as an example and correct an easily fixable design flaw in center speakers.
     
  7. James R. Geib

    James R. Geib Stunt Coordinator

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    Excellent point Tyson. Should Paradigm make a new, improved center to replace the Studio CC, I'd be the first in my city to purchase it if I noticed an improvement. The closer I can get to my perfect sound, the better, within the limits of my horizontally challenged system! Even so, the Studio CC is no slouch when it comes to accurate, powerful sound reproduction.
     
  8. Bob_M

    Bob_M Stunt Coordinator

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  9. Rich Malloy

    Rich Malloy Producer

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    My center also has the tweeter over midrange alignment, and I tend to agree with James' comments.

    That said, if I could fit a floorstander identical to my Left and Right mains in that center position instead of this horizontal compromise, then I damn sure would! [​IMG]
     
  10. chung_sotheby

    chung_sotheby Supporting Actor

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    I actually use a Norh 4.0 Marble as my center channel speaker, and it does an amazing job. Great musicality, great tonal dynamics, and really dissappears into the soundstage. The tweeter on top really does disperse the sound well. Also, its design is a little different, so it is a good centerpiece for my HT(excuse the pun).
     
  11. Randy G

    Randy G Second Unit

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    Tyson,

    Yes, I agree that B&W got it right with the HTM. Unfortunately for other speaker manufacturers, B&W got it right with the HTM....AND patented the bullet tweeter on top of box design, and vigorously defends its patents. As you may have noticed, several manufacturers who copied their design have been forced to change those designs....sucks for us all...it was a very simple and elegant solution to the center channel dilema.
     
  12. Rich Malloy

    Rich Malloy Producer

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    Actually, B&W (along with KEF, I believe) asserted "trade dress" rights, which is different from protecting a patented design. I happen to have the Swans Diva C3 center speaker, whose distributors in the US received one of those cease-and-desist letters...

    And while I'm sure the top-mounted tweeter design effects dispersion in some way, I'd think it's not necessary to have a top-mounted tweeter to get the benefits of this alignment. A regular, baffle-mounted tweeter-above-midrange design should provide most (if not all) of the benefits that the same design with a top-mounted tweeter (and baffle-mounted midrange speaker) would provide.
     
  13. Tim Ranger

    Tim Ranger Stunt Coordinator

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    I've heard that two of the very best are the ACI models and the Aerial models. Both use vertical mid-tweets with flanking woofs.
     

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