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No center channel, thoughts?


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60 replies to this topic

#1 of 61 Albert Damico

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Posted March 20 2003 - 02:55 AM

I have been struggling for more than 5 years to get my front soundstage to be transparant. The issue always comes back to the center channel speaker. Other than a reduced listening area, are there any downsides to just going without the center channel? Wouldn't the left and right mains pick up the signal and split it between them? I have a B&K Ref 50 pre/pro

#2 of 61 ColinM

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Posted March 20 2003 - 03:06 AM

Yes, L/R gets the center and images a'la stereo. There was a good thread about a month ago on this - the general consensus was (I believe) -

Best = 3 identical speakers across the front

Better = L/R pair plus "correct" center.

Good = Phantom (no) center, as long as the mains were of good quality.

Bias this all with a heavy dose of personal taste and experimentation. Phantom VS Center was a close call, but the 3x same config was the big winner. I went from center to monitor at center, and am very glad I did. Truly seamless and transparent with good software.
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#3 of 61 Ted Lee

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Posted March 20 2003 - 05:20 AM

i don't see how one could not have a center channel.

it anchors all the sound to the screen. phantom just sounds too hollow.

afaik, all movie theaters have a center channel too.
 

#4 of 61 Albert Damico

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Posted March 20 2003 - 05:36 AM

Ted:
My belief, which I am testing with this post, is that it should NOT make a difference other than a reduced listening position. If I situate myself directly in the center of a sweet spot and adjust both main speakers to hit me at the same time, then the dialog meant for the center channel should be anchored to the screen. I see no reason why this would not be so. Albiet, if one gets outside the sweet spot, this will become an issue. If this is true, then I should be able to set my system to see no center and bypass the issue I have always had, which is, that my center channel speaker is NEVER completly transparant in my front sound stage. I am not and expert and this is only what I think should be accurate. I am hoping that I can get some validation.

#5 of 61 Ted Lee

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Posted March 20 2003 - 06:51 AM

yeah, i see where you're coming from albert.

i'll admit that i've never done critical testing, but i do recall in my poor days when i didn't have a center channel that i hated it. however, other factors (poor speaker placement or quality) could have adversely affected my experience at that time.

i think most people will agree with you that, properly positioned mains can compensate for a missing center.

me, i just gotta have that big annoying box sitting on top of my tv. Posted Image
 

#6 of 61 ken thompson

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Posted March 20 2003 - 07:32 AM

Well, I have a fairly decent center channel, the Boston Acoustics VR-12, and I like it a lot. However, I have been running my system without it for a couple of months and I haven't missed it one bit. I wouldn't say it sounds better without it but I definitely dont feel like I'm missing anything.

#7 of 61 Phil*K

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Posted March 20 2003 - 07:44 AM

Albert,

I tested this on my system. I have a RX-V1 and Infinity Il60 towers and a Il36 center. When I turned off the Center channel the mains did take over but it did sound hollow as Ted suggested. I'm not sure how this would effect you're system. As far as having three identical speakers, that would be hard for me as my mains weigh 75lbs. But the IL36 matches perfectly with the Il60s and is a very transparent speaker. Take this FWIW.

Phil

#8 of 61 Albert Damico

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Posted March 20 2003 - 08:35 AM

Thanks, guys. In my current setup I have Infinfity Overture 2's as the mains and an Axiom VP-150 as the center channel. I know that they are different brands, but their sonic signiture is better than when I had the Infinity CC3 center or the Infinity HPS as the center channel. My issue with a center channel has always been that the dialog comes from the speaker. When I listen to my system, I want to hear the dialog come from the front of my room, not from the box that just happens to be my center channel. I believe my B&K Ref 50 will allow me to set up my system with and without a center channel. I can calibrate each setup seperatly and then via the remote, toggle between them to see what impact this has. Perhaps I can leave the center out for when my wife and I are watching movies and can control where we sit, but have the center to toggle on when we have company and the group expands outside of the sweet spot.

#9 of 61 Jim A. Banville

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Posted March 20 2003 - 08:47 AM

IF you have a pair of GOOD left/right speakers, AND they are positioned CORRECTLY, AND the listening audience is only one or two people situated in the "sweet spot", there is NO advantage to a center channel speaker over a "phantom center". A GOOD pair of speakers should NOT produce a hollow sound when asked to reproduce a good recording of a voice. If your main speakers don't sound good reproducing a mono human voice, then they aren't good enough to be in your system or they aren't positioned correctly. The ONLY reason center channels speakers exist is to anchor sounds, not all of which are dialogue, to the screen for those people not in the sweet spot.
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#10 of 61 Albert Damico

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Posted March 20 2003 - 09:19 AM

Jim, that exactly what my logic told me. I guess now the only question is whether or not my Infinity Overture 2's are good speakers. And I only know one way to answer that question, try it!

#11 of 61 Phil*K

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Posted March 20 2003 - 10:27 AM

Jim,

Well it depends on what you think are a GOOD pair of speakers and I think that mine are pretty GOOD and there is a definate difference with the center missing. Now I'm sure I could get use to not having the center and think it was fine but a GOOD center is certainly an advantange over not having one. And to be honest I bet I could go down a listen to the latest Martin Logan's, Sonus Fabers, and Vienna Accustics at the next door Tweeter and find the same advantage.

Phil

#12 of 61 Ted Lee

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Posted March 20 2003 - 10:33 AM

Quote:
Now I'm sure I could get use to not having the center and think it was fine but a GOOD center is certainly an advantange over not having one.


i gotta agree with this 100%, plus everything else phil said. Posted Image
 

#13 of 61 Jim A. Banville

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Posted March 20 2003 - 11:24 AM

Quote:
a GOOD center is certainly an advantange over not having one.


If you're talking about for only one or two people seating in the sweet spot, and the main L/R speakers are GOOD and are positioned CORRECTLY, then we must agree to disagree. There is no real reason that a center channel would sound "better" for those seated in the sweet spot vs. a phantom center. There is nothing magical about center speakers. In fact, most are compromises in terms of design vs. asthetics. Now, if someone were "used to" the sound produced by a certain center speaker, and they went to a phantom center setup, I could understand them hearing things differently; sometimes better, sometimes worse. Do I recommend most people get a center speaker? Sure, but only to help anchor sounds to the screen for those not in the sweet spot, NOT for improving the actual "sound". Here's a little test for those reading this that what to hear the difference, quickly, between center speaker vs. phantom: tune your receiver to an AM talk radio show. Sit in the sweet spot and switch your receiver between STEREO and DOLBY PRO LOGIC with your remote. Close your eyes as you continue to switch between the two. The DOLBY PRO LOGIC processing should send the entire mono signal to the center and nothing to the other speakers. What differences do you hear? Dependng on your equipment and setup, you may love one over the other or hear little to no difference. YOU can then decide what YOU like for YOUR system Posted Image
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#14 of 61 Phil*K

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Posted March 20 2003 - 11:39 AM

Jim,

I think we are going to have to agree to disagree. And a better test would be to play your favorite DVD and blindly switch between no center and having a center. This should be as easy as the DPL test. Then see which you prefer.

Phil

#15 of 61 Chriss M

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Posted March 20 2003 - 02:51 PM

i've found that i actually prefer no center channel, at least while sitting in the sweet spot. my speakers image very well, and produce a solid center image. One of the advantages i've found to running phantom center is that it seems to give more "width" to material on-screen. With a center channel, it seems all dialog comes from the dead center of the screen. With the two main speakers creating the center image, you can pinpoint the position on the screen from where the dialog is coming from. If a character is on the left side of the screen, it sounds like his voice is coming from his position on the screen.

The setup i have now is the first one i've had without a center, and i don't feel like i am missing anything i had before.

#16 of 61 Albert Damico

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Posted March 20 2003 - 03:02 PM

Chris:

Your description of the dialog coming from the dead center of the screen with a center channel speaker is exactly the issue I have always had. I don't know what will sound better for me, yet. But I am looking forward to doing a test this weekend. Toggling between both should be easy. I will post my results, understanding that they will only be applicable to me.

#17 of 61 David Lorenzo

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Posted March 20 2003 - 03:43 PM

afaik, all movie theaters have a center channel too


Theaters actually have the left, center, and right speakers all behind the screen and all of them are used for dialogue. If the persons face is on the extreme left of the screen then the front left speaker is used. You can see why movies have to be mixed differently for home viewing.

As far as the phantom center issue is concerned, as long as your mains are capable of reproducing a strong center image, then I personally wouldn't use a center channel. This is for strictly 1 to 2 person viewing though.

#18 of 61 Philip Hamm

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Posted March 21 2003 - 12:45 AM

There's nothing like an identical center speaker, that is the best solution. I'd be very hesitant to go to a dedicated "center" ever again for my main listening room. There have recently been great threads about this subject. Do a search for "identical center", I think you'll find lots of good information.
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#19 of 61 Phil*K

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Posted March 21 2003 - 01:52 AM

IMO, what Phil has expressed here is the difficulty in finding a center speaker that matches your mains. Which, IMO, is why many people prefer to use an identical speaker. It certainly makes it easier and it may be difficult for some to find a center to match what they already have. It is also IMO, why some who have large mains and can't use an identical speaker prefer to use nothing as a poor match sounds worse that no center.

Having said all of this if you have a good center that matches well with your mains this is a least equivalent to having identical speakers and IMO may be better as the center has been designed for its duties. The trick is finding one that matches


Phil

#20 of 61 Albert Damico

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Posted March 21 2003 - 02:47 AM

phil*k:

I understand and appreciate all opinions. I actually don't really have one, yet. As I said I can easily do some experiments this weekend to see. But my logic tells me that if the right and left main speakers are of sufficient quality and dynamic enough there should be no drop off in sound quality, when seated in the sweet spot, from a system with a center channel. Even give that the center channel is the same speaker, perfectly matched, identically tuned. If seated in the sweet spot, I can't think of a single reason why there would be ANY degradation of sound across the front sound stage without a center channel. Of course, this is just what I "think". My logic could be flawed, which I readily admit. I am looking forward to listening this weekend.





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