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In an HT system, you don't HAVE to use a center channel *or* a subwoofer


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#1 of 110 OFFLINE   LanceJ

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Posted March 14 2005 - 06:19 AM

I ran into another salesperson yesterday and a friend's buddy a couple weeks ago who didn't know you can program your receiver/processor to redirect the LFE (i.e. subwoofer signal) and the center channel signal to the system's front main channels.

I'm not trying to cut into the speaker companies' profits by writing this, but after encountering the above situation so many times now, I started wondering how many people DON'T buy any surround system at all because:

* they have no proper spot for a center speaker (their TV's real estate on top is too narrow or TV is in an armoir for example) or the aesthestics are not acceptable (having a clunky box w/dark cherry finish plunked on top of your custom-made light cherry wall unit or a speaker unpleasantly clinging to the wall like a silver wart underneath your plasma monitor).

* they have no desire to have bass that can knock knickknacks off their walls, despite what the director's vision was back at the studio; and aesthetics again (some subs do actually look nice but most are still cubical & usually rather large boxes that are a jarring eyesore to many people). And if you live in an apartment or similar place, subs can be nearly useless since subsonic bass travels easily through walls/floors & can piss-off your neighbors.

The only thing missing when you don't use a center channel is the lack of sonic focus for viewers seated to the far side of the TV; and the lack of <40Hz bass, which AFAIK is not present in most movies anyway and some people are physically--and not in a good way--affected by such "butt massaging" type of bass frequencies (there are lots of conventional speakers that can easily get down to 40-30Hz which to me anyway, will not win a sound-off competition but still lets you know something is happening on-screen). When I sold HT systems for three years, many people were hesitant to invest in one until we told them they didn't have to have six speakers to hear the surround aspect of a movie. This advice also derailed several tense discussions some couples had while I helped them figure out what they needed. And of course for the people that did want a full 5.1 system but simply didn't have the funds for it all at one time, they could build up to one at their wallet's convenience.

I've been running a 4.0 system for several years now so have lots of experience with this situation (but am saving for a [nearly] full-range center channel, probably Infinity's Beta C360 for my surround music habit--many surround mixes now feature full-range bass frequencies in the center channel).

And this completes my surround sound public service message for today. Posted Image

#2 of 110 OFFLINE   Philip Hamm

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Posted March 14 2005 - 07:48 AM

Good post! IMO this should be added to the FAQ.
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#3 of 110 OFFLINE   Garrett Lundy

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Posted March 14 2005 - 08:18 AM

Why stop there? Just do away with the surrounds and start a stereo revolution!

We all lived happy lives with 2 speakers and VHS for years didn't we?
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#4 of 110 OFFLINE   John S

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Posted March 14 2005 - 08:31 AM

I wouldn't mind doing away with my center.. Do all AVR's offer this feature?

#5 of 110 OFFLINE   AlbertD

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Posted March 14 2005 - 08:41 AM

Most AVR's allow a phantom mode for the center. Frankly a lot of people find that two mains are superior in sound to two mains and a center. But the sweet spot gets smaller. If you don't have issues with people sitting on the perimeter, there is really no reason for a center channel. It causes more issues than it solves (timber matching, panning, etc.) If you have a situation where more than a few people will be watching and furniture that sits on the edges, then a center channel is a good compromise and works well to anchor the dialog. But this is my opinion and some will disagree. Posted Image

#6 of 110 OFFLINE   John Garcia

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Posted March 14 2005 - 08:59 AM

My only problem with no center is that dialogue also tends to swap from side to side when it should be anchored on screen. Sometimes it's beneficial when two people are talking on opposite sides of a scene, but I found it quite distracting actually.

The truth is exactly what LanceJ said: you don't HAVE to use a center or a sub, but that is entirely up to you.

-6dB at 50Hz is hardly coming close "nearly" full range on the C360.

Personally, I don't think I would enjoy my system as much without a sub.
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#7 of 110 OFFLINE   Ilkka R

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Posted March 14 2005 - 09:03 AM

I opinion is that you don't need the center if you can always sit in the sweet spot. You don't need a sub if your mains can produce some serious bass (below 30Hz), not many can. Posted Image

#8 of 110 OFFLINE   John S

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Posted March 14 2005 - 09:26 AM

Hmm, I have a high end AVR, I don't think it offers phantom center channel. Denon 4802....

On the sub thing, I don't agree, the LFE channel just isn't done any justice at all without the dedicated LFE channel / amp / sub speaker.....

It does beg the question.. Where do you draw the line? I mean these things are in the Dolby spec ya know.. Posted Image

#9 of 110 OFFLINE   Mike^S

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Posted March 14 2005 - 09:38 AM

Watching movies without my sub would not be enjoyable. Even if my mains went down to 40hz, I would not be satisfied. Perhaps you may be, but you shouldn't speak for everyone. Posted Image

#10 of 110 OFFLINE   MikeyWeitz

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Posted March 14 2005 - 09:55 AM

Saying movies have nothuing below 40 is kind of silly.

#11 of 110 OFFLINE   BillyHC

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Posted March 14 2005 - 10:29 AM

I run a 6.0 system right now in my apartment. No center and no sub.
Granted, I compensate by having an Athena AS-F2 for mains so I still get some 40hz sound.

Needing a center is still suspect, in my mind. But I definitely will get a sub as soon as I have room for it. Posted Image
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#12 of 110 OFFLINE   SethH

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Posted March 14 2005 - 10:41 AM

Saying movies have nothuing below 40 is kind of silly.


I don't think he said that. The way I read it, he was saying that some people don't care about the stuff under 40Hz.

#13 of 110 OFFLINE   Ryan Tsang

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Posted March 14 2005 - 11:07 AM

Ignorance is bliss I guess. My Servo-15 is not all that monstrous and I still wouldn't want to live without it. Subwoofers, despite common misconception, is not meant to rattle furniture or dismantle your foundation with sheer output. Just ask some 16yr to pick out a car sub if you wanted that. A well-placed subwoofer with proper EQ and calibration provide foundation to the soundtrack. It adds depth and heightens drama when called for. Seriously, how scary would a haunted house be without a deep, ominious rumbling?

If subwoofers were all about the boom, then yes, I could do without one. Quite frankly, bad bass is worse than no bass.

#14 of 110 OFFLINE   JoeyR

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Posted March 14 2005 - 11:30 AM

You want me to give up my SVSPosted Image , or my EC35Posted Image


Oh the humanity!!!!!!!!

#15 of 110 OFFLINE   Kevin C Brown

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Posted March 14 2005 - 12:26 PM

Phantom center: in the old days, there used to be a specific mode for this. Nowadays (usually Posted Image ), the receiver or pre/pro automatically reroutes the center info the mains if you simply config your setup with no center.

I would find it difficult to live life without a sub. What I have found is that sure, you are still aware of the bass in the soundtrack (i.e., I can still hear the depth charges and the spaceship engines), but with no sub, there's no deep, low freq rumble, and that makes the whole experience more ... believable. (Imagine the first 20 minutes of Saving Private Ryan without a sub. No way! Posted Image )Kind of like listening to music on a cheap clock radio. You can still hear it and enjoy the tune, but the experience is so far less than what it should or could be.

Garrett has a point that none of it is necessary. You could do a two channel stereo "home theater". And I know a lot of people just hook the DVD player up to the speakers in the TV.
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#16 of 110 OFFLINE   Alan M

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Posted March 14 2005 - 12:56 PM

I do run a center and a sub.With that said,I also take short visits to other forums.On one of theose forums,running a phantom center is more the norm then the exception.


Running without a sub,I'll skips thanks.My sub adds so much more to the surround experience,I'll not be giving it up anytime soon.Posted Image

P.S. "Phantom center: in the old days, there used to be a specific mode for this."

Aye there was.On the sony's it was called matrix surround.

#17 of 110 OFFLINE   AlbertD

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Posted March 14 2005 - 01:39 PM

I also agree that a good sub makes a HT system sing. Personally I prefer 7 high quality monitors partnered with a great sub. I have furniture at the edge of my HT room so have compromised with a center channel. But when I listen to DVD music I use a preset on my B&K and turn off the center channel.

#18 of 110 OFFLINE   Robert_Dufresne

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Posted March 14 2005 - 01:42 PM

It is like anything else, once you get used to having something (center and sub ), it is hard to go back and do without.

BTW The center channel is probably the most important speaker in your HT
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#19 of 110 OFFLINE   AlbertD

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Posted March 14 2005 - 01:50 PM

Robert, all due respect, that is just an opinion and there are serious, significant arguments that can be made, and have been made, to suggest that this is not true. But you are certainly entitled to your opinion. While I have a center channel, my system sounds much better without it, (when sitting smack in the middle of the sweet spot)

#20 of 110 OFFLINE   Lewis Besze

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Posted March 14 2005 - 03:35 PM

Well the center channel does get about 80% of all the soundtrack,so it's importance should be realized by buying a real good one. Most people skimp on that then they wonder why it sounds bad.Yes you could fold that info to the 2 mains[it is part of a DD processing BM requirements],but you essentially altering the soundtrack as it was mixed on 5[or more] speakers.I tried this myself,and it works but as someone pointed it out the dialog tented to shift,and it wasn't as stable as with my dedicated center channel.
I guess you can be without a sub,if all you watch is the old classics from before 1950.Posted Image Better yet just hook up your Bose wave radio and put it on top of the TV! Who needs stinking full blown HT anyway!