Jump to content



Sign up for a free account to remove the pop-up ads

Signing up for an account is fast and free. As a member you can join in the conversation, enter contests and remove the pop-up ads that guests get. Click here to create your free account.

Photo
- - - - -

Center Speaker Sounds Empty


This topic has been archived. This means that you cannot reply to this topic.
32 replies to this topic

#1 of 33 OFFLINE   Adam J

Adam J

    Stunt Coordinator



  • 64 posts
  • Join Date: Apr 02 2002

Posted June 18 2002 - 09:22 AM

Hi,

This may be because I am running a budget system. I have the Polk RM6000 Surround speakers and an HK-120 receiver.
What I notice is that on DTS and DD5.1 Soundtracks, the vocals are sent to the Center Channel. This is normal.
If I listen to the same DVD in Stereo or DPLII the voices sound much fuller to me. I also can switch between my TV speakers and the Receiver playing DTS or DD5.1 and the TV Vocals will actually sound better to me.
I borrowed my friends JBL center speaker and I could not detect any difference between the Polk and JBL center while listening to dialogue.

I think I will go to Circuit City to try and compare my Center with a couple of the more expensive models to see if I notice a difference.

Just wondering if anyone else noticed this, is it a common response when people compare the single channel vocals on a center channel to the stereo mix?
Maybe nothing is wrong with my speaker and this is just a difference in the 6 channel formats compared to a stereo mix.

Also I should clarify that this only concerns the dialogue, the rest of the sound is great. Thanks for all replies!

#2 of 33 OFFLINE   Michael Reuben

Michael Reuben

    Studio Mogul



  • 21,769 posts
  • Join Date: Feb 12 1998

Posted June 18 2002 - 11:24 AM

How much power does your receiver have for the center channel? Is it equal to what it uses to drive the front left and right?

Have you balanced the levels of all your channels, preferably with a sound pressue level (SPL) meter? It's possibly that your center channel is too low relative to the other channels.

Just some possibilities to consider.

M.
COMPLETE list of my disc reviews.       HTF Rules / 200920102011 Film Lists

#3 of 33 OFFLINE   John Garcia

John Garcia

    Executive Producer



  • 11,548 posts
  • Join Date: Jun 24 1999
  • Real Name:John
  • LocationNorCal

Posted June 18 2002 - 12:14 PM

What setting do you have the center set to? Large or small? This could be a factor.

I'm going to guess that this is something to do with setup, and as Michael points out, the first thing to check is the speaker level setting. Ideally, you want to do this with test tones and an SPL meter, but you can ROUGHLY do it by ear also (though I don't recommend trusting your ears in the long run).

Also, if there are any other configurable items for the center channel, try changing them to see what effect they have.
HT: Emotiva UMC-200, Emotiva XPA-3, Carnegie Acoustics CSB-1s + CSC-1, GR Research A/V-1s, Epik Empire, Oppo BDP-105, PS4, PS3,URC R-50, APC-H10, Panamax 5100 Bluejeans Cable
System Two: Marantz PM7200, Pioneer FS52s, Panasonic BD79
(stolen) : Marantz SR-8300, GR Research A/V-2s, Sony SCD-222ES SACD, Panasonic BD-65, PS3 60G (250G)

Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it’ll spend its whole life believing that it is stupid.” – Albert Einstein

 


#4 of 33 OFFLINE   Wayne A. Pflughaupt

Wayne A. Pflughaupt

    Producer



  • 5,910 posts
  • Join Date: Aug 05 1999

Posted June 18 2002 - 01:41 PM

Quote:
I have the Polk RM6000 Surround speakers and an HK-120 receiver.
If I listen to the same DVD in Stereo or DPLII the voices sound much fuller to me. I also can switch between my TV speakers and the Receiver playing DTS or DD5.1 and the TV Vocals will actually sound better to me.
These speakers only have a 3” woofer, which means they will have limited bass response. With Dolby Pro Logic the voices will “bleed” to the left and right speakers and sub, which would give the voices more bottom end – and hence “warmth.”

Quote:
I think I will go to Circuit City to try and compare my Center with a couple of the more expensive models to see if I notice a difference.
If they have larger woofers, you certainly will notice a difference!

As others noted, be sure and check the set up features of your receiver. Perhaps there is independent tone or EQ control of the center channel.

Regards,
Wayne A. Pflughaupt

My Equipment List
“A nice mid-fi system,” according to an audiophile acquaintance.

My Tech / DIY Articles and Reviews

#5 of 33 OFFLINE   Glenn Overholt

Glenn Overholt

    Producer



  • 4,207 posts
  • Join Date: Mar 24 1999

Posted June 18 2002 - 04:43 PM

Adam, try all you want, but you'll probably not get anywhere. I am convinced that it is the DVD's themselves. The sound mixers are cranking up the sounds while sacrificing the center channel.

It is not present on every disk, but the best way to 'fix it' is to turn your center channel volume up - more than the other channels - and/or even turn the other channels down.

You can calibrate your sound on a calibration disk until hell freezes over, but the fact remains that if the sound engineers did a sloppy job on a DVD, then the only true calibration would be to do it for every disk.

The rest of you may argue all you want to, but the lack of a center channel sound that is adequate on just some DVD's only tells me that unless I changed my hearing range or my receiver's settings, (which I don't normally do), the only other explanation is that it must be the DVD.

Glenn

#6 of 33 OFFLINE   Michael Reuben

Michael Reuben

    Studio Mogul



  • 21,769 posts
  • Join Date: Feb 12 1998

Posted June 19 2002 - 02:03 AM

Quote:
The rest of you may argue all you want to, but the lack of a center channel sound that is adequate on just some DVD's only tells me that unless I changed my hearing range or my receiver's settings, (which I don't normally do), the only other explanation is that it must be the DVD.

It's certainly possible that this is an element of Adam's problem. But since we don't know which DVDs, or how many, he's tried, ALL of the suggestions offered to date are reasonable possibilities that should be investigated.

M.
COMPLETE list of my disc reviews.       HTF Rules / 200920102011 Film Lists

#7 of 33 OFFLINE   Adam J

Adam J

    Stunt Coordinator



  • 64 posts
  • Join Date: Apr 02 2002

Posted June 19 2002 - 02:23 AM

Hi All,

Well as a member of this forum, I have the Avia test disk and the SPL meter and spend the first couple weeks moving speakers around and setting volume levels. So thanks to all of you for the basics I already have under my belt.
Center = Small
Surrounds = Small
Right = Large
Left = Larger
Sub = Off
(This is how Polk suggests setting up these speakers)
http://www.polkaudio....cle=bassmanage

I've already contacted Polk about this issue and from my testing I am confident the speaker configuration is not the cause. I have switched the Right and Left with the Channel and notice no difference in sound, at least not any improvement.

I believe my problem is either the 3.25" midrange speakers as Wayne Suggests. The Center has 2 of these but maybe they just don't have the size to do voices justice.

Or what Glenn Overholt suggests, which is what I really was curious to know. How many other people experience this difference between Stereo and DD5.1/DTS. I guess my real question for all of you is do any of you not notice a difference when playing movies in stereo vs. DD5.1/DTS. If your Stereo signal does not sound better for the vocals, then I will take that as a good indication that the problem is with the size of my center speaker, and not just the difference between the stereo mixing of the dialogue and a single center channel.
Thanks for all your replies, I will let you know what I find out when I try the better speakers at Circuit City.

#8 of 33 OFFLINE   John Garcia

John Garcia

    Executive Producer



  • 11,548 posts
  • Join Date: Jun 24 1999
  • Real Name:John
  • LocationNorCal

Posted June 19 2002 - 03:53 AM

Yes, the most likely cause is the size of the drivers. Personally, I don't think anything less than a 5-1/4" driver (in a well designed speaker) and preferably a 6-1/2" driver is needed for any realism. This more true for music than movies, but is still true with both.

First, NONE of the speakers in that package can take a full range signal, so none of them should be set to large.

What you really want to look for is the low frequency extension, and match that to the crossover point of your receiver. What you want is approximately one octave coverage below the crossover point. So if the crossover is 100Hz, you need a speaker to cover at least to 50Hz. This is the reason why HTiBs and tiny speakers do not live up to most people's expectations - they are actually leaving you with gaps in frequency response in the lower midrange because they are not capable of reproducing those frequencies well.
HT: Emotiva UMC-200, Emotiva XPA-3, Carnegie Acoustics CSB-1s + CSC-1, GR Research A/V-1s, Epik Empire, Oppo BDP-105, PS4, PS3,URC R-50, APC-H10, Panamax 5100 Bluejeans Cable
System Two: Marantz PM7200, Pioneer FS52s, Panasonic BD79
(stolen) : Marantz SR-8300, GR Research A/V-2s, Sony SCD-222ES SACD, Panasonic BD-65, PS3 60G (250G)

Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it’ll spend its whole life believing that it is stupid.” – Albert Einstein

 


#9 of 33 OFFLINE   Adam J

Adam J

    Stunt Coordinator



  • 64 posts
  • Join Date: Apr 02 2002

Posted June 19 2002 - 05:18 AM

Hi John,

I take your words as truth. I am however happy with the speakers, and those set to "Large" are actually run through the Sub and the Sub handles the bass management. That is described in the Polk weblink.
I have no doubt that there may be some midrange signal loss if you say so, but I really don't notice it. The only time I have any issues is with DTS/DD5.1 soundtracks and the center speaker dialogue. Other than that I am very happy with my speakers. Ignorance is bliss afterall Posted Image

I think what you are saying is a direct answer to why my center channel does not sound satisfying though. I take from your reply that you are happy with your center channel on DTS/DD5.1 soundtracks so I will probably just end up buying a better center channel.

Then of course I will be unhappy with my L and R speakers in comparison with my new center, and after 5 years of upgrading I will finally be replying to a newbie like me with the exact same response you just posted Posted Image
Thanks for the info! I plan on buying a good system when i reach 40, it is my 30th birthday today actually and this system will have to do until then. Thanks all for the discussion, very helpful, I am gonna go center speaker shopping for a bigger midrange speaker and see if I hear a difference.

#10 of 33 OFFLINE   Michael Reuben

Michael Reuben

    Studio Mogul



  • 21,769 posts
  • Join Date: Feb 12 1998

Posted June 19 2002 - 05:28 AM

Quote:
I guess my real question for all of you is do any of you not notice a difference when playing movies in stereo vs. DD5.1/DTS.

Generally, I find that dialogue audibility and intelligibility are superior with 5.1 soundtracks (both DD and DTS), because the center channel is encoded as discrete and doesn't have to be extracted from a 2-channel mix. I have different equipment, however. My center speaker is a Boston Accoustics VR-MC, which has a 5.25" woofer and is rated down to 60Hz (although I set the crossover for the center channel at 120Hz). (I'm also using a Lexicon MC-1, which has digital processing that's hard to beat.)

M.
COMPLETE list of my disc reviews.       HTF Rules / 200920102011 Film Lists

#11 of 33 OFFLINE   John Garcia

John Garcia

    Executive Producer



  • 11,548 posts
  • Join Date: Jun 24 1999
  • Real Name:John
  • LocationNorCal

Posted June 19 2002 - 05:39 AM

Quote:
and those set to "Large" are actually run through the Sub and the Sub handles the bass management. That is described in the Polk weblink

Ahhh, that is a different story, and makes much more sense. This probably sounds better for music then, and is a good way to perfectly blend the mains with the sub for these speakers. This is basically what Bose does - the crossover is built into the bass module. I'm not knocking your speakers, just trying to answer your question.

Quote:
I take from your reply that you are happy with your center channel on DTS/DD5.1 soundtracks

Yes. Posted Image, though I do agree with Glenn that sometimes dialogue is just a bit too low in comparison with the rest of the speakers, and I do have my center 1 dB higher than my mains to compensate for this occasional situation. Proper calibration is a key factor here.

Quote:
Then of course I will be unhappy with my L and R speakers in comparison with my new center

Not necessarilly. Again, with proper calibration, even a larger center should end up being ballanced proportionally with the other speakers. All you have to worry about is timbre matching, which should not be a huge deal if you stick with a Polk center, perhaps the updated RTi line.

*edit - I built my system by upgrading one or two pieces at a time, rather than buying everything all at once, so there is no problem with getting a center, then new mains, etc....Posted Image

Happy B-DAY!Posted Image
HT: Emotiva UMC-200, Emotiva XPA-3, Carnegie Acoustics CSB-1s + CSC-1, GR Research A/V-1s, Epik Empire, Oppo BDP-105, PS4, PS3,URC R-50, APC-H10, Panamax 5100 Bluejeans Cable
System Two: Marantz PM7200, Pioneer FS52s, Panasonic BD79
(stolen) : Marantz SR-8300, GR Research A/V-2s, Sony SCD-222ES SACD, Panasonic BD-65, PS3 60G (250G)

Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it’ll spend its whole life believing that it is stupid.” – Albert Einstein

 


#12 of 33 OFFLINE   Adam J

Adam J

    Stunt Coordinator



  • 64 posts
  • Join Date: Apr 02 2002

Posted June 19 2002 - 06:31 AM

Quote:
Generally, I find that dialogue audibility and intelligibility are superior with 5.1 soundtracks (both DD and DTS)

Hey now that's what I wanted to here, and the expectation I had. I would think it would sound better not worse, Thanks Michael. I got the Polk Speakers for less than $400 (including the sub) so some compromise was expected, but I just am not happy with the center channel dialogue at this point. Well looks like I can shop for a birthday present this weekend. Thanks guys.

#13 of 33 OFFLINE   chella

chella

    Stunt Coordinator



  • 67 posts
  • Join Date: Apr 16 2002

Posted June 19 2002 - 07:16 AM

Quote:
If I listen to the same DVD in Stereo or DPLII the voices sound much fuller to me.

I am not sure if I understand this right. Your L/R speakers have the *same* drivers as your center (in fact only 1 mid-range compared to 2 in the CC). But you like the vocals when they are played only via the L/R and not when they are played via the (L) C ® in DD. This rules out the speakers - since you do like the sound of the speakers! I am confused.. may be it just me and the lunch I had this afternoon Posted Image
Good luck.

#14 of 33 OFFLINE   Glenn Overholt

Glenn Overholt

    Producer



  • 4,207 posts
  • Join Date: Mar 24 1999

Posted June 19 2002 - 07:21 AM

Adam, why don't you swap the speaker cables for your center with one of the fronts, just to see if the center is now better? Could be cheaper.

Glenn

#15 of 33 OFFLINE   Adam J

Adam J

    Stunt Coordinator



  • 64 posts
  • Join Date: Apr 02 2002

Posted June 19 2002 - 08:13 AM

Quote:
But you like the vocals when they are played only via the L/R and not when they are played via the (L) C ® in DD.


5.1 plays the vocals only on the center channel
It is the only time the vocals ONLY come from the center channel. All other options (DPLII, Logic 7, Vmax) either play the L/R or L/C/R in a blend.

The only time the vocals sound a bit hollow is on 5.1 tracks that send the dialogue to the center channel only.

Quote:
why don't you swap the speaker cables for your center with one of the fronts, just to see if the center is now better?

Yeah I tried that too when I borrowed my friends JBL speaker. It did not fix the problem.

Also, I should point out I am not talking about "Low" sounding dialogue in comparison to the background sound and music. I think everyone notices that in some movies and most people just up their center a bit to even things out.

Anyhow, I will hopefully get to try a couple out this weekend and see what the difference is between my cheapo center and the larger models. Other than the center for dialogue I am very happy with this speaker set. I don't have a good ear for sound, or a high performance system to compare it to, but I am happy with my purchase overall considering the price.

Has anyone ever said you get what you pay for when buying speakers? Just wondering... :b

#16 of 33 OFFLINE   Greg_R

Greg_R

    Screenwriter



  • 1,998 posts
  • Join Date: Apr 09 2000
  • Real Name:Greg
  • LocationPortland, OR

Posted June 19 2002 - 08:59 AM

This sounds like you've got the polarity reversed on your center channel. Stereo sounds great (since the center is not used). When you listen to 5.1, the dialog sound empty and unfocused. Something is out of phase... check all of your speaker connections. Of course, a bad center will not help matters...

BTW, the imaging from your main speakers will outperform the center channel. The purpose of the center is to anchor the dialog to the screen for those viewers who are not sitting in the sweet spot. If you sit in the middle, "phantom center" mode should sound better.

#17 of 33 OFFLINE   John Garcia

John Garcia

    Executive Producer



  • 11,548 posts
  • Join Date: Jun 24 1999
  • Real Name:John
  • LocationNorCal

Posted June 19 2002 - 09:24 AM

Hmmm. I hadn't thought about polarity, however, if it sounded the same when you hooked it to the R/L wires, that should not be it. However, that got me thinking about other factors, such as your 5.1 settings. What are the settings on your DVD player? If you have it set to downmix or PCM, you may not actually be getting 5.1. Does the receiver say that it is receiving 5.1 signal? When I bought my new player, it was defaulted to D-PCM for the digital connection, and it sounded odd. It took me a while to figure out that this was happening, but I got it when I looked at the receiver's display, which would only give me DPL/PLII for what should have been 5.1 tracks.

I guess this should have been asked also - what DVD player are you using and with what connection?
HT: Emotiva UMC-200, Emotiva XPA-3, Carnegie Acoustics CSB-1s + CSC-1, GR Research A/V-1s, Epik Empire, Oppo BDP-105, PS4, PS3,URC R-50, APC-H10, Panamax 5100 Bluejeans Cable
System Two: Marantz PM7200, Pioneer FS52s, Panasonic BD79
(stolen) : Marantz SR-8300, GR Research A/V-2s, Sony SCD-222ES SACD, Panasonic BD-65, PS3 60G (250G)

Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it’ll spend its whole life believing that it is stupid.” – Albert Einstein

 


#18 of 33 OFFLINE   chella

chella

    Stunt Coordinator



  • 67 posts
  • Join Date: Apr 16 2002

Posted June 19 2002 - 10:20 AM

Polarity crossed my mind too, but I would not have expected you consistently make the same mistake - with JBL too. Have you tried changing the center speaker position, below the TV, aiming up or down, etc. Trying out with other models will definitely give you a sense of direction to a solution.

#19 of 33 OFFLINE   Adam J

Adam J

    Stunt Coordinator



  • 64 posts
  • Join Date: Apr 02 2002

Posted June 19 2002 - 10:43 AM

I originally had my center on the shelf below my tv. I have since bought some velcro and moved it on top of my tv (Screen ledge is not very big and one of the reasons I wanted to go with the smaller speakers). That really didn't fix the sound problem. I originally thought that was the cause of the problem.

The avia disk didn't detect any polarity problems, and I even tried switchin the wires just in case, but it didn't really make a difference to my ear to be honest. Maybe that is a problem in itself...

Definitely getting the 5.1 signal. I have a PS2 and a Sony DVD player hooked up and both will detect 5.1 signals. Both connected with Optical cables.

I even had to run brand new speaker wire when I moved my speaker from below the TV to above it, so I double checked the connections at both ends at this time. I even considered the possibility that my receiver may have been labeled wrong, but switching the wires around at either end should be enough to test this and as I stated, I didn't notice a difference.

#20 of 33 OFFLINE   Adam J

Adam J

    Stunt Coordinator



  • 64 posts
  • Join Date: Apr 02 2002

Posted June 21 2002 - 06:04 AM

Problem Resolved!

The Harman Kardon 120 does not send the Bass signal to the L and R speaker with the following setup:
Left = Large
Right = Large
Center = Small
Surrounds = Small
Sub = None

The center Seaker sounded a bit empty or hollow because the bass signal was being lost.

I found this out by buying an RCA cable and hooking up the Sub in the normal configuration rather than how Polk suggestions:
Left = Small
Right = Small
Center = Small
Surrounds = Small
Sub = Yes

Now the Right and Left do not sound as well blended as they did in the previous configuration. There is an improvement setting up the speakers as Polk recommends, however with my receiver (Other receivers may not do this) the Center Channel Bass signal is not re-routed to the Left and Right speaker when there is no Sub. It is still sent to the Sub (Which isn't there).

Anyhow, after making this change I find my L and R speakers sound about 89-93% as good as they originally did, and my Center sounds 35% better.

I am happy now with my system, small midrange loss speakers and all. I think everything sounds great.

I would guess that Polk tested these packaged surround speakers with some other receiver(s) that did not lose the bass signal when configured this way, and it wasn't really noticable on mine unless I was listening to 5.1 soundtracks.

This also explains why my friends JBL speaker sounded the same as mine and DPLII sounded great in comparison.


Back to Beginners, General Questions & HTiB (Home Theater in a Box)



Forum Nav Content I Follow