Can't decide to have my Center speaker ON or OFF.

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Dom H, Aug 16, 2001.

  1. Dom H

    Dom H Agent

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    This is my first post for months, I've been away from the HTF for a while but it's good to be back, not sure if anybody will remember me. Anyway...
    The one thing about HT, particularly with my setup, that still baffles me is the pros and cons of using a center speaker, even more confusing viewing in the sweet spot.
    I understand the main purpose of a center to improve off-center listening, introduced in cinemas for that particular purpose correct?
    No, I view 90% from the sweet spot in my room, and here's my predicament, I can't decide which sounds better.
    I do have quite a good ear, being intrested in audio for a while now but it just sounds different, not better/worse.
    The center is situated on top of the telly, there's a big disadvantage for having a center, although it is isolated quite well.
    So I know from the off, most center speakers are at a major disadvantage buy their placement alone. I have also heard negative affects occur from mixing the center info into the mains, true?
    What I would like is those more knowlegable than me to give me a little technical info, giving the pros/cons of what sounds better, and why.
    Rarely I sit off center so I will definitely use the center then, I'm just a little confused about sweet-spot listening.
    Many Thanks
    Dom.
     
  2. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Studio Mogul

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  3. David Proud

    David Proud Stunt Coordinator

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    I can't decide what sounds better either anyone?
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  4. Ted Lee

    Ted Lee Lead Actor

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    here's the analogy i always use:
    when you hear someone talking, where is the sound coming from? obviously, it is coming directly from the person, not from the sides.
    also, when you go to the movies, where does all the dialogue come from (excluding "off-screen" dialogue)? again, from the middle, not from the sides.
    imo, you cannot have a ht experience without a dedicated center channel. i just don't see any other way. i guess you could use a phamtom made if you had to, but why would you? it would be like someone talking to you, but the sound not really coming from the "source".
    but, as always, let your ears decide. if you think it sounds fine without a center channel, then that's good enough for me!
    [​IMG]
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  5. Jack Gilvey

    Jack Gilvey Producer

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    Really, use whatever sounds better. The phantom center can overcome some problems , but it's all about what sounds better to you, not what is technically correct.
    And, again, a system that images properly (key) will not have voices coming from the sides with a phantom center (just like a good stereo setup won't...simple), they will be perfectly placed right in between the mains, typically centered right on the screen, rather than above.
    Go with what you like.
     
  6. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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    For music, I prefer 2ch stereo. (I waited for DPL II, and I still prefer 2ch stereo!)
    For HT I MUCH prefer having a center channel. The main thing, IMO, is to tune the center to blend in perfectly with the mains. If it overpowers them, and draws your attention to it, I feel it detracts from the experience. It should sound like it is all one speaker, with some directionality, with the exception of dialogue.
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  7. Dom H

    Dom H Agent

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    I suppose this question is in the same vein as 'are center rear 7.1, 8.1 etc necessary'
    What I have noticed with 5.1 systems, the center is usually inferior to the mains due to orientation and room positioning. Most speakers sound better vertical and on some sort of stand, unlike the center which is usually horz on top of a unit or the tv.
    So to expand the question, is 4 speakers all that's needed (not including sub) for the pefect HT experience?
    thanks
     
  8. Bob McElfresh

    Bob McElfresh Producer

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    Here is my guess/opinion on your issue:
    You have your L/R speakers angled to provide a good image for 2-channel music. Since you listen to a lot of music, you are very familar with how this sounds.
    Then you fire up a DVD. Now, most of the sound comes from the center with occasional support from the L/R speakers.
    This is different from what you are used to so it sounds funny.
    Here is my Theory (open to the group to comment [​IMG]):
    Speakers need to be adjusted DIFFERENTLY for HT vs Music!
    Dom, try this:
    Get a inexpensive laser-pointer. Get a long one like a pen, not the stubby key-chain versions.
    Roll the pointer on a flat surface with the beam on and make sure the spot on the wall moves horizontal and does not make little circles as you roll the laser. Try different ones until you find one that has the beam and the body aligned.
    Go to your system and hold the laser along side your L/R speakers. Fire the beam and have a friend put a piece of tape on the far wall where the beam strikes. Mark the exact spot with a pen. Repeat for the other speaker.
    (Now you can put your speakers back to their exact alignment later).
    My guess is your L/R speakers are adjusted so they intersect 1-2 feet IN FRONT of the sweet spot. This is typical for music systems.
    Now, adjust the angle of your L/R speakers so the sound from each intersects 1 foot BEHIND the sweet spot.
    Fire up a modern movie like Star Trek:Insurrection and listen for a while. Turn off the TV so you can focus on the sound. (Note: Insurrection is one of the newer movies that send dialog to the L/R speakers if the actors are on the edges of a scene.)
    My guess is your system will now sound more like a movie-theater. Your attention will be pulled to the L/R when the movie put sounds to one or the other speakers.
    It will sound funny at first, but give it some time.
    My guess is that you will return your speakers to their original positions so you dont mess up the music soundstage.
    Note: You HAVE adjusted the levels of your 3 front speakers with a SPL meter, right? I'm assuming you have done this.
     
  9. Robert A. Willis Jr.

    Robert A. Willis Jr. Second Unit

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    This topic has been written about in both Sterophile, the Perfect Vision and other magazines. I went about a year using the phantom center mode because I couln't afford a center channel that would complement my mains (Martin Logan Quests). As long as I was in the sweet spot the imaging was excellent. Move out of the sweet spot and voices came from one side or the other.
    This the main contribution of the center channel. The main deficiencies are:
    1. Most are small and not capable of properly producing all of the frequency (especially low-middle frequencies, which are usually above the crossover level adjustments AV pre's allow). The perception that the center channel doesn't contain much low level energy is patently false.
    2. It is very difficult to match them with your mains. Even centers made for certain mains can be troublesome to set up.
    If you can't tell the difference with or without AND no one else watches movies with you, then flip a coin. If someone sits out of the sweet spot to watch your movies, then the center channel is necessary.
    rw
     
  10. Dom H

    Dom H Agent

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    Hey thanks for the suggestions guys,
     
  11. Ted Lee

    Ted Lee Lead Actor

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    dom -
    i think some people would agree that, in a perfect world, all your speakers would be identical.
    i suspect that what you're hearing are the performance differences between your mains and center. since your mains have bigger drivers and enclosures, i'm not surprised to hear you say you're getting more detail from them.
    here's a funky experiment. hook up one of your mains to your center channel and see how it sounds!
     
  12. Ted Lee

    Ted Lee Lead Actor

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    ooops...sorry dom. i just re-read your post and realized you're using the same speakers on all 5 channels. i guess that just blew my previous post out of the water! [​IMG]
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  13. Dom H

    Dom H Agent

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    No they r not all the same, same series
     
  14. Marty Neudel

    Marty Neudel Stunt Coordinator

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    Dom and David,
    may I offer two suggestions:
    1 - when it comes to sound quality always trust your own ears, even over the advice of the world's greatest experts.
    2 - if both setups offer equally acceptable sound, go with the simpler solution - two front channels.
    Marty
     

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