Center Channel Discussion

Discussion in 'Speakers & Subwoofers' started by EdNichols, Sep 30, 2004.

  1. EdNichols

    EdNichols Second Unit

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    I see a lot of discussion about subs and mains in this forum. The center channel is supposed to be the most important speaker in HT. I know it is supposed to be timbre matched with the mains. Apparently, just because the mains sound good does not mean that the center will sound good. I have read more than once where the center that matched the mains did not sound good. That being the case, have you ever built your system around the center? If so, what is the best center channel you have heard? If not, why would you base your system on the mains if the center is the most important speaker? I realize that ideally you would want identical speakers across the front but then don't you have problems with horizontal vs vertical displacement of sound?
     
  2. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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    IMO, it depends on your listening habits. If you listen to 100% movies, I suppose the center is one of the most important speakers. I listen to more music than movies, so the mains were my focus. One of the reasons I went with my speakers though, is because there is no matching center - all three front speakers are identical for me: GR Research A/V-2S (Cherry).

    Though it carries the majority of dialogue and front information, I personally don't feel the center is the most important speaker. Having an good match between the mains is very important, and I would give equal weight to the three as if they were one speaker.
     
  3. AlanZ

    AlanZ Screenwriter

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    My center speaker was so important to my system that I got rid of it [​IMG] You'll find that the majority of people will advocate a proper center speaker - ideally having three of the same across the front stage like John has - but there are a few of us who run a phantom center and are more than happy that way. I found that when my speaker upgrades got to a certain level of quality (in this case, the studio line from Paradigm), I actually found myself being confused at times wondering whether or not the center channel was on. What I found was that if I keep my mains at 8' apart or less, I actually like my system better without the center channel. The only way I'll go back to one is if I can do what John suggested and have three identical mains across the front. I know you'll probably end up with a center speaker, but I'm just putting this idea in your head because most people on here will advise you to always go by what YOU hear over what anyone else hears. Good luck!
     
  4. Mike OConnell

    Mike OConnell Second Unit

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    I have recently “experimented” going without a center channel. I am switching my three front speakers from Paradigm Studio 60 V2 and a CC to Dynaudio Contour S3.4’s and a SC.

    I moved the Paradigm 60’s to 2-channel duty on the main floor where there is no TV and sold the CC.

    I purchased the 3.4’s used and initially installed them with the CC as the center channel and when I sold the CC, I now have a phantom center channel. I just picked up my S C today, so I can’t comment on its integration with the mains as it has yet to be hooked up.

    However, as long as I am the only one watching a movie the phantom center channel sounds great – in fact it sounded better without the CC than with the CC matched with the 3.4’s. At the sweet spot, the front soundstage was fantastic with just the 3.4’s – as long as you stayed in the sweet spot. Once you moved out of the sweet spot the soundstage disappeared and the dialogue sounded as if it came directly from the nearest speaker instead of from the screen.

    In short, if you mainly watch movies alone and can sit in the sweet spot – no need to get a center channel.

    If you have larger groups watching movies, the center channel will be an important part of fixing the dialogue to the screen. I also feel that getting a center channel that is very close to the mains in timbre (typically using the same tweeter is the most important element) is important to a cohesive front soundstage.

    Good luck,
    Mike
     
  5. Eric D Wong

    Eric D Wong Stunt Coordinator

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    I'm in the boat that I feel for HT use a center is necessary. I've tried the Phantom center and its usually the "sound image" isnt anchored enough to the center and usually the stuff like vocals come out huge.

    I'm in a particularly difficult situation cause I have 6 foot tall Magneplanars with 5 foot true ribbon tweeters. Even Magnepan's best center does not exactly match the center cause its a different orientation and the tweeter is a different design alltogether. I tried the phantom center, but I didnt like the result. The central stuff was huge and if I tried to "focus the speakers" by moving them closer together the soundstage collapsed.

    My decision was to move the magnepan system over to a music only system and then use a Polk LSi system for my HT, cause I cant use a front projector I'm itching to buy when the speakers are 6 feet high x 2 ft wide.

    I personally like the idea of having identical L C R speakers, but I'll settle for identical drivers.
     
  6. Mort Corey

    Mort Corey Supporting Actor

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    I wonder if a phantom center channel might be more acceptable using omni-directional mains? It would seem that the issue of having to be in a sweet spot might be negated.

    Mort (that's been looking at omni directional speakers lately)
     
  7. AlanZ

    AlanZ Screenwriter

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    Well, the point Mike made not only indicated that I'm a loner with no friends who watches movies by himself more often than not (lol), but it also was very valid. That's one of the other drawbacks to not having a center. I can tell you that with the Paradigm (I say the brandname for Wayne's benefit lol) studio/100s, there was a pretty large sweet spot. I first got those speakers before my divorce, and my ex-wife and I sat in oversized Queen Anne chairs that kept us on the outer edges of the prime listening area. It still sounded great without the center. And like I said, if you don't have good quality speakers up front, it won't work. But yeah, if you have people sitting at more of an angle to the display, then a center is probably advantageous.....though I would argue that sitting well outside of the sweet spot sucks anyway lol.

    My original point was just to keep it in mind and add it to your list of things to try......cause when I upgrade to the (Paradigm.....again, for Wayne) S2s, it will save me a lot of money not having to have a center or another (Outlaw) M200 to power it. That's $2500 worth of dvds man [​IMG] Just don't think you HAVE to have a center channel or the HT police will come get you....if it works better in your system to have one, then great. I just like to encourge people to try different things in order to find what they like best......well, except for subs. SVS is the be all and end all of subs. SVS is like death and taxes....it's one of life's sure bets [​IMG]
     
  8. John-Tompkins

    John-Tompkins Second Unit

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    Ed,

    I agree with you..The center is soooo important imo, Even if your only 50 % HT.
    Over 60~70% of the sound from movies come from the center alone. Getting dialog right is almost as tuff as getting your two channel right. Its almost impossible to have a phantom center unless you watch movies by yourself all the time [​IMG]
    I just went from three matched front channels (nht m5's) which created an excellant seemless soundstage by the way to my current setup consisting of Aerials.

    I love the aerials regardless of the center channel but when I heard the aerial cc-3 and cc-5 center channel speakers I know I HAD to have it.

    If your looking for the best center channel available regardless of price then look at the aerial cc-5 ( weighs 100 lbs and is very large so keep this in mind )..Its just absolutely freakin mind-blowing how well it performs, not to mention build quality. Oh, and its a beeyatch to drive..85 db effeciency and 4 ohms with two 8.9 inch woofers ! shew
    The other center channel that I havent heard but is ranked among the best is the Revel voice.
    Imo shopping center channel first makes alot of sense for people on this board.
     
  9. gene c

    gene c Producer

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    I also think the center speaker is more important, but the reason is that, to me, it is over used. Or perhaps the mains/surrounds are under used, at least for most movies. In any event, I agree the front three should be the same (DTS suggests all five be identical), but sometimes it's not possible. Speaker size (a tower on your TV?) or asthetics could be a problem. In June, I bought Polk RTi 6's for the fronts, a CSi3 for the center and a pair of RTi4's for surrounds. Two days later the CSi3 was swapped for the larger CSi5 which has the same size drivers as the 6's. I really wanted 6's for the rears too, but they were a little too large for the spot I needed to put them.
     
  10. Ryan Tsang

    Ryan Tsang Second Unit

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    John:

    I've always been interested in Aerial, but don't have the funds to step into the high-end arena. Their cabinetry looks first rate and they have a reputation to match.

    I wouldn't mind scoring a used CC3, but buying a speaker (a center channel no less!) unheard is kinda risky. How would you describe the sound of the Aerial CC3? I have a pair of Hales Revelation Twos, which I don't plan to replace. I would describe them as neutral, slightly polite, not overly revealing, definitely not fatiguing. Monitor Audio Silver series I would consider to be fast, revealing, forward in presentation, may be fatiguing with mainstream/alternative cds (not audiophile/adult/new age/jazz/blues stuff). Paradigm Reference V2 I would describe as neutral to bright, slightly raucous when thrown complex material. Reference 3A MM de Capos are extremely clean, detailed, and revealing. How might the CC3 fit against my experiences with above brands?
     
  11. John-Tompkins

    John-Tompkins Second Unit

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    This is how Id descibe the aerial sonics..But to me, somehow aerial is also very detailed and dynamic..I havent listened to to many other speakers that can pull this off.

    I wouldnt put aerials in the thiel,klipsh,martin logan group. If you did a search of aerials, the overlying sonic concept you'd get was polite, maybe a little warm..A few think maybe a bit too polite.

    Also the cc5 ( and maybe the cc3 but Im not positive) aerial centers have environment switches on back to adjust things like, close placement to walls, on a shelf, in-wall etc and also switches to cut/boost treble bass etc. Aerial says that you can tweek it in to match in almost any speaker system. Mike Kelly of Aerial told me that, they get a huge amount of people buying thier centers that have all together different mains.
     
  12. paul clipsel

    paul clipsel Stunt Coordinator

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    Both CC3 and CC5 had this feature.

    PC
     
  13. Ryan Tsang

    Ryan Tsang Second Unit

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    sounds like a good match to my Hales! Thanks guys! However, the used ones floating around audigon now are the older ones (CC3 not CC3b) without the EQ.
     
  14. ErichH

    ErichH Screenwriter

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    Ed

    We're on the same wavelength.

    My last 2 speaker sets were focused on the center as the first order of business. I listen to music as well as HT, so matching the mains and arriving at a desired point of performance would not be easy.

    A 3 way system would be a minumum. I was sick of half baked MTM designs that were designed to `fit' easily. I wanted something that would hold it's own with the mains.

    My first attempt was the Rocket 200 and 750 front. A very exciting system at the time. The 750's were outstanding, and the 200 quite good, but the mid driver in the 200 did not suit my tastes.

    1 year later it was a test with ACIs Prodege center, but I quickly moved to the Essence. The 200 spoiled me with it's size and performance. The Essence, even better with a finer set of drivers and a sealed design that works in my setup.
    I did spend some time with the Large B&W 3 way. It's a fine speaker, but it did not impress after hearing the Essence.

    Paired with a Panorama front and Sapphire rears, I now have a flexible system for music 2 track, DVD Audio and HT that can go the distance for my needs.

    The center was the most important choice for me. ACI just happened to have great choices for the rest of the set.
    E
     

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