Center speaker or no center speaker?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Greg O' Connel, Dec 4, 2001.

  1. Greg O' Connel

    Greg O' Connel Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2000
    Messages:
    189
    Likes Received:
    0
    I've come across two opinions on the subject of the center channel:

    1.) The center speaker is the most important, and you should build your entire system around it. Not having one is not an option.

    2.) The center speaker is only important if you have a wide soundstage, and you're actually better off without one if your mains aren't spaced that far apart.

    I've caught upgrade fever, and I'm torn between replacing my really crappy center speaker with a good one, or eliminating the center speaker altogether and replacing my average mains with two good ones. My HT is in a small room, so I have a very small soundstage, with my mains only around 4 feet apart. I'm on a limited budget, so which option would give me the biggest bang for the buck?
     
  2. Greg_W

    Greg_W Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2001
    Messages:
    54
    Likes Received:
    0
    I would say that if you listen to mostly music, I would ditch the center and go for two good mains, watching movies in phantom mode. Of course I'm one of the people who doesn't really like center channels.[​IMG]
    Greg
     
  3. Chuck C

    Chuck C Cinematographer

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2001
    Messages:
    2,224
    Likes Received:
    1
    I hear that the center is necessary if you have a wide listening position. Thus, one isn't needed if you sit directly in the sweet spot.

    Based on that, chances are you'll need one.
     
  4. Brett Hancock

    Brett Hancock Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2001
    Messages:
    922
    Likes Received:
    0
    My mains are also only about 4 feet apart. When hooking up my system for the first time I decided to try it without the center channel just to see what it would sound like and then with it. It sounded so much better with the center channel. So I would recommend getting a center channel. Peace
     
  5. Arthur S

    Arthur S Cinematographer

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 1999
    Messages:
    2,568
    Likes Received:
    0
    The center is important for dialogue intelligibility with movies and naturalness of voice (especially for music on DVD). The other shortcoming of using your mains in phantom mode is the inability to change the volume of the center channel.

    Ultimately, you will need a decent center. In the September 2001 issue of Sound&Vision they reviewed 3 systems, one being the KLipsch Synergy. This is what the reviewer had to say about the Kkipsch center channel speaker. "The SC-1 center speaker gave tremendous presence to effects and dialogue, which was among the most intelligible I've heard. If you've ever watched a movie and missed a line of dialogue because it was swallowed up in the ambient sound, the Klipsch is your speaker".

    It just so happens that this $280 center is on sale at Vann's for $149 plus shipping. Mine should be here on Monday. You can call Vann's at 800 769 5668.

    At this price, I think you would be getting an excellent center that would last you a long time.

    Good Luck

    Artie
     
  6. Samuel Des

    Samuel Des Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Feb 7, 2001
    Messages:
    796
    Likes Received:
    0
    At first, I didn't notice much of a difference. My mains are almost 2 feet apart. But gradually, I noticed that it *does* make a difference in dialogue. It sounds odd, but over time, you will "learn" to hear this difference.

    I went through a similar "learning" process with surround modes. At first, I preferred 5-channel Theater mode. But I left my receiver on Logic 7 for a few weeks. When I went back to 5-channel, I realized how odd it was to have someone speak or sing to me from all five speakers. Dialogue up-front with ambient sounds all around is more "natural" sounding to me now.
     
  7. Alex F.

    Alex F. Second Unit

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 1999
    Messages:
    377
    Likes Received:
    0
    Given the choice between three "average" front speakers or two much better mains, especially if the system is intended for only 1-2 listeners, I would opt for the latter every time.

    In our theater room (using a high-end system), where all three front speakers are identical, I find that the center speaker is important when we have guests over and a few people sit well off the center line.

    But for one or two people only, overall imaging is better in the phantom mode. My wife and I both hear a clearly focused, highly detailed center image in the phantom mode.

    In our bedroom HT system, where the mains are five feet apart, I didn't even bother to obtain, nor want, a center speaker.

    Try this: Use your system in phantom mode (in some components, select center speaker "off" in the setup menu). Adjust the balance (or front left and right level) control so that you hear a TV newsperson's voice centered between the two speakers. If your component allows selection of mono, use it. Then, during a movie (recorded in stereo or multichannel audio), do you still hear general audio and voices in-between the mains? Is dialogue intelligible? If you answered yes to both questions, you don't need a center speaker, as you already are obtaining what a center speaker would provide.

    It wouldn't hurt to obtain the best mains you could and try them with and without the matching center speaker and see how it sounds to you, in your room. If you prefer the system with the center speaker, you could save up and buy it later (before the manufacturer discontinues making it, of course).

    Happy listening!
     
  8. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

    Joined:
    Jun 24, 1999
    Messages:
    11,571
    Likes Received:
    24
    Location:
    NorCal
    Real Name:
    John
    It really depends on whether you want emphasis on movies or music. If it's music, then a center will play much less of a roll, unless you will be listening to multi-channel music (DVD-A, SACD). If you want the "theater" experience, you will definitely want a center channel, regardless of the placement of the front speakers. The center does serve a purpose, and I wouldn't build a primary system without one (my bedroom system does not have or need one either).
     
  9. Jon_B

    Jon_B Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2000
    Messages:
    1,025
    Likes Received:
    0
     
  10. John DeSantis

    John DeSantis Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 1999
    Messages:
    202
    Likes Received:
    0
    The center is supposed to be for mainly dialogue but that's not the only sounds that comes out of it when playing DD. I think there is too much ambiant sound mixed in. That's why everyone complains about not hearing the actual dialogue very well. It's drowned out. ( levels are set correctly )

    My second setup downstairs has a cheap JVC receiver and the sound from the center is terrible. I play movies for kids etc. with the center off. Sounds much better. I've yet to see a system I liked no matter which center is used. Just my opinion.
     
  11. jacek p

    jacek p Agent

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2001
    Messages:
    36
    Likes Received:
    0
    John,

    I saw your complaint in a different thread. Please do not say "everyone". Actually mostly everyone disagrees with you.

    Greg,

    Why not upgrade all speakers. Pioneer and Direct Home Theatre make inexpensive speakers sounding as good as much more expensive ones from companies with "brand recognition".

    Cheers,
     
  12. Jeff Adams

    Jeff Adams Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 1999
    Messages:
    1,549
    Likes Received:
    0
    Like people have said, it depends on what you will be using your speakers for. Music,movies or both? In either case though, at least in my opinion, I would definately upgrade you main left and right speakers first. I think a good front soundstage in a system is a must. And you will notice a huge difference with better front speakers. What I did is Is started out with a good set of main speakers and then bought the center channel speaker to match my mains at a later date. The center channel would definately be the next upgrade after the mains. And I have heard a couple of people say that the center is not that big a deal. It is a huge deal in my book. It makes such a big difference. I listen to most of my music in stereo mode but if I leave it in stereo mode for dvd or watching movies or shows on satellite there is a definate void in my system. The center channel really makes or breaks a system. So whatever way you decide to go, make sure you match up your 3 fronts as close to each other as possible. Good luck.
     
  13. Dane_D

    Dane_D Extra

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2001
    Messages:
    15
    Likes Received:
    0
    I totaly agree with Jeff, a center channel is very important for 5.1 + movies. It is key to make sure that the center channel is a match of the 2 main speakers, the center does not have to be the same model, but the same brand and series is highly reccomended. I had Snell E.5 floors for the main and Boston Accoustics center, it sounded OK, but when I purchased the Snell CR.5 center channel, WOW!!!

    BTW my mains are only 4 1/2 feet apart...
     
  14. Christian Dolan

    Christian Dolan Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2001
    Messages:
    107
    Likes Received:
    0
    I would say that for movies a center is necessary. From what I've read, the people at Bell Labs (who did most of the important work with stereo in the first place) have always stated that a minimum of three speakers was a necessary for "accurate wavefront reconstruction". It was knocked back to two channels with a phantom center because that was all that was available with the dominant consumer technology at the time. However, a phantom channel only works within a limited "sweet spot" for a few people at a time. Additionally, all multichannel soundtracks (Dobly Stereo A on up) are intended to be reproduced with a center speaker. First, it alleviates the bandwidth load, so that the left and right mains don't have the burden of three channels. Second, the center channel is EQ'd for reproduction by a speaker. When you play a mono channel over two speakers, deconstructive interference occurs, reducing frequecies in the "presence" region (this is why most two-channel music sounds edgy when decoded through pro-logic: the rolloff that the engineers are counting on isn't there. This is part of the ongoing debate about the use of the center in the music community). Both movie and music engineers EQ for their respective intended playback scenarios.

    Thanks for letting me ramble.

    -Christian
     
  15. NathanP

    NathanP Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2001
    Messages:
    841
    Likes Received:
    0
    Dude,
    Keep the center, I find it really adds to the surround effect during movies..
    Especially when around novices, when hearing surround sound for the first time they say:
    "Whoa, all the sound is coming from the front, just like the movie theater"
    Thats pleasing [​IMG]
    Regards,
    Nathan
     
  16. Sean Conklin

    Sean Conklin Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2000
    Messages:
    1,720
    Likes Received:
    0
    I also prefer a center for my movies.
     
  17. Holadem

    Holadem Lead Actor

    Joined:
    Nov 4, 2000
    Messages:
    8,967
    Likes Received:
    0
    I am pro-center, but for 1 or two viewers only I would get the best mains I can afford, then add the center later, even if that takes several months.

    --

    Holadem
     
  18. Rich_B

    Rich_B Extra

    Joined:
    Sep 5, 2001
    Messages:
    20
    Likes Received:
    0
    I'll throw in something else to consider...relative placement of the center channel.

    If your main speakers are close together and your center channel ends up being significantly higher or lower, it may produce a disjointed soundstage depending on your listening position. Of course, you can aim your center channel to compensate, but you may or may not get complete cohesion.

    The (2) high quality speakers vs. (3) cheaper ones is a good argument too.

    Best bet is to buy a center from a no-hassle-return store and try it out. (Don't prejudice yourself with a poor timbre-matching center).

    I, myself, prefer a center channel to none, but I also have more widely spaced front speakers (10ft).
     
  19. Jeremy Anderson

    Jeremy Anderson Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 1999
    Messages:
    1,049
    Likes Received:
    0
    In my opinion, most people who say you shouldn't use a center channel never bothered to properly time align their front soundstage or just had a really crappy center speaker. When properly set up, the center channel can benefit the clarity of dialogue and placement of sound immensely.

    However, you should never skimp on the center speaker. Many cheapo center speakers have crappy crossovers and tend to transition poorly between the tweeter and mid, making dialogue seem anemic. Also, the center should be fairly neutral sounding (as all of your speakers should be).

    If you're buying now, definitely get great mains instead of two lesser mains and a center. You can add a center later, and you'll end up with a better system overall. Home theater isn't a hobby... it's a habit.
     
  20. ling_w

    ling_w Second Unit

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2001
    Messages:
    426
    Likes Received:
    0
    Christian,

     

Share This Page