Comments on 'not' using a Center speaker

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Dom H, Jan 29, 2002.

  1. Dom H

    Dom H Agent

    Joined:
    Dec 17, 2000
    Messages:
    48
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    If this as been discussed before or if there are any articles on the net anywhere I'd be intested to see them.

    What are people's general opinion on center speakers? Are they a trade off in dialogue clarity?

    Are there any inherant problems with the reciever mixing the center info into the mains?

    Are similar priced centers always inferior to the mains?

    Does the situation change if you only view from the sweet spot?

    Many Thanks
     
  2. Ron Shaw

    Ron Shaw Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Dec 4, 2001
    Messages:
    142
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    You definitely want to use a center channel speaker. I find that using the 'phantom' center channel setup seriously wanting in clarity. Even a cheap center channel speaker is better than the phantom mode.
     
  3. RicP

    RicP Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Feb 29, 2000
    Messages:
    1,126
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
     
  4. Mark Austin

    Mark Austin Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 1999
    Messages:
    639
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    I would have to echo Ric's statements. I have heard several systems that use the phantom center mode, and they sound wonderful. I haven't bothered to try it on my system as I am afraid I will like the phantom mode too much, and that will cause BIG problems with my wife after the amount I spent on the center channel.[​IMG]
     
  5. Drew Eckhardt

    Drew Eckhardt Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    May 10, 2001
    Messages:
    246
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    This is a hot topic of debate. In one camp you have people who argue that you need a center channel even if it means using the $2.50 parts built into a television. In the other, are those who are free of center channels by choice. I think those in the first category who sit on-axis haven't heard a decent two-channel setup where "decent" is as much a function of speaker&seat placement as it is the speakers and electronics involved.

    I have my mains placed well (about 3' in from the screen wall, 4' from the sides, 7' apart, and sit about nine feet back). My listening seat is a good 8' off the back wall and 7.5' from the side walls. At normal levels (anything beyond reference -40 to -35) either pair (the NHT1.3 monitors or Definitive BP8s) is much clearer than a center channel (C1) on top of the TV, and still a bit better than with the center vertically mounted on the floor a foot in front of the TV (I was offended enough to keep the center off until I moved it there). The bipoles image imprecisely so voices have a bit less width with the center; although the center image isn't noticeably more focused with the NHTs.

    With a center, everything doesn't collapse off to the side if you sit off center and you can bump the volume a few dB to help in very quiet situations although clarity isn't an issue.

    If any speaker or listener is too close to a solid object (mains bracketing a rear porjection setup are a very bad idea, and a couch against a wall isn't good either) you're going to have problems with early reflections.
     
  6. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 1998
    Messages:
    21,763
    Likes Received:
    2
    Trophy Points:
    0
     
  7. EricHaas

    EricHaas Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2001
    Messages:
    667
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Obviously, as the other posters have indicated, it depends on the quality of the mains vs. the quality of the center. A phantom center might sound better if you have great mains vs. a poor to average quality center. I will offer this regarding my system. I have Paradigm Studio 20's as mains and a Studio-CC as a center. The Studio 20's are excellent at imaging, really couldn't be any better. But the system sounds much better with the center than without. This is particularly so with off-axis viewing for keeping voices to the screen, but also true even in the sweet spot, as the front sound stage seems much fuller. It is a better surround experience for me. But perhaps this is because the Studio CC is a very good center, and is well matched with and up to par with my 20's.
     
  8. Tim Hess

    Tim Hess Second Unit

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2001
    Messages:
    331
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    What Mark Austin said [​IMG]
    Though really Mark, would she know it's not being used? Just turn it off/unplug it [​IMG]
    Worst part is, you will never know if it sounds better or not to you until you actually have a center channel speaker to judge :
     
  9. Mal P

    Mal P Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2000
    Messages:
    127
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    RicP,

    I completely agree with your sentiments. I have a very good two-channel setup, and when I bought the centre speaker, I hated it. It sounded so unnatural, even after proper calibration.

    The best part of having a good two channel is ability to create that centre image without actually using a centre speaker - and have it sound better. This was my case, and I've since sold off my centre speaker. The tonal balance, the integration of sounds... it is now perfect.

    Sincerely,

    Mal
     
  10. Dick Fitzwell

    Dick Fitzwell Auditioning

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2002
    Messages:
    5
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    hmmm,

    I have to try this phantom center thing, me thinks that if my eyes are closed that it will sound good. But if I open them and see the TV screen with the voices coming from the side, I'll know I'm not simulating a theater situation.
     
  11. mctague

    mctague Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 1999
    Messages:
    113
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    While I tend to agree center speakers sound nowhere near as good as mains, getting decent imaging out of a typical HT configuration isn't always a given. Big screen RPTV between the speakers (in my case), or a jumbo HT center, wives not wanting speakers 3 feet off the rear walls...whatever the case may be, successful phantom centers are the exception IMHO.

    Though I must admit to listening to all my concert DVDs in stereo.....cause everyone is right: the centers just don't sound natural!
     
  12. RicP

    RicP Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Feb 29, 2000
    Messages:
    1,126
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
     
  13. Shad R

    Shad R Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2001
    Messages:
    536
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    for 5.1 music dvd's, I prefer the center off...for movies, I think it sounds better on. just my .02 cents.
     
  14. John DeSantis

    John DeSantis Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 1999
    Messages:
    202
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    As far as using the Center goes...

    I posed a question awhile back questioning whether the 5.1 mix was correct. What I mean is, that I think too much info is sent to the Center. I felt that even after a correct calibration (used Meter ) that I had trouble hearing dialogue. If I cranked it up then non- dialogue sound was too intense. Most of the responses I got was that this was a question of Dynamic range. I needed to change the setting. I did but then wasn't satisfied with the explosions etc. Seemed like I was missing the intended impact. Why can't they mix these movies and just put mainly dialoge into the Center. It's got too much other sound info in opinion and that's why there's the problem hearing..

    Then, I bought a cheap JVC VBK 6010 for my downstairs setup. The sound from the Center channel was terrible, It was like the Speaker was shot. All the other Channels were OK. After trying different speakers, settings, wires, I finally turned it off. I then started watching some Movies. Guess what? I really liked the sound. I could hear the dialogue better and didn't have to turn down the dynamic range. I'm going to try this on my main setup but like others, I almost don't want it to sound good.
     
  15. Martin G

    Martin G Second Unit

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2001
    Messages:
    336
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    I think one of the basic rules is that if your center channel doesn't match up exactly with your mains you are better off running in phantom mode.

    A cheap center shannel with good pair of main speakers will only make things sound un-matched and un-natural.

    Of course if you have a matching center I think you will find its adds better imaging and a wider sound stage.

    Especially in movies.

    I was amazed at the difference in sound that I got when I went to a perfectly matching enter channel.
     
  16. Zbigniew

    Zbigniew Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2000
    Messages:
    185
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Center channel ?

    Great for movies.... not needed for music.

    After properly positioning mains for best stero imaging, I no longer use center channel for music. Logic 7 when distributed via 6.1 system (no center channel) is still fantastic....

    _zjt
     
  17. Dom H

    Dom H Agent

    Joined:
    Dec 17, 2000
    Messages:
    48
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Thanks guys, a few more questions.
    Most companies produce a matching center that goes with the mains and costs aproxamately the same as the mains. Will these centers ever sound as good as the mains.
    In my opinion, no. Center speakers are far too compromised by their placement/design.
    I don't think I've ever heard a center that sounded AS good as the equivalent mains.
    What I usually do is flick the setting for the center between on/off on a particularly dialoguey scene. It's very easy to compare the clarity.
    Someone may have mentioned this but I have noticed when I do this, the dialog (even though my levels are calibrated) volume jumps up and down when I switch. Once I re-adjust the levels so they remain constant when I flick between on/off, the comparison is easy.
    I know exactly what people mean when they say they don't 'want' it to sound better. [​IMG]
     
  18. ken thompson

    ken thompson Second Unit

    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2000
    Messages:
    251
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    I am going to share something many people will probably disagree with. This is what works best for me. I hear folk talking about properly calibrated center channels. By this I'm assuming they mean all set at equal levels. Well I believe this completely wrong. If you set the center speaker lower than the mains you will essentially get the clarity of your higher quality mains with the lower set center used as essentially a "sweet spot adjustment". By this I mean the center speaker should be adjusted such that it widens the sweet spot just enough to encompass your seating set up. If you always watch movies by yourself and can have a single seat directly front and center of your TV and mains than you will OK without the center. Since this is likely not the case in most peoples homes the center is used to widen the sweetspot. I usually have my center set 5 clicks lower than my mains.
     
  19. John DeSantis

    John DeSantis Stunt Coordinator

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 1999
    Messages:
    202
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Ken: With your center set so low how can hear dialogue? I'm always tempted to bump it up. I still feel DVD movies aren't mixed correctly for home use. I really don't know the technical aspects of mixing these tracks but I assume what we play is identical to the sound track in a Theatre. But look at the mass of speakers they use for center channels. No way can we get that experience. I've yet to hear a HT setup I like. It doesn't matter the quality of the speakers or components. Just too much sound info from the center... IMHO
     
  20. ken thompson

    ken thompson Second Unit

    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2000
    Messages:
    251
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Well, if I do have trouble hearing dialogue then I increase the volume to the center to compensate. I find nearly every movie requires its own mix of center and mains to optimize the sound stage. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I consider the center channel simply a very expensive "tweak" rather than an integral component to a 5.1 set-up. And I do agree one is better off without a center than to simply slap a cheap one in there. The VR12 center I'm using in my opinion is superior to most speakers people are using as mains in that price range.
     

Share This Page