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How important is the center channel? (1 Viewer)

sam37

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And by that, I mean, how much emphasis should be placed on this speaker when buying one?

A little background. I recently bought a set of Paradigm Monitor 9 speakers and a DSP-3200 sub. Now, the 9's I bought are of an "older" style. If you go to Paradigms website, you will see a set of Monitor 9's that have 2 mid drivers and a bass driver, as well as a tweeter. My 9's only have 1 mid driver and 1 bass driver, and a tweeter.

Now, on the Paradigm site, the recommended center channel for the 9's (the ones they show) is the CC-390, which has 4 5-1/4" bass drivers, 2 3-1/2" midrange and 1 tweeter. Since I have an older set, i'm wondering if getting the CC-290 would be a better match. The CC-290 has 2 5-1/4" bass drivers, 1 3-1/2" midrange and 1 tweeter.

I went ahead and bought the CC-390, but am wondering if I could have gotten the same..or even better performance out of the CC-290. If so, it is something I can exchange. Or is it a case that "bigger is better" when it comes to the center channel.

The salesman told me that the center channel is the most important speaker of your whole system, and that like 85% of all your sound comes from the center channel. Is this true?

Appreciate any advice.

Thanks
 

JohnRice

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What the salesman said is kind of a half-truth sales pitch. The center is certainly important, but the importance is for voice matching to the left/right. Voice matching isn't really a factor of the number of drivers, so much as the drivers themselves, plus the crossover, construction and such. So, what is important is that the drivers, mainly the tweeter and mid match, at least closely, what is in your other speakers. From what you say, the 290 and 390 are probably about equally matched, or poorly matched to the task. If the ones you got don't match well, neither will the 290s. The 390s will just handle more power and provide higher potential output.
 

john seitz

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I'm not familiar with that series.... BUT I agree with the sales person as long as:


- you have a good clean yet powerful amp or AVr (which I'll assume you do as those speakers are not "cheap"

- you have the space for a big center channel

- the drivers in the older design are similar in the newer model, and IMHO they would have to be drastic to hear any change from L to R


Main reason I'd get the better/bigger center is that you will in theory like your speakers longer with less need to upgrade. but that is just me 3 cents worth :)
 

gene c

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I don't think it is. Properly matching the sound with the mains is more important. I would think the center that has the same driver configuration with the mains would be the one to go with. But the best way to tell would be to audition both. Keep the one that matches better and send the other back. If that's an option.
 

Ed Moxley

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I, personally, like a center channel speaker. But, lots of people never buy one, and sets the center to "off" (in receiver's setup menus), which creates a "Phantom Center". So, center channel isn't most important to everyone. Most dialog does come from the center though.
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sam37

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My mistake, the bass drivers for the CC290 and 390 are 6.5" and not 5.25", and the midrange are 4.5" and not 3.5"

In the "new" monitor 9's, the bass and midrange drivers are all 6.5", and I think in the older style, the ones that I have, they are 7.25"
 

Jeff Gatie

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But the fact that some set up a phantom center doesn't diminish the need for a quality timbre-matched center channel if you do choose to use one.

To the OP, go for a timbre matched center before a more capable center. If the speakers are timbre matched across product lines, then your budget should dictate the choice.
 

JohnRice

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Just to reiterate, Jeff echoes my sentiments. "The center channel is the most important speaker" is a sales pitch to get you to buy the most expensive speaker. The center is important, but it needs to timbre match the front.
 

sam37

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I don't guess I know what "timbre matching" is. Maybe someone could explain it for me?

I'm not sure how to approach this, as I dont want the center channel to overpower the other speakers. The monitor 9's use the CC-390 as their "recommended" center channel according to the Paradigm website, however, if you look at the monitor 9 speakers, on the right there is a link for "matching centers" and the CC190, CC290, and CC390 are all listed. It would be easy I guess, if the 9's I got were the same as the ones shown on their website, but they are not. The 9's I got have 1 less speaker in them, but the speakers that are in the cabinets are slightly larger than the ones shown on their website.

I sent an email to Paradigm asking them what they thought, but havent heard a reply from them yet.
 

JohnRice

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Timber matching means, in very basic terms, that the speakers "sound" the same. You can't really tell this by looking at them. My guess is either speaker will work, the 390 will just have higher maximum output. Don't worry about the center "overpowering" the others. You calibrate the entire system to match sound levels.
 

Jeff Gatie

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Speakers can have differences in "timbre" or tone. The can be bright or dulll or harsh or boomy, etc. Having the same tone for all your speakers makes for a better system because there are no changes in sound when the audio pans across the screen..
 
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Why does the center speaker itself need to "timbre match" the front drivers so well. They don't share the vocals, in which case of course they would certainly. Most of the time the vocal content is damn near 100% in the center channel while the left and right have none. Why is it SOOOO important that they have this precise and advanced characteristic you are talking about? Of course it's imortant that your speakers match somewhat, but you make it sound like it's dire.

And as far as vocal panning, it's not that often and doesn't seem the most crucial that it sounds perfect as it pans between speakers. For something obvious like the THX deep note starting in the left surround and and spreading it would be pretty obvious if you had poorly matched speakers. But that's a blatant pan and more noticable than stuff like vocal panning.

You make it sound like the center and fronts are sharing the vocals a lot, which they are not.
 

gene c

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Once again, it depends on the source material and how it's processed (I often watch tv shows in DTS Neo:6 Music mode). Concert dvd's are a good example. Lots of vocals in the fronts as well as the center. And even though most dialog seems to come from the center a good chunk finds it's way into the fronts, and even the surrounds on occasion, like when someone enters a room from the back and walks towards the front while talking all the way. And there's action movies where things are flying all over the place. Planes should sound consistent as they fly from the left, thru the center, and to the right. Front to back as well. Keeping at least the front three as identical as possible just makes sense. And most certainly with surround sound music they should all be from the same brand/series.
 
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Thanks yes I know it's certainly not a bad thing to have these things match. Do you suppose that thenceforth 5 completely unrelated super high end cost no issue audio speakers would possible sound worse than five moderately priced matched speakers?

And with the center channel/dialogue; just the other day I had a movie playing while configuring speakers and I had the center speaker disconnected for a few minutes in Pirates of the Carribean, during a scene towards the beginning (can't remember exactly what part it was the projector was not on) but it was so weird because there were ABsolutely NO dialougue at all, just the sound of waves and birds and ambience. And actually; let me tell you, all that other sound did seem exaggerated and unconvincing without being able to follow dialougue and video. That just goes to show how developmental surround sound still is. What I mean is the waves were literally unconvincing, like you could tell it was mixed, almost to cleanly, like there would be one wave suddenly more clear and located in a specific channel. Grrr I'm going on and finding it hard to explain what i mean. I'll have to think about it and start a new thread.
 

kujomujo

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Originally Posted by Jeff Gatie

Speakers can have differences in "timbre" or tone. The can be bright or dulll or harsh or boomy, etc. Having the same tone for all your speakers makes for a better system because there are no changes in sound when the audio pans across the screen..
Absolutely right... it's called "timbre matching"... all 3 speakers in the front made by the "same company"... believe it or not, you can tell the difference as I've tried different makes of speakers in the front of my theater.

KM
http://www.myhometheatersecrets.com/
 

gene c

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Do you suppose that thenceforth 5 completely unrelated super high end cost no issue audio speakers would possible sound worse than five moderately priced matched speakers?
Might not sound worse but it wouldn't sound right.


And with the center channel/dialogue; just the other day I had a movie playing while configuring speakers and I had the center speaker disconnected for a few minutes in Pirates of the Carribean, during a scene towards the beginning (can't remember exactly what part it was the projector was not on) but it was so weird because there were ABsolutely NO dialougue at all, just the sound of waves and birds and ambience. And actually; let me tell you, all that other sound did seem exaggerated and unconvincing without being able to follow dialougue and video. That just goes to show how developmental surround sound still is. What I mean is the waves were literally unconvincing, like you could tell it was mixed, almost to cleanly, like there would be one wave suddenly more clear and located in a specific channel.

That's why I keep saying that it depends on the source material, and how it's mixed. And losing one speaker in a surround sound setup (or poor calibration) can really screw things up.
 

Jason Charlton

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Originally Posted by DanChristensen

Why does the center speaker itself need to "timbre match" the front drivers so well. They don't share the vocals, in which case of course they would certainly. Most of the time the vocal content is damn near 100% in the center channel while the left and right have none. Why is it SOOOO important that they have this precise and advanced characteristic you are talking about? Of course it's imortant that your speakers match somewhat, but you make it sound like it's dire.
And as far as vocal panning, it's not that often and doesn't seem the most crucial that it sounds perfect as it pans between speakers. For something obvious like the THX deep note starting in the left surround and and spreading it would be pretty obvious if you had poorly matched speakers. But that's a blatant pan and more noticable than stuff like vocal panning.
You make it sound like the center and fronts are sharing the vocals a lot, which they are not.

Actually, prior to your post, only 1 person in this thread (post #2 made over 18 months ago) mentioned vocals. There's A LOT more than just vocals in the front soundstage and it's important that ALL sounds maintain the same tonal qualities across the entire soundstage.

As Gene has mentioned, when it comes to digital multichannel audio, it's all in the mixing, which is by no means constrained to any "rules" or rigid guidelines. Like any art form, audio mixing is a highly creative endeavor.

I've followed some of your other posts and if I might suggest you consider separating the topics of audio mixing from digital multichannel audio formats. The former is highly subjective, and difficult to get any definitive handle on, while the latter should be a more technical discussion on how the channels are encoded, matrixed, decoded, etc. Things like how 5.1 is downmixed to stereo, or vice-versa.

Just a thought. Good luck on the rest of your research.
 

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