How to improve center channel intelligibility

Discussion in 'Speakers & Subwoofers' started by John_KM, Mar 19, 2004.

  1. John_KM

    John_KM Agent

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    Greetings all

    I'm relatively new to HT, but with a strong background in 2 channel, and am seeking some thoughts from other experienced users re setup options etc, as I ponder the integration and or separation of my 2 channel plus AV setup.

    I am presently running centreless, i.e. in phantom mode for DD/DTS 5.1, as I have a rather expensive pair of 2 channel stereo speakers doing double duty for AV usage, and a matching centre speaker is somewhat out of reach $$ wise at the present time.

    I do notice sometimes that dialogue is not quite as clear as i would like, re the leading edges of transients of voice etc, and am wondering if a center channel speaker would help improve intelligibility. As it would of necessity be an unmatched brand, would I be likely to lose as much as I could possibly gain, as regards left to right channel pans etc through the center, i.e. different tonal balances etc. I am under the impression this is important for music surround, but less so for HT, as the center is supposedly mostly dialogue.

    I would like to improve the intelligibility of the center, if possible, with the least possible tradeoffs re mismatches of tonal balance etc.

    Many thanks,

    All comments appreciated.

    Cheers

    John..[​IMG]
     
  2. AndrewErickson

    AndrewErickson Stunt Coordinator

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    The center has more duty than just dialog in HT. I would highly suggest saving your $ for the speaker that matches the fronts.
     
  3. Ray_C

    Ray_C Stunt Coordinator

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    Creating a phantom center and surround image using just two speakers oftentimes entails doing some whacky things with phasing, so there's a good chance that some of the naturalistic transients and presence of certain sounds will be lost or convoluted in some way, as it can confuse the ear into involuntarily concentrating on whatever aspects of the mix it deems more natural. You're better off getting a center speaker that's nicely matched and balanced to the fronts. Otherwise, see if there's a way to play a straight-ahead stereo track from the source, rather than a dolby 2-ch surround encoded track...or vice-versa.
     
  4. John_KM

    John_KM Agent

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    Greetings all

    Thank you for your thoughts and input

    I too am wondering about the phase relationships etc with dual mono, i.e. creating a phantom center.

    I am in between a bit of a rock and a hard place, in that I have only one room at my disposal currently, to do duties for both 2 channel and HT use.

    I currently run a Naim 2 channel setup, with SBL's. My current thoughts are that they are not the most suitable speakers for HT, due to their back to the wall placement and the limitations that imposes upon sound staging etc.

    For music, that is not an issue, however, for HT where a large and immersive sound field seems to be of primary importance re that vital being there factor, their relatively limited sound-staging abilities are.

    I have thoughts of saving for the Naim matching center, but it is very expensive, and whilst it may improve the dialogue intelligibility issue, I'm less sure that it would improve my system overall in the sound-staging stakes.

    I'm currently using Tannoy MX2's for rears, and am thinking of adding the center for the reasons I've outlined.

    Hope this clarifies my thoughts a bit.

    Cheers

    John...[​IMG]
     
  5. Philip Hamm

    Philip Hamm Lead Actor

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    The Holy Grail of good sound from the front soundfield is this:

    Three identical speakers, all designed originally to function as stereo mains for music.

    You wouldn't use two different speakers for L and R in a stereo soundfield would you? Well, in a properly designed three channel front soundfield you've got 3 stereo pairs L/R L/C C/R all functioning as independant stereo soundfields.

    Logistically it may be difficult to accomodate an identical center speaker, but it's worth the trouble if you can do it.
     
  6. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    Just a few random thoughts John.

    There are some very respected audiophiles that recommend the phantom center channel approach. However since this appears to not be working so well in your case, you probably want to get a discrete center.

    I agree with Philip in that an ideal solution is to have three identical speakers for your fronts. Dolby in fact recommends five identical speakers. However there are often other practical considerations that factor into decisions as to what center (or even if) to purchase. For example, if you are already using tower speakers for your mains, it is not likely that using one for the center will work all that well. Plus many manufacturers only shield the drivers on their center speakers. If you center is located quite close to certain types of displays, this can be a significant problem.

    Since you are already used to fine sound reproduction in a two-channel system, you will likely be very disappointed if you were to purchase a lesser center channel. In Home Theater use, the center is (depending on which set of statistics you believe—and also, the movie in question) responsible for between 60% and 85% of the total sound and no doubt over 905% of the dialogue. It follows that if you have to choose, your best speaker should be the center. Certainly it should not be a lesser speaker than your mains.

    You should try to get a center than sounds much like your mains, so that as sound pans across the front soundstage, you will not be subjected to a noticeable timbre difference. How much a difference bothers you, is pretty much based on your listening demands. Some people are less sensitive to differences than others.

    Good luck with your decision.
     
  7. Jerome Grate

    Jerome Grate Cinematographer

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    I agree with three identical speakers, if you click on my link below, I used the same three speakers across the fronts and it does make your pans seemless.
     
  8. Donnie Eldridge

    Donnie Eldridge Supporting Actor

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    Have you calibrated your system using a SPL meter?
     
  9. John_KM

    John_KM Agent

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    Greetings All

    Thanks again for the kind thoughts and ideas.

    Yes, I have carefully measured distances for each spkr to listening position re delay times etc, and have used the ubiquitious radio shack SPL meter for calibration re using the internal test tones @ 75db.

    In principal, I agree totally with the matched center. I am hoping a center speaker specifically will improve the intelligibiliy of dialogue.

    However, cost, and the perceived limitations of my main 2 channel speakers re soundstaging is causing some angst, as it's an area I'd like to improve upon as well. To be sure, If, like many, I could crystal ball gaze, and knew that 2 channel will ultimately give way to multi-channel music, then the best way forward would be to add-on to my Naim system with matching Naim speakers and amps all around, and their own AV processor as well.

    However, multi-channel music appears to be a long way off from becoming mainstream, if ever, and to go that way with equivalent quality items, would mean outlaying more than twice what I already have invested in my system, a move I could not contemplate at the present time.

    In the interim, I could leave as is, and wait to see how things pan out re SACD/DVD-A before shelling out large amounts of money, or, try and separate the two sytems.

    As it stands, I have some Sony ES equipment 'integrated' with the Naim 2 channel, i.e. DVD player, AV processor, and amp driving just the rears at present, but as the amp is multi-mode, it can drive a center as well, or if need be, all five channels.

    i could easily add on to my existing Tannoy rears, with matching center, AND left and right mains.

    As I mentioned earlier, re being between a rock and a hard place, whilst this solution appeals greatly, I only have one room currently at my disposal; hence this would mean two sets of speakers at the front of the room. From an aesthetic point of view this doesn't worry me, however I would think two sets of speakers so close to each other would be most likely to compromise the sound of both, re standing waves, reflections etc.

    I say think, because I've never tried this. It MIGHT work, but I have not heard any comment from anyone who may have tried this move.

    Any thoughts?

    BTW, I DO appreciate all the comments; it's really helpful, thank you.

    Best

    John... [​IMG]
     

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