HT without center channel speaker?

Discussion in 'Beginners, General Questions' started by John_Walker, Mar 8, 2006.

  1. John_Walker

    John_Walker Auditioning

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2006
    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Hi

    I am slowly building my home theater. I have a Yamaha RX-V1300 which I am very happy with, a Paradigm 10" subwoofer, a mixture of speakers and a circa 1990 27" TV. Ok, stop laughing. The first thing on my agenda is to replace the speakers with some very good new ones. I like quality music reproduction.

    I've auditioned B&W 602 S3 speakers and was quite pleased with them.

    Now the question. These are very fine speakers. Their imaging, ambience etc are top notch. I have a small "theater" space which will only be used by 1-2 people at a time. If the speakers are arranged properly and I sit in the sweetspot do I really need a center channel speaker? Before you jump all over this the Yamaha has a "phantom" center speaker setting that, combined with these speakers will create the center speaker effect. It doesn't ignore the center channel program, rather it splits it and sends it to the front mains (the effect is the same as traditional two channel stereo imaging).

    I'd really like to avoid a 3 cubic foot box under a future wall mounted panel TV.

    Have any of you gone the "4.1" route?

    Any useful advice is greatly appreciated.

    John
     
  2. Ed Moxley

    Ed Moxley Cinematographer

    Joined:
    May 25, 2003
    Messages:
    2,701
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Location:
    Eastern NC
    Real Name:
    Ed
    Lots of people use a Phantom center. It works just fine for most people. I personally prefer a seperate speaker.
    Good luck!
     
  3. Jim Mcc

    Jim Mcc Producer

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2004
    Messages:
    3,757
    Likes Received:
    38
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Location:
    Oconomowoc, WI.
    Real Name:
    Jim
    I also prefer a center speaker, but you should see how it sounds without one first.
     
  4. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

    Joined:
    Jun 24, 1999
    Messages:
    11,571
    Likes Received:
    25
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Location:
    NorCal
    Real Name:
    John
    B&W makes wall mount speakers that might be a compromise for a center.

    ALL receivers have the capability to use a Phantom center.

    I say try it out too. I've tried it and I didn't like it too much. Dialogue that should be centered on the screen sometimes ends up on the left or the right rather than evenly distributed and I found that pans across the front stage didn't always work very well, always drawing my attention to one speaker or the other (properly calibrated with an SPL meter).
     
  5. GeorgeAB

    GeorgeAB Second Unit

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2001
    Messages:
    485
    Likes Received:
    7
    Trophy Points:
    110
    Location:
    Denver, CO
    Real Name:
    G. Alan Brown
    Without a center channel speaker, there is only one severely restrictive sweet spot you can sit in that will give you a phantom image centered at the screen. Anyone sitting anywhere else in the room will not have dialog coming from the characters speaking on the screen. For them, the origin of the dialog will shift into the left or right speaker location, whichever is nearer their seating location. I doubt seriously that will be acceptable to you.

    If system performance is most important to you, room aesthetics will usually have to be compromised somewhere along the line. The sound in a theater system is considered by experts to contribute between 50 and 80% of the impact, drama and involvement when watching a movie. With film sound mastering, the center channel is the most critical. Not providing a center channel at all or using a mis-matched speaker will result in serious consequences to the full enjoyment of movies. You just need to be clear about your priorities.

    Best regards and beautiful pictures,
    G. Alan Brown, President
    CinemaQuest, Inc.

    "Advancing the art and science of electronic imaging"
     
  6. Leo Kerr

    Leo Kerr Screenwriter

    Joined:
    May 10, 1999
    Messages:
    1,698
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    For a single person watching in the sweet-spot, a phantom center from a good stereo pair is superior to a physical center.

    Note that there are a number of qualifiers there.

    Leo
     
  7. GeorgeAB

    GeorgeAB Second Unit

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2001
    Messages:
    485
    Likes Received:
    7
    Trophy Points:
    110
    Location:
    Denver, CO
    Real Name:
    G. Alan Brown
    I don't agree with that statement, when it comes to sound tracks originally engineered for a center channel. Two channel music recordings are another issue. In that case, I agree.
     
  8. Dave Poehlman

    Dave Poehlman Producer

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2000
    Messages:
    3,813
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    I do agree with that statement. [​IMG]

    With "phantom" mode, while sitting in the "sweet spot", the center audio will be focused on the actual screen (provided the left & right fronts are at screen level) rather than slightly above or below it.
     
  9. Leo Kerr

    Leo Kerr Screenwriter

    Joined:
    May 10, 1999
    Messages:
    1,698
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    As you can see, John, there's a lot of disagreement on this rather simple question of yours.

    I'll throw another highly qualified statement into the mix for the entertainment of all:

    In the sweet-spot, a properly mixed (that is, really good) Dolby Surround/ProLogic track, played back on a stereo pair with excellent imaging, can be superior to a full DPL system.

    (My demonstration of this is to point to any of the recent laserdiscs of EMPIRE STRIKES BACK; from the THX Ultimate Edition to the FACES set. From the opening fanfare (simple orchestral) to the Probe Launch, the asteroid crash, Han Solo riding into the Ice Cave, through talking with Leia in the Control Center. You're going through numerous, enveloping environments, will full ambience, active surrounds, dialog in the center, and everything else - all from one pair of good speakers. In my case, it was completely convicing with a pair of NHT SuperOnes.)

    Leo
     
  10. GeorgeAB

    GeorgeAB Second Unit

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2001
    Messages:
    485
    Likes Received:
    7
    Trophy Points:
    110
    Location:
    Denver, CO
    Real Name:
    G. Alan Brown
    Most film sound today is originally mixed and engineered for Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby EX 6.1, or the various DTS multichannel formats. All of those use a dedicated center channel that receives the most critical attention. That's the best way to present it in the home, if original artistic intent is of any value.

    There are some exceptions to this rule, especially with older movies, but they are becoming the minority. Even DVD re-issues of older films are remixed for various multichannel formats. Many of these remixes also give priority to a center channel.

    Best regards and beautiful pictures,
    G. Alan Brown, President
    CinemaQuest, Inc.

    "Advancing the art and science of electronic imaging"
     
  11. John_Walker

    John_Walker Auditioning

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2006
    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Thank you all for your well thought out replies. There is obviously no right, wrong or simple answer. It seems the center channel speaker is necessary where the room is acoustically "odd" or the listener is not in the sweetspot. The need becomes less obvious if the room approaches acoustical "perfection" and the listener is in the sweetspot.

    Hopefully my situation is closer to the latter.

    John
     

Share This Page