no center speaker is better.... I'm sure of it now!

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ben Hanrahan, Mar 7, 2002.

  1. Ben Hanrahan

    Ben Hanrahan Stunt Coordinator

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    I am about to spark another debate, and that is that in most instances a home theater will sound fuller, deeper and more realistic WITHOUT a center channel. Unless you are sitting way off axis. I have been doing some extensive testing with and without a center, I find with a center channel that the voices sound like they're coming from "inside" the speaker as well as above the tv, never from the actors mouths. Without the center, providing your speakers can image relatively well, the voice sounds like it's coming from the actors mouth right on the screen. Also, the whole sound stage is bigger and the stereo effect sounds great whereas with center speakers, too much comes from the center speaker which makes the sound stage a lot smaller. Now, I can no longer localize the dialogue to one speaker, which has drove me nuts for years!!! I just want to make sure that people are aware that no center speaker is a viable option that should be explored. What ever happened to the stereo image of two main speakers???

    Another thing, I was able to create the best image once I moved the speakers about a foot and a half to the sides of my tv and angled them in a bit, I think the added air between the speaker and the tv allowed for a better image. At any rate, give it a try!
     
  2. EricHaas

    EricHaas Supporting Actor

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    Please itemize the specific equipment you are using.
     
  3. Kiet_H

    Kiet_H Stunt Coordinator

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    This is non debatable since it is a preference thing and is not measurable. Everyone has a different opinion on this and frankly everyone is correct.
     
  4. JohnnyHK

    JohnnyHK Stunt Coordinator

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    Also, is your center speaker angled down a bit to point directly toward ear level in the listening area? I found that fixed the "sounds like it's coming from above the TV" problem for me. When I've played around with disabling the center speaker, the soundstage is certainly larger, but it feels unnatural to me. But hey, it's your system so if you like it, go for it.
     
  5. Tyson

    Tyson Stunt Coordinator

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    Are you using identical speakers across the front? If so, then I disagree, 3 identical speakers is better than a stereo pair (at least in my experience). However if you are using one of those crappy MTM centers with different front left and right speakers, then I agree, getting the crappy MTM speaker out of the system will be an improvement.
     
  6. jeff lam

    jeff lam Screenwriter

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    I love the center channel in my system. It is exactly the same as my L + R mains and is angled down just a bit. It sounds very natural to me. I also ran just a stereo pair before I finnished my center and it was good but only if you were exactly in the center listening position. I guess it's a personal preference issue, but I can't live without my center channel.
     
  7. Tyson

    Tyson Stunt Coordinator

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    One other observation on having 3 speakers up front - you must position the speakers so that they are all equidistant from your primary listening position. This means you should not have all 3 speakers on the same horizontal plane. The front left and front right speaker should be a little closer to you than the center channel speaker. This insures that the sound from all 3 speakers arrive at your ears at the same time. If the center channel is not slighly behind the front left and right speakers, the info from it will arrive slightly ahead of the info from the left and right speakers, resulting in a foreshortening of depth, and also disrupting a seamless sound field. If you physically cannot move the front left and right speakers forward a bit, most receivers have a delay setting for the center channel that will still let you align the speakers in the time domain.
     
  8. EricHaas

    EricHaas Supporting Actor

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    I'm still curious what speakers the original poster was using, but I will say this. On my system with the center channel, the dialogue does not sound like it is coming out of a box, and it *does* sound as if it is coming from the actors' mouths. I have tried it with just the mains, and it only works where I am in the precise sweet spot. Using just the mains, you can achor the dialogue to the screen better if the mains are very close to the TV, e.g. 12" on either side. But I prefer the front sound stage with more separation between the mains.
     
  9. BruceD

    BruceD Screenwriter

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    Even if you don't have 3 identical front speakers, it not only helps to position them like Tyson said, but it is also important to have the tweeters for all three speakers at approximately the same horizontal level as well.

    If you can't (like center speaker on top of the TV) then having the center speaker angled down and adding additional delay may be necessary to get the holistic soundfield of three speakers up front working together correctly.
     
  10. Jim A. Banville

    Jim A. Banville Supporting Actor

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    Ben I agree with you. As long as you can sit in the sweet spot spot, and your speakers can "image" well, you would never need a center speaker. I went a long time without a center speaker because even when using a center speaker IDENTICAL to my mains, placing it in a horizontal position vs. the vertical placement of the mains, in addition to it being placed along the same plane as the TV screen caused it to sound VERY different from the other speakers. I finally settled on a center speaker, but I placed it on a stand just in front of my RPTV which ended the added bass reinforcement I used to get with it placed directly on top of my TV, plus it seems much more natural to hear sound from below my TV screen as oposed to above it. You see, speakers get reinforced bass from being adjacent to large flat surfaces, like TV's. That can be good or bad. It is bad for a speaker that is supposed to sound "neutral" and match other speakers that aren't getting the same reinforcement. It is good in the case of the placement of my RPTV in my new home. It is placed in a "niche" in the wall that makes the screen even with the walls. The speakers in the TV get bass reinforcement from the walls and in the end, my TV's speakers sound MUCH better! They are much fuller and warm! But back to the center/no center debate, unless you plan on watching movies solo, you really should have a center speaker, but no one says you HAVE to use it when you're alone [​IMG]
     
  11. Jeff Pryor

    Jeff Pryor Supporting Actor

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    For years I never had a center channel and thought my sound was fine, but then I caved in and bought one. Don't know how I ever lived without it. And, yes, it's a Bose and sounds great.
     
  12. ColinM

    ColinM Cinematographer

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    OK, now play nice, everyone!!!![​IMG]
    I go between the center on and off...off for analog sources, on for digital movies.
    I'm thinking of selling it to get the matching unit.
    I did put the match up there once, a superzero 'twixed the 'ones. Ok, no biggie. But when I put the MTM back (Yamaha NS-AC300) it sounded fuller, even when set to small.
    Looking for a supercenter...
    - CM
     
  13. Ben Hanrahan

    Ben Hanrahan Stunt Coordinator

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    Well, to explain my gear, I have a HK AVR520 and Polk rt35i's around the room. When I use a center speaker it's a rt35i, therefore the exact same speaker as the mains and unless you have it vertically, it won't sound the same as the L+R. I also briefly tried a Polk cs400i center, the thing was too big and it seemed to try and steel the show, even when I turned it down. And about 12" from the tv is perfect, any more and the image gets cloudy, any less and the image is almost non existent!

    Anyone else with these Polk's find the tweeter fatiguing and annoying????

    And I would agree, if I watched movies with more than one other person in the room, I may as well get a center channel. The point I wanted to bring to the forefront was that it's not necessary. People say 85% of the sound track comes from the center speaker, which is true, but if it's not there then 100% comes from the mains!
     
  14. DanRA

    DanRA Extra

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    Hi Ben,
    For music I prefer two channel listening with imaging being very important. I actually have my main speakers on slides with a custom locking system for optimum Music and HT listening positions. You can see it on my home page below. For HT I prefer and use a full range center. My center is behind an acoustically transparent 10-foot diagonal screen. Yes, if I was the only person in the room I could use a phantom center but that is virtually never the case with HT for me. I prefer all the people in the room to enjoy the experience! I will say with a good full range speaker in the proper position (behind the screen being best) the sound will come right from where it should, their mouths. So I guess I would say you might change your mind depending on the setup and purpose. I would never give up my acoustically transparent screen/center combination. Which is why I have the HS and HT setup. I also would be interested in having you post your setup because if you are using a tiny little center and expecting to have great reproduction of dialog and high SPl's for effects of course you wouldn't be happy. Is your center of equal quality and performance to your center? Does your center have equal amplification to your mains?
    My setup:
    http://www.geocities.com/dhummm/
     
  15. BrianWoerndle

    BrianWoerndle Supporting Actor

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    I am surprised that nobody has mentioned this yet:
    Have you calibrated your speakers with Avia or Video Essientials?
    Once you do that and all the speakers are at exactly the same volume level, the front soundstage should image nicely. If the center channel is overpowering the mains, then it is too loud.
     
  16. Ben Hanrahan

    Ben Hanrahan Stunt Coordinator

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    I own a spl meter and all the calibration discs and that big 400i center was too much! No matter what, and it sounds totally different than the 35i! Center speakers are designed to look like they belong, ie horizontal placement, 2 midrange/woofers, they're not designed to sound the best because if that were the case there would be no center speakers, just vertical speakers with one mid/woofer!! And yes, my avr520 has equal power all around and the centers that I used were 1(identical to the mains) and 2 and rt400i which is a big center, and really makes the soundstage seem monaural.

    Another note, if I had an acoustically transparent screen, I would go with a center channel, that way all 3 speakers could be identical and placed at the same level. It would be outstanding! But in my situation, I hate center speakers, they are a series of comprimises!
     
  17. BenS

    BenS Stunt Coordinator

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    Ben the 35i and the cs400i are the exact same woofer and tweeter combination right? So how do they sound different aren't they timbre matched? Also, the 400i is smaller than a 35i by a few inches.
     
  18. ColinM

    ColinM Cinematographer

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    They sound different because -

    They are in different places in the room.

    Thay aren't in the same cabinet.

    There's an extra woof in the center.

    If you want to find something out, put the 3 fronts you have on a bench or something so they all sit right next to each other, right in front of you. I put my 2 mains on top of my center, all on a coffee table right below the TV...Play the test tones - I'll bet they ALL sound a bit different. Maybe not a lot different, but just a bit.

    Some things just need to be accepted...I don't worry about it, I just enjoy it.
     
  19. Will Gatlin Jr

    Will Gatlin Jr Stunt Coordinator

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    I had trouble with my single (NHT VS-2a) center spk keeping up with my VT-2's. I doubled them up by locking the tweets on top of each other and having (2) one inch dome tweets, with (4) 5.25 long throw mid-woofers. Big dialog!!
     
  20. Justin Doring

    Justin Doring Screenwriter

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    Ben, I'd agree with you, provided you were in the sweetspot.
     

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