Should I Get Rid of My Center Speaker?

Discussion in 'Speakers & Subwoofers' started by SolomonP, Apr 2, 2004.

  1. SolomonP

    SolomonP Extra

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    Right now, I have the old Carver 5.1 set of speakers. I find them harsh (not bright, harsh) and unpleasant at low volumes and unsatisfying at high volumes. I tweaked the response of the center channel with the EQ in my receiver/preamp, but I am still not overly fond of the intelligibility of dialogue with this system.

    I have a pair of B&W Matrix 802s which I love, at any volume. They have a nice warm sound AND super precise imaging.

    I have already posted re: finding a matching speaker, and I have a strategy, but for various and sundry reasons do not want to spend the $$$ at this immediate juncture.

    Here are the options for now, since those B&Ws are really starting to look good:

    1) Continue using the Carver 5.1s

    2) Put the B&Ws as a stereo pair (front left/right) with the Carver center and do my best with the 5-band center channel EQ to get a match.

    3) Use the B&Ws as as stereo pair, take out the center, and set the receiver/preamp to Phantom Center.

    (for now, I don't really care about matching the rears to the fronts)

    The system is used 95% ht/5% music, and the electronics are a Yamaha RX-V800 used as a preamp to drive a Carver AV-505 (85 wpc x5) power amp.

    Thanks!
     
  2. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    Since you're asking for specific advice about speakers, I've moved your post here. The Basics area is for general discussion at the beginner level only, not specific product-purchasing advice. Thanks, and good luck on finding the right speakers.
     
  3. SolomonP

    SolomonP Extra

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    Jack--

    I have posted separately for purchasing advice. This is a request for opinions on which of my speakers I should use and how.

    I figured it was a judgment call for whether to place it in home theater basics (since it's ultimately about the quality of surround sound replication) or speakers (since it involves speakers).

    Thanks for moving it around as necessary/appropriate. You guys are great!
     
  4. RobWil

    RobWil Supporting Actor

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    I'd try the B&W's w/out the center and see how it works. Some people think the center channel isn't really necessary, but I guess it largely depends on your equipment, room and the way it's set-up.
    I recently sold my center and surrounds and am seriously thinking about saying the hell with the center channel this time. But what the heck...it's worth a shot.
     
  5. Brian Fellmeth

    Brian Fellmeth Supporting Actor

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    I second Rob's sugesstion. The best HT I've ever heard had no center, but had quality R and L like yours positioned such that the center information was projected right from the center of the screen.
     
  6. Leo Kerr

    Leo Kerr Screenwriter

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    The one thing that a center does do is expand the 'semi-sweet'-spot. A decent stereo pair can compete quite well with a good surround set-up, without any signal processing (only good recording.) But that's really only for the sweet-spot. Having a center lets more people pretend to be in the sweet-spot, by having the center of the image still come from the center of the screen.

    Leo Kerr
    [email protected]
     
  7. SolomonP

    SolomonP Extra

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    I took your advice and went with B&Ws in left and right, no center. It's absolutely great. Insanely great.

    Leo, good point. For now, I'm not as worried about sweet-spot size. I always sit in it, my wife always sits in the comfy chair way off-axis.

    I still plan to get a center, but for now I'm VERY happy.
     
  8. WilliamJulien

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    Why don't you add an HTM1 (If you can afford 802's you can sure afford an HTM1) and later (or now) 2 804's for the rears. Then you will have a timber matched complete system.
     
  9. Jason Bell

    Jason Bell Stunt Coordinator

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    Solomon,

    I wouldnt buy a center channel just for the sake of buying one if you're happy with the sound without it. I dont use a center channel in my setup. I have Axiom M60s in the front set to large and about 7' apart. I love the way it sounds. Voices are percectly centered on the T.V. and any kind of action panning across the screen is perfect with no transition. Its also one less speaker to worry about level adjusting. The only time I have heard a system sound better with a center channel is when the mains were really spread apart more than 10' or so. Its cool when you realize that sometimes the consensus is not the best solution. I also discovered this the first time I put my mains to large and only redircted the bass from my surrounds and LFE to the subwoofer. Suddenly soundtracks in movies were noticeably better sounding much fuller and more coherent. As an added bonus this also freed up my sub from having to produce bass from so many sources at once. So when the sub did need to produce bass it sounded much clearer and not so muddy and confused. I've heard a lot of people on forums swear by buying fullrange speakers and placing them all to small. The key is experimentation because all rooms and setups are different. Take care.
     
  10. Jason Bell

    Jason Bell Stunt Coordinator

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    Solomon,

    I wouldnt buy a center channel just for the sake of buying one if you're happy with the sound without it. I dont use a center channel in my setup. I have Axiom M60s in the front set to large and about 7' apart. I love the way it sounds. Voices are percectly centered on the T.V. and any kind of action panning across the screen is perfect with no transition. Its also one less speaker to worry about level adjusting. The only time I have heard a system sound better with a center channel is when the mains were really spread apart more than 10' or so. Its cool when you realize that sometimes the consensus is not the best solution. I also discovered this the first time I put my mains to large and only redircted the bass from my surrounds and LFE to the subwoofer. Suddenly soundtracks in movies were noticeably better sounding much fuller and more coherent. As an added bonus this also freed up my sub from having to produce bass from so many sources at once. So when the sub did need to produce bass it sounded much clearer and not so muddy and confused. I've heard a lot of people on forums swear by buying fullrange speakers and placing them all to small. The key is experimentation because all rooms and setups are different. Take care.
     
  11. Ben LG

    Ben LG Stunt Coordinator

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    I have my mains 6' apart and in my experience the sweet spot from my stereo setup is better than when I had a center. Like Jason, to me the panning of the sound is just perfect. But when I move as little as a couple of inches to the left/right it leans towards that side of the speaker and the phantom center disappears. Since I mainly use my system for music its worth the tradeoff to me - less wire, speakers, calibration and positioning to do. I do sit pretty damn still though when I watch a DVD. [​IMG]
     
  12. AlanZ

    AlanZ Screenwriter

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    I'm another advocate of no center....I had to sell mine last year d/t financial issues, but ended up liking it better without. As others have said, I think it does have a lot to do with the quality of your mains and the distance they stand apart from one another. I have studio/100s as mains about 7-8' apart, and I prefer them without the center. But like others said, too, it's all a matter of personal taste. Good luck!
     
  13. SolomonP

    SolomonP Extra

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    Right now I am happy but I expect to be moving in the next few months and having a different setup. At that point, we will have more separation between the stereo pair, and will also need a larger sweet spot (our seating positions will change). I EXPECT that a center will become a necessity at that point but am rapidly becoming more open minded about not having one.

    In reference to WilliamJulien's comment about adding an HTM1/2 and 804s.... The problem is that the Nautilus series sounds different from the Matrix series. Our 802s are older (+/- 9 years) and are Matrix, not Nautilus. IMHO, the sound is better with the older speaker (warmer & less bright), so I do not want to replace my mains with Nautilus. Nicely enough, though, the best tonal match (or so I have been told), is actually the $500 center (LCM600 or something like that). For rears, well, I will just do my best. Maybe used Matrix 805s (they come up on audiogon.com on occasion), or a new non-nautilus B&W speaker. That way I can blow more money on a new pre/pro and a HTPC (it looks to be a fun next 12 months!)

    I also tried setting my mains to large and so far am happy. I have a disappointing subwoofer (Polk) and, at least in my quick weekend tests (while the downstairs neighbor was gone!), running bass through the B&Ws (i.e., setting the speaker to large) was actually more satisfying.
     
  14. Mario NJ

    Mario NJ Auditioning

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    Since the general consensus is that a center is not needed let me play devil's advocate for a minute. One thing a center gives you is flexibility in the dialogue sound level. I personally like to hear every whisper of dialogue in a movie and found that by setting the center channel just a couple dBs above reference I could get superior speech intelligibility at all times without ruining the seamlessness of the sound field. And the "midnight" setting on your receiver, if you have that feature, is no substitute.
     

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