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Center Speaker - Yes or No?

Discussion in 'Home Cinema Speakers' started by Dom H, Sep 27, 2002.

  1. Dom H

    Dom H
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    It had to be done didn't it :clown:


    Center speakers impede clarity and are only necessary for off-axis listening <runs away and hides>
     
  2. Jase

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    Flee, flee, run away!;)

    Centre speaker for me personally. Mine matches the front left & right exactly though.:) I can see where you´re coming from, with regards to not having a centre speaker.
     
  3. Jeff

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    Maybe in a prologic setup, but with DD or DTS your front sound stage is likely to get butchered by your receiver when mixing the dedicated centre channel sound into the front left and right speakers.
     
  4. bob007

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    Centre for me as well.

    It's better than have ornaments on top of the telly. :D
     
  5. Dom H

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    Why?


    Show me a dedicated center speaker that performs as well as the matching mains.
     
  6. Jase

    Jase
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    M&K 150 THX.;)
     
  7. Jeff

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    I didn't say anything about speakers, I agree with you that in Theory a centre channel may not be needed. The problem is that DD and DTS are designed to use a centre channel, without one its up to your receiver to mix the sound into the left and right channels. Something like a Lexicon probably does a good job, I know my Denon AVC-A1SE isn't up to it.
     
  8. Ian J

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    Centre speaker definately for 5.1 otherwise it isn't 5.1 and therefore (buzz phrase coming) not as the director intended.
     
  9. bob007

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    We know that dedicated centre speakers can let a system down, but lets not get confused by the speaker and the dedicated channel itself. If it's the speaker in question then running three identical speakers eg. 3xM&X 150 THX will yeild far better results than 2xsatellite/bookshelf/floorstanders and a dedicated centre, and personally think these would be better than no centre at all, given the centre was of a decent quality.

    If it's the centre channel in question then why have the sound companies released 5.1 and not 4.1. If you are downmixing/re-directing/matrixing a signal meant for a dedicated channel surely quality is going to be lost. I'm no expert but if soundtrack is encoded in 5.1 I will listen though a system built to handle 5.1, to me phantom, matrixing and DSP modes to me are false.

    My son is running 3xMX2's across the front, the difference was so obvious. Got to be some truth here. ;)
     
  10. Dom H

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    A center channel needs to be in place for all the poor saps sitting off center.

    Rerouting the center info to the mains isn't matrixing, DD is decoded anyway, bass is re-routed to a sub, sending center info through the mains I don't think will give any loss in clarity.
     
  11. bob007

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    So a phantom centre is the choice of all single/billy-no-mates saddos then. :p :D
     
  12. James45

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    Centre for me. My matching Gallos will do a fantastic job up front... when I get an amp that is....:rolleyes: :mad: I'm almost tempted to go and load up the credit card tomorrow:(
     
  13. lynx

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    Tannoy RC
     
  14. Dom H

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    :p

    The sweet spot is wide enough for me and my gf, I'm not putting in a center just for when there is more of us!

    By definition center speakers are inferior. Anyway why stop at 3 across the front, why not throw in a few more! Perhaps it's because less is more and 3 is the minimum needed to lock the dialogue to the screen.

    If you've got mains that image well (and you sit in the middle/are selfish) why screw it up with another (inferior) speaker?

    If you were listening to 2ch audio and someone came and wired a speaker in the middle and lobbed it on top of the tv you'd scream with disgust!

    If they released 3ch audio cd's would you buy them? (god knows why sacd has a center??:confused: )
     
  15. MikeK

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    I'm not sure of the reason why centre speakers would be inferior by definition - in practice though they sometimes are, but by no means always!
    What about setups which use identical speakers for LRC?
    And what about setups whose L&R positioning is less than pinpoint?


    They probably don't throw in any more speakers, as no more are needed :)
    What would you send to them - there are no more channels (at the front).

    3-channel audio CDs?
    It wouldn't surprise me if they have. :)
    You have DTS CDs, SACD and DVD-A, which all have the potential for using a centre speaker (and many do).
    In any case, audio only is a slightly different proposition - you really have nothing visual which needs any audio "locking" onto it.
    Lie back, close your eyes and relax with some of your favourite tunes - not really a realistic possibility watching a film:) (well OK, some films perhaps :) )


    If you find phantom centre operation more to your liking, that's fine - nothing is set in stone, and I wouldn't argue that in some cases it may well be preferable. However, those of us who remember the dark times, will remember how much of an improvement ProLogic was over Dolby Surround, even for those sitting in the sweet spot. For the most part, I think it's the same today. IMO, if you think it sounds worse with a centre speaker, you are probably using a poorly matched centre speaker - get a better one :) :p

    Easy enough to try it though, for those who's interest may have been tweaked, just select No Centre on the amp, and see what you think!
     
  16. Guest

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    What are you nuts :D
     
  17. Dom H

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    1. Horizontal, usually MTM arrangement
    2. Timbre will likely be different
    3. Small(er) enclosure
    4. Usually poor positioning/isolation
    5. Height/Distance will likely be different

    3 identical speakers are better (but highly impractical) but I still prefer 2 because you only need 2 sources to pinpoint a point, 3 would add inaccuracy.
    Why not, why don't they produce 10.1 or whatever with 5+ speakers across the front? More is more right? ;)
    No 'locking' is required if you sit central.

    2 speakers is all you need for a perfect soundstage (in a 'perfect' room)

    If the room isn't ideal accoustically speaking or you don't sit central then a center would be preferable.
     
  18. uncle eric

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    Dom,
    I will reply to this when I have some time later this evening. Get the asbestos suit ready :D
     
  19. uncle eric

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    Ok Dom, here goes.
    A few quotes from myself taken from past posts. These point out the unfavourable use (IMO) of so called dedicated centre speakers. In other words "purpose built" centre speakers by various manufacturers. Here are some golden oldies.


    Other reasons why someone might not use a centre speaker.

    1) Asthetics.....yet another box in the room.
    2) No where to put it. In many cases this is easily solved.
    3) They have a projector and screen. The screen chosen has too much drop to enable them to place the centre channel speaker at the same height as the main L/R hence would mean a much lower centre channel which would have a derogatory effect on the front overall soundstage. For example, a 7ft wide (generally the most common size used) 1:33-1 (or 4x3 screen) would mean a drop of 63 inches. A quality screen like Stewart Filmscreens usually has a black drop of around 12 inches add at the top. There is another 3 inches at the bottom taken up by masking and bar combined. Nearly forgot. The housing of the screen is approx 4 inches high. Assuming this is placed on the ceiling the total drop would now be 82 inches. With the average ceiling height being 8ft, this would only leave a space of 14 inches. This is impossibly short for a floorstander or even a stand mounted bookcase speaker. Of course a 1:78-1 (16x9) screen would be preferable and would leave a space of just over 17" for your centre speaker. This is a little better but not much.
    The way around this of course is to lose a little of the rooms length, and place a perferated screen in front of the speaker/speakers. However, this is not my cup of tea as IMO this is opening up anther can of worms. No matter what
    EQ is used (or backwards correction as I like to call it), sound quality is affected. Loss of brightness of 10-15% on CRT PJ's is also unacceptable (to me anyway).
    As for using single lense devices, many of these also can't cope with the perfs due to the fact that their pixels clash with the holes hence producing anomalies such as moire problems for example.


    Reasons one MUST choose to use the centre channel

    In a discrete multi channel system, the centre channel is the most active >80hz speaker. Matrixing this into the left and right mains serves no purpose but to hinder system performance in a multidude of ways.
    1) Firstly and most obviously, all things being equal, there will be less overall output. Think about this one. If you have five channels of say 100watts per channel producing a certain output, again, all things being equal, the overall output levels produced by your speakers would have been substantially reduced by losing that fifth channel. To achieve the same output, you would need to crank your amp further. This would be a case of Hello Mr Distortion as the more the dial is cranked the higher the distortion. You've heard the saying, "Theres no such thing as a free lunch"

    I hope this was a tongue in cheek statment Dom. This is by far the most absurd thing I've ever read anywhere as the truth is quite the contrary. As for your comment regarding off axis listening.
    99.9% of us listen off axis. In a dedicated room, sitting in the sweetspot brings huge rewards.
    However, how many of us are in this position? Very few. Many of us use our living rooms as our HT room. If only two channels are used, those that sit (for example) nearer to the left main, percieve centrally placed (by the sound designers) sound such as most dialogue as being on the left of the front soundstage. This is because of their location and purely because there is no centre channel to "anchor" the dialogue etc to the centre of the front soundstage.
    This "pull", or perception of pull of the centre channel to the side will happen every time wherever anyone sits. The only solution to this pull is the use of a centre channel to "anchor" dialogue and other information destined for this channel directly where its supposed to go.

    I'm off for my dinner now. If I don't get my pudding, I'll come and write another few thousand words on why the use of a centre channel is imperative for a multi channel system.

    Eric
     
  20. buns

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    I wouldnt consider running my set up without my center. Although my front 3 are now identical in terms of cables stands, speaker itself and amplification, i used to have a center totally different from the rest of my system, it wasnt perfect, but it was better than routing the sound to my fronts (and my fronts are exceptional at sonic imaging!).

    Although Dom seems happy with his set up, I agree totally with eric (well hes the pro after all!).

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  21. Dom H

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    Cheers Eric nice read.

    What I meant to say was I find for sweet spot listening a phantom center has always sounded better to me. The loss of output isn't a problem.


    In your opinion, for sweet spot listening, put these in order of preference (ignoring aesthetics/loss of output)


    1. Mains + Dedicated Center
    2. 3 Identical Mains
    3. Phantom Center


    Plus just to add even if I did sit off center I would still prefer a 'wonky' phantom center, the on screen visuals do help to drag the voices back to the screen anyway. <zips up flamesuit>
     
  22. buns

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    This topic has made me think over my duck a l'orange........

    Any system only needs a certain amount of information to fully describe it. In this instance, a certain number of speakers. Or the other route would be to design your system such that a given number of speakers will convey all info. I assume this is the way things are done. The speaker config is assumed constant by the sound engineers, then they put soun on which required all channels.

    I find it totally illogical that any other situation would be true. The center channel has discrete information not contained within any channel, to my mind, mixing it into other discrete channel (the L&R) will result in a loss of information and accuracy, the sound wasnt designed to be output this way.

    From my scientific way of thinking, i cannot believe no center to be better than a center.

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  23. Dom H

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    Playing an equal sound from each main speaker to create a central image is no different (as far as I know) from playing the sound from a center speaker.

    You only need 2 speakers to create a soundstage. Sitting off center screws this up, hence the need for an exta central speaker.

    If you think about it (waits for eric to dive in) sitting off center even with a center speaker will give incorrect imaging, a phantom image is still being created between each main and the center.
     
  24. uncle eric

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    Not really Dom, because as I say, the info heavy centre (depending on the mix, sometimes as much as 50% of all sonics) pretty much "nails" the centre channel info there no matter where you sit. Its not like a "stereo pair" for example whereby the soundstage is drastically altered once you're out of the sweetspot. Anyway, I've had my pudding so I'll shut up now :D
    Oh, the answer to your question is 3 identical mains. Of course, identical speakers all around are even better. When I can spare half an hour, I'll have a stab at explaining why I'm not a di-pole person in the thread that I started re di-poles.
    Eric
     
  25. buns

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    Was pudding nice!? :D

    I think Dom is right, to a point, then i disagree.

    2 speakers are needed to creat a soundstage, but it is bascally a one dimensional stage since it exists corrctly only at the sweetspot. Now, it is a fairly well accepted idea that the addition of an additional co-ordinate within a physical system will allow the description of another dimension. The centre channel is effectively this. Hence a soundstage on 2 dimensions as eric says.

    This is a fairly analogy full idea, but it seems good to me! It would follow from it that 3 front and 3 rear should properly be able to describe the sound on a plane for both front and rear info.

    Dunno if its right, but its an interesting thought!

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  26. uncle eric

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    Buns,
    Why do you think THX altered their new Ultra 2 spec so as to bring the two rears (sometimes 4,5,6 foot apart depending on the room size and whether the installer had pudding that day)
    so close together (to the centre rear) that they are effectively one large centre rear????
     
  27. buns

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    I was aware of that but i wasnt sure if that was their reasoning! Why do they not just use one rear centre!? it really sound silly to me.

    Dom,
    I presume you dont use rear center channels either?

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  28. uncle eric

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    Basically because everyone jumped the gun with DD-EX and DTS ES (6.1 matrix and 6.1 discrete) and produced seven channel amps/recievers and processors thinking they were doing the right thing.
    How would THX look if they said, whoops, sorry, made a mistake.
     
  29. buns

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    Is the info in the center rears identical? I havent yet made it as far as EX and ES so im still fractionally confused about it!

    Personally, THX are free to offer any system they like....if they want 2 center rears, that is fine....... so long as they dont claim it to be the best solution that is! It is slightly misleading to the public though. Most people get lost at anamorphic, this is just one giant leap too far!

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  30. MikeK

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    Yes, it's identical!

    It's where the 6.1/7.1 confusion stems from. THX specify two surround back speakers for the one surround back channel.
    (I believe it's only a stipulation for THXUltra, but not sure - uncle eric probably is).
     

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