Question Denon Receiver: improving front audio performance for music

Timmie

Active Member
Hi, looking for some thoughts on improving my front sound. I have a Denon AVRX4400 with a LR pair of Monitor Audio Silver 1s and the centre is a Monitor Audio Radius 250 HD. Rears are MA Radius HD and sub is a REL HT1003.

This has worked well for stereo music and surround sound movies. I now listen to more music in 5.1 and 5.0. Specifically orchestral and more lately opera so with the Radius 250 HD centre looking like a limitation I’m thinking of ways of improving the front sound. The MA Silver Centre will be tricky to locate in front of my TV but it is a possible option.

Something I tried today was to remove the centre speaker in the Denon settings so I was listening in 4.1. No other changes made. This surprised me by sounding really good on a brief 15 minutes of opera. Is this a sensible option? To switch the centre in and out in the settings according to what I am watching or have I messed up some indirect setting somewhere. I listen in Direct mode or in Auto (with Audyssey) according to what I feel sounds best.
 

Jamie

Distinguished Member
Something I tried today was to remove the centre speaker in the Denon settings so I was listening in 4.1. No other changes made. This surprised me by sounding really good on a brief 15 minutes of opera. Is this a sensible option?
This matches my experience. It depends on your layout but if you can get a nice layout with a central screen with the fronts each side and a central seating position then I've found the centre isn't necessarily essential.

I've got 2 Mordaunt Short centre speakers that both seem to be a good tonal match to my main speakers and while I definitely think the larger matching centre speaker is worthwhile using I actually marginally preferred 4.1 to 5.1 with the smaller centre. When you turn the centre off in the amp it will use a phantom centre option where the centre channel is placed in the stereo image which works very well in my experience.
 

Timmie

Active Member
That’s my thinking. I’m the only one that’s going to listen to this music so a single good listening spot is fine, then I can switch the centre channel back in to give a better range of listening positions for general family viewing. I was quite surprised how much of an improvement the 4.1 made to vocals. Thanks.
 

gibbsy

Moderator
What are you using to play the music. All channel stereo or letting it be upmixed? If you're listening to five channel recordings from blu ray, DVD or SACD then you do need the centre to be engaged. If just listening to stereo sources from streaming, vinyl or CD then getting a good standalone stereo amp will make a considerable difference to music performance.

That can be accomplished by using a stereo amp with HT by-pass or a standard stereo amp and a speaker switcher to be able to separate the film and the music side but still use the same front speakers. The Denons are good with multi channel music but poor from stereo sources.
 

Timmie

Active Member
The sources are Blu Ray and Sky Arts HD, both 5.1, as are the recordings. My solution is to go into the Denon setup menu and set centre speaker to ‘none’ for 5.1 music and then set it back to ‘small’ for the rest of the time. The leap of faith is to hope that the Denon sorts everything out and doesn’t require that I do a new set up with the microphone. I feel it could and should work but I don’t know for certain. It sounds like it does.
 

gibbsy

Moderator
You cannot store different EQ readings for individual speaker set ups except for stereo under the two channels. Blu ray will usually have a good 5.1 mix and the centre channel will be active usually with a lead singer and instrument.

Sky Arts is different and quality can swing from really good to really bad with just stereo and 5.1 offerings. I've been watching Hollywood in Vienna and the first two I watched were in stereo while the third was 5.1. On these programmes quality has been excellent.

Your inference that the centre channel is poor with music performance suggest it could very well be a positional problem. Could you post a photograph of it's current position.
 

Timmie

Active Member
The Denon receiver recorded my speaker levels when I first set it up so I had hoped that if I told it the centre channel was gone then it could just create a phantom centre channel. I don’t need the equalisation just the correct levels. Happy to listen in Direct mode. If I deselect the centre speaker without re-running the set up process what do you think I will end up with?

The music I’m most interested in is live recordings of opera, filmed at the Royal Opera House. I have some Blu Rays of this and Sky Arts broadcasts one or two a month and the quality is very good.

The centre channel audio is not poor I just noticed an improvement with a phantom channel when listening to a soprano going through her full range whilst moving across stage. It’s a recent Blu Ray I bought that I enjoyed so much I wanted to see if I could make it any better. I’ll try and get a picture of the speaker but it’s mostly what the Denon is doing that I am interested in.

Update: Centre speaker is on little feet so it angles up a bit to point at listening position.
centre - Copy resize.jpg
 
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CaptainJames

Well-known Member
Sounds like a possible mis match between your centre and L/R. I appreciate they are all Monitor Audio, but to the best of my knowledge the Silvers are relatively high end speakers, while the Radius is part of a sub/sat system? While you can get away with using Radius for the rear surrounds, the centre speaker is often considered to be the most important part of the speaker array.
Now I'm no opera buff (I can't stick it!) so call me a philistine as much as you like, but I imagine that the vocals on an opera are the most important element? In which case, the centre speaker is definitely your most important speaker if listening in 5.1.
 

gibbsy

Moderator
Apart from being a little low it is in a pretty good position, I have mine on the cabinet just like yours although my cabinet is higher at 60cm. It does sound (pun not intended) that as the good Capt has said that it's a mis-match and a drop in timbre which you will really notice on vocals when panning across the front soundstage which often happens in music videos. Well in rock it does.

I would try and get a better match by buying the correct centre to go with the Silvers. Of all the speakers on the front it is probably the most important as in film and TV it can often carry the most information. The mis-match and quality of the speaker is probably suffering from not being able to portray soprano vocals well and it's drawing your attention to it. That is probably the reason why the stereo image is so much better as the left and right are superior, which are also at a better height and stand mounted.

There are few that would argue that you don't need a centre because the left and right are so close together and you would be better of with a pseudo centre running in a 4.1. That is now your experience and your preferred listening mode. I would unhitch the centre and re-run Audyssey for a 4.1 and listen as to how it sounds overall.

I did try going without a centre for a week while waiting for my new centre speaker to arrive in the dealers but personally I didn't like it and my stereo pair are not much further apart than yours. I do play a lot of music through them but usually from CD or SACD from a HY by-pass capable stereo amp. Don't like my Denon for anything other than multi channel.
 

Timmie

Active Member
It does sound like a mismatch problem. The Silver 1s are definitely a better speaker than the Radius. I’d like to get a Silver Centre but the problem is fitting it in. It’s similar in size to the Silver 1s (but sideways) and would block the screen if I put it in the same place. The TV is on a large base so I can’t raise that as it would be raising the speaker as well.

I’ve been happy with the sound to date but the amazing vocal range of the lady in my picture (Ermonela Jaho) drew attention to the issue. I’ll try a few things and may come back to you if I have any other questions. Thanks for your inputs.

(Captain James, after years of not liking opera it suddenly clicked with me, so maybe one day…;))
 

gibbsy

Moderator
(Captain James, after years of not liking opera it suddenly clicked with me, so maybe one day…;))
Never know, stranger things have happened. I'm Welsh, music is in my blood. I'm a tenor. People use to pay me a tenner not to sing anywhere near them. :smashin:

Ways and means around having a fat speaker as a centre. This is my solution. I could have put the TV on the wall but my missus just doesn't trust my DIY skills, which come a very poor second to my singing ability.

169014423.3oX2AMVS._DSC4302.jpg
 

CaptainJames

Well-known Member
(Captain James, after years of not liking opera it suddenly clicked with me, so maybe one day…;))

Absolutely no chance of that ever happening - my soul/funk/jazz preferences knock opera out the park!:D
 

Timmie

Active Member
After much reading and tape measuring I decided to get a Monitor Audio Apex A40 which has the same driver technology as the left/rights. Really pleased with the sound improvement and the speaker looks great as well. Even Violetta is happy :) .

Thanks for helping me make up my mind :smashin:.
 

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CaptainJames

Well-known Member
After much reading and tape measuring I decided to get a Monitor Audio Apex A40 which has the same driver technology as the left/rights. Really pleased with the sound improvement and the speaker looks great as well. Even Violetta is happy :) .

Thanks for helping me make up my mind :smashin:.
Nice one, it even looks much better than the old centre.

Now all we have to do is persuade you to alter your taste in music.......... ;)
 

Researcher

Active Member
That was an interesting short read. Sensible comments, a sound (sorry) successful conclusion and some humour. Just what we need in these times. :smashin:
 

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