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Thread: To center channel, or not to.......

  1. #1
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    To center channel, or not to.......

    I've had the SAM3ha in my sig for a while but I just got it and put it into place this week. To be honest I was having second thoughts as the 4367's sounded so good. My only complaint, and I think it may be due to the way the auto set up make combine the channels, the 4.1 set up was a bit bass heavy. I put the SAM into place, ran the set up again and now I'm back to a nice flat response. My conclusion is for optimum 5.1 or higher you do need the center channel. If you're happy without it fine but you will be surprised at the overall HT performance with the center. There's always variables that could be considered or blamed but I'd encourage you to move up if you haven't.
    When I sold my Revel fronts and moved to JBL it's the first time I can recall not having a center. I also preach timbre matching, and yes, all 5 channels if possible. I spoke to a JBL rep who told me the SAM was a dynamite center. I was debating between the SAM or the higher up Array center, I think it's the 880 or 800, so for him to not try to sell me up gave me confidence in the SAM. I've watched a couple movies and it's close enough I can't hear any difference so far. I know there has to be a sonic difference but the horns must blend well enough for HT.

  2. #2
    Forum Regular blackraven's Avatar
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    I have a friend whose wife complained about the voices coming from the sides of the TV rather than the center when he did not use a center channel. I believe that he did not have the side speakers positioned right. I do not use a center channel and don't notice that effect. I use to use a center but did away with it for WAF. I don't miss it one bit.

    Maybe others will disagree.
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    If it's that noticable maybe the fronts are out of phase, more obvious with no center speaker.
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  4. #4
    Forum Regular Jack in Wilmington's Avatar
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    I do enjoy having a center channel speaker in my HT room ( Usher X616 ) and in the family room ( Paradigm S3 ). My wife would complain that she was missing some of the dialogue when she was watching a program in the Family Room. I listen to a good bit of SACD and DVD-A in my HT room and the X616 really fills in the vocals nicely, and this leaves the X719's to not having to do double duty.
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    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    The theory is that a center channel is necessary to stabilize an central image, say character dialogue, happening center screen. The ear tends to locate a sound as coming from the nearest source, so if central dialogue is split between Left and Right speakers and one is sitting nearer, say, the Left speaker, the dialogue will seem to come that speaker location, not the center of the screen.

    I've been using a centre channel for years. As a point of interest my first DIY project was my center channel, a Vifa + B&G tweeter speaker; it was recently joined by my latest DIY effort, a pair of Dayton Audio based fronts.



  6. #6
    Forum Regular blackraven's Avatar
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    I have my 2 front speakers tilted in so that they form a large sweet spot. Even sitting on the side of the tv the 2 channels sound equal.
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  7. #7
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blackraven View Post
    I have my 2 front speakers tilted in so that they form a large sweet spot. Even sitting on the side of the tv the 2 channels sound equal.
    The above theory notwithstanding, I listen to a lot of videos that are stereo, not MC, and I don't generally have any problem hearing the sound coming from the person talking at the middle of the screen. I think it's psychoacoustical: we tend to hear speech coming apparently from the person talking, which overrides the tendency to identify the sound as coming from the nearer loudspeaker

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    Thanks for the info on the SAM, Mr. P! My HT is completely mismatched with the new JBL's at L/R and B&W's at center and surround. Eventually, I knew I'd need to replace the center so the front stage is timbre matched, but I was only focused on the 880 Array, which is not cheap! If the 3HA is a good timbre match to the 1400's, replacing my cc will be considerably expedited! What do you think?

  9. #9
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    I need to run the auto set up again to be positive. I noticed the SAM is 89dB where the 4367 is 94dB, I used a balanced connection on the mains plus about 3 times the power, so it looks like the center and reats maxed out the volume control on the processor at unity gain for my stereo preamp. I will run it again going below unity gain so the speakers will balance better.

    In short, I've seen the SAM3HA at online retailers as low at $1580, I'd be sure they are authorized. I still think the SAM3HA will be a good matching center. I listened to the SAM by itself, obviously it's not on par with the 4367 sonically, but it should match well. If you listen to 5-channel music it may be worth waiting for a deal, or used 880 to show. Also, not much time on the SAM. Definitely worth getting the center either way.

    Be sure you get a "HA", which means horizontal, there is a "VA" version for vertical.

    Quote Originally Posted by topspeed View Post
    Thanks for the info on the SAM, Mr. P! My HT is completely mismatched with the new JBL's at L/R and B&W's at center and surround. Eventually, I knew I'd need to replace the center so the front stage is timbre matched, but I was only focused on the 880 Array, which is not cheap! If the 3HA is a good timbre match to the 1400's, replacing my cc will be considerably expedited! What do you think?

  10. #10
    3db
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    Quote Originally Posted by blackraven View Post
    I have a friend whose wife complained about the voices coming from the sides of the TV rather than the center when he did not use a center channel. I believe that he did not have the side speakers positioned right. I do not use a center channel and don't notice that effect. I use to use a center but did away with it for WAF. I don't miss it one bit.

    Maybe others will disagree.
    Whether or not a center channel speaker is required depends on these two factors;
    1.) How good are your left/right mains at throwing a nice solid soundstage
    2.) Seating position...How far from off center do you sit?

    If your speakers throw a solid soundstage (like my PSB T45s as an example) and your seating position doesn't deviate much more than 20 degrees off center, then one could easily get away without using a center channel. I came across this from personal experience when moving homes. I had to stage my home so I had to remove the top half off my stereo cabinet that held my center channel. My seating position was really very tight and well with 20 degrees and I never notied that the center channel was missing. The dialogue was clearly anchored to the screen.

    If one's seating position falls past 25 degrees, I would say get a center channel no matter how good one's main speakers can image.
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  11. #11
    Forum Regular Jack in Wilmington's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 3db View Post
    Whether or not a center channel speaker is required depends on these two factors;
    1.) How good are your left/right mains at throwing a nice solid soundstage
    2.) Seating position...How far from off center do you sit?

    If your speakers throw a solid soundstage (like my PSB T45s as an example) and your seating position doesn't deviate much more than 20 degrees off center, then one could easily get away without using a center channel. I came across this from personal experience when moving homes. I had to stage my home so I had to remove the top half off my stereo cabinet that held my center channel. My seating position was really very tight and well with 20 degrees and I never notied that the center channel was missing. The dialogue was clearly anchored to the screen.

    If one's seating position falls past 25 degrees, I would say get a center channel no matter how good one's main speakers can image.
    I agree with you as my seating position never varies, but there are times that I have anywhere from 3 to 5 people in the room and the seating is far from ideal for the people on the perimeter. What is fun sometimes is to run my speaker setup program and move the microphone to all five sitting positions to see how the settings vary. As I get older I find that if I'm in a noisy room like a restaurant or social gathering that I have trouble picking up the whole conversation if someone is talking to me.
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  12. #12
    3db
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jack in Wilmington View Post
    As I get older I find that if I'm in a noisy room like a restaurant or social gathering that I have trouble picking up the whole conversation if someone is talking to me.
    I do to.. Isn't aging wonderful?
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  13. #13
    Forum Regular Jack in Wilmington's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 3db View Post
    I do to.. Isn't aging wonderful?
    Oh yea. I play "fill in the missing word" all the time.
    2 Channel System
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    Usher X-719 (Mains)
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    Anthem MCA20 (Amp)
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  14. #14
    Oldest join date recoveryone's Avatar
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    I think Topspeed is on the right track, having speakers that are matched always works best. A speaker maybe a very good speaker on its own, but with HT you want that seamless soundstage that allows your ears to following the action/dialog across the screen. To me, its the ambient sounds from the L/R speakers aid in the overall soundstage presence.

    Nothing better than earing a barking dog or running water off screen to make you think you need to get up and see wants going on. Just in my review of the Hateful 8 is a very good example of how a center channel holds the dialog while the L/R and surrounds add that ambient sound of the wind howling outside. If you speakers are not matched one area will dominate the other and causes an unbalance effect to the listening positioning.
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    Phila combat zone JoeE SP9's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by recoveryone View Post
    I think Topspeed is on the right track, having speakers that are matched always works best. A speaker maybe a very good speaker on its own, but with HT you want that seamless soundstage that allows your ears to following the action/dialog across the screen. To me, its the ambient sounds from the L/R speakers aid in the overall soundstage presence.

    Nothing better than earing a barking dog or running water off screen to make you think you need to get up and see wants going on. Just in my review of the Hateful 8 is a very good example of how a center channel holds the dialog while the L/R and surrounds add that ambient sound of the wind howling outside. If you speakers are not matched one area will dominate the other and causes an unbalance effect to the listening positioning.
    I fully agree with having matching front speakers. In the past few years I've tried all manner of conventional box speakers as a center channel speaker. They have all sounded so wildly different from my ESL's that I prefer a phantom center.

    Perhaps if I find a single ESL57 that would work.
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  16. #16
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    TS, I did the auto set up again. Keep in mind the SAM has very little play time at this point. I'm OK with it as a center, the dialog is easily understandable. If only using it for HT and you won't be a critical listener I think the SAM will be fine. However, if you would be using it for multichannel music or wanting optimum HT, I'd save for an 880. The SAM is a decent center, it uses horns as well, but keep in mind the driver in our mains have much higher quality drivers. Using the SAM is like staying in the same brand but a lower series. It doesn't stick out like a sore thumb by no means but a close listen will tell you it's not the same.

    My thing is even if I bought an 880 I still don't know if I'd get a near perfect match. Optimum for me would be another 4367, and I'm not about to do that. Well, unless, I suddenly become independently wealthy The 880 for you would be an exact match, only you can decide how important that would be.

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