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  1. #1
    ride a jet ski Tarheel_'s Avatar
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    center speaker...is it necessary?

    I've read a few articles (Thiel's site) that stated if your front speakers image well and are placed correctly then adding a center speaker can actually degrade the multichannel experience.
    I have 2 great imaging speakers and will have to spend a considerable amount to add a matching center speaker and now wonder if its necessary. I'm happy with my current 4.1 setup, but always assumed the center will add to the whole setup.

    Any opinions?

  2. #2
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    My opinion...

    I've read the same arguments in the past and all that I can say is that a center speaker should add a considerable amount to the viewing experience. For one, running the center speaker in a "phantom" mode puts the emphasis on the receiver to route the center signal to the main speakers. If this is done poorly, you will loose one of the most important elements in the film...dialog. Second, the center speaker adds a great deal to the front soundstage during movies. Forward panning scenes should improve with the addition of the center. Lastly, most people don't realize just what the center channel does in their HT set-up. In addition to providing a focal point for dialog, the center will also reproduce ambient sounds like the musical score and will even accentuate some of the bassier scenes in a movie.

    In short, I would recommend that you at least audition a center speaker in your system to determine whether or not the assumptions made by others (including those that I have made) are true. It's always best if you make the final judgement yourself and not rely on others.

  3. #3
    Forum Regular Swerd's Avatar
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    I've encountered some of those articles too, but not the one you describe. Can you give us a link?

    If I remember correctly, the idea that a center channel speaker might degrade imaging concerned speakers that were specifically designed to minimize time and phase distortion. These are Thiels, Vandersteins, and Dunlavys. I'm not sure if this pertains to any other speakers. Do you have speakers made by one of those three? It may also be about music played back on a multi-channel system, and not DD or DTS movies where the center channel contains unique recorded information.

    I didn't fully understand the thinking behind this idea because it was too deep for me . Even though those three designers are widely accepted as geniuses in the hifi speaker industry, I'm sure there are others, also highly regarded, who might say that their argument is wrong.

  4. #4
    Forum Regular Digital-G's Avatar
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    I would agree with everything that the previous posters said... a center channel is quite important when listening to 5.1 sources (DD and DTS). Especially when it comes to dialogue - I can't say I've tried mine in "phantom mode", but I can't imagine that it would sound as good as a dedicated center channel - especially if you have seating outside of the "sweet spot".

    It's been my experience that the center channel does get in the way if you are listening to 2-channel sources (CD's) played back thru a 5.1 system (via DSP modes or 5-channel stereo, etc.). This is where the imaging seems to suffer using the center channel. When listening to 2-channel sources I use the 5-channel stereo option (which includes the subwoofer) and dial the center channel down by -10db. Sounds better this way to me................

  5. #5
    ride a jet ski Tarheel_'s Avatar
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    good replys...
    i'll try to locate the links and place them here.

    I did have a center channel, but when i upgraded the fronts, the center didn't match and sound was a mismatch so i sold it.
    Once it was removed, i did miss the center speaker, but over time (8 months) i've adjusted to the 4.1 system and must say not having a center isn't obvious. The dialog remains in the center of my tv.

    I can't audition becuase the matching center is no longer in production so i either buy used and hope for the best or retain my setup??? oh well, decisions decisions.

  6. #6
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    The only reason for having a center speaker in a 5.1 setup is because the center channel is a discrete output with modern DD and DTS soundtracks. Hearing the center channel as a mixdown into the L/R mains may or may not work well. It really depends on how the soundtrack was done and how your receiver handles the center channel mixdown. If the center channel is a discrete channel, then more often than not, it sounds more solid and well placed with a center speaker.

    Of course, this assumes that the center speaker is timbre matched to the mains. If the match is inadequate and the center speaker calls attention to itself, then you are indeed better off without a center speaker.

    That applies to the playback side, but on the recording side the issue of whether a center channel is even needed, mostly with multichannel music, has been debated. Some record companies like Chesky firmly believe in multichannel, but issue their DVD-A and SACD recordings without the center channel active.

    Just over the weekend, I got the Pat Metheny Group's new concert DVD. It was recorded in a concert hall in Japan, and it too was a 4.1 mix without the center channel active. I think some of the arguments about the center channel have to do with whether it's needed to capture a live performance. It's an interesting point because that Pat Metheny DVD definitely puts you in the seventh row of that concert hall. And it does so more convincingly than their 2001 concert DVD, which was mixed with a very active center channel and a lot of the lead instruments steered into the surround channels.

    But, that same production team also mixed a 5.1 version of their "Imaginary Day" studio album that had a lot of directional cues and a lot of spatial effects contingent on the flow of sounds going through the center channel. In that recording, the bass and keyboards were anchored towards the center, while the percussion, vocal, and guitar sounds were mixed into a wider soundfield. Whenever the guitar needed to sound more spacious and enveloping, it got piped into the L/R/LS/RS speakers roughly equally, with nothing mixed into the center channel. In that case, the center channel was an integral part of how the overall sound was created.

  7. #7
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    Talking Very important

    I read an article one time that clearly stated the center channel speaker is the most important speaker in your entire set-up simply because it is not only a dialogue speaker but a lot of action in movies is dipersed directly
    from it as well,think about it and it does make sense.
    You will miss a lot from movies and music dvd's without it.
    Make sure it is a perfect match for your main speakers.

  8. #8
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    very important for movie.. music : depend

    for me Center speaker is very important when you are watching movie, because with an addition of center channel to take care the dialog, the main channel can concentrate for other stuff. The center add a dimension on the movie, as you can more " seperate the dialog" from other things that happens at the same time ( explosion,battle, etc).

    For music, It actually depend on the software (2-ch, multi-ch) that you have and also you preference.

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