Thoughts on integrating center channel into mantel? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 19 Old 03-08-2014, 09:54 AM - Thread Starter
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We're currently in due diligence on a new home, and now that it has cleared inspection my thoughts have naturally turned to maximizing audio quality for multichannel audio reproduction in the living room. In addition to multichannel SACD/DVD-A/Blu-Ray disks, I usually expand 2-channel music with DPL2 in the living room.

Here's a shot of the living room as set up by the current owners.


To give a sense of scale, the exposed brick section of the mantel is 73" wide and 54.5" high. The actual fireplace cutout is 29" high and 33" wide. The total width of the front wall, the short wall in the room, is a hair under 14'. The mantel is centered on the wall. Unfortunately, I forgot to measure the depth of the mantel during the home inspection. The fireplace is a gas log one, and honestly I'll be shocked if it gets used much. However, the fireplace an attractive feature and we'd rather not conceal it with a TV cabinet.

There is no other wall that can serve as the front of the system. The backwall is right by the front door and as an entrance to the porch in the middle. One sidewall is street-facing and full of windows (which will have acoustically-appropriate dressing). The other sidewall has a large entrance to the dining room and another entrance to an interior hall.

So...we were considering replacing the current mantel cap with one that extends further down the brick and incorporates the center channel at an appropriate height. (It may also extend up a bit, to allow for a TV mount. If there is a TV mount, we'll use felt under the TV to mitigate diffraction.*

The part used for the speaker (as well as left and right, which will be free-standing, and sitting atop flanking sub/stands just like in my current system) will be one of two options:

1) Stock at first, perhaps modified later, Pioneer EX S-IW691L. See here for some measurements of the concentric unit in these speakers. (The bass drivers are different.) My current mains in our loft incorporate three of these speakers, and they work very well. See link in signature below.

2) The 12" Dual Concentric driver from Tannoy's System 12 DMT II, with a passive crossover designed in situ.

I already own both, and have adequate power to compensate for the efficiency difference (ATI AT2007), so the choice will come down to the horizontal pattern room I prefer in this room. I will determine that by comparing to stereo pair of each EQ'ed with Trinnov from a Sherwood R-972. Regardless of driver choice, the center will be mounted high. (IIRC my ear height while seated on the center seat of our Herman Miller Goetz sofa is a bit over 40".) While the on-axis nasties in the top octave of concentric drivers are of debatable audibility anyway, they disappear off axis (see, e.g. normalized horizontal response for the Pioneer S-1EX at Stereophile.) so mounting the speaker a bit high flattens out the the listening axis response.

The mantel cap currently has the TV on top (obviously) and two power outlets on the top surface. (The outlets are connected but not currently used.) So I assume heat off the brick isn't a huge issue even if for some reason we decide we love to use our new fireplace. Is there any other reason not to mount

**Yes, I know the TV will be high. I don't care. Audio quality is extremely important to me. Video is a lesser concern.

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post #2 of 19 Old 03-08-2014, 03:14 PM
 
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If you're going to be changing the mantel to put a speaker in it, you could just remove like 4 rows of the top bricks so your tv can be at the proper level, and you can put the speaker right on top of the now mantel as it would be the perfect height for it. I think it would look better like that than if there was a speaker in the middle of the bricks as well.
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post #3 of 19 Old 03-08-2014, 07:33 PM
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That fireplace just totally dominates the front sound stage! Is there no other place you can put that TV? Maybe an in-wall center speaker, mounted in the ceiling?
+++

Given the limitations, I think your best bet will be to run L/R speakers beside the TV and let your AVR's listening mode provide a phantom center. Some people actually prefer the phantom center over a true center channel.

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post #4 of 19 Old 03-08-2014, 07:45 PM
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I'd remove bricks as well. And I'd put a lot of effort into making the mantel look good while being very smooth and free of diffraction. You probably already planned on that.

Would you add woofers horizontally? Or vertically somehow? Or no woofers, just the coax?
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post #5 of 19 Old 03-09-2014, 09:31 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by tuxedocivic View Post

I'd remove bricks as well. And I'd put a lot of effort into making the mantel look good while being very smooth and free of diffraction. You probably already planned on that.

Would you add woofers horizontally? Or vertically somehow? Or no woofers, just the coax?

To start from the bottom up, with the 12" Tannoy Dual I wouldn't have used any supplemental woofers. I ran them full range (with multisubs) for years, and never had any dynamics issues. However, I visited my Duals in storage yesterday and realized they'd be a no-go simply because of depth. The Pio EX in-walls are under 4" deep, and designed for use in shallow spaces. The 12" Duals have much deeper baskets (plus tweeter motor hanging off the woofer motor) and also even with heavy Ultratouch fill need about 9-10" of cabinet depth to avoid reflections back onto the 12" poly cone.

With the Pio EX in-walls, I'd start by plopping in the the stock S-IW691L's (7" woofers flanking the 5" concentric) horizontally. I have not modified the crossovers in my mains. Even in freestanding cabinets, Andrew Jones's design is very smooth from ~500Hz up. Below that, I currently blend in the flanking sub-stands - each at ~65L closed box holding a side-back firing Aura NS12-794-4A - and use Anthem ARC to set the frequency response. (See sig. Given that I'm going to be using the S-IW691L for depth reasons if I do go the mantel modification route, I will be using my current left/right mains and flanking subs.) The crossover from woofers to concentric is ~400Hz, so sonic differences between horizontal and vertical orientation are fairly slight; measured, diffraction sig is a little different, and floor bounce is stronger.) Later on I'd likely upgrade the woofers on all three front speakers to ScanSpeak Discovery 22W/8534G00's (see Klippel measurements here.) and then rework all the crossovers as needed. I have two of those woofers already (bought the ones Erin tested) and they're readily available.

As for looking good and minimizing diffraction, what my wife and I have talked about is a new cap in espresso-stained oak (like my current speaker cabinets) with a 45deg chamfer on the bottom edge - I won't be able to talk her into a roundover, so I won't even try. We may continue that with a block up to the ceiling, and mount the TV to that so that it can angle down a bit rather than sitting the TV atop the mantel as the outgoing owners do.

And breaking bricks...honestly don't know if that would pass wifely scrutiny. It also sounds expensive, but that could just be my inexperience. However, I'm also not sure it's needed. My left and right mains have the concentric drivers centered about 47" off the floor, or just slightly off axis. (My ear height sitting attentively on our sofa is about 40".) So given that one wants the concentrics the same height off the floor, that means the TV is going to at least 55" off the floor anyway. The front mains will be out from the wall, so that the three fronts are equidistant from the main listening position. I will heavily damp the walls flanking the mantel.

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Originally Posted by JWagstaff View Post

If you're going to be changing the mantel to put a speaker in it, you could just remove like 4 rows of the top bricks so your tv can be at the proper level,***

Several posts have commented on the TV. That's unimportant to me. I don't really care where the TV is, as long as it doesn't get in the way of the center channel. My focus is on audio quality. So the idea is, optimize the audio system, and video goes wherever. I just don't care. Literally if the audio system is optimally positioned, for all I care the TV could be mounted on the ceiling and firing towards the floor.
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That fireplace just totally dominates the front sound stage!

Psychologically, that is not a problem. Nothing for me dominates the soundstage like "look at me" speakers! Audio is ultimately best heard and not seen. My ideal system would have all in-wall speakers, with walls appropriately canted to provide the necessary toe-in.

Besides, if I get the concentrics lined up vertically, that's actually better than my current compromise, which has the TV atop a stand and the center obviously misaligned with the mains. One can hear the misalignment in, for instance, the Mercury Living Presence 3.0-channel SACD recordings of Fritz Reiner conducting Chicago.

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post #6 of 19 Old 03-09-2014, 08:57 PM
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Originally Posted by DS-21 View Post


Psychologically, that is not a problem. Nothing for me dominates the soundstage like "look at me" speakers! Audio is ultimately best heard and not seen. My ideal system would have all in-wall speakers, with walls appropriately canted to provide the necessary toe-in.

Besides, if I get the concentrics lined up vertically, that's actually better than my current compromise, which has the TV atop a stand and the center obviously misaligned with the mains. One can hear the misalignment in, for instance, the Mercury Living Presence 3.0-channel SACD recordings of Fritz Reiner conducting Chicago.

Agree! I don't like visual "clutter" when watching TV.

Let me throw something "out of the box" for you to think about. If you are committed to the TV being located on that wall, why not simply brick up the fireplace so it can't be used, and design a proper front video/audio viewing area?

Fireplaces seem cool, but you have to buy wood for them, which means bugs near the house and sometimes snakes like to make their home in the wood. Then there is always the danger of a chimney fire, carbon monoxide poisoning, and they are dirty, spewing soot on the inside of your house. Do you think your wife is going to clean that fireplace out after the fire is done? Oh, no, that will be your job.

They are not as popular as they used to be, and I live in West Virginia where we have wood everywhere! Wood burning stoves with catalytic converters are much more popular here, these days.

Just a thought. A bad one probably, but still, we are reaching for straws here.

Symmetry pleases the eye, but it usually offends the ears where low frequencies are concerned. -Yoda Fitzmaurice
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post #7 of 19 Old 03-09-2014, 09:43 PM
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To start from the bottom up, with the 12" Tannoy Dual I wouldn't have used any supplemental woofers. I ran them full range (with multisubs) for years, and never had any dynamics issues. However, I visited my Duals in storage yesterday and realized they'd be a no-go simply because of depth. The Pio EX in-walls are under 4" deep, and designed for use in shallow spaces. The 12" Duals have much deeper baskets (plus tweeter motor hanging off the woofer motor) and also even with heavy Ultratouch fill need about 9-10" of cabinet depth to avoid reflections back onto the 12" poly cone.

The normal wall may only have 3.5" of clearance. But your TV wall sticks out from the normal wall so it probably has several more inches of depth available.
If I were you, I'd drill a 1/16" hole and probe it to see how much depth you really have. And consider bringing the enclosure out by 1" away from the wall if you need more space.

I'm designing a setup for my Cousin based on the same constraints as you.
So far, I'm planning on a L&R 8" Tannoy crossed over at 300-400hz to four 7" Dayton 175's on each side. These will hammer out the midbass down to 80hz where a sub will take over.
My cousin does have lots of depth available in his fireplace wall though.

"The boom is dead, long live the bass"
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post #8 of 19 Old 03-09-2014, 09:46 PM
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Before I did anything though, I'd REW the room to see how it responds.
My living room is huge like yours, and is a midbass black-hole. It really sucks.
Even wall treatment hasn't helped much.

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post #9 of 19 Old 03-09-2014, 10:09 PM
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I agree with wall mounting LR and the phantom center idea. Way easier than tearing out brick and modifying the mantel. If you get quality speakers you'll never miss the center.

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post #10 of 19 Old 03-10-2014, 04:38 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by wvu80 View Post

Let me throw something "out of the box" for you to think about. If you are committed to the TV being located on that wall, why not simply brick up the fireplace so it can't be used, and design a proper front video/audio viewing area?

You know, that's something I'd consider, for this reason and an even bigger one: baby coming, and there's currently no screen or anything on the FP, so we have to do something there anyway. However, I broached that idea during our initial tour of the house, and my wife was very quick to reject the idea!

The fireplace is gas log only, though. Not really wood-burning.
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I'm designing a setup for my Cousin based on the same constraints as you. So far, I'm planning on a L&R 8" Tannoy crossed over at 300-400hz to four 7" Dayton 175's on each side. These will hammer out the midbass down to 80hz where a sub will take over. My cousin does have lots of depth available in his fireplace wall though.

Thanks for the probe idea, and let us know how this center goes. Sounds like you've got good bones there. Which Tannoy driver are you using?
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Before I did anything though, I'd REW the room to see how it responds. My living room is huge like yours, and is a midbass black-hole. It really sucks. Even wall treatment hasn't helped much.

I know the feeling! My current living room is larger than the new one (we currently live in a soft-loft condo, with kitchen/living/dining in one large space), and there's a suckout at 300Hz or so. Took careful attention with the flanking subs to fill it in. (As you said, room mutilation...sorry, "treatment," doesn't help here, unless you're willing to go really, really big.) Fortunately, the Aura bass drivers I use are good to almost 2kHz, so the equipment didn't limit my options.
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I agree with wall mounting LR and the phantom center idea. Way easier than tearing out brick and modifying the mantel. If you get quality speakers you'll never miss the center.

Perhaps you're right for TV or movies. But for multichannel music (SACD/DVD-A/Blu-Ray Audio) the center would be very much missed. Given that my priority is multichannel music, going without a center channel is not, and won't be, an option.

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post #11 of 19 Old 03-10-2014, 04:45 AM
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Ahh..I missed the part about multichannel music. Probably should have guessed that though with the mention of some higher end speakers here. At least it sounds like youve got enough money to do whatever you choose. Im sure something can be worked out.
Good luck.

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post #12 of 19 Old 03-10-2014, 07:13 AM
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Originally Posted by DS-21 View Post

You know, that's something I'd consider, for this reason and an even bigger one: baby coming, and there's currently no screen or anything on the FP, so we have to do something there anyway. However, I broached that idea during our initial tour of the house, and my wife was very quick to reject the idea!

I was guessing that. rolleyes.gif

The fireplace is gas log only, though. Not really wood-burning.
Well, on the positive side, the gas logs are very clean, and pretty nice. smile.gif

Perhaps you're right for TV or movies. But for multichannel music (SACD/DVD-A/Blu-Ray Audio) the center would be very much missed. Given that my priority is multichannel music, going without a center channel is not, and won't be, an option.[/quote

There are guys here who swear by the phantom center, but I'm not one of them. I threw it out there because I can't come up with anything better, given the various limitations. I know I'm in the minority here, but I think the center channel is even more important than L/R because the center speaker pins the sound to the TV, and that is where 90% of the action, ie dialog, comes from. For you, it's the same priority, but for multi-channel music.

I may be down to my last chance recommendation for you, presuming you want to keep the wife, the fireplace, and the new house:



Symmetry pleases the eye, but it usually offends the ears where low frequencies are concerned. -Yoda Fitzmaurice
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post #13 of 19 Old 03-10-2014, 04:35 PM - Thread Starter
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I honestly don't see why commenters have suggested that what basically amounts to flushing a speaker designed for in-wall use into a short-ish wall (with, as Tux noted, careful attention to diffraction) is going to sound bad. In fact, my proposed application is closer to how Andrew Jones intended this model of speaker to be used than is what I do now (freestanding cabinets, with EQ and flanking subs to fix the upper bass/lower midrange balance). Furthermore, getting the concentric drivers on the same imaginary arc parallel to the floor is going to be a big improvement over the setup in our current loft, which unfortunately has the center speaker misaligned with the left and right because the damn television is in the way:

b33480b3_photo25201.jpeg

I'm really more interested in [practical reasons I may not have considered that make integrating the center channel into the mantel a bad idea. The sonic aspects, frankly, I have in hand: high quality speakers with smooth and flat axial response and smooth polars, Anthem ARC room correction, and my trusty arsenal of miniDSP products. And the ergonomic compromise that must be made (higher television) I just don't care about. It's worth it to me to have the TV too high if it means the front three speakers are properly placed.

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post #14 of 19 Old 03-10-2014, 05:58 PM
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Originally Posted by DS-21 View Post

Thanks for the probe idea, and let us know how this center goes. Sounds like you've got good bones there. Which Tannoy driver are you using?

We're not doing a center channel. There is no room for anything decent in his application. And in my opinion, there is no room for a center channel in yours either. Unless you go with one mounted above your TV.

You'll never catch me putting a TV that high.
But I understand compromises must be made sometimes.

If that were my living room then I'd hire a contractor to demolish the existing fireplace mantle structure and build one that isn't quite so tall.
It actually costs less than you might think. It's what my cuz is doing for his room.
Yours looks like it could be brought down a full 12".

If you do rebuild the mantle, then your idea of integrating the center channel into the mantle could become more of a reality.
Bring the whole thing down by 12" and keep the top of it hollow so you can add/remove speakers at will.

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post #15 of 19 Old 03-10-2014, 06:31 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the probe idea, and let us know how this center goes. Sounds like you've got good bones there. Which Tannoy driver are you using?

We're not doing a center channel. There is no room for anything decent in his application. And in my opinion, there is no room for a center channel in yours either.

I just don't understand such comments, or the general fixation with mere televisions in a speaker thread. There is self-evidently space for a center channel at the proper height - that is to say with the concentric driver centered ~47" off the ground just like on my left and right mains. Furthermore, if the center is 4" off the current brick, that makes it just about equidistant from the primary listening position as properly-placed left and right speakers.

Yes, the TV has to go up high. So what? It's just a damn TV. I don't even consider that a compromise. It's a vanishingly small price to pay for what actually matters to me, which is having three front speakers with concentric drivers centered about 47" off the floor. Any permanent setup I would do would have the center channel's concentric centered about that high off the ground, so the TV would go up high regardless. Having the center misaligned just to make room for a damn lightbox is not a compromise I'm willing to make long-term.

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post #16 of 19 Old 03-10-2014, 06:46 PM
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Sorry, I missed this part in the small book you wrote in the OP. biggrin.gif
Quote:
o...we were considering replacing the current mantel cap with one that extends further down the brick and incorporates the center channel at an appropriate height. (It may also extend up a bit, to allow for a TV mount. If there is a TV mount, we'll use felt under the TV to mitigate diffraction.*

So the 12" are not going to straddle the TV on the extended wall face?

Can you draw up what your idea is, because I'm sure I'm not the only one who's not quite got the picture here. smile.gif

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post #17 of 19 Old 03-10-2014, 08:00 PM - Thread Starter
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So the 12" are not going to straddle the TV on the extended wall face?

Oh, is that where I wasn't clear? God, no, I'd never think of having the mains so close together! Only the center channel will be in the mantel. The left and right speakers will be free standing, spaced at the appropriate width, and out enough from the front wall to be basically equidistant to the main listening position as the centers. The only thing the left and right have to do with this project is that the concentric driver in the center channel must be at the same height as the concentric drivers in the free-standing mains.

And the 12" Dual is probably out, in favor of the Pio S-IW691L (5" concentric with a 7" midwoofer on either side). Simply for depth reasons. But we'll see. If depth isn't an issue I will listen to both and see which pattern I prefer in the new room.
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Can you draw up what your idea is, because I'm sure I'm not the only one who's not quite got the picture here. smile.gif

Basically, imagine this:
b33480b3_photo25201.jpeg

But, instead of the TV atop the equipment cabinet with center channel misaligned above it, the center will be flushed into a new mantel cap with the concentric driver about 47" off the floor, the TV will be somewhere above the center channel on/above the mantel, and the audio electronics boxes will go elsewhere.

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post #18 of 19 Old 03-10-2014, 09:19 PM
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The 12" Duals have much deeper baskets (plus tweeter motor hanging off the woofer motor) and also even with heavy Ultratouch fill need about 9-10" of cabinet depth to avoid reflections back onto the 12" poly cone.

So if you're talking about having your center channel placed where I've marked your picture in black below, then you'll probably have lots of depth.
The rear wall will have 4" of depth (including .5" drywall). Then the fireplace wall has another 4". Then from the outside of that drywall sheet to the end of the mantle cap is probably another 2-3".
That's about 10-11" of depth.
BUT,,, you might lose most or all of it to the fireplace flu.
Does the fireplace have an external chimney/flu? I hope so. I admit I don't know much about how they are constructed.
I didn't experience cold weather on a regular basis until I was in my late 20's.


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post #19 of 19 Old 03-11-2014, 03:44 PM - Thread Starter
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So if you're talking about having your center channel placed where I've marked your picture in black below,

That's about right. I'd have the cabinet going all the way across the mantel, though. And as for depth one has to think about grills as well as best practices for mains speaker cabinets (CLD sandwich walls, etc). I'd probably want a cabinet front wall that big to be two pieces of .75" material with a constraining layer, and ditto for the back-wall. Though maybe two pieces of 0.5" material with a constraining layer and a Dodd brace* every 8" inches or so between front and back will be enough.

The Tannoy driver is also a lot harder to conceal, because the basket is designed for surface mounting. But if I really like them much better in that room for left and right...I'll try to figure it out. I have no idea how the flue is configured.

*Bracing not glued/screwed to cabinet but connected with a lossy mastic, a la Mark Dodd's old Tannoy DMT series or his current KEF LS50.

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