Dedicated center vs. 3 identical fronts - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 28 Old 12-29-2012, 08:27 PM - Thread Starter
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Putting aside the issue of speaker placement, is it ever preferable to have a (horizontally oriented) center channel over 3 identical (vertically oriented) front channels?

I'm asking because it seems many speaker manufacturers that have a 5.1 bookshelf-based lineup tend to offer a center channel that costs the same as a pair of the bookshelf speakers in the line. In my setup, the speakers won't be obstructing the screen, so I'm somewhat inclined to forego buying a center channel, but instead just purchase an extra set of front monitors. I can use one for my center and save the other for who-knows-what.

Is there a flaw with this logic? Isn't it just about always superior to have the front 3 channels be identical?
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post #2 of 28 Old 12-29-2012, 08:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Utopianemo View Post

Putting aside the issue of speaker placement, is it ever preferable to have a (horizontally oriented) center channel over 3 identical (vertically oriented) front channels?
I'm asking because it seems many speaker manufacturers that have a 5.1 bookshelf-based lineup tend to offer a center channel that costs the same as a pair of the bookshelf speakers in the line. In my setup, the speakers won't be obstructing the screen, so I'm somewhat inclined to forego buying a center channel, but instead just purchase an extra set of front monitors. I can use one for my center and save the other for who-knows-what.
Is there a flaw with this logic? Isn't it just about always superior to have the front 3 channels be identical?

Thats' the way to go. 3 identical fronts.

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post #3 of 28 Old 12-29-2012, 08:48 PM
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99% of people dont have the option to use 3 identical speakers in their living space. Everything is revolved around a tv sitting on stand. A horizontal speaker above/below the tv is a natural solution for just about everybody, and now it's considered the norm regardless of someones situation. Lift up the screen in your favorite movie theater and you're going to see 3 identical speakers that look like these guys

http://www.jblpro.com/products/cinema/index.html

You dont see any horizontal MTM's in there do you?
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post #4 of 28 Old 12-29-2012, 09:42 PM
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If there are no size limitations on any of the speakers, I agree that in theory three identical systems are optimal. But in a HT system, the CC is often called upon to do a lot more work than the L&R, and if the size of the main speakers is constrained, having a more robust CC may be beneficial. Timbre matching is very important, but not necessarily at the expense of limiting the dynamic range of the system as a whole.

If you're limited to boxes with, say, 5-6" drivers as the mains, a CC that doubles that complement and increases both the power-handling and the bass extension of the center could be a better overall choice than three identical boxes.

Also, the situation where a CC is going to be installable not just on the same plane and at the same height, but also in the same relationship with room boundaries as the mains, will be rare. Placement has a profound effect on a speaker's sound, they stop being "identical" if two of them are in corners and one is free-standing in the middle of a wall, for example.

And there are plenty of situations where difficult CC placement issues can be solved with a phantom center, if the mains are good enough.

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post #5 of 28 Old 12-29-2012, 10:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Utopianemo View Post

Putting aside the issue of speaker placement, is it ever preferable to have a (horizontally oriented) center channel over 3 identical (vertically oriented) front channels?

No.

Though it is reasonable to also use three speakers competently designed for horizontal placement as well. (Not a toppled-MTM. Those are no good for anything, anywhere, any time.)

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post #6 of 28 Old 12-29-2012, 10:56 PM
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Personally I'm a big fan of three identical speakers LCR. It's worth noting that movies are mixed that way, and that is what most theaters have.

But in most home spaces it takes some extra effort to make it work. So, the sensible caveats mentioned in the thread are also worth noting - speaker placement affects speaker sound (which can effectively negate identical sound), consider if it overly compromises your overall sound (i.e if you only have room for a small center it limits the size of your RL front mains also).

And I would add one other caveat - if you're primary listening is of music it's probably not worth it.

Me, I'm all in - redesigned/rebuilt my HT setup to accommodate it ; )
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post #7 of 28 Old 12-30-2012, 12:32 AM - Thread Starter
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If the center really is pulling that much extra weight in an HT setup, is it possible to hook both of those identical monitors up to the center signal and have them share the duty?
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post #8 of 28 Old 12-30-2012, 02:22 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jay1 View Post

99% of people dont have the option to use 3 identical speakers in their living space. Everything is revolved around a tv sitting on stand. A horizontal speaker above/below the tv is a natural solution for just about everybody, and now it's considered the norm regardless of someones situation. Lift up the screen in your favorite movie theater and you're going to see 3 identical speakers that look like these guys
http://www.jblpro.com/products/cinema/index.html
You dont see any horizontal MTM's in there do you?

We cannot extrapolate what is done in most movie theraters to the home cinema experience. The room size. properties and a host of other things are vastly different. Most major speaker brands have spent considerable time making specific center speaker to match their tower or bookshelf speakers. The centers are timber matched well and fit the power scheme of the other speakers. Something in theory sound great but the benefits are not as impactful in the real world. And, to be honest, a good HT sounds better that a movie theater IMHO.

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post #9 of 28 Old 12-30-2012, 03:30 AM
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I have 3 Klipsch RF7IIs across the front...sounds excellent. Seamless going through my front sound stage. I put up a ceiling mount (did use a wall mount but had to use a horizontal CTR.) just so I could slide another tower for center speaker. I also have a 110" AT screen that drops down in front for PJ movie night. If you can get a ceiling mount and the WAF gives the thumbs up do it. This article got me interested in 3 towers across the front. http://forum.blu-ray.com/showthread.php?t=89614

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post #10 of 28 Old 12-30-2012, 03:32 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Utopianemo View Post

If the center really is pulling that much extra weight in an HT setup, is it possible to hook both of those identical monitors up to the center signal and have them share the duty?

You could try it. There's a reason MTM centers still only have one tweeter, and that's so as not to induce the image-smearing and comb-filtering that can become audible when stacking bookshelf speakers.

Having said that, lots of people have stacked lots of speakers and enjoyed the results over the years. I used stacked Advents myself back in the 70s, and to my ears they rocked. But I wasn't looking for what I'm looking for in a CC -- precise, stable imaging in a relatively nearfield environment.

You'd also need a way to properly power and control the additional speaker, of course.

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post #11 of 28 Old 12-30-2012, 09:32 AM
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Originally Posted by derrickdj1 View Post

We cannot extrapolate what is done in most movie theraters to the home cinema experience. The room size. properties and a host of other things are vastly different. Most major speaker brands have spent considerable time making specific center speaker to match their tower or bookshelf speakers. The centers are timber matched well and fit the power scheme of the other speakers. Something in theory sound great but the benefits are not as impactful in the real world. And, to be honest, a good HT sounds better that a movie theater IMHO.

Right, 99% of people wink.gif

Considerable time? lol. Most do not, a few try. If the center consists of the exact same drivers used in the mains, just altered for a typical center placement, then yes they tried. Think Wt/mW center when the mains are tmww's. If the center is a horizontal mtm and the mains are not, then it is impossible to " fit the power scheme of the other speakers" no matter how much marketing hyperbole is included with the product.
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post #12 of 28 Old 12-30-2012, 09:43 AM
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It has been my experience that using a third identical speaker for a center does not work well.

The center speaker messes up the bass if it puts out anything below 100 hz IMO (this assumes that the front speakers ARE putting out substantial bass...which they should for good system sound), and may screw up the midrange too if the drivers are too large.

To avoid muddying the sound and the dialog particularly, a center speaker with small drivers works best as a center speaker from my experience.

The Cambridge S50 is one of the best I have ever heard and it has two 4-inch drivers. The whole "timbre matching" thing seems to be nonsense, because I have heard the S50 used with at least 3 different other brands of speakers and works beautifully. In most cases it replaced a center speaker which was the same brand as the front speakers and should have been "timbre matched', but sounded lousy.
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post #13 of 28 Old 12-30-2012, 10:13 AM
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I'll take 3 identical speakers across the front than a small center with big mains. Not once have I ever experienced muddy midrange using a capable center channel or crossing is lower than 100hrz. I keep my center crossed at 60hrz and not once have I experienced muddy or unclear dialog. Voices sound natural, full, and I have plenty of headroom without straining tiny drivers.

Many movies have aggressive mixes in the center channel. If someone is into sci-fi or any action movies than a capable center is a must. If your into just talking movies that work find in stereo than you don't need a capable center and a tiny one works just fine.

I've had Arx A2 LCRs across the fronts with the center horizontal, but I had the tweeters at the same level as the mains and it worked out just fine. Its a comprimise but there not where to move the tv high enough to allow for a 24" monitor to stand vertical. If you have the room by all means use vertical identical speakers across the front.
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post #14 of 28 Old 12-30-2012, 10:17 AM
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If all three of your front speakers will be horizontal, would it be better to get 3x center speakers instead of a left, right, and center?
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post #15 of 28 Old 12-30-2012, 10:21 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rileychris View Post

If all three of your front speakers will be horizontal, would it be better to get 3x center speakers instead of a left, right, and center?

Possibly... Depends on how everything is setup. Stereo imaging will be compromised with horizontal mtms for the l/r
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post #16 of 28 Old 12-30-2012, 11:29 PM
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Originally Posted by rileychris View Post

If all three of your front speakers will be horizontal, would it be better to get 3x center speakers instead of a left, right, and center?

In that situation I would consider speakers with a single point-source/concentric driver - they can be laid on their side without compromising the sound. KEF Q100 or Q300 are examples.
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post #17 of 28 Old 12-31-2012, 12:32 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by commsysman View Post

It has been my experience that using a third identical speaker for a center does not work well.
The center speaker messes up the bass if it puts out anything below 100 hz IMO (this assumes that the front speakers ARE putting out substantial bass...which they should for good system sound), and may screw up the midrange too if the drivers are too large.
To avoid muddying the sound and the dialog particularly, a center speaker with small drivers works best as a center speaker from my experience.
The Cambridge S50 is one of the best I have ever heard and it has two 4-inch drivers. The whole "timbre matching" thing seems to be nonsense, because I have heard the S50 used with at least 3 different other brands of speakers and works beautifully. In most cases it replaced a center speaker which was the same brand as the front speakers and should have been "timbre matched', but sounded lousy.

what the.

No subwoofer I've heard has been able to produce the bass I've experienced in the Corps!

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post #18 of 28 Old 12-31-2012, 03:55 AM
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Just as a added note that some might not agree with but wink.gif. The use 3 (or 5 or 7) of the same speakers comes partly because its easy way to have them matched (as if room doesn't effect it per speaker). We now have good room correction systems that can match speakers and make the differences much smaller.

So imho get the best speaker (center is the most important speaker for movies) in the same line but made for center usage and use something like audyssey XT32 when playing movies to match the whole setup.

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post #19 of 28 Old 12-31-2012, 04:03 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by commsysman View Post

It has been my experience that using a third identical speaker for a center does not work well.
The center speaker messes up the bass if it puts out anything below 100 hz IMO (this assumes that the front speakers ARE putting out substantial bass...which they should for good system sound), and may screw up the midrange too if the drivers are too large.
To avoid muddying the sound and the dialog particularly, a center speaker with small drivers works best as a center speaker from my experience.
The Cambridge S50 is one of the best I have ever heard and it has two 4-inch drivers. The whole "timbre matching" thing seems to be nonsense, because I have heard the S50 used with at least 3 different other brands of speakers and works beautifully. In most cases it replaced a center speaker which was the same brand as the front speakers and should have been "timbre matched', but sounded lousy.
?

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post #20 of 28 Old 12-31-2012, 08:55 AM
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Yeah I don't understand it either. He talks about speakers when use in stereo sounding great with nice clarity and imaging ect.. when used a mains but now as soon as you use it as a center it becomes muddy, mushy, boomy, screwy and nonsense???? Voices some from the mains when using 2.0 stereo for music and if it sounds great why wouldn't sound just as good as a center?

His posts just baffle me, I have to re read them several times and still confused.
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post #21 of 28 Old 12-31-2012, 09:24 AM
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Same here. I've had nothing but clear dialogue since putting up 3 RF7IIs. Sounds great for HT/Music. Maybe after a dozen or so drinks tonight his post will read differently to me. Nah I doubt it. Won't make a diffrence if sober or drunk. Happy New Year everyone. smile.gif

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post #22 of 28 Old 01-01-2013, 07:14 PM - Thread Starter
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While it didn't make sense to me either, I don't know what his listening environment is either so I can't pass judgement. Maybe he has boundary issues at the center location so he needs a thinner-sounding center to balance it out. I also noticed the inference that a speaker is timbre-matched if it is from the same manufacturer. I would assume that even "timbre-matched" speakers from the same line, if they don't use identical drivers, may not sound matched if the listening environment differs enough from the environment the speakers were designed and tested in.
Just for the record, I never asked about horizontally orienting speakers. The whole point of this thread is that I want to avoid it.
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post #23 of 28 Old 01-03-2013, 05:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gtpsuper24 View Post

Many movies have aggressive mixes in the center channel. If someone is into sci-fi or any action movies than a capable center is a must. If your into just talking movies that work find in stereo than you don't need a capable center and a tiny one works just fine.

Would a center still be a must for sci-fi or action movies in a small room, 11'x11'x8' for example, with speakers 6' ft apart and a centered viewing distance of 7 ft away?
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post #24 of 28 Old 01-03-2013, 07:09 AM
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You don't have to have a center if you don't want one. Its not an absolute must have, myself I would never do without a center channel. I have Arx A5 towers 8ft apart with the Arx A2 center and it does a great job, but I've never tried movies using no center.
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post #25 of 28 Old 01-03-2013, 07:27 AM
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There are a few offerings of low-height speakers (tweeters at the top) sold in units. They allow to put a regular speaker below the panel and still have the panel at a reasonable height.

The ones I'm aware of (and considering) are the NHT Absolute Tower and the Gallo Classico CL-3)

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post #26 of 28 Old 01-03-2013, 07:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by commsysman View Post

It has been my experience that using a third identical speaker for a center does not work well.
The center speaker messes up the bass if it puts out anything below 100 hz IMO (this assumes that the front speakers ARE putting out substantial bass...which they should for good system sound), and may screw up the midrange too if the drivers are too large.
To avoid muddying the sound and the dialog particularly, a center speaker with small drivers works best as a center speaker from my experience.
The Cambridge S50 is one of the best I have ever heard and it has two 4-inch drivers. The whole "timbre matching" thing seems to be nonsense, because I have heard the S50 used with at least 3 different other brands of speakers and works beautifully. In most cases it replaced a center speaker which was the same brand as the front speakers and should have been "timbre matched', but sounded lousy.

Wow , just, wow lol.
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post #27 of 28 Old 01-03-2013, 03:43 PM
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Originally Posted by p3Orion View Post

Would a center still be a must for sci-fi or action movies in a small room, 11'x11'x8' for example, with speakers 6' ft apart and a centered viewing distance of 7 ft away?

Not if the rest of the speakers and the AVR can handle the power and SPL requirements without one, IMO.

We didn't used to call it a "phantom center." We used to call it "good stereo imaging," and it was always a sought-after characteristic of well-designed speakers. And the best possible timbre-matching, better than any CC speaker you can buy, will be obtained with a phantom center, because it will be, by definition, 100% perfect.

In a small room with one listening position, I would think first of spending more for better mains, raising the overall audio quality of the system. But the available amplifier power may need to be increased as well.

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post #28 of 28 Old 01-03-2013, 03:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rdclark View Post

Not if the rest of the speakers and the AVR can handle the power and SPL requirements without one, IMO.
We didn't used to call it a "phantom center." We used to call it "good stereo imaging," and it was always a sought-after characteristic of well-designed speakers. And the best possible timbre-matching, better than any CC speaker you can buy, will be obtained with a phantom center, because it will be, by definition, 100% perfect.
In a small room with one listening position, I would think first of spending more for better mains, raising the overall audio quality of the system. But the available amplifier power may need to be increased as well.

All very true. The only reason a center channel was ever created is because stereo imaging only works as intended in the "sweet spot".
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