is 5.1 really needed? - AVS Forum
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Old 12-19-2000, 01:32 PM - Thread Starter
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My home theater system uses a "5.0" (no subwoofer) audio system due to that I feel I get enough bass from all of my speakers around me. I also notice that I get, what I feel, more accurate/natural bass response than all of my friends HT systems who use "5.1" systems (with subwoofer).

Listen to the Disney Tarzan collectors edition and see that there is only a "5.0" recorded sound track.

Comments? Anyone?

Thanks for a lovely forum!


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Old 12-19-2000, 03:01 PM
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The use of 5.1 adds the LFE channel. This is the Low Frequency Effects for that extra BOOM

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Old 12-19-2000, 03:36 PM - Thread Starter
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Please don't insult me! http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/wink.gif

Of course I have programmed my surround decoder to play all the LFE contents through the mains.

I just wonder if there are more people out there who run their home theaters without a subwoofer complement because of the main speakers being able to handle the Low Frequency Effects (playing at maximum 10db louder than the loudest sound from any of the other 5 channels than the .1 channel)?

I just sold my NHT Sub Two because I felt it didn't do my system any good anymore but just blurring the precise bass response I get from my main speakers.

Look what I found! http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/smile.gif http://www.dolby.com/tech/c.in.0011.LFE.pdf


[This message has been edited by Marcel R (edited 12-19-2000).]

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Old 12-19-2000, 04:16 PM
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What mains do you have?


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Old 12-19-2000, 11:18 PM
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I do. I have a Velodyne 1500R, but I have realized that it plays too loud and rumbles the apartment a little too much. So ususally I set the bass to the mains. I have Polk Audio LS90 which a have a roll off around 40hz. Do I miss anything?> -Yes. The deep rumbles went away, but I really don't mind right now. When I move into a house, I'll make sure that I play the sub loud. I love deep musically bass ...
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Old 12-21-2000, 06:31 AM
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I don't use a subwoofer in my system. I get plenty of LFE out of my 4 full range speakers with my system set to LARGE on the front and surround channels.
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Old 12-21-2000, 09:29 AM
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If You have a good subwoofer You wouldn't be saying I love my 5.0 system. Adding a good(not cheap) subwoofer to the mix will make a HUGE difference.

Try a movie like Haunting DTS and play it thru your system without a sub(the movie produces 5hz bass that ZERO speakers and only a few choice subwoofers will play at) and then play this track thru your speakers with the subwoofer of choice(make it a good one) and tell me you like 5.0 compared to 5.1.

The differences are enormous IMHO and I'd have to say many others too. The quality of the subwoofer you choice as compared to your speakers can make a difference.

Most all speakers will be strained to play the bass along with the other notes at reference level. Rerouting the LFE to the subwoofer takes the pressure off both your mains and amp that powers the mains and allows the subwoofer to do its ONLY duty.

Don't sell your system short. Get a Quality subwoofer if You can afford it.
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Old 12-21-2000, 11:01 AM
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... funny you should mention selling your NHT SubTwo.

My mains are NHT VT-2's, and since getting an EAD PM2000 amp, the VT-2's can play very very low. The bass management of my EAD Ovation allows me to direct all LFE to the mains. I find my NHT SubTwo kind of useless now. A friend is currently borrowing it to test with his Martin Logans. If he ends up buying it, then I will NOT seek a replacement sub.

As my system has improved tremendously with its imaging, I am going to experiment running a phantom centre channel. I may end up with a 4.0 setup with matrixed front centre and rear centre ( via Denon AVR-3801 ).

- Andy

[This message has been edited by Andy Lammer (edited 12-21-2000).]
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Old 12-21-2000, 12:28 PM
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Perhaps the NHT Sub is a weak performer?
Worth a thought atleast.
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Old 12-21-2000, 04:25 PM
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There are a few ovservations I can add. If you have a serious, very good sub, and you set it to reasonable, quite low level, the sound will be perfect. In fact the best solution is to have 2 subs as in a THX configuration system. But both of these should have their levels set low. I have Dynaudio 3.3 Conours which I set to small even though they are completely full range. This ensures no distortion during DTS scenes being cranked. My Bag End 18" sub with 400 Watts is set to 1 / 5th of the output, almost off. If it is set higher, I get an anoying rumbling which is quite frankly, bloody anoying. However, since the system is very powerful, with 7.1 set up, with even a modest setting, the 18" sub and speaker combo shake the snot out of me, but it is very, very tight. If I turn it up to half way, the whole house shakes and you feel your chest and nose hairs moving, but it has an unatural characteristic. Add the good sub and keep the level reasonable. Want more bass? Buy more subs.
Please give your opinions, I want to see if anyone else has found this to be true.

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Old 12-21-2000, 06:00 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally posted by Shane Martin:
If You have a good subwoofer You wouldn't be saying I love my 5.0 system.
Please define 'a good subwoofer'.

I have owned the Sunfire Sub - didn't like it.
I have owned the NHT SUB TWO - didn't like that one either.
Actually, none of the subwoofers I have tried came even close to matching my very phase linear front speakers, thus only blurring the already existing bass and also interfering with the mid range stereo perspective. Yes, that's right - the sub always interfered with the stereo perspective. Actors voices were no longer that precise in location between the front speakers for as long as the sub was integrated into the system.

Quote:
(the movie produces 5hz bass that ZERO speakers and only a few choice subwoofers will play at) and then play this track thru your speakers with the subwoofer of choice (make it a good one) and tell me you like 5.0 compared to 5.1.
I agree to that there is important information below 43Hz, especially in the movies. But what I don't accept and/or like is that all the subwoofers I have tested interfere with my front speakers.

My front speakers start roll off (not very steep though) at 45Hz (-1db).
When measured with my decibel instrument my NHT SUB TWO went all the way down to lovely 27Hz -3db. BUT when used together with my front system the NHT sub only seemed to blur/hide small details in the deepest bass played by the fronts - thus not only extending the frequency range!!
Me and my audio friends, we tried and tried and tried calibrating the SUB TWOs phase, volume and cut off frequency without finding any satisfying setting.

Quote:
Most all speakers will be strained to play the bass along with the other notes at reference level.
I agree - but again, I don't think it applies to my speakers. http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/smile.gif
(Hey, I'm not trying to tease you - promise - I'm just really interested!)

Actually I don't really know what the actual reference level we are talking about here. Correct me if I'm wrong but ...

My speakers are rated to play a maximum SPL of 118db.

So,

a) if the distance to the listening position is about 2.5 meters that should cost about 4.5db of sound pressure level
+ (= 4.5db)
b) add the LFE channel, playing up to 10db louder than other channels
+ (4.5db + 10db = 14.5db)
c) add the main channels playing up to 27db louder than the dialogue norm.
+ (4.5db + 10db + 27db = 41.5db)
d) add the (reference?) volume of the dialogue norm, in this case let's say 72db
+ (4.5db + 10db + 27db + 72db = 113db)

(Hihi, it was probably more fun creating this math and research than it is reading it! http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/wink.gif

I guess it'll be alright playing the LFE through my front speakers.
BUT I see where you are getting. http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/wink.gif There is not much margin for turning up that volume. (But 113db is already very loud!! Don't you think?)

Quote:
Rerouting the LFE to the subwoofer takes the pressure off both your mains and amp that powers the mains and allows the subwoofer to do its ONLY duty.
But is there a sonic difference?

Please recommend me a good subwoofer and I'll go listen to it right away.

Thanks for the many fine answers!

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Old 12-21-2000, 10:30 PM
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You may find some of the stuff in our article on the LFE channel interesting:
http://www.hometheaterhifi.com/volume_7_2/feature-article-misunderstood-lfe -channel-april-2000.html

Cheers,

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[This message has been edited by Brian Florian (edited 12-21-2000).]
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Old 12-22-2000, 06:27 AM
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Marcel,

Your little math exercise is interesting but it may not be as practical as it seems. A couple of thoughts:

-When people talk of "reference" level, they are usually referring to the standard set-up levels that the cinema uses, which for Dolby Digital implies a possible peak output from each main channel of 105dB and 115dB from the LFE channel. If I understand your calculation, you're basing it on a single channel delivering 99dB (72+27) which is short by 6dB from what most think of as 'reference'. In addition, we can't just 'sum' the dB requirements of 1 main channel and the LFE. Lets play with the numbers (assuming 'reference' level playback):

Your left speaker should be capable of a 105dB peak (full bandwidth by the way). If it is doing half the LFE channel (assuming the right speaker is doing the other half), it will need to voice an additional 112dB. 105+112 yields just under 113dB SPL required at the listening position. Now we can add your 4.5dB distance-loss (though I think that figure might be wrong) and we get 117.5dB, at least within the low frequency band (and this assumes you are not asking the two front speakers to also do the base from the center or surrounds). That is really pushing it for any speaker, rated or not. Speaking of that rating...

-I'd like to hear more about your speakers (make model etc). Speakers are almost never rated for XXdB. Its a pretty ambiguous spec to give. I'd like to know how they define it (free-air or in-room, limited bandwidth vs. full spectrum, etc..).

-And how much power is really needed to cleanly deliver the 118dB.

This illustrates why the LFE channel exists to begin with: 105dB peak output is already allot to ask from a loudspeaker. The LFE channel was designed to be delivered by dedicated huge drivers and copious amounts of power, thus extending the headroom of the overall system while not imposing on the existing main channels.

I suppose it would be possible to assemble hardware to 'do it' without a subwoofer, but I would guess from experience that the same performance could be acheived for allot less if one goes with a subwoofer system.

And of course, as you lower the listening level from reference (which is 99% of us) the esoteric requirements drop logarithmically.

Long and short, you are probably just fine with your system, especially if you are happy. But as noted, the LFE channel exists to accommodate 'reference' cinematic bass levels in theaters by giving the subwoofer system its own dedicated bandwidth in the soundtrack.

Look forward to hearing back from you.

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[This message has been edited by Brian Florian (edited 12-22-2000).]
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Old 12-22-2000, 09:09 AM
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Quote:
Please define 'a good subwoofer'.
A good subwoofer is one capable of reproducing 20hz bass at Reference lvl.
The 2 subwoofers you listed Aren't good subwoofers. They can't do it. Reference lvl to me is 105 db at the seats measured with my good ole' Rat Shack Spl meter
Quote:
Yes, that's right - the sub always interfered with the stereo perspective. Actors voices were no longer that precise in location between the front speakers for as long as the sub was integrated into the system.
That is a placement issue plain a simple. Subwoofer placement is highly underrated. Best case cineario is to place the subwoofer in a corner where there is no open hallways there. Also make sure that your mains are pulled out from the wall and that there isn't a tv, stand, equipment in between them. That totally ruins the soundstage. I have to live with my tv in between but I have my mains pulled way out in front of my tv and the difference is remarkable.
Quote:
I agree to that there is important information below 43Hz, especially in the movies. But what I don't accept and/or like is that all the subwoofers I have tested interfere with my front speakers
Again placement is the key see above. Also an adjustable crossover sounds like it would be right up your alley. If you have a reciever/pre pro with a fixed crossover(usually 80hz bleh) then there will be some frequency overlap. My mains sound terrible when set to small but since I do have an adjustable crossover I can set my mains to small and the crossover at 60 where my mains even though they are rated at 27hz will really begin to roll off. I also have a 40hz setting I don't use because it didn't sound right to me. I've also got the luxury of the THX WOW laserdisc with excellent frequency sweeps. Avia might have this as well but I'm not sure.
Quote:
I agree - but again, I don't think it applies to my speakers.
I truly think it does. If your mains start to roll off(at all) at 43hz as you've mentioned, then I'm pretty sure that your speakers aren't capable of reproducing 20hz stuff at reference lvl. As the volume goes up so does the load on your amp. Unless you got 1000 watts of juice laying around, I'd say No to the Large no subwoofer setup.
Quote:
My speakers are rated to play a maximum SPL of 118db.
Ratings are ratings. Like a watt isn't a watt.
Quote:
But is there a sonic difference?
It is huge if you have it setup properly and a good subwoofer.
Quote:
Please recommend me a good subwoofer and I'll go listen to it right away.
Being that you are in Sweden it is hard to recommend stuff because I'm not sure what is available in your area. However I can name a few Top performers that work well for music too. I'll also throw out a few large subwoofers that people will recommend but are fruitless performers.

1. Paradigm Reference Servo 15. Truly a powerhouse. US retail is $1500.
2. Paradigm PW2200. Half the price of the Servo but a solid performer nontheless.
3. Velodyne HGS 15 or 18. Around $2k-$3k respectively. Very solid

Ones that have alot of Hype IMHO and don't perform.
1. REL subs. Great for music but Zip for low end. Sounds like Midbass IMHO.
2. Bag End 18". Supposedly goes down to 8hz but last i heard it reaches that at like 70hz after someone tested it. Basically it won't produce what it should at reference level and the $800 Paradigm will out gun it.
3. Sunfire(either model). Weak in terms of output. Will rumble the floor but distorted IMHO.
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Old 12-22-2000, 01:19 PM
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Andy,

If by some miracle you can find a Mirage BPSS-210 for sale (discontinued a while ago), give it a listen. It may not be a hard hitting brute but it is probably the most musical sub I've ever heard.

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Old 12-22-2000, 01:31 PM
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Quote:
Do you think the Servo-15 is fast enough to keep up with Martin-Logan speakers?
I've read several reviews that praise the Servo-15's musicality. I would say yes but again it is a placement issue.
If you are looking for musical bass w/o the punch of a big driver, then the most inexpensive route is REL, however as My ears have told me Rel's suck for HT if you want bottom end. It is more geared towards music and "fast bass".

I'm keeping the suggestions down on cost below $3k as most people don't buy a $6k subwoofer. If you live in the US, It would be worth it to me to audition an SVS subwoofer( www.svsubwoofers.com) as I truly think they are unbeaten especially for the cost.

Mike(who is a music nut) over at www.hometheatertalk.com raved about the SVs's musicality.
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Old 12-22-2000, 10:52 PM
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Do you think the Servo-15 is fast enough to keep up with Martin-Logan speakers?

I friend has some ML's , and is having a hard time finding a sub to integrate well with them.

- Andy
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Old 01-06-2001, 09:27 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Steve Dodds:
What mains do you have?</font>
As front speakers in my HomeTheater/HiFi system I use a trio of the 'IS 88's from a Swedish, still pretty unknown, loudspeaker manufacturer called Intelligent Sound.
If I were you I'd go visit their web site in a few weeks. (It's actually not opened yet! http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/smile.gif

They perform as great as very high-end speakers should. I'm able to play DD at reference level without any distorted sound (assuming max SPL for DD is 115db?) and without using a separate subwoofer.

A funny thing: I actually called Intelligent Sound a few days ago to discuss this issue about HomeTheaters needing a subwoofer or not. After discussing for a couple of minutes he corrected me on some parameters that had been misprinted on my speakers: It's about the maximum SPL for my 'IS 88's. The correct max SPL is 116db - not 118db which my speakers are labeled.

But hey, it is still within the marign of 115db as is required for the LFE channel..?! So ... I don't need the subwoofer UNLESS i want to hear sounds under 45Hz (my speakers do 45Hz @ +-0db ... not -3db!!)

Cool huh?
http://www.avsforum.com/ubb/smile.gif

What about your HomeTheaters setups? Do you use subwoofers to expand the frequency range? I'm curious, how deep do your mains go @ +-0db?


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Old 01-07-2001, 09:55 AM
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I have found, in my system, that the subwoofer makes the soundstage more complete. I started out with a lower powered home theater system as an entry level and bought an energy 8-inch subwoofer to go with it. I loved the home theater experience so much that a few months later I bought more powerful and higher-end equipment, but kept my 8-inch sub.

Immediately the sound was great, but was missing something I could not put my finger on, even though my new energy speakers can reproduce very deep bass. As a result, I was playing everything at a very high volume to get a fullness or richness of sound and I was hurting my hears (ouch!). As an experiment, I replaced the sub with an energy Microstar 12 and all of a sudden, “it†was there.

Subs mostly are non-directional speakers, so what I got with the new and more powerful sub, was a full and deep lower level sound that was not pinpointed at any source. This non-directional sound mixed in with the other sounds from my front, center and rears made my soundstage rich.

I am not an audio expert, but from my experience and my tastes, a sub seems to be the sonic glue that holds everything together.


[This message has been edited by Mike Malter (edited 01-07-2001).]

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Old 01-07-2001, 12:58 PM
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One of the worse things about the LFE channel is a forced crossover point. The LFE channel as it stands is a brick wall filter at 120 Hz (no 121 Hz info can exist). It is entirely up to the recording artist to implement a rollof in the LFE channel. There were examples where recording artists used the LFE channel as a crossover itself without implementing a rollof at all (talk about the subwoofer sounding totally disconnected and one note boom box!). This is against Dolby's recommendations, which I believe is third order rolloff starting at 80 Hz. 3rd order rolloff starting at 80 Hz is entirely inadequate for a brick wall
filter at 120 Hz.

From measurments taken by Tom Vodhannel on the LFE channel, he states after measuring hundreds of LFE tracks, that most rollofs start around 80-100 Hz, with 80 Hz being the majority... That is rediculous IMO. Further, the crossover low pass slope on the LFE channel doesn't even corespond to any
particular high pass slope on the main track. The LFE track comes with a non-standard rollof point and a non-standard slope. Further, many movie LFE tracks sound one-note because of either too much 100 Hz info which is rolled of at a VERY high order slope into the brick wall at 120 Hz, OR too little rolloff slope was used and suddenly the bass just ends at the brick wall with too little attenuation.

IMO, if you can consider the 10 dB headroom gained worth all of the disadvantages of the LFE track, the LFE track needs to be crossed over earlier. A crossover point of 60 Hz fourth order would yield a -24dB attenuation at 120 Hz. I still do not feel that this is adequate, but it shows you the shortcomings of the LFE track. As you know LFE tracks for music have been disregarded for these various issues. Why do movies have to sacrifice sound quality to get extra bass headroom, when the movie industry isn't providing quality bass effects in the first place? IMO the best compromise for an LFE channel would mean using a 50 Hz rolloff point with a fourth order slope.

Further, I do not want a lot of 80+ info coming out of my subwoofer. This is one of
the worst features of the LFE track: avoiding the superiority of bass management. With bass management we have all of the tools necessary to fine tune what works best with our audio equipment and our room.


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Old 01-07-2001, 10:45 PM
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I have to agree with Shane. A good subwoofer can add quite a lot to the music/theater experience. I listen to a lot of classical music and with the subwoofers(I have 3 in a very large room), I can "hear" more of the hall. That is, the subs convey the sound of the hall and make the experience more realistic. Of course the main thing is making sure that the subs blend and are not set too high. There are a handful of good subs, most under $1500(except HSU and SVS) cannot give reference output at 30 Hz let alone 20 Hz. Even THX certified subs are good to about 30-35 Hz in terms of strong output. Getting 20 Hz can become expensive very quickly.
As far as music, you very rarely ever need below 40Hz and omission of certain frequencies are less obvious than coloration.

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Old 01-08-2001, 08:03 AM
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The .1 function is just for movie effects and should not be confused with normal music or dialogue and having a good full range system in the front (whether that is a single box per side or a multiamped setup with separate sub - bass - mid - treble).

Adding a subwoofer into an already stellar full range front setup and directing normal L/R info there will in all likelyhood degrade the sound. That is not what the sub should be for in a setup with good full range capability. The sub should be for the .1 stuff only wich is not the same as L/R info so it shouldnt be interacting with the full range fronts - not every DVD uses this channel and I am sure some misuse it.
The setup of your processor should allow you to use it this way but may also allow you to route some of the regular info (L/R front and/or rear) to it in modes where it is assumed your front and/or rear are not full range. This is where the crossover setting stuff comes in and this should not be selected if not needed.

The main drawback to routing .1 to the front main speakers is the possibility of the "effects" in combo with mormal info overloading the main speakers. DD calls for the .1 to be attenuated 6db if this mode is selected to help prevent this.


FWIW, I do not use a separate .1 channel sub either. My front speakers are a tri-amped setup with woofers and amps perfectly capable of handling the extra .1 info. Since DTS did not initially allow mixing .1 with the front, many processors, including mine did not include that or a phantom center capability for dts. I modified the analog outputs of the processor to do both and I run the processor in its normal DD and
dts modes (both 5.1) mixing the center and LFE into the fronts in the analog domain.

[This message has been edited by wclark (edited 01-08-2001).]
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