Center Channel Wars: The Phantom Menace - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 13 Old 04-02-2012, 08:17 AM - Thread Starter
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I'd like to start a separate threat about center channels with some thoughts of my own:

1. Do you need a matched center? for HT? for music?

2. Its very hard to do the above without an AT projector setup or a very high TV mount so most people buy a horizontal center.

3. 5 channel music - identical speakers all around?

4. HT...does it really matter? The 5.1 and 7.1 center channel mix is simply not very dynamic in comparison to LR...as long as they are leveled match its not a huge deal...is this its own flame war?

5. If your mains are incredible and you get a good image...why bother? go phantom center and call it a night...

6. Can your processor handle a phantom center correctly? ive had drama of no mix going to the mains...and with a big screen it just doesn't mesh right without a center (120")

7. If you have a center with less range than your mains, does it matter? LFE crossovers can be set at 80 to 150 in many rooms and improve things anyways.

8. I do agree you want them at least similar (like from the matching line of speakers or era from the brand)

9. If you are a believer - what kind of range do you want? flat to 30hz? seems excessive in DTS HT.


My conclusion:
Center channel doesn't matter much, but my receiver is annoying with phantom and I like the center coming from the center of the screen, not a 15 foot wide sound stage. buy a center that is close to matching and be happy.

Your thoughts?

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post #2 of 13 Old 04-02-2012, 08:42 AM
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IMO 3 towers across the front would be the best. Second best would be 3 bookshelves or LCRs all mounted vertically. But like you said unless you have an AT screen those senarios probably won't work. So for many of us here we buy the "center channel" speaker that the company of our L&R speakers makes. This is what I do, is it perfect? No, but I don't really have a choice so it works and sounds good to me. I have towers for front L&R with dual 8" woofers (front ported design) and a 1" aluminum dome tweeter mounted in a 6.5" square horn. My center is horizontally oriented with the same 8" woofers (sealed design) and same 1" horn loaded tweeter.

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post #3 of 13 Old 04-02-2012, 08:43 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Twylight View Post

I'd like to start a separate threat about center channels with some thoughts of my own:

1. Do you need a matched center? for HT? for music?

You should if you can. For music too. To me, since the center is so important for movies and 5.1 music (it's where vocals are often mixed to), it's the one I would be least inclined to compromise on.

Quote:


2. Its very hard to do the above without an AT projector setup or a very high TV mount so most people buy a horizontal center.

You could buy a vertical center and just tilt it uo or down, depending on where it's placed. (I have a projector setup)
Quote:


3. 5 channel music - identical speakers all around?

Yes, if you can. If you do mix it up, at least make L/C/R identical. And add a subwoofer if the mains are bass limited of course.


Quote:


4. HT...does it really matter? The 5.1 and 7.1 center channel mix is simply not very dynamic in comparison to LR...as long as they are leveled match its not a huge deal...is this its own flame war?

Center is where the dialogue and vocals usually are. Have a dedicated center channel means people who aren't sitting in the 'sweet spot'
don't hear the vocals shift left or right. So I'd say it's pretty important, yeah.
Unless you only ever listen alone, and only ever sit in the sweet spot.

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5. If your mains are incredible and you get a good image...why bother? go phantom center and call it a night...

See #4. Btw what constitutes 'incredible' mains?

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6. Can your processor handle a phantom center correctly? ive had drama of no mix going to the mains...and with a big screen it just doesn't mesh right without a center (120")

Not a problem I've had to deal with.


Quote:


7. If you have a center with less range than your mains, does it matter? LFE crossovers can be set at 80 to 150 in many rooms and improve things anyways.


The range likely most matter as much as the 'timbre' -- which could be a function of range too, if the center is really small (i.e., needs a crossover higher than 80).



Quote:


8. I do agree you want them at least similar (like from the matching line of speakers or era from the brand)

No comment. This may end up as the 'vertical vs horizontal' question again.

Quote:


9. If you are a believer - what kind of range do you want? flat to 30hz? seems excessive in DTS HT.

Same range as the other speakers. In my case, 80Hz crossover.

Quote:


My conclusion:
Center channel doesn't matter much, but my receiver is annoying with phantom and I like the center coming from the center of the screen, not a 15 foot wide sound stage. buy a center that is close to matching and be happy.

Your thoughts?

Get a center speaker matched to your mains.
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post #4 of 13 Old 04-02-2012, 08:58 AM - Thread Starter
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Excellent replies - ive been generally unhappy with center channels but didnt have the right room to go "3 FULL TOWERS, WARP SPEED!".

I have a new center that is doing the best out of any I have owned in the past...

I have achieved music bliss with Philharmonic Audio, but I have heard some really great speakers in the last few years and would qualify many speakers as amazing...whats not amazing is their price point.

My room is 14x20x9 and sealed - I have no issues with SPL at any seat which is a nice problem to have.

REW...most expensive freeware ever...

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post #5 of 13 Old 04-02-2012, 09:02 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Twylight View Post

I'd like to start a separate threat about center channels with some thoughts of my own:

1. Do you need a matched center? for HT? for music?

It depends on your definition of "need". For HT, it anchors dialog to the center of a wide display. This is very desirable when there are going to be people watching from viewpoints that are off to the side. For stereo music, it's more debatable. For surround-sound music with discrete channels, it's best to have speakers corresponding to the channels designed into the soundtrack.

Quote:


2. Its very hard to do the above without an AT projector setup or a very high TV mount so most people buy a horizontal center.

Which introduces its own soundstage problems, of course.

Quote:


3. 5 channel music - identical speakers all around?

It depends on the recording. Some recordings have the listening position among the performers. They're best served by identical, timbre-matched direct-radiating speakers all around. Others place the listener more traditionally, with the performers in front and ambient sounds from the recording venue coming from the sides and rear. Those recordings can be well served by a conventional HT speaker layout, with dipole or bipole surround speakers.

Quote:


4. HT...does it really matter? The 5.1 and 7.1 center channel mix is simply not very dynamic in comparison to LR...as long as they are leveled match its not a huge deal...is this its own flame war?

The speakers still should be timbre-matched. While it's not as critical as for music, substantial changes can be distracting when a sound source seems to move around the listener.

Quote:


5. If your mains are incredible and you get a good image...why bother? go phantom center and call it a night...

As mentioned above, it depends on where the listener is seated.

Quote:


6. Can your processor handle a phantom center correctly? ive had drama of no mix going to the mains...and with a big screen it just doesn't mesh right without a center (120")

Supposedly, mine can, but I have a reasonably well matched center speaker and prefer to use it.

Quote:


7. If you have a center with less range than your mains, does it matter? LFE crossovers can be set at 80 to 150 in many rooms and improve things anyways.

Yes, it matters for timbre matching. Also, frequencies in the upper range of what you mention are somewhat directional. If your subwoofer is well off to the side, it might be noticeable. Also, many subwoofers don't do so well at that high a frequency.

Quote:


8. I do agree you want them at least similar (like from the matching line of speakers or era from the brand)

Sometimes you need to do better than that. Listen to the speakers individually while calibrating them. When you play white (or pink) noise through your speakers, they all should sound the same.

Quote:


9. If you are a believer - what kind of range do you want? flat to 30hz? seems excessive in DTS HT.

It depends on your listening preferences. If you want to listen to stereo music with just two speakers active, you want them to be as flat as possible as low as is reasonable. Very few people listen to stereo organ music, however, so 40-50 Hz often is adequate for music listening. If you use a subwoofer, the subwoofer's upper range and the other speakers low frequency range have to have a significant overlap.


Quote:


My conclusion:
Center channel doesn't matter much, but my receiver is annoying with phantom and I like the center coming from the center of the screen, not a 15 foot wide sound stage. buy a center that is close to matching and be happy.

Your thoughts?

See above.

Selden
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post #6 of 13 Old 04-02-2012, 09:39 AM
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I have a 8' wide screen.
I started my home theater with a center channel speaker. I switched to a phantom center about 10 years back and am perfectly happy with it.

I don't think the phantom center is any less realistic then having the dialog come from the 2' center of an 8' screen. Front sound staging panning is 100% seamless and the tonal qualities during the pan are perfect.

To each his own.
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post #7 of 13 Old 04-02-2012, 09:40 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Twylight View Post

I'd like to start a separate threat about center channels with some thoughts of my own:

1. Do you need a matched center? for HT? for music?

2. Its very hard to do the above without an AT projector setup or a very high TV mount so most people buy a horizontal center.

3. 5 channel music - identical speakers all around?

4. HT...does it really matter? The 5.1 and 7.1 center channel mix is simply not very dynamic in comparison to LR...as long as they are leveled match its not a huge deal...is this its own flame war?

5. If your mains are incredible and you get a good image...why bother? go phantom center and call it a night...

6. Can your processor handle a phantom center correctly? ive had drama of no mix going to the mains...and with a big screen it just doesn't mesh right without a center (120")

7. If you have a center with less range than your mains, does it matter? LFE crossovers can be set at 80 to 150 in many rooms and improve things anyways.

8. I do agree you want them at least similar (like from the matching line of speakers or era from the brand)

9. If you are a believer - what kind of range do you want? flat to 30hz? seems excessive in DTS HT.


My conclusion:
Center channel doesn't matter much, but my receiver is annoying with phantom and I like the center coming from the center of the screen, not a 15 foot wide sound stage. buy a center that is close to matching and be happy.

Your thoughts?

1. Yes and yes
2.True.
3. Yes
4. Matters big time.
5. Not unless you sit in the dead center of the sweet spot.
6. Depends on processor.
7. That is why it is better to have identical speakers.
8. Yes
9. If you have good subwoofers for LFE, it is excessive.
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post #8 of 13 Old 04-02-2012, 10:51 AM
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This would get more attention in the speaker forum.

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence

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post #9 of 13 Old 04-02-2012, 02:18 PM
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I mostly agree with the responses in this thread - timbre matching, identical speakers, and so on. I've heard great set-ups that rely on phantom centers, and great set-ups that use three of the same speaker for LCR, and so on. My general feeling is, if whoever is doing the design and set-up of the system spends the time to do it right, and considers their end-result goals above any sort of aesthetic brand preference or similar, it will usually have positive results. In other words, while horizontal speakers may not be the most ideal, or while phantom imaging may not be perfect, or whatever else, it can still work quite well.

Personally I've gone back to a phantom center, but I'll qualify that I generally listen/watch in stereo anyways, so I'm not missing a whole lot imho. I actually don't notice when the processor switches into surround (when left to it's own devices, of course) until something goes "whoosh" on the surrounds; pans are seamless. With the center in-place, I would still contend that pans were very good and imaging was spot-on, but I would absolutely notice whenever a surround program came on. That was distracting in my opinion, even if it wasn't "negative" to the overall performance.
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post #10 of 13 Old 04-02-2012, 06:59 PM
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I use a AVR to up-mix 2ch music in to surroundsound. I find I need a center to pull the centre vocal back into the front stage. Otherwise vocals float too far out towards me.

As for the importance of matching speakers... hmmm... I used to go by the conventional wisdom of matching sets. Started off with PSB Image T5's as fronts and Image B5's surrounds and Image C5 centre. Felt the treble was a little harsh on the Images so replaced the front T5's with PSB Imagine B's. This gave me a better sound with cleaner treble and more mid-range detail. Still felt vocal and texture of guitar chords can be improved upon though so decided to replace the B5's surrounds with Dynaudio DM2/6's as they had a nice detailed yet smooth top end. Vocals were very nice on the DM's, but they didn't have the mid range dynamics of the Imagine B's. Made for nicer surrounds with the Imagine B's though.

Next I wanted to try a set of Monitor Audio Gold GX50's. Great top end with bags of fine detail, yet in a smooth natural way. Mid-range is still a bit behind that of the Imagine B's so some things like piano notes sounded a bit weak.

So I have a collection of decent 2-way bookshelfs with 5 1/2" woofers. Similar speakers in a way, but each with its different character and weaknesses and strengths.

However I ended up with the GX50's as my front speakers doing the bulk of the work with the Imagine B's as wides giveing a good mid-range presence to the front stage making up for the deficiency of my GX50's, with the DM2/6's doing a nice job as the side surrounds. Still have the original PSB Image C5 centre as I haven`t decided what to replace it with yet.

The 2ch up-mix mode settings on my AVR has the wides and side surrounds at 60% of the front's volume, with the centre at 40%.

It does make for a nice musical surroundsound experience even though I have a mix of speakers from different brands.
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post #11 of 13 Old 04-03-2012, 05:09 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Twylight View Post

I'd like to start a separate threat about center channels with some thoughts of my own:

1. Do you need a matched center? for HT? for music?

Yes, whenever its actually being used.

Thing is that the center channel speaker is different from all the other speakers as regards to where it is situated. Therefore, it will sound appreciably different even if it is identical to all of the rest of the speakers.

It is really critical for the center channel speaker's tone to match that of the mains. The only way to achieve this in geenral is to apply equalization.


Quote:
2. Its very hard to do the above without an AT projector setup or a very high TV mount so most people buy a horizontal center.

The best place for the center speaker is behind the screen, centered on it. That is impractical without an acosutically transparent screen, so the next best place is above the screen. Under the screen is about the worst place to put it.

Quote:
3. 5 channel music - identical speakers all around?

Surround speakers don't need to be full range or particularly timbre matched.

Quote:
4. HT...does it really matter? The 5.1 and 7.1 center channel mix is simply not very dynamic in comparison to LR...as long as they are leveled match its not a huge deal...is this its own flame war?

Not for anybody who actually listens with their ears! ;-)

Quote:
5. If your mains are incredible and you get a good image...why bother? go phantom center and call it a night...

Frankly, that can work but a well-matched center is even better.

Quote:
6. Can your processor handle a phantom center correctly?

Its not much of a processor if it can't!

Please see my answer to 5.

Quote:
7. If you have a center with less range than your mains, does it matter?

Depends how much less. Depends how you pick up the slack.

Quote:
LFE crossovers can be set at 80 to 150 in many rooms and improve things anyways.

You seem to be answering your own questions. A, I stupid to give my own answers since you already seem to think that you know all the answers? ;-)

Quote:
8. I do agree you want them at least similar (like from the matching line of speakers or era from the brand)

In fact matching brands or matching drivers often isn't enough.

Quote:
9. If you are a believer - what kind of range do you want? flat to 30hz? seems excessive in DTS HT.

If the center speaker goes down as low as the mains, no futher extension should be necessary. If it goes low enough to smoothly transition to the sub, no further extension should be necessary.

Quote:
My conclusion:
Center channel doesn't matter much, but my receiver is annoying with phantom and I like the center coming from the center of the screen, not a 15 foot wide sound stage. buy a center that is close to matching and be happy.

I can only reiterate what I said in the answer to 5, nothing beats a well-matched center channel speaker. But no center channel speaker at all can work in some situations. No center channel is better than a problemtical one.
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post #12 of 13 Old 04-03-2012, 08:32 PM
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5. If your mains are incredible and you get a good image...why bother? go phantom center and call it a night...

As I mentioned in several other threads: As part of Dolby's Specification, if less than 5 speakers are used Dolby will enable dynamic range compression. This setting is not visible to the end user, and not adjustable. It helps make the dialog more audible and reduces the stress on the remaining speakers. You also cant "raise" the center channel only if needed. So no phantom centers for me....
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post #13 of 13 Old 02-18-2013, 07:35 AM
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Anyone want to update this some?

Salk is making both the Phil 1 and Phil two centers now. Phil 1 is with the fundtek ribbon and Phil 2 I "Think" is now the ST Center with a RAAL upgrade? Both are MTM speakers.

You can go custom made MWTM...at a upcharge...

I am a little lost here on the center. The master has said that the Phil 1 center should be absolutely fine for voice and that a Raal is over kill. If we trust him on everything else...probably should trust him on this (just my two cents.) Or we can spend the extra and get teh RAAL but then I am not sure if the cross over and everyting else is jsut a ST that is close to the Phil'2 and 3 or Phil itself.

I feel bad for bugging both Jim and Dennis with my questions on this but I am still vague as to what to do.

Also, ST Center = Rear or Front ported and Phil 1 center = front ported.
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