Running 9.2 channels through a Pioneer Elite SC-55 with identical LCR speakers. As good a sound field as I have heard using 'Neo-X Music + THX' but no matter how hard I try, phantom center sounds better... more 'natural'.
I got a new receiver - the inexpensive but well-reviewed Sony STR-DN1030.
Compared to my older receivers - a Harman Kardon AVR-645
and a Sony STR-DH820, the DN1030 is a sizzling sonic powerhouse. I'm ready to admit that because my last receivers were a bit long-in-tooth, I underestimated how good processing and amplification has become. The 1030 sounds exactly like my Crown amps. At the price point of the 1030, I can say my mind is blown. I am genuinely surprised by how detailed the soundfield is. I am a fan of phantom center listening, if I'm alone it's wonderful to sit in the sweet spot - or cuddled up with my wife. However...
I am much more of a 'center channel fan' than I was yesterday. Without question Sony went all-out to make the 1030 a great sounding receiver. After some testing last night - the last act of Bourne Legacy and then the first half of Iron Man, I am ready to concede - I will not be watching movies with a phantom center again. Music is still a toss-up, with phantom winning out more often than not - when it comes to movies, I'm now in agreement with fans of highly competent center channels.Edited by imagic - 12/31/12 at 7:58am