Originally Posted by kbarnes701
First, yes, I agree that if you are listening to two channel music, you do not need a centre speaker. Two is perfectly adequate and a good phantom image can be formed at the centre from just the L and R channels, for one person listening. Of course, if the listener moves off centre, then the imaging is ruined as the whole soundstage shifts to the left or right.
But if you are talking about movies then a centre channel becomes a requirement, simply because movies are often/usually watched by more than one person at the same time. Thus a phantom centre channel cannot work satisfactorily in those circumstances because two people cannot sit at the same place at the same time. By using a physical centre channel, dialogue and other effects will always be locked to the centre of the screen regardless of where the listener sits in the theatre.
Your statement is very true, but your follow-up is hyperbole.
It's not as though moving your head 2ft on your average stereo setup destroys the sound-stage. Indeed: width of "sweet spot" is one of the things that speakers are rated on. Similarly: while you are completely correct that the use of a physical center places sound at that location regardless of listening position, and a phantom center cannot, it is not therefore true that a phantom center can work for only a single person and not two.
Several factors will come into play, including distance-to-speaker.
Sadly, you only partially solve the problem. If you with so remove ... let's call it "illusionary speakers" ... sound where there's not a physical box ... from the picture: then you only have far right, dead center, and far left. A car travelling across your screen will not pan: it will jump from right to center to left.
This would be an entirely unacceptable scenario: so movies are not recorded that way. They create the illusion of sound sources that don't exist. You are merely asserting that one arbitrary one is more important than the others.
In fact... the more I think about it... I don't run into that problem at all; even rather seriously off-axis. If I stand right next to a speaker, OK; but otherwise no.
Indeed: in that "sweet spot", I've found phantom surrounds to be *very* convincing. But *that* illusion breaks if I move too much. The center is pretty reliable.
Also, approximately 70% of all the sound in a movie emanates from the centre channel. Because of the importance of that, a physical channel will always image better than a phantom channel.
With a phantom, approximately 100% of the sound eminates from the front pair (surround not withstanding): therefore a phantom will always image better than a center.
Do you see how silly that sounds?
If your HT only has one seat, and it is dead centre between L and R speakers, then a phantom centre could possibly give a reasonable result. But it will never be as good as a physical speaker in the centre. Physical always beats phantom.
In two of my setups it was *far* superior. *Many* audio problems were solved by removing the center speaker.