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Goodbye Center Channel - Page 2

post #31 of 384
I saw that. But i still did it to verify. I'm glad I did, because it showed a strong contrast in the two mixes (i subscribe less to algorithm/bandwidth differences and more to different equipment/people/companies/budgets doing the soundtrack compression.)

I dont own FotP or WotW. Dark Knight SWAT van hit with rocket for the next test?

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post #32 of 384
Quote:
Originally Posted by SteveCallas View Post

Eyleron - if you read through that original thread, DTS doesn't engage the DRC, only DD.

So, since it seems the vast majority of Blu-ray movies use DTS-Master Audio, not having a center speaker is not a great liability in terms of dynamics, right? Also, does Dolby True HD also engage any manner of DRC? I hardly watch any DVDs now days, so that would make this DRC issue a moot point for me.
post #33 of 384
Quote:
Originally Posted by josh6113 View Post

I think using a phantom center deeply depends on how good your L and R are.I have only 2 towers that are definitive 8060-st's...there bipolar but image great and I use a phantom center.Crazy thing is I had the matching 8060-cs center for a while and was never really satisfied with it...was a 700 dollar center...sold it and now only use my towers.They have such a huge focused sound I don't need a center but eventually I'll get another 8060 tower for a center when funds allow for even more fun...wink.gif

I hear you on this. I tried 3 or 4 different center speakers and could never get my sound as good as with using only my front L/R towers, which are Legacy Audio Signature III. I found that, for my ears, I lost dialog intelligibility with every center speaker I tried, compared to the Legacys, which have a ribbon tweeter. I would try their Marquis HD center if I could afford it, but it is over $3000.

What really bothers me, and which apparently does not bother most people, is that with all the center speakers I tried, I lost the baritone quality of male voice, no matter what crossover settings I tried. I know the sub should have picked it up, but I did not find that to be the case. So, for now, I don't use the center speaker.
post #34 of 384
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob7145 View Post

With a center channel speaker you can do things that are not possible with a phantom center speaker. While viewing a sporting event you decide you would rather put your head in the blender with the margaritas than listen to another second of that obnoxious announcer. No problem, just turn the center channel Level down as low as it wil go. You still hear the all the game sounds, the crowd, the refs, everything except the announcer. It is more like being at the game. And when the commercials interrupt it works sometimes on them also! Phantom center just puts out twice as much annoying announcer haha. The openning ceremony for the Chinese Olympics was totally ruined by Mat Lower who talked continuously thru the entire event obscuring the music.
Try it. Of course most people want to hear the commercials during the Superbowl so it just depends on the event. Not much more trouble than changing the volume on the remote. I occasionally use it on Nascar races.

I would have never even thought to do that. Since it is an easy button push on my Onkyo remote I may to try this during the football games this weekend.
post #35 of 384
Quote:
Originally Posted by rdclark View Post

IMO, the phantom center has the potential to outperform any physical CC speaker ever made. However, the conditions must be perfect.

The reason for the high potential is, of course, that only a phantom center can provide a 100% perfect timbre-match for the left and right speakers. It is simply not possible, except in an anechoic chamber with the speakers suspended in mid-air, for a CC to perfectly match the mains, because no CC can have the same relationship with room boundaries as the mains. In a real room the CC speaker will sound different even if it is identical to the mains, because of placement.

Additionally, there can be only one listening position, centered and on-axis, and the mains must be perfectly separated in the classic equilateral triangle relationship with that position.

Finally, there must be as much dynamic range available over two channels as would normally be available over three. This could infer two great speakers instead of three good ones, which is a benefit. Those two speakers might be selected for their particularly solid stereo imaging. It could also require a more powerful AVR because the CC amp channel will simply go unused.

Is a room where the audience is never more than one person really a "home theater?" smile.gif

In any case, there are a lot of nicely equipped 1200-cubic foot rooms out there where a 60in plasma and a 4.1 nearfield setup (with dipole surrounds) could provide a near-perfect movie-watching experience. As long as solo viewing is your idea of perfection, that is!

When using three identical vertical speakers located at the same height and distance from the front wall, then you will get a timbre match. You just need an AT screen to do so. smile.gif
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post #36 of 384
Quote:
Originally Posted by bookishboy13 View Post

he told me the center channel is the most important speaker in the system. I bought it, installed it, hated it,
I have said it a few times and I feel the sub is the most important speaker in a 5.1 system and most times people reply back and swear the center is the most important? That is the beauty of what fits you and your system best. I do goto a 2.2 and I bypass my center and surrounds when listening to music.
post #37 of 384
Quote:
Originally Posted by bookishboy13 View Post

With something bordering on evangelical passion, he told me the center channel is the most important speaker in the system. I bought it, installed it, hated it, and finally took it out. My receiver (Pioneer Elite) has the NO center channel setting and this works better than fine after a good set-up. The sound stage, for my tastes, are much more immersive. In fact, my current thinking is that the F/R are the most important, followed by the surrounds, followed by the center if you have a large, square room. Thoughts?

I have no center channel and feel the need for none. Voice comes through just fine.
post #38 of 384
Quote:
Originally Posted by Reefdvr27 View Post


I have said it a few times and I feel the sub is the most important speaker in a 5.1 system and most times people reply back and swear the center is the most important? That is the beauty of what fits you and your system best. I do goto a 2.2 and I bypass my center and surrounds when listening to music.

I'd say it's the center channel that is so important. How you handle that part of the soundtrack is what's up for debate. Thus, the title of this thread is poor. It should be "Goodbye Center Speaker."

post #39 of 384
Quote:
Originally Posted by SteveCallas View Post

The easiest way to test it is to play a scene with the minimum required 5 speakers and sub hooked up, then setup your receiver to tell it no discrete center, but phantom center, then play the scene again at the same master volume. In dynamic audio scenes, the difference is easily noticed, assuming one's hearing isn't crap. I'm doubtful that those who reported DRC not engaging without the center were providing accurate information.....I think they either didn't want to believe it or didn't conduct the test properly.

I've done that several times. Almost every time I've removed my center channel because of how much the sound improved.
post #40 of 384
rolleyes.gif
post #41 of 384
Quote:
Originally Posted by Eyleron View Post

I'd say it's the center channel that is so important. How you handle that part of the soundtrack is what's up for debate. Thus, the title of this thread is poor. It should be "Goodbye Center Speaker."
See, you proved my point tongue.gif The only time I really comment on what is more important is when people building a system on a budget. I usually advise to get a sub before a center because you can phantom center. Me, I love my center channel, I believe it is how you set it for what dialog you are listening to enjoy and get the most from it.
post #42 of 384
I can see why some prefer a phantom center from a few of the other systems I've seen.

Usually the cabinet and drivers quite a bit smaller than the L/R, its shoved into an entertainment stand, pointed up/down away from the listeners ears, improperly placed, etc.
Dialog centering, panning effect across the front stage, off-axis listening, I dont see how you would get the same effect with a proper CC as without.
When sound engineers produce the audio in movies, the information that is found in the center channel is IMO something that a phantom cannot provide.

I dont know, if you're going to skimp on a CC, then maybe a phantom center is for you.
Edited by Yosh70 - 1/11/13 at 7:07pm
post #43 of 384

+1 Yes. I think one will run into trouble with any extreme position like "You can't reproduce the dynamics or channel localization without a real center speaker" or "Phantom centers offer superior matched speakers and will always beat a center speaker."

 

Someone using two towers producing a narrow sweet spot with terrible side reflections in the room? A center speaker will probably improve on that, unless it's a terribly matched center or terribly placed.

 

Someone using the wimpy driver center in the cabinet (which is all too common!), the phantom might beat this.

 

I'll take Wayne Parham's CornerHorns as a phantom setup over most systems with a center speaker any day. Those speakers are designed with care to have a large sweet spot, even directivity, great dynamics, with a mitigation of reflections that contain the linear distortion of uneven power response.

 

If in some fantasy land most people didn't skimp on the center and didn't compromise its placement in the room, the phantom center would have little attraction and we'd only talk about it as a relic of oldtimers. Unfortunately, I see too many photos of systems with giant towers set to Large (yielding big bass problems) that can extend to 35Hz but have low sensitivity, with tiny center speakers. And I think, "Really? You're going to skimp on the speaker that 70% of the soundtrack's going to come out of?" And sometimes it's not the buyer's fault. What the manufacturer "matches" to their towers can be a terrible center.

 

It depends on the situation and what compromises are being made.

post #44 of 384
Quote:
Originally Posted by Reefdvr27 View Post
Me, I love my center channel, I believe it is how you set it for what dialog you are listening to enjoy and get the most from it.

Yeah, and one would be amazed at the amount of content that is in the center channel. To appreciate it, one could disable all speakers except the LCR and unplug the L and R if it's easy enough.

I've hard all kinds of music, gun shots, explosions, car crashes, singing, etc. from that channel.

post #45 of 384
I my bedroom my center channel was height-matched with the tweeters of the L/R speakers; all of which were at ear height. They were equidistant and the center was centered directly under the TV.

In that room I tried (among others) a B&W matched setup (HTM1 between two N801's). I tried a Paradigm Monitor setup (Pardigm Studio 40v3 with either a 470v3 or 57v3, I honestly no longer remember which).

These are not under-powered nor mismatched centers and they were not improperly placed.

In some setups; phantom simply works better. In other setups it doesn't. It isn't a matter if "if you just had the right center then you'd see it's better".
post #46 of 384
With my 100" projector screen, a negative I have found using a center channel, is that the vocals and many other sounds, appear to be coming from below the screen. Well, this is because the center channel is in fact located below the screen! This seems to me a problem intrinsic to single center channel setups - unless perhaps you can place the center channel behind the screen using a material that allows sound to come through.

I tested using the phantom channel setup, and in some cases it seems to do a better job of making sounds appear like they are coming from the charactors/objects on the screen. This is likely because the L/R speakers are located higher up on each side, and volume of the sounds between them can trick the brain into thinking voices and other sounds are coming directly from the screen, or even somewhat left or right on the screen. Center channel can't do this since it is only one speaker.

I would be interested to read comment on the above mechanics, because it does seem a flaw when using a single center channel located below a screen. I would also add, phantom channel to my ear, gives a more expansive sound, compared to center channel, where sometimes if a part of a film has mainly center channel sound, it seems like I am watching the movie in mono sound. Might not be a problem with a small screen, but larger screen it is noticable. On the other hand, a few times using phantom center, the sound did seem too wide and expansive, maybe not focused enough.

For now I am using the real center channel in 5.1 setup, since I have it. But might try playing around with phantom setup again.
post #47 of 384
Many of you have tocuhed on the aspects of a good center channel and why sometimes a phantom would be preferred. Let's start with ideal. 3 identical front speakers all placed at the same height, preferably ear height. Anything other than this is a compromise and must be weighed on how much it will affect sound.

First if using all the same front speakers the only way to get them all placed at the same height is to use an acoustically transparent screen, place them all below or all above the screen. With this compromise it depends on how much below the screen. We detect sounds from below us easier than sounds above. So if it is only a little below the screen and aimed up at the listeners it won't be bad. Above the screen can work well if the listeners aren't too close. The ceiling should be treated. Above works better for multiple rows as below the screen the direct sound is often obstructed. The didadvantage for above or below is the 2 channel guys will notice. It is not bad for video material because our brain will trick us into thinking its coming from the screen if the angles aren't extreme.

For speakers not at the same height they need to be within ~ 7 degrees difference for us not to notice when panning across the screen.

As for different speakers they are a compromise! It doesn't matter if they are the same series, a better or worse series. They do not match, period! Turning a speaker on its side is a compromise. You just changed the off axis capability of that speaker and will react differently in the room no matter what. The exception to this is a coaxial speaker like some by Kef or Tannoy. If using a different center the best compromise is one with a vetically arranged midrange and tweeter flanked by the woofers as its off acix response won't be as deteriorated as its L/R counterparts. Provided the L/R counterparts use the exact same driver configuration but in a vertical arrangement. If there are different drivers say the L/R are two way speakers but you use a three way center to help with its off axis counterpart this is still a compromise.

Lastly room placement. Place the same speaker in a different part of the room and will sound different. This is probably the least of the compromises unless you are putting your speakers in very bad spots like a corner. I see this often with people trying to get the biggest screen they can. Acoustics is all about location, and location of speakers is a big part of good sound.

A good lower priced system will outperform a better one if set up correctly. Even some relatively inexpensive in wall speakers with proper placement behind an AT screens will out perform some very nice speakers if they are placed poorly.

When is it preferred to use a phantom center? Well that is tough to say but you have the compromises listed and depending on how much of a compromise varies depending on each is own situation. One advantage of a dedicated center is soundstage. The phantom really only works well for people in the middle of the two speakers, often only one listener. The further you are from that sweet spot the worse the presentation will be. While a the sweet spot even with a center channel is still going to be the same location. If you are sitting more off denter the center speaker will still center the dialogue and give a more realisitc presentation instead of mostly hearing just one of the speakers. Any seating outside of the front speakers is a compromise and a cheap seat. Don't bother using these seats in a calibration of your system.

Hope this helps.
post #48 of 384
Quote:
Originally Posted by BobL View Post

When is it preferred to use a phantom center? Well that is tough to say but you have the compromises listed and depending on how much of a compromise varies depending on each is own situation. One advantage of a dedicated center is soundstage. The phantom really only works well for people in the middle of the two speakers, often only one listener. The further you are from that sweet spot the worse the presentation will be. While a the sweet spot even with a center channel is still going to be the same location. If you are sitting more off denter the center speaker will still center the dialogue and give a more realisitc presentation instead of mostly hearing just one of the speakers. Any seating outside of the front speakers is a compromise and a cheap seat. Don't bother using these seats in a calibration of your system.

Some good comments, but I take issue with some of the blanket statements about sweet spot. Above, I posted a link to a Bill Waslo paper on constant directivity speakers setup and toe-in. He nicely presents and summarizes others work on time-intensity trading with diagrams.

 

He shows aiming the left speaker at the right-most seat, and aiming the right speaker at the left-most seat. The on-axis seat of course gets the loudest intensity, but as it's farthest away, the level is balanced. Thus, a wide sweet spot is achieved. This technique isn't mentioned as much because most speakers can't achieve uniform directivity: as you fall off-axis, the frequency response has serious abberations.

 

Even with a center (which admitedly reduces the path-length-difference across the seats), someone is sitting off-axis to the front L & R speakers, and if the frequency response is ragged, you're not getting a great performance.

post #49 of 384
Quote:
Originally Posted by BobL View Post

With this compromise it depends on how much below the screen. We detect sounds from below us easier than sounds above. So if it is only a little below the screen and aimed up at the listeners it won't be bad.
Unless, as in my bedroom, you are looking up at your screen. Then your speakers can be level with your ears and below the screen.
post #50 of 384
The reality of physics is there can only be one spot where sound level from the speakers is equal and arrives at the same time. Even if you level match you can't time match. Just think about setting levels and delays in a receiver. That doesn't mean all other seats are bad but the further you get from the sweet spot the worse the sound will be. You can use spatial averaging and/or over toeing to calibrate your system to get good sound in the main listening area with no money seat or you can calibrate for one sweet spot.

Waveguides have been around for at least 50 years and you are correct that using speakers that have a good off axis dispersion is generally preferred in most rooms and over toeing has been a technique for that long but has trade offs as well. Depending on the design of the speaker waveguides also help with the crossover region of the drivers. But even the best of speakers do not have constant directivity off axis they still roll off in the high frequencies but a good speaker won't have any aberration as you state. The best response is typically on axis of a speaker. How speakers measure on and off axis has a lot do to with how they interact in the room and play a big part in how the room should be treated. Speakers that don't roll off much at all are constant beam width technology speakers. JBL's Pro division has some of these. They have their tradeoffs as well but you will see more of these speaker types used in the future. Dr Toole mentioned these in his book.

Yes being reclined or in bed speakers below the screen work well:-)
post #51 of 384
Quote:
Originally Posted by bookishboy13 View Post

In a previous thread regarding using two center channel speakers, one above the display, one below, AudioJosh noted that he doesn't use a center channel, and that a good system doesn't need one. I was running Paradigm Signature bookshelves and my salesman talked me into adding a center speaker. With something bordering on evangelical passion, he told me the center channel is the most important speaker in the system. I bought it, installed it, hated it, and finally took it out. My receiver (Pioneer Elite) has the NO center channel setting and this works better than fine after a good set-up. The sound stage, for my tastes, are much more immersive. In fact, my current thinking is that the F/R are the most important, followed by the surrounds, followed by the center if you have a large, square room. Thoughts?

Which signature center did he sell you? Also, which signature bookshelves do you have? The S1 or S2?
post #52 of 384
Quote:
Originally Posted by MrEastSide View Post

I don't like the idea of all the front content being crammed, all together, out of two speakers.
So you rather have all the sound (90% anyway) coming from one speaker instead?

When speakers are 6-8 feet apart from each other, a center is simply not needed. Now 15-20 feet apart, then absolutely. Running MartinLogan setup here; had the center channel and finally removed it. What a revelation! Clearer dialogue, MUCH better sound FX presentation as well.
post #53 of 384
Quote:
Originally Posted by SteveCallas View Post

The easiest way to test it is to play a scene with the minimum required 5 speakers and sub hooked up, then setup your receiver to tell it no discrete center, but phantom center, then play the scene again at the same master volume. In dynamic audio scenes, the difference is easily noticed, assuming one's hearing isn't crap. I'm doubtful that those who reported DRC not engaging without the center were providing accurate information.....I think they either didn't want to believe it or didn't conduct the test properly.
If my hearing is crap, what kind of center do you recommend? tongue.gif
post #54 of 384
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yosh70 View Post

When sound engineers produce the audio in movies, the information that is found in the center channel is IMO something that a phantom cannot provide.
Do tell, what information does a center channel produce, that a phantom center (muxing of mono center channel into the L/R speakers) eliminates, refuses to reproduce but a center channel speaker will provide?

After reading most of this thread, and reading that phantom 'cuts' dynamics, information disappears, etc...I have come to the conclusion that most here have no clue as to how a phantom center ACTUALLY works.

A phantom center channel tells the Rx to play the center channel audio thru the L/R speakers. ALL or nothing even; the AVR does not (should not) do anything other than send signals to attached speakers. I understand y'all with $3,000+ center speakers feeling a need to justify, which is fine, but not at the expense of the truth. And truth be told, a center channel is an ad gimmick to sell more merchandise. I mean, more is better...isn't it? wink.gif
post #55 of 384
Quote:
Originally Posted by SteveCallas View Post

Without a center, dynamic range compression kicks on, and dynamic range compression is a watered down sountrack experience.
No. No it doesn't. Dynamics remain the same, as the exact same information is diverted from the center channel to the left and right channels EQUALLY. cool.gif
post #56 of 384
Quote:
Originally Posted by BobL View Post

The reality of physics is there can only be one spot where sound level from the speakers is equal and arrives at the same time.

Actually, you can move alone any line parallel to the plane in which all speakers exist.

Assuming that the speakers produced the source at the same time (this moves if you introduce a delay), it would be a plane infinite in height and bisecting the center-point between the speakers (such that all points on the plane were equidistant from both speakers). Of course some of that plane would deal with rather off-axis output or the cabinets as baffles. In a typical 4-or-5-speaker setup, it would be a vertical line.

My speakers are timed for the center of the headrest of the bed. Moving off axis a bit doesn't hurt much. Like moving around in a theater.
post #57 of 384
Quote:
Originally Posted by Splicer010 View Post
 And truth be told, a center channel is an ad gimmick to sell more merchandise. I mean, more is better...isn't it? wink.gif

That's a pretty bold statement. Yeah, I'm sure the tens of thousands of theaters in the world were duped by the "ad guys." rolleyes.gif

 

The precedence effect means that if you sit closer to a speaker, the sound field "collapses" to that speaker, even if the sounds were intended to be dead-center. The center speaker mitigates this by providing less path-length differences and anchoring the center channel for those sitting off-axis.

Also, correlated sounds coming from each L and R speaker can combine in bad ways. But I'm not sure how common this is (I'll try to read through parts of the Toole book some more). 
 

Still, I'm only recently open to the possibilities of making a phantom center work. As has been said several times, you'd better have a wide sweet spot. And the time [distance]-intensity trading afforded by uniform directivity offers this.

post #58 of 384
Quote:
Originally Posted by Splicer010 View Post
No. No it doesn't. Dynamics remain the same, as the exact same information is diverted from the center channel to the left and right channels EQUALLY. cool.gif

If you read through most of this thread, I'm sorry you missed the part talking about DRC / Dolby Digital / Phantom Center. DRC is dynamic range compression, and unless one is listening at lower volumes, it's generally considered an evil for music or movies (as it squashes dynamics). There were many cases where receiver manufacturers stupidly forced DRC on when there was no center speaker selected. Here's another post about it: http://www.avsforum.com/t/1420941/phantom-center-with-constant-direcitivty-speakers/0_50#post_22819489

post #59 of 384
Quote:
Originally Posted by Eyleron View Post

Still, I'm only recently open to the possibilities of making a phantom center work. As has been said several times, you'd better have a wide sweet spot. And the time [distance]-intensity trading afforded by uniform directivity offers this.
If you are not in the sweet spot: you already have an audio problem whether you have a center channel or not.
post #60 of 384
Quote:
Originally Posted by Eyleron View Post

If you read through most of this thread, I'm sorry you missed the part talking about DRC / Dolby Digital / Phantom Center. DRC is dynamic range compression, and unless one is listening at lower volumes, it's generally considered an evil for music or movies (as it squashes dynamics). There were many cases where receiver manufacturers stupidly forced DRC on when there was no center speaker selected. Here's another post about it: http://www.avsforum.com/t/1420941/phantom-center-with-constant-direcitivty-speakers/0_50#post_22819489
Again, no, no it doesn't. What that article (and resulting discussion) states (very clearly I might add) is that DRC kicks on when DD is downmixed to stereo, NOT phantom center. The LFE track is still there, dynamics are all still there, in other words there is no difference in dynamics when using a phantom center vs. standard center.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Eyleron View Post

That's a pretty bold statement. Yeah, I'm sure the tens of thousands of theaters in the world were duped by the "ad guys." rolleyes.gif
The truth is indeed bold. Now, had you read what I had written you would have noticed that I said for the average consumer (Joe six pack) whose speakers are no more than 6-8 feet apart do not need a center whereas 15-20 feet then yes indeed a center is warranted. Movie theaters (of which I at one time built for a living) are just a tad further than 15-20 feet apart and center is absolutely required for proper sound dispersal. So not quite sure how we got from HT to actual movie theaters???

All in all, I know what I hear and have heard for years. I can confidently exclaim that since I have been into HT for the past 15 years, that using a center speaker vs. using phantom results in zero dyynamic differences. This with AIWA, Onkyo, Denon AVRs using a variety of speakers/combinations over that span of time. YMMV but as a whole, the center channel speaker is not a requirement for awesome movie soundtracks. wink.gif
Edited by Splicer010 - 1/13/13 at 9:01am
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