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For Music: Center Channel Necessary?  

post #1 of 68
Thread Starter 
I have 2 Onix RS 750s for fronts, 2 Onix 250 MKIIs for rears, a Yamaha 657 receiver, and an Hsu VTF-3 subwoofer. The room I have the equipment in is 21X17, with one door leading to a hallway. The ceilings are 8 1/2 feet high. The floor is hardwood but I have scatter rugs underneath each of the speakers.

I listen ONLY to music, mostly classical. What, if anything, would I gain from purchasing a center channel speaker?

Thanks
post #2 of 68
Classical / Orchestral music is one of the genres where the center is used sparingly. In fact, the DSP mode for classical on some receivers will remove all sound from the center channel. For rock / pop music the center is often used to anchor the vocals, but sometimes that effect doesn't work very well.

Now if you have SACDs or DVD-Audio discs that you will be playing through the system, you should consider getting a center speaker so that the original mix is preserved. Otherwise, I would not worry about a center unless you start using your system for video.
post #3 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by MRM11756
I have 2 Onix RS 750s for fronts, 2 Onix 250 MKIIs for rears, a Yamaha 657 receiver, and an Hsu VTF-3 subwoofer. The room I have the equipment in is 21X17, with one door leading to a hallway. The ceilings are 8 1/2 feet high. The floor is hardwood but I have scatter rugs underneath each of the speakers.

I listen ONLY to music, mostly classical. What, if anything, would I gain from purchasing a center channel speaker?

Thanks
Centrally located voices will sound more natural as you will hear them as in real life: from a single source as opposed to a phantom source unnaturally generated from two sources. Opera recordings will benefit in particular. I listen to 80/20 music/video and use the center channel all the time with PLIIx music.
post #4 of 68
no.
post #5 of 68
are you listening to stero sources? If you're using multichannel high-res, I'd say yes, but matched well (identical is ideal). If you're using 2-channel sources, why do you even have surrounds? Just run stereo...
post #6 of 68
you've got some great speakers just add the rocket bigfoot center RCS200 if you have or want to get into DVD-A or SACD and enjoy.
post #7 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by MRM11756
What, if anything, would I gain from purchasing a center channel speaker?
Vocal clarity, imaging stability, etc.

I'll underscore what tonygeno said: the human voice is not a dual-mono, phantom-imaged, comb-filtering source. Using two speakers reproduces it in a way that we never hear in real life. A centre speaker makes a noticable difference when listening to opera or any music with vocals.

For music without vocals, you'll still get the advantage of a more stable front soundstage. Sounds that are supposed to image centrally will only do so if you are sitting in the narrow sweet spot between your front speakers. If you move off centre, the phantom central image moves with you. Using a centre speaker prevents this from happening.

About 85% of what I listen to is music, usually 2-channel CDs, and I never (ever) listen without a centre speaker.

Best,
Sanjay
post #8 of 68
Thread Starter 
I listen to 2-channel CDs. According to ChrisWiggles not only do I not need a center speaker, I may not even need surrounds. Yet tonygeno says that he "use(s) the center channel all the time with PLIIx music."

At the same time, Windwaves says, "no" and jvgillow says, "don't worry about a center" unless I start using my system for video, while sdurani almost always uses a center speaker when he listens to music.

So, I count 2 FOR using a center channel speaker and 3 AGAINST using a center speaker. This is, uhmm...interesting. Guess I'll have just have to try and have a listen with and without.

Thank you all for your comments and suggestions.
post #9 of 68
I strongly ditto ChrisWiggles: 2-channel music converted into surround just sounds completely screwy and unnatural to my ears.

When I got my Ascend 340 center I admit I did spend the first few days listening to stereo in DPLIIx because I loved it so much, but was much happier when I went back to normal 2-channel.

In fact, with my Ascends on L/R stereo, voices often sound AS IF they are coming from the center channel! Can't tell you how many times I've had guests ask me if the center channel is on. So it really depends on how well your system (speakers mainly, but power source and musical source can impact it too) images.

Think about it: if you are at a live performance, the music is coming from only one direction, the stage. It is NOT being piped in through the side and back walls at you.

The only time I would use surround speakes for music would be if I just wanted extra SPL for a party, then I'd choose multichannel stereo mode.
post #10 of 68
If your taking a poll... always use a center as well.
post #11 of 68
I like both 5 channel and two channel for music. My main floor standers do a great job alone but I like the sound of all five speakers (or in my case six)working. I have a variation on the single center channel setup. The center that matches my main speakers would not fit in my custom Entertainment Center's divided space above the screen. I was using a smaller center speaker placed off center above the screen and always felt that this was the weak link in my systems sound. I decided to buy two bookshelves that are a match for my mains and run two center channel outs to them from my amp. They are directly over my DLP RP screen and after EQing them, I am very happy with the sound. They have improved the sound for multi channel music to an amazing degree and the dialog on movies is much clearer than before. The way I have them positioned, they are very similar to the large center but with two tweeters and two mid/bass drivers. They fit perfectly into the divided space above the display. If you have a situation like mine, you may want to try this. It worked out great for me.
post #12 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by edster922
In fact, with my Ascends on L/R stereo, voices often sound AS IF they are coming from the center channel!
When seated directly in front of the left or right speaker? Impossible. If you use a center channel, though, voices will be anchored in the center, the whole point of a center channel. Guess what, the only reason we have stereo is that 3 channels would not fit on the carriers of the day (like phonograph records in the 50s). Some of the wonderful Living Stereo recordings from the 50s were 3 channel. Only today, with SACD, can we hear all three channels. John Pfeiffer, Lewis Leyton and Dick Mohr knew a thing or two about a thing or two (or three). And some of the seminal work on stereo at Bell labs in the 30s (1933 to be exact) was done with 3 channels.

For an interesting read, click on the link below:

http://history.acusd.edu/gen/recording/bell-labs.html
post #13 of 68
LOL Tony, you may be right about your audio history, but you obviously do not own Ascend 340s. This default "stereo phantom center" phenomenon is reported all the time on the Ascend users' forum...and I'm sure there are other speakers which also image that well too.
post #14 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by edster922
LOL Tony, you may be right about your audio history, but you obviously do not own Ascend 340s. This default "stereo phantom center" phenomenon is reported all the time on the Ascend users' forum...and I'm sure there are other speakers which also image that well too.
Phantom center works when you're seated in the center. It is physically impossible if you're off to the side, as the speaker you are closest to has to dominate, no ifs ands or buts about it, pulling the center image to that speaker.
post #15 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by MRM11756
I listen to 2-channel CDs. According to ChrisWiggles not only do I not need a center speaker, I may not even need surrounds. Yet tonygeno says that he "use(s) the center channel all the time with PLIIx music."

At the same time, Windwaves says, "no" and jvgillow says, "don't worry about a center" unless I start using my system for video, while sdurani almost always uses a center speaker when he listens to music.

So, I count 2 FOR using a center channel speaker and 3 AGAINST using a center speaker. This is, uhmm...interesting. Guess I'll have just have to try and have a listen with and without.

Thank you all for your comments and suggestions.
You have wandered into a topic that has been debated many times on this forum. Both sides are positive in their positions and won't give an inch. And both sides are right in some things, wrong in others, and not happy unless everyone agrees with their position. You have it right. Listen to both yourself and make up your own mind. My position, by the way, is that with the right room, right speakers, and right material, a center channel is not only superflous but can add issues and compromises that have to be dealt with. (if you use a horizontaly placed center with drivers at different heights than the mains) But, if you plan on using an exact same speaker, place vertically at the same height as the mains, I will concede that the three speaker front soundstage is superior. In my home, I use a center channel and deal with the compromise as I have seating that is outside the sweet spot and dialog clearly wanders without the center channel.
post #16 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by tonygeno
Phantom center works when you're seated in the center. It is physically impossible if you're off to the side, as the speaker you are closest to has to dominate, no ifs ands or buts about it, pulling the center image to that speaker.
oh, I didn't know we were talking about off-center listening. In that case you're right of course. I would imagine that most people usually sit in the "sweet spot," though...at least I do.

Sometimes even at the expense of marital harmony. :D
post #17 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by edster922
oh, I didn't know we were talking about off-center listening. In that case you're right of course. I would imagine that most people usually sit in the "sweet spot," though...at least I do.

Sometimes even at the expense of marital harmony. :D
Me too.
post #18 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by edster922
Think about it: if you are at a live performance, the music is coming from only one direction, the stage. It is NOT being piped in through the side and back walls at you.
Think about this: with 2-speaker playback, the music comes from the front and recorded ambience comes from ...the front. (?) That's not how we hear a live performance.

With surround, music still comes from the front, but ambient cues in the recording come from the same directions they did at a live performance: at your sides and behind you.
Quote:
I would imagine that most people usually sit in the "sweet spot," though...at least I do.
I do too. However there are times when the music relaxes me and I stretch out on the couch. But it doesn't matter what I do, the vocals always stay in the same place. Just like in real life.

Besides, even for listeners in the sweet spot, the perviously mentioned advantages still hold true. The human voice is not a dual-mono phantom image. Why would you deliberately reproduce it through two speaker when you never hear it that way in real life?

Best,
Sanjay
post #19 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by edster922
LOL Tony, you may be right about your audio history, but you obviously do not own Ascend 340s. This default "stereo phantom center" phenomenon is reported all the time on the Ascend users' forum...and I'm sure there are other speakers which also image that well too.
Not to knock your Asends but any decent 2 channel speaker setup should yield proper imaging including "stereo phantom center".
post #20 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by tbhugh
Not to knock your Asends but any decent 2 channel speaker setup should yield proper imaging including "stereo phantom center".
well, not in my experience.
post #21 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by sdurani
Think about this: with 2-speaker playback, the music comes from the front and recorded ambience comes from ...the front. (?) That's not how we hear a live performance.

With surround, music still comes from the front, but ambient cues in the recording come from the same directions they did at a live performance: at your sides and behind you. I do too. However there are times when the music relaxes me and I stretch out on the couch. But it doesn't matter what I do, the vocals always stay in the same place. Just like in real life.

Besides, even for listeners in the sweet spot, the perviously mentioned advantages still hold true. The human voice is not a dual-mono phantom image. Why would you deliberately reproduce it through two speaker when you never hear it that way in real life?
Yeah but those ambient reflections in a concert hall sound very different from the computer-generated ambient reflections you get from a surround system. At least to my ears that is.

Simulated surround just doesn't sound "right"...probably because the computer-generated reflections totally screw with the listening room's own inherent reflections.

You also are forgetting that unless you are sitting very close to the stage at a concert, you are still experiencing a quasi-stereo sound image due to amplification.
post #22 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by edster922
well, not in my experience.
In your experience, what decent speakers did not yield a proper "phantom center"? This should be the first basic test of any audition, pop in a vocal track and if the speaker can't image properly, stop right there.
post #23 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by tbhugh
In your experience, what decent speakers did not yield a proper "phantom center"? This should be the first basic test of any audition, pop in a vocal track and if the speaker can't image properly, stop right there.
Most recently, some Polk LSi bookshelves. Nice warm sound but awful imaging.
post #24 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by edster922
Yeah but those ambient reflections in a concert hall sound very different from the computer-generated ambient reflections you get from a surround system. At least to my ears that is.

Simulated surround just doesn't sound "right"...probably because the computer-generated reflections totally screw with the listening room's own inherent reflections.

You also are forgetting that unless you are sitting very close to the stage at a concert, you are still experiencing a quasi-stereo sound image due to amplification.
Depends on what processing you listened to. Was it DPLII, Trifield or Logic7? None of these are "computer generated ambient reflections"?
post #25 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by tbhugh
Depends on what processing you listened to. Was it DPLII, Trifield or Logic7? None of these are "computer generated ambient reflections"?
It was DPLII, and also Neo6 which was a little better.
post #26 of 68
Interesting, I have have had the opposite experience, DPLII was better than Neo6 when I tried them both. Neo6 is not very stable in my experience, especially when I compared it to DPLII and L7 as well.
post #27 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by edster922
Yeah but those ambient reflections in a concert hall sound very different from the computer-generated ambient reflections you get from a surround system.
Matrix decoders (PLIIx, LOGIC7, Neo:5, Circle Surround II, etc) don't generate any ambience. Everything you hear is extracted from the recording itself.

2-channel recordings contain correlated (in-phase) mono content, which phantom images in the middle of the front soundstage. Those recordings also contain decorrelated (out-of-phase) content, which doesn't image in the front soundstage. In fact, it doesn't really image at all; it kinda sound like it's coming from around you. If you've ever heard sounds image outside the front LR speakers, you've heard the effect of decorrelated sounds.

Since they already image outside the front speakers, matrix decoders extract those specific sounds and send them to speakers placed outside the front soundstage. Note that stereo content in the recording remains in the front speakers, just as you'd hear at a live performance. It is the recorded ambience that is moved to the surrounds.

Best,
Sanjay
post #28 of 68
Tom,
Quote:
This should be the first basic test of any audition, pop in a vocal track and if the speaker can't image properly, stop right there.
But that's extremely rare. Even the cheapest computer speakers I've heard were able to float a phantom centre image. The couple of times I didn't hear centre imaging, it turned out the speakers were mis-wired (phase) or spread too far apart.

Sanjay
post #29 of 68
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by atdamico
You have wandered into a topic that has been debated many times on this forum. Both sides are positive in their positions and won't give an inch. And both sides are right in some things, wrong in others, and not happy unless everyone agrees with their position. You have it right. Listen to both yourself and make up your own mind. My position, by the way, is that with the right room, right speakers, and right material, a center channel is not only superflous but can add issues and compromises that have to be dealt with. (if you use a horizontaly placed center with drivers at different heights than the mains) But, if you plan on using an exact same speaker, place vertically at the same height as the mains, I will concede that the three speaker front soundstage is superior. In my home, I use a center channel and deal with the compromise as I have seating that is outside the sweet spot and dialog clearly wanders without the center channel.
Thank you for your comments, atdamico. Do I have you correct when you say that if a Center Speaker is used it should be identical to the Front Left and Right (but placed vertically)? If so, then what is the advantage (or advantages) of using a dedicated "center" speaker?
post #30 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by sdurani
Tom, But that's extremely rare. Even the cheapest computer speakers I've heard were able to float a phantom centre image. The couple of times I didn't hear centre imaging, it turned out the speakers were mis-wired (phase) or spread too far apart.

Sanjay
Completely agree Sanjay. That's why I was trying to say that Ascends weren't special in that regard without offending. ;)
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