Originally Posted by TastyHiHatWork
What else compromises sound quality? The fact that I'm not buying a McIntosh electronics setup? That my room isn't perfectly acoustically dead? I guess in the grand scheme of things putting the center in the TV stand won't kill me and, since I expect these speakers to last me for a very long time, I can optimize the setup down the road.
I'll place the center in front of the stand and play through it for a while before I put it in and see how big the sound difference is.
Also, what is the point of the flowport foam plugs? Under what circumstances should they be used?
Nah, you don't need a McIntosh electronics setup. When it comes to sound and you have at least decent speakers and decent electronics, the room is the overriding factor for quality.
Do you have right/left symmetry with respect to your listening position? Is your listening position between 33%-38% of the length dimension from either the front or rear wall? Are your speakers more than 4' away from any room boundaries? Do you have a room that has non-integer multiplicative related room dimensions? Have you treated the room with bass absorption? Have you treated the room for general decay time? Many other compromise points, and of course they all differ in their significance.
Putting the center into your stand may only hinder the performance in an acceptable manner to you. If you can keep the front baffle in front of any boundaries and the speaker pointed to your listening position, you can minimize problems due to this compromise that you have accepted. The reason why it can disturb the sound quality is because speakers output sound in all directions. Encasing the speaker in a cabinet causes early reflections of those sound waves - which can disturb the source wave.
The foam plugs are to cause the bass to start rolling off higher in frequency than they normally do. Sometimes, people plug the ports if the speaker is outputting a bit too much bass below 120hz due to any reason.
You don't necessarily want a dead room for good sound. For good multichannel sound, you do want to minimize decay times so that reflections don't muddle with actual source waves from the individual speakers. For a stereo setup, somewhat longer decay times help make the sound more enveloping although it is still desirable to have controlled even decay times across the frequency spectrum.
If you want to learn a little bit more about room acoustics, check out realtraps.com. They have some interesting and education videos on their website that help "normal" people better understand the not-so-well-understood nature of soundwaves in a room. They also have videos explaining comb filtering and boundary effects. These are definitely worth your time to explore if you don't feel like buying and reading a book like the Master Handbook of Acoustics by F.A. Everest ($25 on amazon).