Dual center speakers instead of AT screen? - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 40 Old 02-09-2016, 09:26 AM - Thread Starter
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Dual center speakers instead of AT screen?

Hello, Would having center speakers above and below the screen be worth the cost and trouble in a room where a AT screen is a poor option because of room size?
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post #2 of 40 Old 02-09-2016, 10:16 AM
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Originally Posted by gangrew View Post
Hello, Would having center speakers above and below the screen be worth the cost and trouble in a room where a AT screen is a poor option because of room size?
Probably more harm than good.
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post #3 of 40 Old 02-09-2016, 12:41 PM
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Single speaker above.

Placing two, one above and one below, will cause serious lobing artifacts in the vertical plane.

Placing one below, while OK, is much easier to localize (if you're an evolution guy, we evolved good localization at eye level and below because that's where most things that could eat us tended to be). Being able to localize the sound source somewhere other than where the eyes tell us it should be will cause a sort of fatigue where our brain tries to shift the sound up while our ears are telling it not to.

One speaker above is more difficult for us to localize precisely, thus our brains will happily enough do what the eyes tell them and move the sound image down. So long as you have room, one speaker behind the screen is best, followed by one above, followed by one below, followed by (take your pick, phantom vs two narrower spaced centers flanking the sides of a screen), then probably last one above and one below.
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post #4 of 40 Old 02-09-2016, 02:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Bigus View Post
Placing one below, while OK, is much easier to localize (if you're an evolution guy, we evolved good localization at eye level and below because that's where most things that could eat us tended to be).
I'd say that while this is true, and placement above also has the big advantage of an unobstructed line to second and third row ears, the important thing is to get the speaker as close to the screen as possible, and to use the smallest vertical off-axis angle from seating listening position(s), and the L/R speakers so that pans don't wander up and down. My center channel is below the screen (but very close to it), and the placement angle just clears the first row seat backs to work fine for the second/third rows. Had I put it above the screen , it would have been "way too high above" the first row ears, which I believe would have rendered more like ceiling placement, especially with pans from the floorstanding L/R speaker. But for my setup the placement below is just about at ear-level for the front row... So check your angles and pick the placement that's best for your layout.

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post #5 of 40 Old 02-09-2016, 04:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Bigus View Post
Placing one below, while OK, is much easier to localize (if you're an evolution guy, we evolved good localization at eye level and below because that's where most things that could eat us tended to be). Being able to localize the sound source somewhere other than where the eyes tell us it should be will cause a sort of fatigue where our brain tries to shift the sound up while our ears are telling it not to.

One speaker above is more difficult for us to localize precisely, thus our brains will happily enough do what the eyes tell them and move the sound image down. So long as you have room, one speaker behind the screen is best, followed by one above, followed by one below, followed by (take your pick, phantom vs two narrower spaced centers flanking the sides of a screen), then probably last one above and one below.


While this sounds logical and makes 100% sense in theory.......I have been in the HT game since the early 90's and have always used a speaker directly below the screen and have never once encountered the symptoms described above. YMMV of course.

Regarding the use of two as asked by the OP, I agree 100 % with you, NEVER EVER do that since the artifacts are too detrimental to any perceived gain.



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post #6 of 40 Old 02-09-2016, 06:56 PM
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Originally Posted by jautor View Post
I'd say that while this is true, and placement above also has the big advantage of an unobstructed line to second and third row ears, the important thing is to get the speaker as close to the screen as possible, and to use the smallest vertical off-axis angle from seating listening position(s), and the L/R speakers so that pans don't wander up and down. My center channel is below the screen (but very close to it), and the placement angle just clears the first row seat backs to work fine for the second/third rows. Had I put it above the screen , it would have been "way too high above" the first row ears, which I believe would have rendered more like ceiling placement, especially with pans from the floorstanding L/R speaker. But for my setup the placement below is just about at ear-level for the front row... So check your angles and pick the placement that's best for your layout.

Jeff
Surprisingly the brain will pull the image down quite easily to match the perceived L and R height. But there are of course extreme cases, especially when using a big 16 x 9 screen, or a very high screen placement for several rows, where the top may be so high that its reasonable to consider below instead. Or in some height limited rooms there may simply be no space left above the screen. There are always reasonable and valid exceptions.
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post #7 of 40 Old 02-09-2016, 06:58 PM
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Originally Posted by rms8 View Post
While this sounds logical and makes 100% sense in theory.......I have been in the HT game since the early 90's and have always used a speaker directly below the screen and have never once encountered the symptoms described above. YMMV of course.
It isn't something you would really "notice" in a straightforward way, but there has been research to this effect. I'm sure in some cases the effect is neglible, and as above in some extreme cases above would be borderline silly. But for many average layouts, if there is a choice, go with above.
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post #8 of 40 Old 02-10-2016, 01:43 AM
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I can speak from experience on this one. My dad and I built all the speakers for his home theater many years ago. We did the center speaker just as you have described. I cant notice any of the lobing effects that were mentioned, and the effect is as if the audio is coming from the center of the screen no matter what angle you sit at. I say give it a go and see what you think! Although I am pretty happy now with my AT screen with the center actually in the center. 😉
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post #9 of 40 Old 02-10-2016, 04:30 AM
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Originally Posted by Bigus View Post
.... But for many average layouts, if there is a choice, go with above.
Still have to disagree.....but that's fine, right.

Take a look at my HT (linked below). I could have easily gone the AT screen route (as I could have in my previous HT as well). I chose to have my center sit right below the edge of the white of the screen when it's lowered. I did this not for $$$ sake nor space sake. I have an additional 3 feet behind my screen wall and looking at the materials I used to finish my room and the speakers I purchased, one can see that $$$ was not a factor in speaker placement. It was a purely aesthetic choice. If for one second I thought the sound would be degraded at all, I would have simply gone the AT route with the center speaker alone.

Perhaps some people are susceptible to sound location? I heard both (although not in the same room on the same day), and if the room is done right and you have a well designed speaker, there literally is no difference. But again, here is the disclaimer : YMMV

The moral to this story is one should not look at a room where the center speaker is not located behind the screen and assume the experience is already sub-par. Big mistake.


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post #10 of 40 Old 02-10-2016, 04:33 AM
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I remember another theater built I think the Larryland theater with two centers above and below and that builder had no reported problems. I'd prefer an AT screen myself.
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post #11 of 40 Old 02-10-2016, 04:47 AM
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Originally Posted by BIGmouthinDC View Post
I remember another theater built I think the Larryland theater with two centers above and below and that builder had no reported problems. I'd prefer an AT screen myself.

Jeff,
When you say "no reported problems", was this a theater you built or have heard? I myself have never heard a dual center layout. I assumed due to theory it would provide a subpar experience, but if you give it your seal of approval, then that says a lot!

THX.


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post #12 of 40 Old 02-10-2016, 05:34 AM
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I only communicated with the builder via the forum as I quizzed him regarding his experience, At that time I had a Stewart Firehawk screen non AT and was contemplating upgrading my center channel because it was lacking in the second row. I happen to subscribe to the notion that if you can't see the speaker you only hear the reflected sound not direct source. From my sound reproduction/acoustics classes I remember that when you play a speaker in a room the percentage of direct sound that reaches your ear is far less than the total sound energy. The more absorbers you put in a room the more you hear the direct sound. If the reflected sounds arrive too late or the frequency distribution gets altered (poorly designed absorbers) you start having issues. If all you hear is the direct sound you lose the sense of spaciousness. That is why a good acoustical designer will tame the unwanted reflections but keep enough indirect sound energy to be pleasing.

I did a search and LarryChanin who built the LarryLand theater hasn't posted since 2011, his website with his theater is offline. a few pictures are scattered in some of his posts.
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post #13 of 40 Old 02-10-2016, 07:25 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the replies. I figured this was a poor choice because I have not seen this used or suggested as a option for center placement, but was curious what the reasons might be.

We just bought a new home and I am currently researching and planning the building of my theater room. It is 16'8" long by 12' wide so space is limited. I would like two rows of seating, but that would be tight with a false screen wall. Right now at least I can set up the equipment and play with seating and screen placement to experiment with different options before starting any construction.
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post #14 of 40 Old 02-10-2016, 07:30 AM
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Originally Posted by gangrew View Post
...I would like two rows of seating, but that would be tight with a false screen wall. Right now at least I can set up the equipment and play with seating and screen placement to experiment with different options before starting any construction.

If anyone on this forum knows what will/won't fit for an AT arrangement it would be @BIGmouthinDC .
Just FYI


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post #15 of 40 Old 02-10-2016, 10:21 AM
 
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Two centers is generally a bad idea. Below the screen is also generally the worst possible place for a center channel speaker placement (assuming we are talking about only the center front wall like we should be).

Above the screen is better than below. There is a variety of reasons why, some of which have been explained well above. The image will get pulled down to some degree, you will have better coverage for back rows, and you will have less issues with ceiling reflections, or back wall reflections.

Additionally, putting a center below a screen, but high enough to hit all the seats, often limits screen choices negatively.

AT screen is best if you can manage it. Otherwise single above it second best IMO. Below the screen, and dual centers should be avoided if possible. All sorts of strange things can happen with comb filtering, and acoustical interference when you have two sources playing the same thing. If you absolutely must go with a dual center configuration you should seek the advice of an experienced acoustician because you can easily do more harm than good. It's not a case where more is automatically better.
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post #16 of 40 Old 02-10-2016, 11:52 AM
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It is 16'8" long by 12' wide so space is limited. I would like two rows of seating, but that would be tight with a false screen wall.
That's pretty close to the size of my room (12' 4" x 16' 6"). I've got two rows, but no room for recliners in the back row. I also didn't do a false screen wall, but put seven matching in-walls all around the room instead.
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post #17 of 40 Old 02-10-2016, 12:15 PM
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Originally Posted by gangrew View Post
Thanks for all the replies. I figured this was a poor choice because I have not seen this used or suggested as a option for center placement, but was curious what the reasons might be.

We just bought a new home and I am currently researching and planning the building of my theater room. It is 16'8" long by 12' wide so space is limited. I would like two rows of seating, but that would be tight with a false screen wall. Right now at least I can set up the equipment and play with seating and screen placement to experiment with different options before starting any construction.
I agree that an AT screen is the way to go. Above or below is a compromise, at least acoustically. I much prefer that tradeoff to the option of solid screen and speaker above or below.

Keep in mind that you could use something like a Triad InWall, which is fully enclosed, and just install them directly on the wall, or in wall if you have the opportunity. They are typically either 4" or 6" deep, so even on the wall, you lose almost no depth in the room in front of the AT screen, thus maximizing your viewing distance. Mounting them against the wall, assuming you can't go in wall, will still allow them to work in the hemispherical space they were designed for, so they'll sound great. This advice can go for other fully-enclosed speakers that are designed for on-wall or in-wall mounting, but I just have first-hand knowledge that the Triads can excel in this application.

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post #18 of 40 Old 02-10-2016, 12:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Mfusick View Post
...Below the screen is also generally the worst possible place for a center channel speaker placement.....Below the screen, and dual centers should be avoided if possible.
You have to be joking right? Decades of home theaters and now you purport that below the screen is the "worst possible place". Above the screen may be preferable if we're talking about smaller screens (read: TV sets), but in projection based HT's, below the screen is and always has been a perfectly valid speaker placement choice when implemented correctly.

Apparently you glazed over my post right above claiming in a WELL DESIGNED HT, a center below the screen is perfectly fine and it's been perfectly fine since the inception of home theater. Let me point you to the HT of one of the most well respected pioneers of surround sound design, Roger Dressler. Here is a link to his HToM : Deadwood Cinema. Following your advice is to imply that when Roger designed his room, he located his center channel in the "worst possible place". Really? Like Roger, I too placed an emphasis on music playback when I designed and built my room. Not enough time to point you to the 100's of 1000's of other remarkable HT's on this very forum but you get the idea.

This is clearly a case of making a mountain out of a molehill.



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post #19 of 40 Old 02-10-2016, 12:50 PM
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Take a look at my HT (linked below).... I did this not for $$$ sake nor space sake.... It was a purely aesthetic choice.
Well, aesthetic considerations always come in to play and it is up to each of us to prioritize where in importance those considerations fall for us. To be blunt, just looking at the design of your center speaker, it's obvious some choices were made on that basis. That's ok, because there are a lot of solutions that will all sound really damned good in the end and we get to decide which option has the right blend of compromises for us (they are all compromised in one way or another).

We've offered sound acoustic reasons why above is better than below, but there are of course reasons other than acoustics which may dictate or at least influence choices.

Quote:
If for one second I thought the sound would be degraded at all, I would have simply gone the AT route with the center speaker alone.
Well, you may not have thought the sound would be degraded in this setup, but it will. But that's ok too, because how much and how sensitive people are to that varies, and the end result can still sound fantastic. Which may be well above the "good enough" bar to let other factors become more important in the layout.

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I heard both (although not in the same room on the same day), and if the room is done right and you have a well designed speaker, there literally is no difference.
I'd be careful about making such an absolute statement (even if followed by YMMV) based on non-blind auditions of different equipment in different rooms on different days (sheesh!), when the differences literally are quite easily measured. Like so many things in audio... you may not actually care about the differences, but they are there.
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post #20 of 40 Old 02-10-2016, 01:08 PM
 
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Originally Posted by rms8 View Post
You have to be joking right? Decades of home theaters and now you purport that below the screen is the "worst possible place". Above the screen may be preferable if we're talking about smaller screens (read: TV sets), but in projection based HT's, below the screen is and always has been a perfectly valid speaker placement choice when implemented correctly.

Apparently you glazed over my post right above claiming in a WELL DESIGNED HT, a center below the screen is perfectly fine and it's been perfectly fine since the inception of home theater. Let me point you to the HT of one of the most well respected pioneers of surround sound design, Roger Dressler. Here is a link to his HToM : Deadwood Cinema. Following your advice is to imply that when Roger designed his room, he located his center channel in the "worst possible place". Really? Like Roger, I too placed an emphasis on music playback when I designed and built my room. Not enough time to point you to the 100's of 1000's of other remarkable HT's on this very forum but you get the idea.

This is clearly a case of making a mountain out of a molehill.


.
I am not sure where your offense comes from, and I am sorry if you took offense to my post. That said, I don't want to get into a pissing match either.

"The worst place for a center channel is below the screen"

I stick to this as an accurate statement^ and believe it to be true beyond reasonable doubt. I did qualify the statement above, with my saying we are only talking about the center of the front wall (where reasonably a center should be located). So unless you are talking about putting it in the side, back, floor or ceiling, or perhaps another room- then indeed below the screen is the worst place for it.

"Worst place" meaning that the alternative of behind the AT screen, or above a fixed screen is a better place.

Now that we have established my viewpoint (I thought it was pretty clear already) we can discuss why you think that perhaps below the screen is not the worst place for a center speaker? I would welcome any information I don't know, or might not have considered.

Also please keep in mind that just because below the screen might not be the best place, does not mean it could not work well in some situations. Many situations are unique and different, and my comment was based on generalities.

I have zero desire to get drawn into a debate or semantics, but I do I have genuine desire to discuss why or how one location might be better or worse in regards to acoustics and sound quality.
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post #21 of 40 Old 02-10-2016, 01:47 PM
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I've had above, below and behind from screens while having from 120-135" screen.

Below sucked, even my feet would effective the audio... I mean duh highs are easily blocked and if you see your feet blocking the center visually it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that's bad. Not to mention a rear row. Also vocals anchored at shin level isn't optimal.

Above was so much better, vocals everything sounded much better and open.. of course it's still not anchored to the screen.

Then I went acoustic screen and a properly placed center.. vocals anchored to the screen, no problems with reclining feet or the back row... much more immersive as well when vocals come from the mouth and not shins or the heavens. Anything other that behind the screen is a compromise.. but I'd go above followed by phantom before below.

In my living room I'be been phantom for years. Anchoring to the screen is a big advantage.
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post #22 of 40 Old 02-10-2016, 01:57 PM
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I can speak from experience on this one.
I used to have an AVR that supported dual center channels; this feature was long gone by the time I upgraded AVRs (see sig) so now I have a single center channel. I have to say dialog is much clearer now, and I think that's partly due to the lack of phase cancellation going on with only one speaker.
Also, my center channel speaker(s) have always been below my screen/TV, which is much easier to implement. Besides, most (new) AVRs have a "dialog lift" feature you can utilize; I've never heard of a "dialog drop" feature.

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post #23 of 40 Old 02-10-2016, 02:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Bigus View Post
Well, aesthetic considerations always come in to play and it is up to each of us to prioritize where in importance those considerations fall for us. To be blunt, just looking at the design of your center speaker, it's obvious some choices were made on that basis. That's ok, because there are a lot of solutions that will all sound really damned good in the end and we get to decide which option has the right blend of compromises for us (they are all compromised in one way or another).

We've offered sound acoustic reasons why above is better than below, but there are of course reasons other than acoustics which may dictate or at least influence choices.


Well, you may not have thought the sound would be degraded in this setup, but it will. But that's ok too, because how much and how sensitive people are to that varies, and the end result can still sound fantastic. Which may be well above the "good enough" bar to let other factors become more important in the layout.


I'd be careful about making such an absolute statement (even if followed by YMMV) based on non-blind auditions of different equipment in different rooms on different days (sheesh!), when the differences literally are quite easily measured. Like so many things in audio... you may not actually care about the differences, but they are there.
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I am not sure where your offense comes from, and I am sorry if you took offense to my post. That said, I don't want to get into a pissing match either.

"The worst place for a center channel is below the screen"

I stick to this as an accurate statement^ and believe it to be true beyond reasonable doubt. I did qualify the statement above, with my saying we are only talking about the center of the front wall (where reasonably a center should be located). So unless you are talking about putting it in the side, back, floor or ceiling, or perhaps another room- then indeed below the screen is the worst place for it.

"Worst place" meaning that the alternative of behind the AT screen, or above a fixed screen is a better place.

Now that we have established my viewpoint (I thought it was pretty clear already) we can discuss why you think that perhaps below the screen is not the worst place for a center speaker? I would welcome any information I don't know, or might not have considered.

Also please keep in mind that just because below the screen might not be the best place, does not mean it could not work well in some situations. Many situations are unique and different, and my comment was based on generalities.

I have zero desire to get drawn into a debate or semantics, but I do I have genuine desire to discuss why or how one location might be better or worse in regards to acoustics and sound quality.
No offense taken at all. And by the same respect I mean no offense when I say that I'll trust the speaker placement choices of one of the inventors of Dolby Surround more than some guys on an internet forum. I know that doesn't read well on a forum post, so like I said no offense or derogatory undertones meant, but the fact that Roger chose to place his center speaker in "the worst place" speaks volumes to the "mountain out of molehills" analogy I made.

Do you really think he would have spent all that time and money on his HT and then decide to place the center speaker in "the worst place" he could possibly place it? I'm sure if someone of his caliber with his experience and education in the audio field would have thought for one second his sound was being severely compromised, he would have gone a different route. Just say'n.



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Originally Posted by cdy2179 View Post
Below sucked, even my feet would effective the audio... I mean duh highs are easily blocked and if you see your feet blocking the center visually it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that's bad. Not to mention a rear row. Also vocals anchored at shin level isn't optimal..
What you say in bold is correct, but one would have to ask why you would have placed your center so low in the first place. If there was no option to place it higher then yeah, you would want to explore other options. The placement of my center speaker is in no way hampered by any obstacles and that goes for BOTH rows of seating whether upright or reclined. Take a look for yourself.

When I designed my theater I ensured the center-line of the center channel would be as close to ear level as possible. Given my screen size (11ft wide 16x9) and ceiling height (10ft) I was able to get the centers center-line no more than 5 inches from ear level. Hardly something I would consider a game changer or a night/day difference.....Sounds/dialog appear focused on the screen.


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post #24 of 40 Old 02-10-2016, 03:42 PM
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Dual center speakers instead of AT screen?

I've been AVS member since 2007, and have both read and participated in the multitude of threads this exact subject. Over the years ....

I'm on smartphone now, later I'll post a search result with key discussions from those ...
OP, did you try the search function before posting ....


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post #25 of 40 Old 02-10-2016, 04:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rms8 View Post
No offense taken at all. And by the same respect I mean no offense when I say that I'll trust the speaker placement choices of one of the inventors of Dolby Surround more than some guys on an internet forum. I know that doesn't read well on a forum post, so like I said no offense or derogatory undertones meant, but the fact that Roger chose to place his center speaker in "the worst place" speaks volumes to the "mountain out of molehills" analogy I made.

Do you really think he would have spent all that time and money on his HT and then decide to place the center speaker in "the worst place" he could possibly place it? I'm sure if someone of his caliber with his experience and education in the audio field would have thought for one second his sound was being severely compromised, he would have gone a different route. Just say'n.





What you say in bold is correct, but one would have to ask why you would have placed your center so low in the first place. If there was no option to place it higher then yeah, you would want to explore other options. The placement of my center speaker is in no way hampered by any obstacles and that goes for BOTH rows of seating whether upright or reclined. Take a look for yourself.

When I designed my theater I ensured the center-line of the center channel would be as close to ear level as possible. Given my screen size (11ft wide 16x9) and ceiling height (10ft) I was able to get the centers center-line no more than 5 inches from ear level. Hardly something I would consider a game changer or a night/day difference.....Sounds/dialog appear focused on the screen.


.
As Mike said in the post above... below the screen means the screen usually has to be smaller and pushed up to get the center high enough. When it comes to larger screens you don't want to have your screen almost touching the ceiling. With tvs and smaller screens.... Yes it's easier to implement.


My center was 18" off the floor to The bottom .. At that height when I reclined my feet were about the same height and would block it... If I had a small really high screen I probably could have resolved that issue, but it was a large 16:9 screen, as many dedicated ht are and would have looked odd..and been kinda uncomfortable.

And yes... Lots of guys spend big bucks and incorrectly place speakers... They also don't treat their rooms. Many times they don't know it's not ideal, or sometimes have no other choice. Speaker manufacturers are trying to sell... So they'll say just stick this under the screen... It doesn't mean it's the best place... It's just practical for a living room. We are talking optimal performance and placement... And pros and cons of each in dedicated rooms which usually have large screens and not tvs.

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post #26 of 40 Old 02-10-2016, 04:23 PM - Thread Starter
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I did try searching, but most likely used the wrong terms for I did not come up with much that seemed relevant. My question has been answered now though, even though it seems to have sparked some debate, but this kind of matter always has differing opinions. I was just curious if this option had been explored.
I am not too worried about where I will end up with my center ultimately though (most likely above after reading the above posts). For the past 10 years or so I have had it directly under a 120" screen, and have been very satisfied with it there so there is only room to improve. Our previous house I had to set up in our living room so it was a less than ideal space, and placement was dictated more by that room than anything else. I am looking at this new room as a project/hobby and am more concerned with enjoying the planning, building, and finally using the finished room, and if I have to compromise a bit here and there that is Ok.
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post #27 of 40 Old 02-10-2016, 04:27 PM
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^^^so what is your acoustic strategy?
Ready for more debate??


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post #28 of 40 Old 02-10-2016, 04:58 PM - Thread Starter
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I honestly don't know yet. Still trying to figure that out, and am looking forward to learning more about what options I have. Right now I am a complete novice when it comes to things like bass traps and first reflective points and such. While I do want the best possible outcome, I don't feel like I need the absolute biggest/loudest/clearest/most accurate/balanced system to still end up with something very good.
I am a diy guy, and enjoy doing the best I can with what I can.
In some ways I prefer not knowing how much better that last 5% can be.
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post #29 of 40 Old 02-10-2016, 06:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stanton View Post
I can speak from experience on this one.
I used to have an AVR that supported dual center channels; this feature was long gone by the time I upgraded AVRs (see sig) so now I have a single center channel. I have to say dialog is much clearer now, and I think that's partly due to the lack of phase cancellation going on with only one speaker.
Also, my center channel speaker(s) have always been below my screen/TV, which is much easier to implement. Besides, most (new) AVRs have a "dialog lift" feature you can utilize; I've never heard of a "dialog drop" feature.

Pro tip , turn your center speaker over , presto! It then "drops" the dialog...

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post #30 of 40 Old 02-11-2016, 06:54 AM
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Originally Posted by rms8 View Post
While this sounds logical and makes 100% sense in theory.......I have been in the HT game since the early 90's and have always used a speaker directly below the screen and have never once encountered the symptoms described above. YMMV of course.

Regarding the use of two as asked by the OP, I agree 100 % with you, NEVER EVER do that since the artifacts are too detrimental to any perceived gain.
.
I also had my speaker below the screen and couldn't really localize it. However, if you have multiple rows (which I did not), it's likely better to put it near the ceiling.

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