Advice on a 2.1 vs 3.1 Setup - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 12 Old 07-23-2015, 10:44 AM - Thread Starter
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Advice on a 2.1 vs 3.1 Setup

Hi guys, bit of a newbie with this so any advice you could offer would be fantastic, so far most of the research i've done on here has just been lurking through the forums but thought i might ask for a bit of help!


I'm in the process of finishing my setup in the living room of a new apartment i've bought. I've always wanted to have a good home theatre setup and this is my opportunity so I'm fairly keen to get everything nailed down right, previously i've just used really basic audio sources (TV's built in speakers, logitech computer speakers etc., nothing special). I'd put a fairly even split between the speakers being used for music, movies/tv and games with regard to what im going to be using them for.


So far i've purchased a pair of B&W 683 S2's which will be running through a yamaha rx-a150 (as soon as everything gets delivered). My question is pretty much whether i should stick with the 2.1 setup (i have a sub coming soon as well) or whether its worth going for the HTM61 S2 as a matching centre.


I would LOVE to have a 5.1 setup but my room doesn't really allow for that as it would be quite difficult to run cables to the back of the room from where the receiver will sit (it'd be possible but would involve running cables around the border of the living room, around an adjoining study, in front of the door to my balcony and then back behind my couch and i've kind of given up on that idea as it sounds a bit ridiculous).


I am more than happy to pay the cost of buying the centre and from what i've been able to tell the addition of the centre makes the most difference from when your sitting off centre from the TV and since we will have quite a long lounge i can definitely imagine the potential benefits. I've never owned anything close to this level of quality and now that i have the opportunity i want to make sure im maximising what im getting. I've heard the 683's when i was testing out speakers and they sounded fantastic and but to be honest i probably wont know what im missing out on if I just stick with the two mains since i havent yet heard them paired with the centre. But like i said I really do want the best out of this setup, and if i dont mind spending the approx. $1000 Australian that the HTM61 S2 costs should i just buy the centre, or even mayyyyybe look into the logistics of getting the full 5.1 setup, or do people here find a standard 2.1 setup sufficient?



Thanks for the advice (hopefully i haven't made myself sound toooooo ignorant!)
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post #2 of 12 Old 07-23-2015, 10:55 AM
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Very valid questions, ... I went through the same thought process a few years ago. I could only afford 2.1 at the time, so that is what I started with in my second room.

For anything that is encoded in 5.1, my advice is to get the center channel speaker if you can afford it. It will make a discernible difference, in my opinion.

I had a pair of Paradigm Millenia 200 fronts and a Seismic 100 subwoofer as a 2.1 setup for a couple of years a while back. I then added the Millenia 200 center channel to go to 3.1. It made a noticeable difference for movies for sure. If the soundtrack is encoded in 5.1, most of the dialogue is in the center. The rears don't usually have much happening. I only recently upgraded to a full 5.1. The jump from 2.1 to 3.1 was more significant than the jump from 3.1 to 5.1 for me.

For music, the center channel didn't make as much of a difference for me.

Maybe you can visit your dealer and have them play a clip in 3.1, then the same clip in 2.1 (the receiver can be setup to switch quickly between these configurations). I think you will notice the difference. That is a lot of money for the center, so you want to be sure.

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post #3 of 12 Old 07-23-2015, 10:59 AM
 
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Use your 2.1 system for a while with a phantom center and then ask your dealer if you can purchase another speaker and return it if you don't like it. Then compare. I have a set of Paradigm speakers which need a center channel and a set of JBL's which don't. You will know pretty quickly after a comparison.
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post #4 of 12 Old 07-23-2015, 03:52 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the replies! Kind of what i expected, i might see if i can try and demo the thing at the store and see how it goes. Like i said i don't really mind spending the money if im going to be able to notice where the money went. I spoke to a friend of mine who did a pretty extensive home theatre setup and he mentioned he thought his centre was the most important speaker he had to get when designing the room.

So just to clarify then if the audio of a film or tv show is mixed at 5.1 and and its playing through a 3.1 setup, does the content that would be played in the rears then just go to the mains and the centre stays the same?
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post #5 of 12 Old 07-23-2015, 05:35 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ktchaw View Post
Thanks for the replies! Kind of what i expected, i might see if i can try and demo the thing at the store and see how it goes. Like i said i don't really mind spending the money if im going to be able to notice where the money went. I spoke to a friend of mine who did a pretty extensive home theatre setup and he mentioned he thought his centre was the most important speaker he had to get when designing the room.

So just to clarify then if the audio of a film or tv show is mixed at 5.1 and and its playing through a 3.1 setup, does the content that would be played in the rears then just go to the mains and the centre stays the same?
In my processor if I disable a channel in 5.1 it sends the information to the remaining channels. I think you should check the owners manual in your receiver for that answer is it may be different for various brands.
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post #6 of 12 Old 07-24-2015, 12:41 AM
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i just went from 5.1 to 2.1
the surround was cool at first then it became a distraction- im going back to watching movies for the movie, and not just the sound
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post #7 of 12 Old 07-24-2015, 12:41 AM
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also,if you have a wide sound stage, 2.1 can sound as good as 3.1- in some cases even better.
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post #8 of 12 Old 07-24-2015, 02:48 AM - Thread Starter
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Like i mentioned before we're going to have quite a long lounge but due to the way the room is laid out the speakers will be quite close together. The lounge is about 3.6 metres long but the wall where the two mains and tv will sit is slightly less than 2.8 metres long, i imagine this may be slightly sub optimal? I dont mind making the odd compromise with things like that because like i said given my past setups even if i somehow monumentally mess up the installation/speaker placement it will probably sound better than anything i've used before so ive got that going for me haha.

If this picture in any way helps get what im trying to describe across, basically on the right hand wall the couch will sit, and that left hand wall between the study and the storage cupboard is where im planning on placing the speakers and television. The distance between the storage cupboard and that corner where the study begins is 2.7 metres, so the plan was to pick up a new unit for my TV to sit on thats between 1.8-2.2metres long and then have the mains on either side.

Originally i had planned on getting a new AV unit that was about 2.1 metres long which would leave just enough room on either side for the mains to sit nicely next to it, but i've been reading that it might be a bit better leaving a larger clearance for the speakers. The alternative was buying the same unit but the version thats 1.7 metres long to give a bit more room for the mains. They will fit either way, but perhaps leaving more room for the speakers is a better idea?
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post #9 of 12 Old 07-24-2015, 05:18 AM
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Remember, the center channel is almost completely dialogue. Adding one for sound quality is probably not indicated. The real advantages of the center channel are to anchor the location of dialogue to the screen and the ability to adjust dialog level relative to the main speakers. I think these are important characteristics but I don't think worrying about the sound of the center channel is all that important.
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post #10 of 12 Old 07-24-2015, 08:54 AM
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I have 2.1 setup upstairs for TV viewing and occasional movie. Have no inclination to add a center. I also sit in the sweet spot though with a perfect center image.

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post #11 of 12 Old 07-24-2015, 11:12 AM
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I would experiment with the 2.1 set-up first. As was mentioned earlier, the center channel 's main use is to anchor the sound to the screen. Given that your L&R speakers are basically going to be flanking the screen, and not very far apart, odds are that you will be able to get a solid center image with just the two speakers.

Of course, it depends on how your seating is laid out, whether you can get the speakers to provide a good center image (do a lot of experimenting with speaker width, depth, and toe-in). If you find that you are unhappy with the results, you can always get the center in a few months.
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post #12 of 12 Old 07-27-2015, 08:13 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by witchdoctor View Post
Use your 2.1 system for a while with a phantom center and then ask your dealer if you can purchase another speaker and return it if you don't like it. Then compare. I have a set of Paradigm speakers which need a center channel and a set of JBL's which don't. You will know pretty quickly after a comparison.
@witchdoctor

is there a down and dirty how to setup a phantom center thread? I searched theres tons of threads..thought there might be one easy one to follow.

Thanks!!!
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