Originally Posted by zieglj01
3.0 -- do not leave out the center to start with
Depends on your seating - if you only sit directly in the middle (or 2 of you sit side-by-side and each only slightly offcentre) then phantom imaging of the centre works just as well.
In my set up with just stereo selected you absolutely cannot tell there is no centre speaker playing - voices etc are still firmly defined to the centre of the screen.
Every speaker and room is different but to give you an idea I did not get this centre imaging until I moved my L and R mains (small bookshelfs with just 4.5" mids and 1" tweeter) out from the back wall about 20" and in from the side walls about 12" and toed them in so they were aimed just to the left and right of the central MLP, not directly at it. My room is 14.5' wide an this placed the L and R at just under the recommended 30deg angle from the MLP.
And to give you an idea of my perception/point of view - I have 13 identical speakers and multiple subs in a 7.x.6 Atmos setup and it still surprises when stereo sounds almost as immersive as Atmos and I have occasionally found myself listening in stereo thinking I was listening in surround and not even noticing - stereo really can be that good.
On a side note I have absolutely no idea how 2 speakers can make sound appear to be coming from the top of my front wall nearly 6' above the speakers and at the same time coming from directly to the side of me - and I am talking about discreet sounds here not just the same sound coming from all around.
But yes a centre is preferable as you may not be able to set up phantom imaging depending on room setting etc.
And an identical centre speaker to match your left and right mains is even more preferable.
And if you use most of your budget on really good mains but still want a sub I would suggest just buying a $50 secondhand one and upgrading sooner rather than spending $2-250 on an average sub and upgrading later as you will probably lose more than $50 upgrading.
In a nutshell - spend all your money on really good Left Right and (maybe) Centre speakers first.