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This is a genuine question. I have Emotiva T1 speakers up front, and they do a phenomenal job of presenting a spot-on center image and front sound stage. I feel compelled to purchase a center channel to round out a full 5.1 setup...but can't help the question: What would I actually be gaining? Further, I would have to make a handful of (admittedly minor) compromises to accommodate an additional speaker (mount the television on the wall, run wiring for another speaker, ensure my amplifier can handle the extra load, etc).

Is it worth it?
 

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The general argument seems to be:
- If your main listening position (MLP) is relatively narrow and you find that a "phantom CC speaker" works for you across that MLP, you may not benefit from getting an actual CC speaker.
- If the MLP is wider and/or dialogue clarity suffers as you move across it, you may benefit from an actual speaker.
 

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The center channel speaker can be one of the most important speakers in your surround sound setup, but it isn’t essential for everyone. It all comes down to how you use it and where you are setting up your system. If you are unsure and have the money to spend, then I say go ahead and grab one.

One of the main functions of your center channel speaker is to provide balance between your left and right front speakers. That way what you hear is a seamless balance of sound coming from all your speakers. It makes what you hear sound more natural across all your speakers. In some cases, this is very important, but it really all comes down to your setup.

Most movie dialog is broadcast from the center channel when made in surround sound. The goal is provide clear dialog that you can easily hear.

Now, because of balance between your speakers and the importance of dialog in your favorite movies, you may think that a center channel is a necessity. In some cases, it certainly is. For example, if your left and right front speakers are close to the television and you are in a small room, then you can probably get away with the phantom center they create.

On the other hand, if your setup is in a large room and your speakers are spread apart, then you will definitely need a high quality center channel so there aren’t holes in your sound. If you don’t, you will find that your center sound is weak and you may even notice dialog in your movies just doesn’t sound quite right.
 

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If you only have or only care about one seat (LP) then I would say no... Especially if you need to make other compromises. Ever since I ran 3 identical towers in my old HT I feel I will never go back to a compromise (horizontal) center channel. For my SACD setup I felt that the center tower affected the front balance when playing 2 channel stuff (I'm sure this is just in my head) so I now run a 4.1 setup with no center channel for music.
 

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This is a genuine question. I have Emotiva T1 speakers up front, and they do a phenomenal job of presenting a spot-on center image and front sound stage. I feel compelled to purchase a center channel to round out a full 5.1 setup...but can't help the question: What would I actually be gaining? Further, I would have to make a handful of (admittedly minor) compromises to accommodate an additional speaker (mount the television on the wall, run wiring for another speaker, ensure my amplifier can handle the extra load, etc).

Is it worth it?
The primary benefit of having a center channel is to anchor the sound to the screen no matter where a viewer is sitting. With a neutral speaker like the T1, if you're ever the only one watching (or perhaps you and someone right next to you) and you can sit in the sweet spots then the gain may be modest, if at all, especially if the placement is compromised for whatever reason. If your T1 tweeters are already level with the screen and your ears then that's even better.

Really though the only way to know is to get one and try it. I know that I just bought an Emotiva C2 last week and am thoroughly impressed with the sound quality and depth. I have Revel M16 fronts, similar in voicing to your T1s, and while they're very good on their own I get a slightly-better image and a bit more depth with the C2 than the M16s provide. However, I also have people sitting as far off-axis as 45 degrees from the screen so that is the biggest benefit to them.
 

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IMO there is one other advantage to a center speaker, that may or may not matter depending on your personal situation. I've found that, while a center "phantom image" sounds like the voices come from the right place, and is plenty clear, one thing a dedicated center brings to the table is the ability to have a different volume for the center sounds, such as voices, than the volume for the R/L, which a lot of times.. especially with TV.. are playing mostly ambient sounds or music. It can be very nice to have the ability to "turn up" the voices, if you will, so that you can hear dialogue, without having to increase the volume of sounds, music, etc. that comes from the front right and left. This is especially useful when trying to watch at low volumes such as late at night in an apartment, or if a significant other is sleeping next to you. :) It really depends on the content, though. Some shows are just mixed so poorly that it seems there's nothing I can do to improve voice clarity lol (such as "Travel Man: 48 Hours in...").
 

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I suggest running a temporary wire from the receiver directly to a center channel speaker. Ideally the three front speakers and the screen are on the same plane with each other. Play a scene that has good panning. Like a motor cycle moving across the screen from left to right. Do this sitting in the sweet spot. Then sit way off to the left playing the same scene.
Make sure that you run the room correction for the temporary setup. Ask others if they are convinced with the sound.
I watch a lot of TV, and I often sit way to the left side. Audio from TV shows is often not up to par. Using the right DSP mode works well for me. Sometimes I can notice dialogue coming from the left and right speakers. This is totally distracting.
Do you listen with the receiver set to “Straight”? Do you use DSP?
 

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This is a genuine question. I have Emotiva T1 speakers up front, and they do a phenomenal job of presenting a spot-on center image and front sound stage. I feel compelled to purchase a center channel to round out a full 5.1 setup...but can't help the question: What would I actually be gaining? Further, I would have to make a handful of (admittedly minor) compromises to accommodate an additional speaker (mount the television on the wall, run wiring for another speaker, ensure my amplifier can handle the extra load, etc). Is it worth it?
So are you saying you now have everything but a center channel? That's the way your post reads.

Most all audio for video (TV and movies) is now mixed for surround and the center channel is a primary source. Other posts here have given some good information. Music only recordings that have been mixed in surround formats exist and are becoming more popular. Downmixing surround to stereo is not great, it would be better to upmix stereo to surround (if done well).

I worked for over 30 years as a recording engineer focusing on classical and big band jazz. Recording in stereo was a challenge and it never gave satisfying results. The width of the stage and the ambience (reverb) of the halls was never well portrayed in stereo playback. When surround started, I experimented with multichannel recording and playback using 5 channels, L/C/R and two rear surround channels. This was for my own experience, I was not using surround algorithms, just discrete channels for recording and playback. 5 microphones, five channels of playback. I was finally able to more realistically recreate the experience of sitting in a concert hall and hearing the orchestra as it sounded in the hall. Instruments on the left side of the stage were in the left speaker, center of the stage was in the center speaker and the right side was in the right speaker. No phantom image, discrete recording and playback. I had two microphones hung back in the hall to capture the left and right sides to reproduce the ambient sound of the hall reverb and the audience.

Once you experience well recorded surround sound, you will realize how much is lacking in stereo. The history of recording is very interesting. There was a time when three channel recording was used in studios, three track recorders and 3 playback channels (L/C/R). Unfortunately, vinyl records were the playback medium and we went from mono to stereo and three track recordings were mixed to stereo.

My advice as a professional audio engineer is to get your surround system completed, 5.2 at the bare minimum. Two subs are better than one. 5 main channels is the minimum requirement. Start listening to movies and surround music as it was intended and you may never go back to stereo.

Lots of information here: https://www.routledgetextbooks.com/textbooks/9781138921368/
 

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Some excellent points made here, seriously appreciate all the quick feedback. It's been some time (years) since I've enjoyed a full 5.x surround-sound setup, which means I really don't have memory of what a center channel improves on a 4.x setup. Probably about time I go for it. Sold.

I've reached out to Emotiva inquiring about whether they recommend the C1 or C2 as a match for my T1 towers, will go with whatever they suggest.
 

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Some excellent points made here, seriously appreciate all the quick feedback. It's been some time (years) since I've enjoyed a full 5.x surround-sound setup, which means I really don't have memory of what a center channel improves on a 4.x setup. Probably about time I go for it. Sold.

I've reached out to Emotiva inquiring about whether they recommend the C1 or C2 as a match for my T1 towers, will go with whatever they suggest.

Sounds like you need no more convincing, but I would never NOT have a center channel. Of all of the experimenting I've done, I rarely find content I prefer in phantom center. Do report back your findings once you've got it installed! :)
 

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A lot of good posts here. I have one additional observation that may be of use.

All of my TV viewing is done via antenna, and I pass audio from the TV to my processor and amp over the audio return channel. Most of the time, audio is DD 5.1 but from time to time, the broadcast station has issues and they revert to stereo. The result isn't subtle: it's a huge drop in sound quality, especially in terms of dialog clarity. It's a pretty compelling demonstration on what a center channel brings to the party.
 
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So are you saying you now have everything but a center channel? That's the way your post reads.

Most all audio for video (TV and movies) is now mixed for surround and the center channel is a primary source. Other posts here have given some good information. Music only recordings that have been mixed in surround formats exist and are becoming more popular. Downmixing surround to stereo is not great, it would be better to upmix stereo to surround (if done well).

I worked for over 30 years as a recording engineer focusing on classical and big band jazz. Recording in stereo was a challenge and it never gave satisfying results. The width of the stage and the ambience (reverb) of the halls was never well portrayed in stereo playback. When surround started, I experimented with multichannel recording and playback using 5 channels, L/C/R and two rear surround channels. This was for my own experience, I was not using surround algorithms, just discrete channels for recording and playback. 5 microphones, five channels of playback. I was finally able to more realistically recreate the experience of sitting in a concert hall and hearing the orchestra as it sounded in the hall. Instruments on the left side of the stage were in the left speaker, center of the stage was in the center speaker and the right side was in the right speaker. No phantom image, discrete recording and playback. I had two microphones hung back in the hall to capture the left and right sides to reproduce the ambient sound of the hall reverb and the audience.

Once you experience well recorded surround sound, you will realize how much is lacking in stereo. The history of recording is very interesting. There was a time when three channel recording was used in studios, three track recorders and 3 playback channels (L/C/R). Unfortunately, vinyl records were the playback medium and we went from mono to stereo and three track recordings were mixed to stereo.

My advice as a professional audio engineer is to get your surround system completed, 5.2 at the bare minimum. Two subs are better than one. 5 main channels is the minimum requirement. Start listening to movies and surround music as it was intended and you may never go back to stereo.

Lots of information here: https://www.routledgetextbooks.com/textbooks/9781138921368/
Thanks. It makes a lot if sense. Could you suggest a few recordings (yours or others) where 5 channel music recording is done well?

Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-G930A using Tapatalk
 

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Thanks. It makes a lot if sense. Could you suggest a few recordings (yours or others) where 5 channel music recording is done well? Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-G930A using Tapatalk
I would search the internet and here on AVS Forums. Unfortunately, I am transient at the moment, living a spartan life in a near empty home until it sells. Most everything I own is in storage until I can move and get settled again. All my files, info etc are not readily available to me. My audio systems, hardware etc are all in a different state.

Unfortunately, I retired before I was able to do any surround recordings that were commercially released or archived. A retirement option was presented to me during a state budget crisis and I was gone before I had time to get copies of my work. Last I knew, it's all in a storage facility somewhere. The staff has been severely cut back due to the budget, I have no idea how I will ever have access to my work again unless I spend time there and get granted access to the facilities. Only thing I have in my personal archive are a lot of vinyl records and CD's I engineered, they are all stereo.

A few commercial DVD's and Blu Ray concerts I remember are: Sade: Bring Me Home Live-2011, The Eagles: Hell Freezes Over, Don Henley: Live, Inside Job, and James Taylor, Live at the Beacon Theater.
 

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As pointed out...if you have a narrow seating and single or a few seats, the center channel is not required. I have used a couple phantom center set ups and never had any problem with dialogue. lets put it another way...a phantom center set up will kick the @ss of a poorly designed center all day long (like the AJ Pioneer center, for instance). If you have multiple seats and a wider listening area, it is harder to run a run a phantom center.

Second, I have always argued that the left/right front channels are your most important in a 5.1 or 7.1 (unless you watch mostly romantic comedies and documentaries and other "mostly' dialogue movie/content)...the dynamic content, the streaming left to right are critical parts of the surround sound experience for most modern action movies...so if that is your genra, I would say get the best Left/Right speaker you can afford THAT ALSO has a good center channel! Okay, now we are getting into timbre matching, but that is a topic for another day!
 

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Thanks. It makes a lot if sense. Could you suggest a few recordings (yours or others) where 5 channel music recording is done well?

Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-G930A using Tapatalk
One of the classics and may not be your type of music...The Talking Heads "Stop making sense" was recorded in the md-early 80 and mixed really well.
 
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