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I have been trying to run a 5.1 setup in a small condo setting for some years, and had no idea until, today, actually, that doing a "phantom centre" was a possibility! Because of my setup, I am limited by speaker size and space, and I have been using a weak center channel for many years, with mid-sized mains and a large (but budget) sub. My mains are not able to be further than the width of my TV (approx. 3 feet apart).


I constantly found that I had to overcompensate on the centre channel with extra volume. I have a Pioneer (vsx-521) and when configuring with MCACC, I always need to make significant adjustments to the levels to make it sound good. I could never get it to be punchy.


I just realized from reading on AVS Forums that Phantom Centre exists, and is an option for someone like me. I am having trouble understanding the concept and configuring it right though:


- Will modern receivers like mine detect that I am using a 4.1 setup and distribute the centre channel to the front mains automatically?


- I still find I need to jack up the volume on the L/R mains about 4 decibels higher than what MCACC sets, to get the front L/R mains to sound loud enough. Is this normal? I also need to tweak the SUB setting to PLUS (instead of YES) and never really sure what to set speaker size to (Large or small)


- When I am hooking up components from now on (computers, media players, etc) should I tell those devices I am running a 5.1 setup and let the Pioneer do the conversion to 4.1, or, should I now be setting each device to 4.1 in their configurations?


- What Xover should I be using in this setup ideally? 50, 80, 100, or 150? My sub's max capacity is 150. I currently use an Xover of 80 or 100 - can't really tell a huge difference between em.


Sorry for all the Qs, but for the experts hopefully these will be EZ Qs, and boy, I'm just so happy I learned about this option...centre channel just never, ever worked for me in my setup - no space, or budget, for the right configuration.



BTW...system is used for a healthy combination of uses...5.1 movies, modern TV shows and HD channels, old stereo TV shows, PS3 games...rarely used for music-only purposes...If that helps.
 

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I am not familiar with the Pioneer, but basically all you need do is to go into the speaker configuration menu and tell it there is no center speaker. As you have altered the settings it might be a good idea to run auto set up again.


If there is not an option to do that disconnect the center speaker and run auto set up and the Pioneer should detect you have no center speaker.


Not sure what you mean about still having to turn the volume up? I think you mean turn the levels up, but why do that when all you need do is to turn the volume to the level you like. You are going to do that depending on the source and what time of day it is.


If you mean that the surrounds are too loud compared to the fronts then yes, you can adjust the front levels up or alternatively the surround levels down. If you have turned the front levels up you may also need to turn subwoofer level up which may explain having to change the sub from YES to PLUS. Reducing the rear channels instead would negate the need to do this.
 

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- Will modern receivers like mine detect that I am using a 4.1 setup and distribute the centre channel to the front mains automatically?


Yes. Disconnect the center speaker and run the auto-setup again.

- I still find I need to jack up the volume on the L/R mains about 4 decibels higher than what MCACC sets, to get the front L/R mains to sound loud enough. Is this normal? I also need to tweak the SUB setting to PLUS (instead of YES) and never really sure what to set speaker size to (Large or small)


Forget this until you're running it with no center speaker. But all speakers should be set to small if you have a sub.

- When I am hooking up components from now on (computers, media players, etc) should I tell those devices I am running a 5.1 setup and let the Pioneer do the conversion to 4.1, or, should I now be setting each device to 4.1 in their configurations?


The receiver will do it. There is usually no such setting on source component anyway (unless they have analog outputs, which you wouldn't be using), and when using HDMI the sources will be told by the AVR that it is multi-channel capable.

- What Xover should I be using in this setup ideally? 50, 80, 100, or 150? My sub's max capacity is 150. I currently use an Xover of 80 or 100 - can't really tell a huge difference between em.


Set the sub's crossover to its highest setting. The AVR should be set to the appropriate crossover for your smallest speaker. This will affect all four channels unless you set the fronts to "large," which is almost always a bad idea. MCACC should take care of this for you. There's not a lot of difference between 80 and 100 in most installations, however.


Phantom center can be a great choice where (1) the listening area is mostly along the axis of the screen and (b) there is no way to install a CC speaker that can match the mains.
 

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Buy a quality center speaker. Probably why you don't want to use them, generally they're thought after the main speakers so either


a) People spend less on them

b) Speaker brand isn't up to the same standard


For example I had kef Q75, the matching center (Q95) was bloody awful
 
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