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Let’s talk center speakers!

keywhiz

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The last few posts in the thread for the “Eye of the Sky” poll veered off into a discussion about center speakers (probably my fault) so I thought I’d bring it over here.

https://www.quadraphonicquad.com/forums/index.php?threads/alan-parsons-project-the-eye-in-the-sky-blu-ray-audio.24122/page-6#post-409027

I find the center speaker to be the most inconsistent part of the mix. Sometimes it’s too loud. Sometimes it’s too quite. Sometimes the vocals sound strange and I’m futzing with the EQ.

The discs that talk about systems always seem to recommend using “five identical speakers”, but how many people do that? The center speaker is usually the one that sits on a shelf under the TV.

I’m finding more and more I prefer quad mixes or the 5.1 that don’t use the center much. Not that there aren’t some great center-focused mixes. There are. But I don’t find the center mixes to be consistent from disc to disc.

So what are everyone’s feelings on this? How “matched” is your center to the rest of your system? What are your preferences?
 

Kal Rubinson

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The discs that talk about systems always seem to recommend using “five identical speakers”, but how many people do that? The center speaker is usually the one that sits on a shelf under the TV.
There you go. I haven't noticed an inconsistency and, although I do not use “five identical speakers,” I do use 3 identical speakers for L/C/R.
 

keywhiz

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There you go. I haven't noticed an inconsistency and, although I do not use “five identical speakers,” I do use 3 identical speakers for L/C/R.
Who can tell us how most of the albums are mixed? Are they using five identical speakers in the studio?

And how many systems are sold this way? Aren’t pretty much all surround sound systems—-even the high end ones —-sold with a center speaker that is not the same as the L/R?
 

edisonbaggins

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This is exactly why I included 4.0 & 4.1 mixes for the FLAC download, Blu-ray ISO download and blu-ray versions of Disturbing the Universe, even though I consider the "main" mix to be the 5.1.
The center (and bass management) usually work well for me, to my ears, but I sympathize with those for whom it doesn't.
Would be cool if more artists did this. Personally, I like having the center broken out, because it reduces work for the fronts.
 

wavelength

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I was never happy with my center speaker. The mix didn't seem balanced. I eventually decided that the center speaker had to be identical to the front left and right. By wall mounting my TV I was able to accommodate a tower center speaker. My towers are 36" but anything up to 40" would work for me. Beyond that the TV wall mount might start to get too high in my case. How far away you sit from the TV is also a factor in the proper height of the wall mounting.

I started with a pair of speakers and by waiting for used speakers to go on sale I was able to acquire 3 more identical speakers long after my brand/model was discontinued.

I have no issues with the center channel. The front plane is seamless. It also helps that I have separate amps for the center and the L/R pair as well as a separate amp for the rears which allows me to tweak the volume levels fairly easily.
 

keywhiz

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I will admit to my front speakers, while not being identical, are not perfectly matched either. They are all Definitive Technology speakers, but the fronts are 8040s while the center is a 9060. Still, it would seem that once I set it to a volume and EQ level that I feel matches the fronts, it should be fairly consistent from mix to mix?
 

ar surround

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One thing that can be done to blend the center channel speaker in with the fronts is to dink with the center's distance setting. Although my center speaker is about 10 feet away, I find that reducing the distance to 4 feet gives me the best results for my set up. Perhaps this phenomenon may have something to do with the height of the midrange and tweeter of the center relative to the fronts.? If you are unhappy with the sound using the actual measured center speaker distance, try reducing the setting 1/2 foot at a time. As you adjust the speaker distance setting you will hear the character change ever so slightly and will know when you've hit the sweet spot. Change it too much and it will start sounding "off" again.

(For those of you using latter day equipment with all the fancy automatic adjustment programs, count your blessings.)
 

4-earredwonder

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The BEST way, IMO, to ensure your front THREE channels are seamless is to play one of those fantastic Analogue Productions THREE CHANNEL NAT KING COLE SACDs with his vocal dead center. Try it with and without the center engaged.

A great litmus test.

If your speakers aren't matched, it should sound better in two channel w/o the center!
 

MikeMonaco

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My 5 speakers are Celestion's -- 4 MP-1s and one center channel speaker. I think I bought them back in the late '90's at Woofer & Tweeter (long since out of business) and they've held up really well. Here's a description - http://www.gammaelectronics.xyz/sght_v2n2_ Celestion.html

I don't have any issues with the center being louder than others, or mixes that seem too heavily biased toward center. I used Audessy to setup the speakers on my Integra amp.
 

Frogmort

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One of the reasons I prefer the use of the center channel is that it gives me more control over the balance for my personal tastes and my room. On some discs, I prefer a bit more center than what was intended, and occasionally the opposite. It's very simple for me to turn the center up or down while listening, and I easily remember the proper default setting even when I'm buzzed like now.

I've also heard some amazing quad audio too with perfect vocal balance, but also some not quite right. I can't correct for that.

I have a 'matching set' on the front, in the sense that they are from the same product line, but my mains have one woofer and tweeter, whereas my center has two woofers of the exact same design, with the same tweeter and crossover, but it is aligned horizontally.
 

quicksrt

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I was never happy with my center speaker. The mix didn't seem balanced. I eventually decided that the center speaker had to be identical to the front left and right. By wall mounting my TV I was able to accommodate a tower center speaker. My towers are 36" but anything up to 40" would work for me. Beyond that the TV wall mount might start to get too high in my case. How far away you sit from the TV is also a factor in the proper height of the wall mounting.

I started with a pair of speakers and by waiting for used speakers to go on sale I was able to acquire 3 more identical speakers long after my brand/model was discontinued.

I have no issues with the center channel. The front plane is seamless. It also helps that I have separate amps for the center and the L/R pair as well as a separate amp for the rears which allows me to tweak the volume levels fairly easily.
On which discs is the plane seamless, every title you own?
 

HDave

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Since most vocals come from the center channel I try to coordinate my speakers with frequency responses. Like my center to be above 50hz on the low end, I don't need it to put out mega bass going for a good mid-range clarity. About the 60hz - 20khz is a good range and must be a 3 way. My fronts can be in the 40hz- 25khz range with more low from these along with my sub. And hard to find full range for a decent price for my surrounds in the 35hz - 40khz range. I'm not a brand loyalist at all I mix and match to frequencies like I stated. I'm in the process of ditching my Klipsch speakers for something with a bit more clarity. My sound stage sounds pretty good with setting to performance not brand name.
 

4-earredwonder

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One of my 5.1 set~ups includes a pair of Bowers & Wilkins 802 Nautilus Speakers in the front with a B&W 'recommended' center channel and speaker stand [angled upward] and the rears include two smaller bookshelf B&W speakers. I'm using a Parasound P7 ALL ANALOGUE pre amp which has NO audyssey room correction, etc. and a Krell 5.1 AMP to drive the system.

While watching blu ray movies and/or satellite, the system sounds 'relatively' balanced and the center acquits itself admirably doing what it is supposed to do.

While playing SACDs, DVD~A, etc. I'm a little more critical of my 'imbalanced' center channel and when I decided to play the AP three channel SACDs of Nat King Cole I did notice that the center wrecked the 'illusion' for me. When I disengaged the center.....the B&W 802s simply did their job and produced a 'perfect' phantom center and sounded way more balanced ... and might I add AUDIOPHILE.

And Ask yourselves: when playing a QUAD SACD do you really miss the [physical] center channel?

Much HAS been written about how the center channel was 'added' as a 'dialogue' channel for cavernous movie theaters and how SOUND ENGINEERS when remixing a MUSIC album into 5.1 simply weren't used to the need for a center since a perfectly balanced 4 channel system, FRONT and REAR can actually produce TWO PHANTOM CENTERS [Front and Rear].

As every system is different and one's preferences vary as well, I would think it wise to try the NO CENTER approach UNLESS your fronts are PERFECTLY MATCHED [even down to speaker cables and amplification]. Even though my B&W center channel was recommended by B&W as the perfect accompaniment to the full range B&W 802 Nautilus speakers [f/r / f/l] I can relate to you from first hand experience it is great for movies/TV but NOT for 'serious' music listening.
 
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jimfisheye

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The discs that talk about systems always seem to recommend using “five identical speakers”, but how many people do that?
Anyone with a serious listening system not treating it as a novelty?
Sorry if that's too snarky! The 5.1 format calls for 5 full range channels though. That's what the mix is made for. You have no choice if you want to hear it as intended. Playing it back on anything else gets into the same territory as unbalanced stereo (side to side). You'd hear that all the time in car stereos back in the day. Some people were so 'novelty' about it they didn't care if they only had one channel hooked up. Now, using different speaker managed arrays for surround is fine but it has to be calibrated properly. 5.1 may still often be quad based for the meat n' potatoes of the mix but you really do need to have channel 3 hooked up properly. To be fair, a surround system is extremely tech heavy to set up and calibrate! Not even close to plug and play. The watered down TV and movie surround mixes don't help either. These are made to come across on just about any mishmash of a system! People end up with center speaker levels off and Lfe levels off by as much as 10db or more and you're none the wiser with TV and movies. Now these dense immersive music mixes come along demanding a calibrated system.

That said, there ARE a lot of wonky mixes that isolate the vocal (for one example) in the C channel but then all the reflection support in the other channels is missing. Especially some of those cookie cutter mixes from circa 2000 DVDA disks. This can be tricky to be fair! Probably the easiest thing to get wrong. The first time you try that and realize you need to separate the ambient support between different coordinates with time differential between them and all that.
 

windhoek

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I use a 4.0 system myself and for me, the measure of whether it works or not is whether I enjoy what I hear. If I do - and many 4.0 and 5.1 titles sound great in this regard - then as far as I'm concerned that's all that matters. Sadly, some just don't sound right at all, including some native quad mixes. But if you use a centre speaker and it works in your system in your room then that's all that matters. Whatever works for each of us is what works for each of us :)
 

Mike the Fish

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I have issues with the centre channel. It could well be my system but I know at least one time the I thought vocal sound I didn't like was due to the centre speaker it still seemed to have the same issue when I sent the center info to the stereo pair instead. However I do quite like vocals being sent to the centre channel as they can be isolated in or out of the mix.
 
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HDave

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I do have my center channel speaker above my TV and about 2 ft above my front speakers it gives better separation, it doesn't sound like one wide speaker with my triangulated setup. The center stands alone, I like having it there instead of just below my TV.
 

filper

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Since 2013 I have had 5 identical speakers (with consecutive serial numbers). I rotate them once a year to keep roughly the same workout on all of them. For years I had systems with two and three different speaker model numbers in the set and now I find having five identical speakers makes the soundfield seamless.
As an aside, in my previous home I needed to mount the center speaker on it's side due to cabinet restraints and found no difference to the sound (for those of you who have ever wondered that).

3 speakers.jpg
 

holland123

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My preferences tend to mirror keywhiz, I enjoy the quad style of mixing with limited or no center channel, however I do love the Lfe channel so 4.1 is my favorite. This probably is due to a small center channel at home as well as in the car. There is just no way for me to match all 5 speakers. I have also just felt like the center channel is more for movies than music. It sorta mucks up the front stereo soundfield to me, that said I do not dislike mixes that use the center channel like the doors set or billy cobham, i just get sort of a weaker center that does not deliver a full range.
 

HugoPhyrst

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Since 2013 I have had 5 identical speakers (with consecutive serial numbers). I rotate them once a year to keep roughly the same workout on all of them. For years I had systems with two and three different speaker model numbers in the set and now I find having five identical speakers makes the soundfield seamless.
As an aside, in my previous home I needed to mount the center speaker on it's side due to cabinet restraints and found no difference to the sound (for those of you who have ever wondered that).
That's a cool setup and quite a comprehensive strategy of rotating speakers. What are those speaker stands, if you don't mind saying?
 
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