Center channel questions

I currently listen to my TV sources using a normal two channel stereo. Its very high end but my wife and I often cant understand dialog and other times the sound track background noises and music overwhelm the dialog. Is this because we are missing the center channel information?

I understand the the center channel is dedicated mostly to voices so the addition of a center channel might clarify our problem.

If i am correct I would be looking for a center channel decoder. (I don't want to buy a 5.1 channel system, just a mono amp being driven by a center channel decoder if such a thing exists. Please comment and or make suggestions.
you can use TV output into B&O beoplay S3 amplified speaker for your center channel.

When I added a center channel there was a significant improvement. Especially with movies. 

It's not clear whether it's your TV or your 2 channel stereo is high end. In any event, for as good as the picture is on high-def TVs, the audio can be awful. Even on high end TVs. 

Check the Audio Output settings on the TV. You may have it set to surround. 


Get a soundbar. Mine has a wireless sub. Very boomy but I can hear the dialog. Shop wisely. The downside to this is that you've bypassed your two channel system if you enjoy music on television.

"I don't want to buy a 5.1 channel system, just a mono amp being driven by a center channel decoder if such a thing exists."

I don't think such a thing exists, and if it did, there is a good possibility you would have a sync problem with the main speakers.

Does your main system have HT bypass capability?
I was in a similar situation...Initially I purchased a AVR to drive my center channel, but ended up purchasing rears. I use my preamp’s HT bypass when l’m watching television or movies. The AVR is turned off when I’m listening to 2-channel. Some would say my system is Highend and I thought this was the most economical way to improve the dialog when watching television and movies. 
It can be partly the speakers you are using, and partly lack of the center. A good center adds significant clarity.

I used to be on the "phantom center is good enough" camp, but after experimentation and research I am no longer. A center is noticeably better, and a neutral center is the best. :) Look for Monitor Audio as a solid affordable brand.
The only way you can "de-code" the center channel track is with an AVR. This would take the same space as a separate amp. However you would have 2 volumes to deal with, the 2 channel system and the AVR, this would become annoying. Unless your 2 channel preamp has unitygain. The other option is to not use the 2 channel system and buy a good sound bar, as mentioned above.

How are you getting the TV output to your system? What is the setup? Is it possible that you just have a setup problem. I know I had issues years ago when I tried to connect my cable box into my system via digital output. The cable box was set to Dolby Digital and I had to change it to PCM so it down-mixed the multi-channel audio down to 2 channels.

If your setup is good and you want a solution, perhaps a higher end under TV audio system like an upper-end ZVOX would work for you. It probably would be a self contained system, not using your existing L&R main speakers. But it would probably provide better dialog.

A more expensive choice would be to replace your current 2-channel pre-amp with a high-end multi-channel HT pre-amp and buy a center channel speaker and amp to power it. In the setup you would only set up the 3 speakers and set the rears/surrounds and sub to "none". However, this may diminish the sound quality of the 2-channel portion of your system unless you buy a super-high end multi-channel pre-amp.


     Another unique solution would be to buy an Oppo 103 or 105 Blu-ray player instead of an AVR.  Both Oppos have built in surround sound (up to 7.1) and analog audio outputs for each channel.just like an AVR but at least you'd have the added bonus of a high quality Blu-ray player if you don't already own one. 

    This would be very similar to buying an AVR and a center channel speaker but would require the additional purchase of a separate center channel amp (a small and inexpensive class D mono amp would work well for this).  This setup would allow you to control the center channel volume through the Oppo remote and, if you later changed your mind about a complete 5.1 or 7.1 surround system, you could add speakers and amps for a complete surround system.

     If this setup appeals to you, I'd be willing to assist you in the hardware and hookup options.

Just an outside the box solution to consider,
You may not have your system configured properly. Go in your TV's menus and make sure you have the output set for 2 channel only. That will get everything to your speakers.

Also look for an option called volume normalization. (It may be called something similar like normalization. You should have no problem finding it. Turn it on and do some listening. You should hear a big difference. (Assuming you needed to make adjustments to the above.)