confused and don't know what to do

We would like to buy a nice audio system and also have this double as a surround sound but listening to music is the priority. We have listened to many speakers but have settled on the B&W 804's. Now the challenge is to select a receiver and all the other accompaniments we require. We have a little challenge in that our home is a condo and the outside wall is all glass. The space is combined kitchen, living room, and dining room all open with hardwood floors and hard tile on the walls of the kitchen and a lot of granite counter tops. It seems that every where we go, the recommendations are different depending on what the store is selling and of course, the sales people would like us to buy the most expensive. What would give great sound without going crazy. We are thinking about 2 tribe sub woofers and space is limited and an in wall center B&W speaker but we don't know what we are doing and don't want to throw our money away. Help! Too many choices and we don't have enough knowledge. Thank you so much.
Where we disagree is that having a center channel is crucial and having back loudspeakers are also something that is going to add a lot into the effect of creating a believable sound field which if done correctly will help immerse the listener in the action.

Right. So rather than let this slide by as a simple disagreement let's analyze it a little and hopefully educate so people can decide for themselves.

The reasoning behind the need for a center channel is simply that people in a movie theater are seated all over the place. A believably rock solid center image and soundstage only works from the sweet spot. People seated far off-center, instead of hearing dialog coming from the screen between the speakers it will come from whatever speaker they're closest to. This of course will ruin the illusion we want to create.

For this reason and this reason alone a center channel can help, if and only if you want people sitting all over the place to hear dialog as coming from the screen. Everyone with seating for lots of people should probably at least consider a center channel for this reason.

So for people with lots of seating, or with seating everywhere but in the sweet spot, it might make some sense to have a center channel. Have you mentioned this, audiotroy? You may well have. Its a weakness of mine to avoid wasting my time reading the posts of certain exceptionally boorish misinformed serial posters. So if I missed it please let me know.

In fact no, I want you to let us all know either way. Am I in fact stating things accurately? And are you in fact informing your customers? Can you direct me to the post where you covered this? Answers. Please.

Millercarbon, you do know that you are talking to trained Home Theater designer and audiophile correct?

Your statements are in fact wrong, the reason a center channel speaker is used, is to create a sense of anchoring the dialog from a point in the center of the screen and to create a point which the actors voices or action can pan either stage left or stage right.

If you mix in the center channel then the left speaker is producing the dialog as well as the right, there is no anchor point below the screen, this does not create as good as an effect.

The other advantage of a center channel is that the volume of the dialog can be adjusted to compensate for the room and for the clarity of the dialog which sometimes boosting a db or two from its normal level can increase dialog intelligibility.

Can you use a phantom center yes you can, is the effect as good the answer in most cases is no.

One of the reasons for Dolby Pro Logic and then DTS, Dolby Atmos and systems with ever more channels is to duplicate how sound will travel in a real world enviorenment.

In fact the best Home Theater systems place the center channel behind the screen so the dialog abosolutely comes from the actors mouths.

You also disdain rear speakers, okay man we have on occasion done systems where there was no room for a center channel, but without rears there is zero surround sound effect and you completely lose the magic.

We have four theater setups in our shop, the first is a dedicated 5.1 Atmos theater in a dedicted room designed to be a Home Theater this room features accoutically paneling, the second room is our "lab" room which is a conventional 5.1 setupwhere we demo many high end loudspeakers and components in a regular room, and our third room is lower end surround sound setups and music systems.

We wish you could hear what state of the art home theater is, the effects can be magnificent, we can also hear your points about doing a really top high end setup.

The thing on these boads is that not everyone wants the same thing, we sell great all in one components like the Naim Uniti which has the amp, preamp, dac, and streamer in one box, that concept with a good pair of speakers makes a lot of people happy. Yes for the same money you could buy a separeate amp, and a streamer, but for many people the simplicity and elegance of an all in one fits their lives better, for others it is the concept of ultimate sound quality for the money.

Yes a $50k two channel super tweaked up system is going to sound better for music than a $50k surround sound setup that is not the point the point is what does the person want, if you are a casual TV watcher than allocating funds the way you suggest may be optimum, however if the person really loves watchig TV or Movies and is captivated by the idea of a system that will help create a more immersive enviornment than haveing the extra loudspeakers and electronics is going to be a better setup.

It really comes down to what the person wants, it is our contention that you can design a system that can serve two purposes beautifully and wherever possible the addition of the extra speakers will be worth the time, money and effort to do so.

What we do agree with is that multi channel music is a gimmick that is unncessary.

Hope that helps you understand our position and Millercarbon we have a lot of respect for how well dialed in your system is, we do many of the same things you do in our reference audio room, and we know that there are also people here who think the tweeky stuff is bunk yet we know like you do that resonators, power cords, power conditioners, footers etc can all be valuable tools in helping make a system sound like real music.

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ


I actually went this weekend to the Tampa, Fl. Audio Show and fell in love with the new Sonus Faber Olympica Nova’s. The cabinetry was amazing and the sound for the price was superb. I listened to the Nova ll and can’t imagine how much better the 3 and 5 are. They have been improved quite a bit compared to the original Olympica line. The base was improved significantly on these Nova’s and they are sonically well balanced. They are engaging without being in your face. I am confident these will be good for your Home Theatre and 2 channel listening. I would highly recommend these, since I am a Sonus Faber owner and fan. I am actually torn between the Verity Otello and the Sonus Faber 3 or 5 at this point, by the way the Otello’s are awesome as well. I am suggesting the Sonus Faber because they have the center and rears. Also, Sonus Faber is willing to ship them to you for audition without having to commit. They will refund you in full if you do not like them.  Let me know what you decide...

Thank you so much for your note. It was so kind of you to come back and inform me about something that obviously impressed you greatly. I have never heard of this brand, but of course, you know I am a newbie and am looking forward to checking it out.
Thank you again for thinking to relate your findings!
seems to me

millercarbon simply will not compromise his amazing 2 channel system.

audiotroy may hope for sales, however I believe they do make effort to share their experience which I appreciate. people ask for advice, they are highly experienced and give it. take it or leave it.

I agree with audiotroy, and I said in my initial response:

Home theater: CENTER CHANNEL is a must, and at least a small pair of rear surrounds (engaged when real surround content exists) are needed.

Switch it to 2 channel if it is fake/created surround. That complicates Video IF it's sound is better without surround. Using 2 channel with video, omitting the center channel, it is important to get a center origin from the mains. 2 Channel precise imaging, in a sweet spot is of course wonderful, but add your spouse or a friend, 2 people wide, perhaps 3 (OP said 'we') and things change.Speakers specifically designed (or easily moved) for wide center imaging are thus important. 

Also consider, precise imaging for music is primarily for stationary musicians/singers, things 'stay' .... Imaging for Video is ALL OVER THE PLACE.

I have low ceilings, I've never been tempted to add height speakers or bothered seeking a good 7.1 setup to hear, I have been, and am quite happy with my small home theater.

My music system is separate, the 'real' speakers/equipment.

As I said, I used the same system for both music and video for a while, but that was before good 5.1 system/content was plentiful.