No center for music. Ever. No processor. Ever.
I like to switch it up, with my morning coffee its 2.1, no center channels. When listening to music that is most everything else I upmix to 9.2.2 (just engaging my front height speakers and wide speakers are KEY for most music reproduction). When listening to bass dominant music like you hear in a club (house music, pop, hip hop) and classic arena rock I go full immersive 7.2.6. The 9.2.2 (with wides) setup presents music like it is being played in front of you like in a jazz club or concert hall. Full on immersive is more like a night/dance club or stadium when using an upmixer.
Music specifically mixed for atmos I listen in atmos 7.2.6.
You guys that leave the center channel off are only thinking of the person in the sweet spot, for everyone else its better if you leave it on.
Yeah I have a much more robust main 2 channel. Just started assembling a modest AV setup just to watch concert vids primarily. Found a good deal on nice center channel and added that. Then upgraded the left right speakers to some Dynaudio. Put an old Sonos zip 90 modified by W4S , a good DAC that a friend gave me and fiddled with settings in the Denon AV and dang I’m surprised how good it sounds.
if I was in a different income bracket and the room didn’t suck I could see collapsing it all into one.
I use the center channel all the time for everything. I listen almost exclusively to 2 channel recordings and up-mix everything to 3 channels with simple channel summing and subtracting - no complex processing. The 3 speakers are very close together, on 1 foot centers. This creates enough crosstalk reduction to restore a normal width stereo sound field while completely eliminating the comb filtering caused by the phantom center image created when using only 2 speakers. Anything panned center will only play through the center speaker. The speakers are all far away from the side walls, and all close enough together to have a similar acoustic interaction with the room and thus create a cohesive sound. I think one of the biggest problems with center channels in normal use cases with wide spacing between speakers is that the center speakers are loaded into an acoustically different space than the side channels so they don’t blend in as well as they should, even if the center speaker is identical. A wider spaced 3.1 system might work better in a wide room, where all 3 speakers are a long distance from any corner position. My limited experience has supported that notion.
I use the center channel all the time for everything. +1
You are correct, spacing is key. If you look at the pic in my virtual system you notice that all tweeters (L-C-R) are the same level. Many people using center channels place the tweeters at a different level than the front L&R.
Me, you, and the Chairman of the Board all get it :)
@asctim No. Just no. Out of curiosity what’s the rest of your system? If you’ve ever listened to to a truly high-end, 2-channel system NONE of them use a center channel speaker because it’s completely unnecessary. Plus, if you use a center speaker you need a multichannel preamp/processor that further degrades the sound. Go to any high-end audio show or retail shop and get yourself re-educated. Jeez.
If you’ve ever listened to to a truly high-end, 2-channel system NONE of them use a center channel speaker because it’s completely unnecessary.
Well its obvious you have never heard a high end system WITH a center channel, don’t blame @asctim. Why do you prefer being trapped in the sweetspot? Once you leave the sweetspot anything meant for the center will be skewed and sound to be coming from the speaker you are nearest, don’t get upset, thats fact.
When you engage a center channel anything coming from the center channel will still sound like its coming from the center, no matter where you are sitting, standing or walking, fact.
You must know that stereo started with 3 speakers not two.
You must know that Meridian has been a proponent of a center channel with their "trifield" upmixer since the nineties.
I am only talking about music NOT movies of course.
Stop please, if YOU prefer two speakers, wonderful, but to slam @asctim , myself, the founders of stereo, Meridian, and Frank Sinatra all in the same post??
No. If you want more reference I can post but think you get the picture. I am not even talking about atmos or surround sound, simply 3 channel "stereo".
The problem with "high end" users of a CC isn’t the speakers, its the setup. The tweeters of all 3 speakers have to be the same height to get the desired effect. Most pics I have seen the center is either too low or too high.
@kota1 Who the hell owns and listens to a high-end, 2-channel system and doesn’t sit in the sweet spot?
I can’t even. I’m out.
@acman3 Guilty as charged. 🙄
High-end speaker companies like Magico and Wilson make center speakers but never use them at audio shows despite most listeners not being able to sit in the sweet spot. Wonder why? Hmmm. What’s wrong with them??? They must have not gotten the 3-channel stereo memo. 🤔🤭🤪😝
I totally understand why they don’t use a center channel. I’ve been to audio shows and listened to plenty of high-end 2 channel systems. I know what they can do. A center channel used the way I use it does something they can’t do. It can prevent comb filtering from inter-aural crosstalk. The argument that it’s not necessary is well taken, as I know from experience that the sound can still be great despite the crosstalk. Nevertheless, I prefer to not hear that crosstalk. The only ways I’ve found that work for me to my satisfaction are to either use a divider wall between two speakers that comes all the way up to my face to keep the speakers from playing into the wrong ear, or use an array of 3 speakers that are fairly close together and employ channel summing in the center and differencing on the side speakers. There are other recursive schemes out there that also do a good job of reducing crosstalk but I feel they add issues of their own.
Crosstalk was never an intended feature. It’s a parasitic effect that comes along with only using 2 speakers. People found that they could live with it, and 2 speakers is the simplest way to get some kind of stereo effect, so it became the default standard, mostly out of practicality. Some people have adapted so much to it that they actually add crosstalk to their headphone setups to simulate speakers in a room! I definitely don’t like that with headphones, but to each their own. I do what sounds best to me. Crosstalk isn’t my favorite thing.
My setup still requires that I sit in the sweet spot for full stereo imaging. If I go out of the sweet spot the imaging collapses but centered vocals still stay in the center. More typical multi-channel systems are less sensitive to sweet spot position, but it’s still the best place to be.
I think most everybody with a high end 2 speaker system has a chair in the sweet spot. Still, I work with a lot of people who appreciate their high end 2 channel systems when they’re listening from other positions in the room. I get to see a lot of people’s rooms and learn about how they use them. They’re not all 1 seat arrangements. A high end system can do a lot more than imaging, as you know, so there’s still a lot to appreciate over a lower capability system even when seated outside the sweet spot.
@asctim Uh, so what you’re saying is these high-end speaker manufacturers spend a ton of $$$ to hump their gear to various audio shows and choose to set them up in a way that’s sub optimal? If they thought their very expensive speakers sounded better with a center speaker, along with the added prospect of being able to sell more of their center speakers, don’t you think they’d do so? Or are you just smarter and know more than they do about their own products?
I’ll just repeat, I can’t even. Let me ask you this — when you’re at a live concert how do you prevent the strings on the left from bleeding over into the woodwinds on the right? Do you bring your own personal divider with you to make it sound more “right” to you? To each his own I guess.
Please see "Two Track, 3 Channel Stereo" by Paul W. Klipsch. PWK was a proponent of the stereo three-speaker frontal array.
Let me ask you this — when you’re at a live concert how do you prevent the strings on the left from bleeding over into the woodwinds on the right?
That's the wrong question, the right question is how do you reproduce a live concert experience in your home. The studies have been done, the answer is clear, but it won't matter "to you". You already have the benefit of having two sound cannons pointed at (or toward) your head while it sits locked in a vice. Whatever turns your crank is fine by me.
For those of you with the popcorn following along, if you want to see how the studies done at the USC Immesrsive Audio Lab reveal how to reproduce a live concert experience in your home here is an article from 2009. I am using pretty much the same setup they have at their lab at USC, right down to the room treatments (see the pics in my virtual system):
More details can be found here:
No, at an orchestral concert there is no crosstalk. Each instrument is producing sound from it’s actual location, each producing a single stream of sound that crosses my head once. If the instrument is straight in front of me, the stream of sound from that instrument will hit each ear simultaneously with one pass.
With a stereo 2 speaker setup, if the instrument or singer is phantom imaged straight ahead of me, that means that each speaker is playing the same thing, which causes the sound stream to hit my head from two different angles at the same time. This causes two identical streams to have different arrival times at each ear, creating comb filtering that changes the tone. Never in the natural world would you hear two identical sounds hit your head from two different directions at the same time, which is why the phantom center illusion works. Our brain doesn’t know what to think of it so it positions it solidly in the center, but not without tonal compromise. There’s also a problem with the HRTF not matching a source coming from straight ahead. Sound that hits the head from an angle produces a different tonal response at the ear drum than sound coming from straight ahead. Since our brain thinks it’s coming from straight ahead, the tonality is confusing. I think for a lot of people this gets interpreted as a depth effect, and they like it. I read complaints that when center vocals are played through a center speaker they sound too forward to a lot of people.
Why do most high-end manufacturers ignore these issues with 2 speaker playback? There are many reasons, but I’ve read a lot of people complaining about the sound when these issues are corrected, so it seems there are generations that have adapted to the effect of crosstalk and expect it. With a lot of up-mixing algorithms there are settings such as "stereo wide" which allow the user to turn down the strength of the center channel or even turn it off when listening to music. When I listen to Dolby Atmos mixed music I often hear that the center channel is weak or completely turned off, with a phantom center being used from the two front left/right channels instead. Why do they do this? I think it’s listener preference from years of conditioning, as well as the fact that a lot of people are using a different kind of center channel that’s not optimized for music, and also because in a setup where the side channels are closer to the corners of the room, the center channel is in position in the room that is acoustically un-similar enough to the side channels that it creates a noticeable incongruity in the sound.
It’s physically impossible that the sound of a violin coming from the left hits your left and right ear simultaneously and is how we as humans can perceive depth and location of sound Plus, no instrument produces a “single stream” of sound — all instruments radiate sound in a 360 degree sound field that cannot be captured in a single stream. With your logic we should all just listen to one center speaker alone and be done with it. No thanks. But I suggest you bring your theory to the best speaker manufacturers and see if any of them bite. My guess, after they’re done laughing, will be a big fat NO. But by all means let us know how that goes. In the meantime I won’t hold my breath waiting to see center speakers make even one appearance at a high-end dealership or audio show — never gonna happen dude. Oh yeah, and recordings aren’t made or mixed with a center speaker so why the hell would you wanna listen with one? Whatevs.
But I suggest you bring your theory to the best speaker manufacturers and see if any of them bite. My guess, after they’re done laughing, will be a big fat NO.
OK, let’s go with that, what about the Toole? He has two center channels including a center height, another guy with a setup like mine (go figure)
The COB, PWK, the Toole, @asctim , the THX guy, and the Kota simply prefer the center channel (for music), get over it. The Toole’s layout is below:
For me, when I used a AVR receiver, I would play music with what ever setting I wanted that sounded the best. There are not rules. It was fun for live performances to use all 5 channels or at least 3.1. Usually though, just 2.1. Now that I am just 2.1 (or actually 2.2) with no AVR, there is no center channel for music. The imaging takes care of it all to present an audible soundstage.
@kota1 Uh, maybe my math is off but that’s a surround system, not a 2-channel system. I also don’t have a TV between my stereo speakers, but that’s me. Maybe you should bring this thread to the Home Theater section where it’ll likely find a more receptive audience, and then you can discuss which preamp/processor sounds almost as good as a stereo preamp but at quadruple the cost. Yay!
BTW, notice the title of the Toole’s article:
The ULTIMATE "Real World" Home Theater and LISTENING Room
Go look at the pics of my system and its the same setup:
TWO center channels=check
Use of front rear and rear monitors as height channels instead of in ceiling=check
MLP equidistant from front and back wall=check
Dude that means whatever you think your rocking, it is far, far NOT the ultimate. Serviceable? Probably but LOL.🤡
Me and the Toole can rock everything from stereo, to surround sound, to Auro 3D and Atmos.
So I guess that makes you right and the rest of the high-end stereo manufacturers and listeners wrong. U do u dude.
It doesn’t mean that I’m right, it means I have compared a high end two channel system with an ultimate "real world" high end system and chose to have both. The button on my remote allows me to switch my setup from as few as two channels to as many as 9.2.7 depending on what best suits the content.
It also means you haven’t been able to audition an ultimate "real world" system like mine, the Tooles, or the one at USC in YOUR own home in a properly treated room. The room is 50% of the ultimate experience and hotel rooms at shows are maye real world, but far from ultimate.
So, in a nutshell, don’t dismiss using a center channel for music and I provided many references (COB,PWK,THX,DrT, etc) to help validate my opinion.
It seems I haven’t communicated the concepts very well. But it doesn’t matter. You can read about the problems with 2 channel crosstalk if you’re interested. I don’t doubt you are correct - 2 speaker setups will live on as the primary critical listening arrangement for most high-end systems for decades to come. I've had many such discussions and I've changed no one's mind. I have no interest in changing anyone’s mind. I’m just sharing what I do in case someone is interested, and I'd like to get some feedback that people understand the concepts at least. But ultimately I guess what matters is that they like what they hear from their systems. I like what I like so I’ve got to be me even if I’m the only one in the world who uses the setup I do. I’m just glad the equipment is available to set up the way I like and there’s no law against me using it that way.