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Discussion Starter #1
Good morning, and thank you for any thoughts on this subject.

I am a technology integrator who primarily serves women and families who enjoy home entertainment but often opt not to have surround speakers because they either find the surround experience disruptive or the home is not rear speaker friendly. They also don't like floor standing speakers, and home construction oftern precludes in-ceiling speakers.

Our signature "look" is framing a display with left, center, right on-wall speakers from Monitor Audio, Definitive, Totem, and Leon. The bass is anchered with a SuperCube III or II subwoofer. My clients enjoy the look and experience, but my lead installer is now becoming argumentative about the role / value of the center channel speaker. He believes the client is being oversold.

I suppose I could tell him to shut up and do what he's paid to do, but I'd rather have a more reasoned dialogue. I've heard the arguments about 2 better speakers vs. 3 lesser, but we use the most costly speakers in a line in most scenarios anyway, and price has never been an issue with our users.

Personally, I prefer the 3.1 configuration in my own home which has no back wall for surrounds. Am I missing something in adding the center channel. An what are your thoughts on which sound format to use with this configuration?

Have a great week,

James
 

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Discussion Starter #2
2.1 vs. 3.1 Speaker Setups - Your Thoughts On The Center Channel

EDIT by Admin: Threads combined... please see rules concerning cross-posting.
 

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Re: 2.1 vs. 3.1 Speaker Setups - Your Thoughts On The Center Channel

Good morning, and thank you for any thoughts on this subject.

I am a technology integrator who primarily serves women and families who enjoy home entertainment but often opt not to have surround speakers because they either find the surround experience disruptive or the home is not rear speaker friendly. They also don't like floor standing speakers, and home construction oftern precludes in-ceiling speakers.

Our signature "look" is framing a display with left, center, right on-wall speakers from Monitor Audio, Definitive, Totem, and Leon. The bass is anchered with a SuperCube III or II subwoofer. My clients enjoy the look and experience, but my lead installer is now becoming argumentative about the role / value of the center channel speaker. He believes the client is being oversold.

I suppose I could tell him to shut up and do what he's paid to do, but I'd rather have a more reasoned dialogue. I've heard the arguments about 2 better speakers vs. 3 lesser, but we use the most costly speakers in a line in most scenarios anyway, and price has never been an issue with our users.

Personally, I prefer the 3.1 configuration in my own home which has no back wall for surrounds. Am I missing something in adding the center channel. An what are your thoughts on which sound format to use with this configuration?

Have a great week,

James

Read more: 3.1 vs 2.1 Speaker Setups - Value Of Third Channel - Home Theater Forum - Home Theater Systems - HomeTheaterShack.com http://www.hometheatershack.com/for...e-third-channel.html#post245668#ixzz0iFTqQpDc
The two main problems with Center Channels are distance for the mains(L,R) and off-axis response.

If the Center Channel is too close to the Mains(within 3 feet) it can interfere with the sound stage of the Mains reducing sound quality.

If you are using a horizontal center chances are it has terrible off-axis response. However using the same L-R speaker vertically under a display is a good solution for that.

Still most folks care more about aesthetics than sound. If they cared so much about sound they'd not want in-walls. Plus you probably need the extra income to stay alive.

I do phantom the center in my setup, but I have a smaller room.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Re: 2.1 vs. 3.1 Speaker Setups - Your Thoughts On The Center Channel

Thanks for the update. The typical configuration is 3 on-wll Monitor AudioRadius HD 250s which are 29" tall / wide, depending on orientation. Most displays are 52-55" and we put the "framed" speakers about 3-4" out from the sides of the display. From a purist standpoint, we know this isn't optimal, but we're turning business away so we assume our clients a pleased with the result.

JS
 

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Hi James, Welcome aboard,

The center channel is designed for dialogue and thus is an important part of the front sound stage however if the speakers are not a close match or the left and right channels are close together (less that 4' apart) the center can actually cause issues.
Many people opt to go without a center channel due to aesthetics and "phantom" the dialogue to the mains. This can work well but this removes the anchor of the dialogue coming from the screen and can be problematic.
 

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Good feedback.

Surprisingly, 80% of our clients like the look of the under display center channel which are always identical to the L/Rs. I suspected the dialogue is enhanced over straight L/R. That's my experience at home. But, I wanted an additional data point.

All the best,

James
 

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Re: 2.1 vs. 3.1 Speaker Setups - Your Thoughts On The Center Channel

Thanks for the update. The typical configuration is 3 on-wll Monitor AudioRadius HD 250s which are 29" tall / wide, depending on orientation. Most displays are 52-55" and we put the "framed" speakers about 3-4" out from the sides of the display. From a purist standpoint, we know this isn't optimal, but we're turning business away so we assume our clients a pleased with the result.

JS
I think most folks will perceive a center as making the sound better so you are better off putting it in. Psycho acoustics is hard to argue against. Congrats on the success.
 

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Welcome James. Have fun. Dennis
 

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I would say it also depends on the processing being used. Are all three speakers (L, R, C) all voiced? I'm sure they are but point is how the signal is being split up imo. My system is a 4.2 setup with no center mainly because the mains are 60 inches apart and my sitting area is 11 feet back. Do I need a center when my image is super strong as it is???
 

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Re: 2.1 vs. 3.1 Speaker Setups - Your Thoughts On The Center Channel

I do love the McIntosh:

XCS2K
Reference Center Channel Loudspeaker

Holy !!! 3 12's in a center channel down to 16hz!!!! If I could only sell one of my kidneys....
 

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Re: 2.1 vs. 3.1 Speaker Setups - Your Thoughts On The Center Channel

As I started piecing together a 5.1 setup I began with only purchasing the left, right and center channel speakers. I maintained a 3.1 setup for quite a while and noticed a few things. First, my L&R mains were so close to the center that it often didn't make a difference if I was in surround mode or stereo mode. In fact, I often preferred stereo mode because dialog was shared by two speakers and was louder and thus easier to understand. The illusion of surround is lost using stereo but when the L,C,R are close together it often doesn't matter anyway.

From the sound of things, your customers are more critical of aesthetics than sound realism. I would suggest investing more in a nice 2.1 setup rather than the 3.1 like you mentioned.
 

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Re: 2.1 vs. 3.1 Speaker Setups - Your Thoughts On The Center Channel

I think I'd go with a 2.1 setup with better speakers. If your clients are into aesthetics over sound, then getting rid of a speaker can only help and a properly set up left/right speaker can sound like you've got a center. My standard advice is to buy in the following order:
  1. Front left/right
  2. sub
  3. back surrounds
  4. center
  5. side surrounds

It's not that I think the center isn't important -- most movie's have most of the sound coming out of the center -- just that it can be done with out with a properly set up left/right.
 

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Re: 2.1 vs. 3.1 Speaker Setups - Your Thoughts On The Center Channel

Don't forget that having a center speaker is important when entertaining guests who are not seated in the middle between the Left and Right speakers.

Multichannel audio mixes have the voices predominantly coming from the center channel so that they seem to be coming from the TV. Without a center speaker, voices seem to be coming from the speaker that's closest to you and not from the TV. That can be quite distracting.
 

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Re: 2.1 vs. 3.1 Speaker Setups - Your Thoughts On The Center Channel

If the inclusion if in-wall speakers is just to give the TV better speakers then a 2.1 is more than adequate. Pretty much all TVs only have LF/RF speakers and a lot of people are happy with that. I doubt that your average (non-audiophile) consumer is not going to complain that dialog is not very good off axis.

I guess the real thing to do would be to test out the 2.1 setup and compare it to a 3.1 setup. Invite in a few people that meet your customer demographic and get their opinions of the test set up and also about what they truly want in a system (VOC).

You could always offer 2.1 as your base package and offer 3.1, 5.1 and 7.1 as upgrades.
 

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Welcome James! I ran phantom center (without a center channel speaker) for years and loved it. I only added a center channel when I changed locations and the layout of my room now demands it, as there is important seating much closer to the left speaker than the right. I found that in previuos setups that were fairly symetrical, with the seating a good distance from either L or R speaker, the dialog anchored to the screen nicely without a center, and saved me cost. That being said, IF there's going to be a center speaker, it had better be a good one, and had better be designed to work with the L and R speakers (ideally it would be identical, but aesthetics often precludes this). I experimented with using my TV speakers as the center speaker, but found this completely unacceptable.
 
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