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-   -   What's the point of the center channel? (http://forum.e46fanatics.com/showthread.php?t=345130)

brew 03-08-2006 06:19 PM

What's the point of the center channel?
 
So I'm kind of an audio nut. Mostly 2 channel stuff - with a big vinyl collection and fancy homebuilt speakers and a dedicated 2 channel stereo room, etc.

I also have a 5.1 surround system in our tv room.

Our bedroom tv system is just 2 channel (but with pretty nice speakers).

One thing I've noticed is that the center channel in the 5.1 system is completely unnecessary. A centralized image can be created with the front left and right speakers alone. On my dedicated 2 channel system it reproduces a very believable 3 dimensional image of instruments located at any point between the speakers and beyond the speaker plane. On many recordings there are also sounds coming from outside the speakers and from behind me (accomplished using phasing tricks like on Dark Side of the Moon)

On my 2 channel video rig in the bedroom I don't miss the center channel at all - all of the voices are perfectly located on the screen . . in fact it's slightly better than a center channel because you don't have voices coming from above or below the screen.

So my question is this - what's the point of having a center channel of audio and a center channel speaker anyway? How is 5.1 any better than 4.1?

blownE30M3 03-08-2006 07:11 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by brew
So I'm kind of an audio nut. Mostly 2 channel stuff - with a big vinyl collection and fancy homebuilt speakers and a dedicated 2 channel stereo room, etc.

I also have a 5.1 surround system in our tv room.

Our bedroom tv system is just 2 channel (but with pretty nice speakers).

One thing I've noticed is that the center channel in the 5.1 system is completely unnecessary. A centralized image can be created with the front left and right speakers alone. On my dedicated 2 channel system it reproduces a very believable 3 dimensional image of instruments located at any point between the speakers and beyond the speaker plane. On many recordings there are also sounds coming from outside the speakers and from behind me (accomplished using phasing tricks like on Dark Side of the Moon)

On my 2 channel video rig in the bedroom I don't miss the center channel at all - all of the voices are perfectly located on the screen . . in fact it's slightly better than a center channel because you don't have voices coming from above or below the screen.

So my question is this - what's the point of having a center channel of audio and a center channel speaker anyway? How is 5.1 any better than 4.1?

Area effect. Motion trailing. And voices mainly come from a the center channel in a properly setup surround 5.1 system. A center channel is not neccesary when listening to music audio, but is crucial for viewing movies.

JBimmer01 03-08-2006 07:14 PM

More is better? :dunno:

I think for movies the center is mostly for voice, and the 2 front sides are for other frontal sound.

brew 03-08-2006 07:22 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by blownE30M3
Area effect. Motion trailing. And voices mainly come from a the center channel in a properly setup surround 5.1 system. A center channel is not neccesary when listening to music audio, but is crucial for viewing movies.

I'm not quite sure what you said. But after thinking about it I'm guessing that a well defined centralized image cannot be created (i) when the L and R front speakers are poorly positioned, or (ii) when the viewer is sitting outside the ideal viewing area. Someone sitting way to one side, for example, would not hear a centralized image - they would hear dialogue come from the closer speaker and think "WTF?".

In if this is the case then I think it's fair to say that the central channel is unnecessary if the viewers sit between the two speakers and the speakers are properly positioned. In that case, the viewer will hear a pinpoint image as good as, or better, than can be created by the center channel. For a 5.1 signal, the center channel info can just be fed through the L and R front speakers.

blownE30M3 03-08-2006 09:25 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by brew
I'm not quite sure what you said. But after thinking about it I'm guessing that a well defined centralized image cannot be created (i) when the L and R front speakers are poorly positioned, or (ii) when the viewer is sitting outside the ideal viewing area. Someone sitting way to one side, for example, would not hear a centralized image - they would hear dialogue come from the closer speaker and think "WTF?".

In if this is the case then I think it's fair to say that the central channel is unnecessary if the viewers sit between the two speakers and the speakers are properly positioned. In that case, the viewer will hear a pinpoint image as good as, or better, than can be created by the center channel. For a 5.1 signal, the center channel info can just be fed through the L and R front speakers.

Indeed. Out of place and not tuned can be hazardous to sound imagind and reflection. But then that depends on the speaker type as well. The center channel is very neccesary as it is the focal point of all direct audio. Try this. Try hooking all your speakers up including the center, play a movie, listen for a bit and unplug the center. See what happens.

sycE46 03-09-2006 12:38 AM

I see your point. Some of my friends had badly positioned center channels (due to the aesthetics of placing the center channel). In those cases.. .the surround system sounded much better when you turn it off. that way the 2 main speakers take care of the vocals. Also in systems where the center is too small, and the main speakers are bigger. It sounds better just using the main speakers instead of the center.

My guess the center is probably for imaging for viewers that aren't completely centered. If you're not in the sweet spot between the 2 fronts, your imaging isn't going to as good.

James330I 03-09-2006 02:26 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by brew
I'm not quite sure what you said. But after thinking about it I'm guessing that a well defined centralized image cannot be created (i) when the L and R front speakers are poorly positioned, or (ii) when the viewer is sitting outside the ideal viewing area. Someone sitting way to one side, for example, would not hear a centralized image - they would hear dialogue come from the closer speaker and think "WTF?".

In if this is the case then I think it's fair to say that the central channel is unnecessary if the viewers sit between the two speakers and the speakers are properly positioned. In that case, the viewer will hear a pinpoint image as good as, or better, than can be created by the center channel. For a 5.1 signal, the center channel info can just be fed through the L and R front speakers.

but wouldn't a movie mixed for 5.1 lose some of its dynamics when you combine L/C/R and remove the Center. Sound editors put 80% of sound information on the center channel. Channel seperation would be awful if you took it away and tried to intergrate Ctr info on your L and R speakers

(i.e. when a plane passes by and you can hear and feel it coming from extreme left, across the screen and then out the right speaker...I would say channel seperation would be important for effects like that)

brew 03-09-2006 02:54 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by James330I
but wouldn't a movie mixed for 5.1 lose some of its dynamics when you combine L/C/R and remove the Center. Sound editors put 80% of sound information on the center channel. Channel seperation would be awful if you took it away and tried to intergrate Ctr info on your L and R speakers

(i.e. when a plane passes by and you can hear and feel it coming from extreme left, across the screen and then out the right speaker...I would say channel seperation would be important for effects like that)

I don't think so. 2 speakers can create that effect perfectly.

blownE30M3 03-09-2006 03:08 PM

Maybe this requires an explanation of what Surround sound is.

I'll find ya'll a link in a minute here but heres a summary. Surround sound isnt a matter of levels on certain speakers. It is infact software which is hardwired into receivers. Hence the reason you have different modes with different receivers. It decodes the digital source feed and places it according to the software. So James you are correct. A film, filmed in Dolby Digital 7.1-9.1 (they never film in 5.1) would sound best in those appropriate settings.

When you change modes to a stereo output. Either your 7 channel, 2 channel, what have you, you negate the software installed for surround sound decoding and place the load on all the speakers. There is no decoding done by the receiver, it is purely spitting out the level.

Does this make sense? Like I said I will try to find a clearer explanation.

djsway 03-09-2006 06:57 PM

Good question, but really if you could duplicate center imaging with two side speakers then alot of companies that are making 5.1 and up speakers/ receivers would be out of business huh?

trippinbillies4 03-09-2006 11:19 PM

Nope. Bose would be out of business if they didn't market well. Same thing with 5.1. Rear surrounds arguably provide something the fronts can't, but a center can be "phantom" if the 2 fronts are staged correctly.

E46M3Rod 03-10-2006 10:20 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by brew
So I'm kind of an audio nut. Mostly 2 channel stuff - with a big vinyl collection and fancy homebuilt speakers and a dedicated 2 channel stereo room, etc.

I also have a 5.1 surround system in our tv room.

Our bedroom tv system is just 2 channel (but with pretty nice speakers).

One thing I've noticed is that the center channel in the 5.1 system is completely unnecessary. A centralized image can be created with the front left and right speakers alone. On my dedicated 2 channel system it reproduces a very believable 3 dimensional image of instruments located at any point between the speakers and beyond the speaker plane. On many recordings there are also sounds coming from outside the speakers and from behind me (accomplished using phasing tricks like on Dark Side of the Moon)

On my 2 channel video rig in the bedroom I don't miss the center channel at all - all of the voices are perfectly located on the screen . . in fact it's slightly better than a center channel because you don't have voices coming from above or below the screen.

So my question is this - what's the point of having a center channel of audio and a center channel speaker anyway? How is 5.1 any better than 4.1?

You don't miss the center channel....because YOU are sitting in the "middle/center". If somebody is not....this is where you notice it is missing and doesn't quite sound right. Hope this helps.

blownE30M3 03-10-2006 10:25 AM

Is anyone even fukin reading what I type?

brew 03-10-2006 03:08 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by blownE30M3
Indeed. Out of place and not tuned can be hazardous to sound imagind and reflection. But then that depends on the speaker type as well. The center channel is very neccesary as it is the focal point of all direct audio. Try this. Try hooking all your speakers up including the center, play a movie, listen for a bit and unplug the center. See what happens.


If you just unplug it then it would sound bad because you have all that center channel information going nowhere. If that center channel information is added to the L and R front speakers (attenuated by 3dB so the L+R combined level for this information is the same) and you sit in the sweet spot then it will sound the exact same.

I just realized why the center channel is important: With music you have no visual image that you need to sync the sound up to. If you're sitting off center, you'll hear the central image biased towards the closer speaker, but you'll still enjoy the music just fine. But if you have a visual image that the sound is supposed to sync to - and the audio image is off to the side of the screen, then it will cause a disconnect in your brain and it will sound just plain wrong. The center channel locks the center audio image to the screen no matter where you sit so you avoid this problem entirely. Makes sense now.

baller99 03-10-2006 04:25 PM

In my opinion the center channel is one of the most important additions to home theater other than the dvd, historically.

djsway 03-10-2006 04:30 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by blownE30M3
Is anyone even fukin reading what I type?


Cute sig!

blownE30M3 03-10-2006 04:56 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by djsway
Cute sig!

Yours is better.

baller99 03-10-2006 04:56 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by blownE30M3
Maybe this requires an explanation of what Surround sound is.

I'll find ya'll a link in a minute here but heres a summary. Surround sound isnt a matter of levels on certain speakers. It is infact software which is hardwired into receivers. Hence the reason you have different modes with different receivers. It decodes the digital source feed and places it according to the software. So James you are correct. A film, filmed in Dolby Digital 7.1-9.1 (they never film in 5.1) would sound best in those appropriate settings.

When you change modes to a stereo output. Either your 7 channel, 2 channel, what have you, you negate the software installed for surround sound decoding and place the load on all the speakers. There is no decoding done by the receiver, it is purely spitting out the level.

Does this make sense? Like I said I will try to find a clearer explanation.

dd 7.1-9.1? never heard of it. :dunno:

blownE30M3 03-10-2006 05:07 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by baller99
dd 7.1-9.1? never heard of it. :dunno:

You will shortly.

baller99 03-10-2006 05:08 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by blownE30M3
You will shortly.

No go ahead now.. you say all films are filmed in 7.1-9.1?


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