Monday, November 10, 2008

The Importance Of The Centre Speaker

The purpose of the centre channel speaker is to reproduce ALL the program in the centre of the sound stage. In today’s multi channel world, we use 3 speakers to reproduce the front sound stage – Left, Centre and Right. Therefore the quality of the centre speaker becomes very important to how well it will blend in with the Left and Right speakers. Sure “stereo” has traditionally being considered a 2 channel medium, but the very first stereo recordings [Bell Labs in the 1930’s] actually used 3 speakers to create the sound stage. The only reason we have 2 channels for “stereo” today is that 2 channels is all that could fit into the groove of a vinyl record. Unfortunately, all following formats for “stereo” music reproduction would only use 2 channels until the release of “multi-channel” recordings on formats like the SACD and DVD-A.

Multi-channel music goes beyond the front stage to include surrounds and even an LFE channel. The exact amount of content sent to each channel varies from recording to recording and can be perceived as spacious and enveloping when mixed correctly. Film sound has always [post 1977] been mixed as multi-channel, and the number of channels has now expanded to 7.1 discrete channels [Blu-ray Disc]. However, because the centre speaker can be responsible for up to 90% of a motion picture's soundtrack, the quality of the speaker reproducing this channel needs to be as good as the L and R speakers.

My LCR Array

I use identical LCR speakers for two reasons –

1. Sounds do not change timbre as they pan across the stage.

2. I do not hear an audio quality change when switching from 2ch to MC program.

Whilst centre speakers can be bought individually, it is difficult to find a store that will spit a pair of "main" speakers so that you can have three identical LCR speakers. The solution is to therefore work out a budget for speakers and find the best centre speaker [that you both like and can afford] and buy three. As I am also a fan of bass management, I also recommend including a subwoofer in that system.


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