Do you need a centre speaker?
Why would you need a centre speaker?
Have you ever been watching a movie and struggled to hear the dialog? So you turn the volume up a notch or two, and then find yourself scrambling for the remote as the next action sequence starts at rocket launch sound levels. If you can relate to this then adding a centre speaker to your home theatre system will make your movie watching a whole lot more enjoyable.
Most of the dialog in a movie is mixed into the centre channel track. If you lack a centre speaker then the only voices you hear are through the main speakers at a lower level, which is why they can be muffled and difficult to hear. A lot of the vocal subtleties and details are lost, leaving you with quiet or muddy sounding dialog. The reality is that the centre speaker is one of the most important speakers in your home theatre, (typically delivering around 60% of the sound) and deserves some special attention.
The Lumina range from Sonus faber includes a dedicated centre speaker
In a perfect world, you'll be using main speakers that have a centre option available in their product line. This is good because it gives you the chance to maintain the same characteristics across all of your speakers and have a consistent and balanced sound. This is especially important in home theatre once you introduce panning and other movements across the screen. A mismatch can quickly be heard and distract from the movie experience. Usually the drivers in a centre speaker will be the same as those in the main speakers within the model range to ensure a good match.
It's also worth noting that while most centre speakers will be of the free-standing type, in-wall options are also available. Talk to one of the Soundline team to find something that fits your needs.
No real surprises here, the best place for a centre speaker is front and centre. Ideal height is ear level, but practically this usually means it'll be placed directly below your TV or projector screen. A slight upwards angle will help deliver the best sound to the main viewing area and this is sometimes taken care of by a speaker stand. If a stand isn't available, make sure you add some rubber feet to the bottom of the speaker to provide some isolation from the cabinet if it's sitting on one. Using bigger feet at the front is a great way of fine tuning of the angle of the speaker. It's the more directional mid to high frequencies that require some aiming towards the viewer. If the speaker is aimed at the viewers feet, then all they'll hear is the lower end; or a boomy bass heavy dialog. Definitely not what we want.
If you do place your centre speaker on a cabinet, be aware of resonance from the cabinet. The above method of adding rubber feet will help a little with this, but you could also some absorption material to the inside of the cabinet if you're experiencing unwanted vibration. As always, a little experimentation is a good thing. Try a few different positions and see what sounds best to you.
If you have to place the speaker inside a cabinet, then make sure it's right at the front. This will help avoid a boomy or muffled sound caused by the surrounding cabinet.
Adding a center speaker will add clarity to movie dialog
Once you're all connected and have your new centre speaker up and running there's some fine tuning you can do to make sure you're getting the very best results.
If you have a receiver that uses a microphone to calibrate your room then this is an easy step. Follow the setup procedure in your manual and let the system estimate the speaker positions within your room. Even though you're getting sound from all of your speakers, this is still an important step to make sure everything arrives at the listening position at the correct time. If you're really keen, you can even check the system has measured these distances accurately with a tape measure and adjust accordingly.
The final step is to check and adjust the crossover frequency. As you adjust this frequency in your receiver (if you're able to), listen to what happens to dialog. If it's muffled or unclear, try raising this frequency and see the difference. Sometimes lower frequencies going to the centre speaker can cause a resonance within the cabinet it rests on. By cutting out these out, we can eliminate the resonance and improve the sound quality.
So if you're struggling to hear what's happening in a movie, consider adding a centre speaker. If you already have one then spend a little time experimenting with its placement and your receiver settings. As always, we're happy to offer some advice on a centre speaker to fit your budget and room as well as how to get the most from it. Here's a selection of some of our favourite centre speakers to get you started:
Monitor Audio Bronze 150 Centre Speaker
Part of the Bronze 6G range, the Bronze C150 Centre Speaker is a great way to bring music and movies to life, at an easily affordable price. The C150 Centre has excellent sound dispertion properties, so everyone in the room gets the same great sound. Learn more...
Sonus faber Lumina centre speaker
Part of the new Lumina collection from Sonus faber, the Lumina Centre features a squared, minimalist design with a black leather wrap. Inheriting components and features from higher end models this is a speaker that can be placed almost anywhere and still deliver excellent performance. Learn more...
Monitor Audio Silver C350 Centre Speaker
The Silver C350 Centre from Monitor Audio includes technology from the flagship Platinum II range. Built as a sealed box which allows for placement in a cabinet or close to a wall. The Silver C350 makes an ideal partner for the Silver 100, Silver 300 and Silver 500 models from Monitor Audio, being carefully matched to their sonic characteristics. Learn more...
Sonus faber Sonetto I Centre Speaker
This small but highly capable center channel speaker is the ideal partner for the smaller speakers in the Sonetto range. Characterised by a design style in harmony with the other speakers of the line, the Sonus faber Sonetto Center I fits easily into diverse environments, guaranteeing excellent performance.