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Tips for Choosing and Setting Up a Center Channel Speaker
Do I need a center channel speaker?
The center channel speaker is arguably the most important and underrated speaker in a home theater surround sound system. Why? Nearly 70% of all audio content plays through the center channel at any given moment and it also handles the majority of dialogue and vocals in music and movies and ties all the action together across the front stage to create continuity and a sense of realism. The center channel acts as an acoustic bridge between the Front Left and Front Right channels, typically tower speakers or bookshelf loudspeakers, to allow acoustic events and objects to move seamlessly across the screen between channels.
What should I look for in a center channel speaker design?
Like any high performance speaker, the center channel should be acoustically invisible. When searching for a center channel speaker, always look for a “three-way design” with vertically aligned tweeter and midrange. This allows it to perform closer to a full range speaker and also radiate a more disperse soundfield, while enabling the acoustic image to track accurately across the front stage.
It’s important to note that any well designed, full range speaker should be able to perform the duties of a center channel speaker. The horizontally aligned form factor of a dedicated center channel speaker gives it more flexibility with positioning above or below a TV. There are best practices to follow with placement, but it should perform great in any position or behind a display, but more on that later.
What are the acoustic properties of a great center channel speaker?
A proper design should minimize anything that could color or alter the audio content. Beyond that, the best center speakers should have a wide and flat frequency response and good SPL performance with minimal distortion, even at the highest drive levels. Since center speakers are somewhat position ambiguous, it becomes that much more critical to avoid lobing or irregularities in the dispersion characteristics. There is nothing worse for your immersive home theater surround sound experience, than a center speaker not presenting the acoustic information evenly throughout the various listening positions.
One way to make sure your center speaker is performing to its full potential is to take special care with placement and positioning.
Center Channel Speaker Placement Tips
If using a projector and an acoustically transparent projector screen, installing the center speaker at ear-height behind the screen is the ideal positioning.
Center speakers work great placed on top of an entertainment center or on a shelf mounted above or below the TV screen. Just make sure the speaker in angled up or down towards the listening area to optimize the sound quality and creative the most convincing experience.
For a large center channel that won’t fit in a piece of AV furniture, try a center speaker stand and mounting at ear level below the screen. It requires floorspace but is a great option, especially for larger rooms.
Always place the center channel speaker as close to the screen as possible, whether in front or behind.
If placed on furniture, align the speaker flush with the front edge to eliminate lobing of the sound waves which can negatively impact clarity and dynamics. Never push it back against the wall with surface space in front of it.
Rubber doorstops or other non-abrasive wedge-shaped objects can be placed below the front edges of a center channel speaker to elevate the tweeter and drivers towards the listening area.
When setting the angle below or above a screen, a laser pointer held against the top of center speaker can be used to accurately aim it to ear level in the main listening position.
Both SVS Ultra Center and Prime Center channel speakers are genuine 3-way designs with a dedicated mid-range driver below the tweeter in its own acoustically sealed chamber, and flanked by two ported bass drivers, all using premium grade cross-over components to divide the side to its respective driver. When upgrading a Center Channel speaker, you will see the quality of the components and the size of the drivers increase. The midrange and bass drivers on our Ultra speaker are larger than those on the Prime, which present deeper bass, higher SPL and more refined and revealing performance.
If you have any questions about center channel speaker set-up or placement, contact the SVS Sound Experts at [email protected].
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