Now that we have learned to enjoy movies at the comfort of our home, we have started investing in a sound system that can complement the wonderful movies that we enjoy watching on the OTT platforms. There are various speakers and home theatres available in the market that allows one to thoroughly immerse themselves in the movie or series they are watching at home. After all, what is the point of not enjoying musicals or those action-packed movies without a good sound system?!
When it comes to home theatres of 5.1 or above category, each speaker serves a purpose to enhance your viewing and audio experience. In a 5.1 system of a home theatre, which is one of the most commonly used home theatre systems around the world, there are mainly 6 different speakers and they all have their purpose.
There is front left, front right, surround left, surround right and center channel speaker which needs to be positioned as their name suggests to achieve the perfect surround sound. There is one more speaker called the subwoofer and its positioning is not too important but it is still an important part of the system. Arguably, the most important speaker in these home theatres is the center channel speaker.
What does the center channel speaker do?
Now you must be wondering what is it that makes the channel speaker so important when all the speakers play a different role in a home theatre system? Allow us to explain. You will be surprised to find out that this center channel speaker is the one that produces almost 70% of the sounds.
It is the one taking care of all the dialogs and main vocals in the songs. It is also required to position the distance of the sound. For example, if a character is right in front of the screen then you will hear their dialogs from this channel speaker. But if there is another character calling them out from across the street, then the sound system will identify that there is already a character on the screen that the channel speaker is dealing with so the fainter voice needs to be produced from one of the other speakers depending upon the location of the character.
The center channel speaker allows the sounds to transition from the speakers of one side to the speakers on the other side to create the perfect illusion of the surround sound and give you an immersive experience.
What channel speaker options do you have?
Now that you are aware of the function of the transition the channel speaker plays, you need to know more details to get the perfect center channel speaker and its settings. First of all, you need to make sure that the tone of the center channel speaker matches that of the side speakers.
If not, then it may produce a very jarring and erratic sound that might not be loud but noticeable enough to ruin your viewing experience. You wouldn’t want Loki’s smooth voice to become as high as Alvin the chipmunk when he moves from one side of the screen to another, would you?
To match the tones in the best possible manner, it is recommended to use speakers of a similar type. You need to consider the placement of the speakers as well. You might be able to squeeze in the vertical speakers on the side but for the center channel speaker, it is rarely an option, unless you have a screen really high up on the wall.
Who would want a big black speaker smack in the middle of the screen?! If you try to fix the problem by simply placing a speaker intended to be positioned vertically as horizontally on its side below the screen, then you will end up defeating the purpose of the speaker.
Such vertical speakers are designed to give you the best performance when placed as they are supposed to be placed. If not, then it will affect the sound quality. It can also cause a delay or hurry in the frequency response amongst the speakers and the bass sound of the speaker can also be affected if you have put the woofer too close to the surface.
Dedicated center channel
To avoid tarnishing your movie dates with bad sound, you should go for the home theatres which come with a dedicated center channel speaker. Don’t worry, most of the home theatres include a dedicated channel speaker in horizontal design which you can place above or below the screen. But make sure to match the tonality of the channel speaker with the other speakers for a smooth transition.
There are many designs of center speakers available in the market with different features. You can choose the one most appropriate for you depending on your requirements, budget, and space.
Center channel speaker placement
Just like all the other speakers, it is recommended to place this channel speaker with tweeters at your ear level when seated in a comfortable position for watching the screen. But there can be interior design and space constraints, understandably, which might force you to tweak the placement of the speakers a little bit.
If you are placing the center speaker below or above the screen, make sure the cabinet is facing the listening position. If you have an acoustically transparent projection screen then you can place this speaker behind it as well.
Is it possible to have a surround sound setup without a center speaker?
You are free to have any speaker layout you want in your house. It entirely depends on the amount of space you have in the room, your budget, and of course, your preferences. You simply need to disable the center speaker from the AV receivers’ setup menu.
Your system will become a 4.1 home theatre system. You will realize it will not sound as you expected if the system is supposed to be a 5.1 type of system. But there are certain people who prefer it like this.
It is true you can have the surround sound without the center speaker but it is the crucial piece when it comes to transitions or distance and location of the vocals. It will certainly enhance your experience and make it more immersive. You can always upgrade your existing speaker as long as you can match the tonalities.
For a big gathering, this speaker will surely make your movie time memorable!