I've come to the same conclusion a long time ago, and no longer use a center channel. I like many older movies, and I got tired of hearing the sound only coming thru the center speaker when in mono. A center speaker is nice for dialog if you don't sit exactly in the center of the screen, however.
A mismatched center is better than no center but a matched center is better.
I've done it both ways.......I'll keep my center speaker. I guess if your center speaker is junk, you would benefit by getting it out of the system? (not saying "your" center speaker is junk).
I prefer no dedicated center myself - I've had a high quality matching center and just prefer the sound of the imaging without the dedicated center. My setup is such that no person sits very far off center so the center image is stable without the extra speaker anyway.
Perhaps that there are just two of us, sitting 8.5' from either main and 7.5' from the center, is the reason it's so hard to tell whether or not the center channel is active, except for a slight coloration. I certainly don't think a KEF 200C is junk, but it's not a Reference 104.2 either. As a lark, I've thought of trying one or both of my AR3a speakers in the center, because they do have dome tweeters. It's been so many decades since I heard them that I can't remember how they sound. Unfortunately, a 104.2 in the center, as Kal suggests, would impinge on viewing the bottom quarter of the screen.
I think for some who have small monitors and closer speaker placement can get away with phantom easier then others. If your like me and use a projector the center IMO makes more sense and really helps to anchor the sound. As far as mono movies of old you can manipulate that sound within most any reciever and certainly a processor to make the sound more desirable.
I like and have always championed the use of a center and have had good results with carefully selected non matched centers when at times I had either no funds or a speaker that offered no center option.
Even when seated in center at times phantom is harder to hear the vocals as the mains are doing alot of duty on some material. I also enjoy the ability to increase and decrease volume of vocal content to my liking for any given material. Phantom wont allow you to do that.
For those in the business I think one should develop and market a speaker that offers both the center and the main in one cab, a tower that included drivers dedicated for center and ones for right and left could be a hit with some. I want payed for this idea, or atleast a free pair of speakers!
The 104.2s are floor standers, each with 5 drivers, 2 woofers, two mids and tweeter located in a separate cavity in an Appolito arrangement. The 200C is a fairly large horizontal center speaker with 3 drivers, the center of which is a coaxial tweeter KEF calls Uni-Q. We sit at an apex of what is essentially an equalateral triangle formed with the 104.2s. Projection is to a 100" screen.
I've listend to Blu-rays and HDTV in 4.1 for a couple of days now. The sound of voices appear to come from the speakers on the screen, even closer than with the center channel. The real convincer was the click when the cards are dropped on the table Casino Royale: the sound seemed to come from the image of the cards. I've listened to a variety of program materials, including those that are mostly talking, Broadway Empire, Magic Flute, a Rolling Stones concert, and so forth. I think any listener, even Kal, would be hard pressed to tell whether the center channel was active or not, but I think the sound is a bit cleaner. It is true that I can't boost the center level, but I rarely do that and have not so far experienced any feeling of need in 4.1.
I'm with you dbphd, I have Infinity Prelude MTS for my mail speakers placed 8-9ft apart and the center image is dead solid. Not exactly small and not exactly close together. I can see that if a person sat way off center than a center would help but otherwise I just don't experience any positive benifit.
Some might find it interesting to shut down their mains and run a good quality CENTER with a sub and surrounds.
Movies and DVD tracks are mixed for the CENTER.
There have been times that I have forgotten to "turn on" the monoblocs for the mains and didn't even realize it.
If you have a good center and can run it FR, try it.
I dumped my Bose center channel after upgraded to Focal mains. It seems that as long as you're sitting between the mains the center isn't necessary as the mains can ghost it in just fine, BUT if you have people sitting outside of the mains then it won't be able to image properly. Not an issue for me as my system all but crushes those of my friends so they are happy either way.
I've replaced the KEF 200C with a pair of KEF Reference 102s that have a tweeter that matches that of the KEF Reference 104.2s. Despite warnings about mutual interference with two center speakers, I've tried both single and twin 102s, and think the twin arrangement better matches the 104.2s. I perceive the 3.1 soundstage as seamless, HF clean, and centered images firmly established. I've listened to a wide variety of DSD surround, Blu-ray films, and TV. I've been impressed with this arrangement. I bought another pair of 102s that I plan to install as surrounds to replace the Uni-Q 102.2s.
I've moved the Proceed PAV/PDSD to the living room system, and installed a Cary Cinema 11a in the media room; thus the DSD surround via HDMI.
Theres A LOT of expensive junk center speakers out there. I've had centers over $1k sound bad. Specially if the sound muffled! Yuck!
Its funny, one of my favorite center channels is a Cerwin Vega CLS 6c $109 to your door brand new. Loud, clear voices, always blends with minor EQ.......what else can you ask from a dialog speaker?
Way better with a center in the setup, if it sounds good. Forget the retail price or name brand IMO. I believe the best home theaters are the ones with matching speakers for all channels