You might get excellent results with Phantom mode. However, most two channel systems that I've heard, especially those in smaller rooms, have a very narrow sweet spot. If it is just you listening/watching and you are not far off-axis, you should get good results with Phantom. If you watch as a group or sit off-axis, a well matched center channel speaker will probably work better.
My $.02 worth.....
I did the same test a while back after reading all the posts from people that stated no center was fine for them. In the end...It may be fine for them but it was not for me.
I gave it a week before I put my center back in the system.
IF you sit in the center, it is no contest: phantom center sounds better in the typical home theater setup (if it does not something is wrong with your pre/pro, speakers, and/or amp). Center channel speakers have too many issues, they have to match/be identical to the front speakers, should be in the center of the screen, the usual center channel MTM configuration does not work well in the horizontal position especially if sitting on the tv (which also causes a lopsided baffle).
The only reason for a center channel is for viewers way off axis.
I agree with Ultrakaz.
I made the test myself last weekend and phantom center sounded better, although it may be that my mains are far better and different brand than my center.
Will keep testing.
Hbrandt- Yes; and don't bother. Ditched my center channel speaker a couple of years ago. My front left right speakers image very well and even off-axis listeners have the dialog anchored to the screen. I think the eye-brain relationship comes into this also. Spend the money on more DVDs.
For movies in 5.1 DTS or Dolby Digital, I prefer using the center channel. Everything in Mono, Stereo, and Pro Logic, I use the Phantom center. I usually switch off the surrounds as well, in these modes.
Dosen't mixing the center channel info into the L&R channels cause phase cancelation?
Boldstrummer...No. This is the same mixing that recording engineers do when that make stereo recordings from multitack original recordings.
How did your Phantom vs. Real Center Channel Test go?
I have an EAD TheaterMaster as well, and just had to send my Talon Falcon C center channel speaker back to the factory to get it shielded. I really miss it, as my EAD doesn't seem to like being setup without a center when Dolby Digital or DTS signals are decoded. It gets very quiet compared to the same material in Down-mixed 'Digital Stereo', 2-chnl Stereo or Matrix modes, requiring a big change in volume between modes. And - before you ask - it IS sending the center information to the L/R mains, as I can hear all the dialog.
In all other modes, the center image provided by the EAD is just terrific - even way off-axis - enough so that I too would consider doing without a CC if it weren't for the fact that this configuration doesn't seem to work great with DD 5.1 signals as described. As it is, I want my center channel back NOW!
Maybe I don't have my EAD setup for Phantom mode correctly? Not sure - but it won't stay in this configuration much longer, anyway ....
BTW - I REALLY like the TheaterMaster. It's kinda daunting to learn the menu/interface, but the results are truly worth it.
I had the same findings, a center channel for DD/DTS is a must IMO. Anything else is a compromise in sound quality for these types of disc. Of course, if you only had a $50 center speaker and tried to blend it with your $2,000 main speakers things could get ugly.
Great point Dave-
That is why I went the extra step to get the monitor equivalent of my Talon Raven main floorstanders as a center channel. Timbre-matching and power handling are not a problem.
Of course, it is also kinda stretching the category of "Monitor" when referring to a speaker that has a 10" woofer, is rated down to 19hz and weighs 75 pounds!
I've had similar experience with the TM8800pro. I've been doing some beta testing of the 2.3e software which will be out soon. It is a BIG improvement over the earlier versions. In particular, it adds a Previous and Next button that allows you to go through all the surround formats. It also works out a lot of the format problems in earlier versions....and further resolves the gain issues.
In terms of Center Channel issues...i've had similar experience. I agree that the phantom center mode drops the gain by several db and this makes it hard to compare with Center Channel in. I have all Martin Logan speakers (CLS IIz's for L and R and the Theater for Center). I find the phantom mode to sound different...but not necessarily worse. A lot of it depends on the source material. To adequately assess this, I've been using a sound meter and test disc to make sure I have the gain matched. I am then listening for an hour at a time...one way...and then the other.
So far, I'm actually leaning toward the phantom center mode...but haven't made a final decision yet. With the center channel in.....dialog is more firmly anchored to the screen....but the depth of the soundstage is diminished. In phantom mode, the sound stage is deeper, perhaps wider, but more diffuse.
I tend to obsess about this stuff. I really like it both ways and while they sound different, i don't yet have a clear sense of which is "better".
I only have 5.1 but with 5 Cornwalls, al timbre matching rocks...the center is horizontal on top of Elite HD710, verticles horns down, and 15" woofer up...sounds amazing...
It is best to have at least the front speakers the same.
Just a follow up. I really like the phantom center mode better, even though my Martin Logan Theater Center is well matched to my CLSIIz's and scripts.
Interesting article/interview on Multichannel music in this months issue of The Absolute Sound. Seems there is some emerging consensus to consider losing the center channel for multichannel music listening. For movies...there is lots of controversy and my guess is that it varies depending on room setup, equipment, source material etc. Very interesting read.