If your seating position is mainly for yourself and rarely a crowd...then by positioning your seat directly in front you can do without a center channel...just get bigger fronts and phantom the center to both fronts and keep fronts relatively close together relative to your seated position (a distance of 1.5 times speaker spacing is often good)
Center channels are over rated IMHO - they rarely sound as good as main speakers unless they are, in fact, another main speaker and in which case they get in the way of the TV
If you were to go with a phantom center, would you deactivate the center channel from the receiver/processor?
If you have your front speakers set up properly, you really wouldn't need a centre channel at all. The stereo imaging would place the people and their voices where they should be.
If you do eliminate the centre speaker though, you will have to tell your processor to go to phantom mode. If you just disconnected the centre speaker without going to phantom mode, the processor is still going to send all the L+R signal to the center output. With no centre speaker attached, the voices will then disappear for the most part. The instructions for the particular processor should tell you how to do this.
Shadorne makes an excellent suggestion. There are threads that discuss the topic of "no center channel" in more depth. Check them out. If you are primarily interested in 2-channel then moving up the line for your R/L speakers makes sense. You can always add a center channel down the road if you really feel you are missing something. Four really good matched speakers will probably outperform a mixture of five.
I would say with the 70/30-2channel/HT ratio in which you plan to use the speakers, go with the best 2 channel you can get and find Center that matches as closley as you can get. Keep in mind to consider the fronts that offer a center than you can upgrade to in the future. Should your listening ratio change or Video cabinet get upgraded, you can complete the system.
You said you are planning to use your system for 70% music, but does that mean 2 channel music or multichannel music? If you intend to use your system for mostly 2 channel music, then as others have said, I think it would be a big mistake to downgrade your front mains to match the center channel. Get the best front mains you can afford and don't worry about voice-matching them to the center channel speaker -- it is a non-issue if you are only using the center channel speaker for movies.
On the other hand, if you are listening to multichannel music (SACD or DVD-A) then the center channel speaker becomes more important, but even in that case, I would not recommend compromising the front mains at all for the sake of matching to the center channel.
That said, I am not so sure about the idea of watching a movie in "phantom center" mode with no center channel speaker. Around 80% of the soundtrack (especially the dialog) is directed to the center channel speaker. Having that speaker close to the video screen ensures that dialog will emanate from the actors' mouths, not from somewhere else.
"That said, I am not so sure about the idea of watching a movie in "phantom center" mode with no center channel speaker. Around 80% of the soundtrack (especially the dialog) is directed to the center channel speaker. Having that speaker close to the video screen ensures that dialog will emanate from the actors' mouths, not from somewhere else."
If stereo speakers are located properly for imaging, the voices are going to come from the actor's mouths, not somewhere else. That's what stereo imaging is. If you can't place your speakers properly because of space limitations, then it would be better to keep some speaker in the centre. I would also agree with the rest of the post.
Thanks for the advice...I intend only to listen to 2 channel music. It was my inclination to pick the fronts and just go with whatever center channel fits. It will still be better than my current center, even if its a class down from the fronts. But now, picking the speakers...that's the hard part.
"But now, picking the speakers...that's the hard part."
Many would say, that's the FUN part.
We're in this hobby because we enjoy it, right? (Right?)
I am running my center information through my front speakers at this moment and have had great success. I have listened with and without many times before and the only real difference when the center is removed is the loss of sound information that is dedicated to the center channel. This loss is most noticable in action movies, the lack of detail or the energy created by my center speaker was missing. Making the towers do .5 tims more work leads to some information getting lost. It made a big difference to me. Plus, without a center channel, you cant raise or lower the level of the dialouge dedicated to the center channel. I am letting a friend borrow my speaker cables right now, but when i get them back i am going back to a 5.1 system.
IMO, I think removing the center speaker is hindering the performance of your system. If there are other factor contributing to removing the speaker, thats one thing. If no outside constriants are there, keep the center channel and take the receiver off of phantom.
Just as a suggestion, you might wanna work on blending the speakers better, especially integrating the center with the fronts. It wouldn't hurt to get the front soundstage blended with the rear as well. When all speakers are configured properly, you'll completely understand why I say keep the center channel.
I agree with those suggesting some sort of center channel. Just because a system images great with music, don't expect it to make sound appear to be coming from the actors on the screen. The recording are not done the same way. It seems that you are making decisions on sound based on furniture limitations. I suggest picking your equipment then furniture. I had the same problem with too large a center for any cabinets I could find. I ended up using a console table for behind couches for the TV. I cut the legs down so it would just clear my center mounted on its stand. This was done for $150 leaving the big money for the good stuff :)
>I agree with those suggesting some sort of center channel. Just because a system images great with music, don't expect it to make sound appear to be coming from the actors on the screen.
A system which images well for music does even better for film. You perceive sound to be coming from peoples' lips even when they're not centered on the stereo image.
An identical center channel, with identical spacing to room boundaries (screen-wall, floor, ceiling)and no nearby objects to reflect the sound (like a television or entertainment center) will sound the same as the mains. If you don't have such a setup (which requires an acoustically transparent screen and equalization to compensate for it if all three speakers aren't behind the screen) it will sound different.
At which point, you're choosing between the lesser of two evils. With severe off-axis seating or asymetric left+right speaker placement you'd probably want a center. If you're not in that situation and can't get a sufficiently similar center channel you problem don't want one. In between it's personal preference.
I've used a pair of Linkwitz Orions for home theater + music for the last 3+ years and not yet been motivated to build a matching center channel.
In my current living arrangement, I've toed the speakers in so they cross in front of the reclining love seat I have to sit-in. The image is no less centered in the left or right seat than when we used the TV's built-in speakers when you aren't watching anything.
Previously, I sat 11' off the screen wall with the speakers 4' out, toed in to form an 8' equilateral triangle with the center seat. The image shifted a foot or two when you moved to one end of a 7' couch, although you wouldn't notice when something was being projected.
Buy a new TV stand, the center channel is critical to both
movies and especially music DVD's. The audio quality of
recent music DVD's is stuning.