Question For Those That Watch Movies/TV Through Your Two Channel System


Do you leave your Preamp/Integrated in stereo mode or switch to Mono?
Does the dialog lose the clarity that you usually get with a center channel
speaker? 

The reason I ask is because I gifted my son a Node 2i and we connected it
to his entry level Denon AV receiver. He has 3 Mirage speakers LCR, no 
surrounds. Obviously, an Integrated Amp would result in better two channel
sound, but would it be detrimental to watching BluRay movies.

He has a turntable setup in another room with Yamaha, Rega and Harbeth,
but he wanted the Node 2i in the main family room where it would get the most
use.  
 
ericsch
Obviously, an Integrated Amp would result in better two channel 
sound, but would it be detrimental to watching BluRay movies.

There is nothing more detrimental to movie sound quality than an AVR.
There is absolutely no reason to use a center channel. https://systems.audiogon.com/systems/8367#&gid=1&pid=10
There are no multichannel systems that sound this good.
You use 2 channel stereo mode, not mono. The center channel is not active when you change your DVR to 2 channel, which often sounds better. You want to create imaging which mono cannot do. Solve your 2 channel stereo front sound now, but think now about when you will add rear surround speakers, perhaps sub(s) later also. You can always upgrade equipment after that.

I watch a lot of music video 5.1 and 2 channel, via my home theater. 2 or 5.1 Channel DVD concerts, TV shows like the Voice, XFactor, Songland, YouTube... Hard Drive with 3D Movies, ... Netflix, Prime, Hulu, Viki and some limited music streaming via Pandora.

I used a dedicated PC to my AV receiver for many years. Fanless via 5.1 audio on motherboard to avoid heat of separate audio card. And selected for quiet hard drive.

Small wireless chicklet keyboard is very helpful doing this. Originally PC for unlimited internet access, early smart tv’s browsers were very limited.

Now mostly a modern Smart TV, the PC remains for it’s disc drive and hard drive, I don’t but they can connect to home network to access other pcs).

Much content is 2 channel, I often find the cable company/av receiver creates un-natural surround, so I often force 2 channel and find improvement. The point is, when in 2 channel, it is your front, no center, and, depending on your circuit, sub(s) might be on or off. Therefore, go for the best full range mains your physical setup allows, and if sub(s) for more bass, keep them in the system even for 2 channel.

2 channel, no center speaker active, the mains need to be positioned to create/locate a phantom center, specific enough for imaging.

There is a separate thread about great speakers may not be best if too close or using great speakers in too small a room.

https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/just-spoke-to-an-old-client-of-mine-avantgarde-owner
There is absolutely no reason to use a center 

There is when your TV isn’t in between your mains, like mine.

To the OP, if you have a multi channel reviewer, why not simply run it in 5.1 mode, then the R/L and center will do what they are suppose to do. Simply adjust as necessary for the lack of rears, but chances are, you won’t have to do a thing. Just set all the speakers to ‘large’.
My thought was to do away with his small center channel speaker and replace the AV receiver with an Integrated Amp. I just wasn't sure if watching movies in 2 channel stereo would be a disappointment after having a center speaker with the clear sounding dialog. My son has 3 kids under 12 so he doesn't have a lot of time to research this stuff.

There are no plans to add surrounds, possibly a small subwoofer in the future.  

@elliottbnewcombjr Thanks for your comments. It sounds like you watch movies in stereo with no issues.




@bkeske    The reason this question came up was because yesterday we added a Node 2i to his system. Since his AV receiver is just an entry level Denon, I wanted to get the most out of the Node with an integrated amp, but was concerned about watching movies in 2 channel stereo.
   
Well, you could always play music in 2 channel mode, which would ‘turn off’ the center, then back to 5.1 for TV.

But I agree with others, you will never get good musical sound with an AV receiver vs a dedicated 2 channel set-up. Just depends on how critical you want the 2-channel music to be.

I tried this, as my system is dual HT/2-channel. Fist with an dedicated power amp using my AVR as the pre, then finally a separate preamp with HT pass-though, which all my 2 channels sources are connected to. Thus, now, the AVR only has one function - HT 5.1 while watching TV. All my 2 channel is completely separate with its own pre and power amp. And 2 channel sources, of course. You could do the same with a 2 channel integrated with HT pass-through, and only have the center directly connected to the AVR. The mains connected to the integrated. Seems a bit strange, but you already have the Denon. Problem is, highly doubt it has pre-outs.
My thought was to do away with his small center channel speaker and replace the AV receiver with an Integrated Amp.

This is exactly what I do... you just need to make sure the audio is down-mixed to stereo as someone else suggested. The process mixes centre channel into the left and right speaker signals equally and with no attenuation. You do lose the low frequency effects channel though so if that's important to him he'll have to stick with multi channel. 

I put the HDMI through a switch that also provides an optical two channel PCM output so I can use a decent DAC for the analogue conversion. I wouldn't advise using the analogue outputs on any if the switches I've come across though.
@ericsch The primary benefit of a center channel is to lock the dialogue (or other centered sounds) into coming from the location of the display for people who are not sitting equidistant from the left and right speakers (assuming the main speakers are located symmetrically and equidistant from the center of the display).

If everyone sits "in the middle" then a center channel isn't needed, since dialogue will sound like it is coming from the center when reproduced by your left and right speakers. However this is unlikely in a home unless everyone is far away from the display. The possible distraction of dialogue not matching where a viewer sees the speaker, for someone sitting off-center, might be more of a quality loss than whatever improvement you get from using higher-quality 2-channel equipment.

Adding 2-channel equipment with HT bypass as suggested by @bkeske would be the easiest way to get any sonic improvements for music listening while still maintaining the status quo for movies and TV watching. But it means more equipment and a slightly more complicated setup.
Hi Erich,
A center channel is better than using stereo speakers, but only modestly so and works best with automatic room correction.

For reasons related to head transfer, a center channel actually does sound different than a phantom center, even if you are sitting in the middle, but the effect is not gargantuan. 

Best,
Erik
I should also say that if you do use a center, it should be matched, or at least reasonably the same quality as the sides.

Using a very small center, with limited dynamic range and power handling, with a L/R pair that is not as restricted will show up at moderate to high volume listening.
Eric, I think most of the issues have been covered by those above me.
Unless the sound source is miles away our vision can an does override our hearing and speech will be localized to the individual talking. With a good system imaging correctly a center channel is totally unnecessary and maybe even detrimental. If you look at my system you will see a very big screen and no center channel. I do not even use surround speakers.
I would rather put the money into my 2 channel gear. 
Set the system up and live with it for a while. I suspect that you will not feel the need for a center channel. 
I just watched a Blu-ray movie in 5.1....could hardly understand the words.   That's true of tv as well.....sometimes it comes through fine...other times bad.  I think they produce it at a low resolution rate.
@stringreen Yes, I've had that same problem with my HT system, Parasound 5 channel amp, Marantz AV processor, Paradigm speakers.
Sometimes I just turn on the captions.

@mijostyn Thanks, maybe my son's Christmas present this year will be an integrated amp.
 
With a good system imaging correctly a center channel is totally unnecessary and maybe even detrimental.

You can type this all you want to, but the math and science, and my own experience in motion picture auditoriums and my own listening rooms disagree, so good luck to you.

The positive effect is of course magnified for off-center listeners. A recording with a dense sound field and effects going around the room really show this off well.  Another area that makes this clear is with otherwise unintelligible dialogues.  There are a couple of places in LotR where dialogue is muddled unless the center is dialed in just right.  Of course, there are discussions about why modern movies are sounding worse and worse, that's a separate topic. I am just saying that there are at least 3 important cases when a center improves things. Is it worth x dollars???? Tough call.

But as I have written, in your average modest living space, the effects are small, but positive. For a great thread on this subject which goes into the science and pros and cons, please read here:

https://www.diyaudio.com/forums/multi-way/277519-fixing-stereo-phantom-center.html

Yes, I have heard dedicated center channels improve intelligibility and the overall experience in your average living room. No, it’s not huge. If your choices are to get a poorly performing or poorly placed center without EQ vs. nothing, go with nothing.

I yield my time.


Best,
Erik
I concur, With mijostyn. :-)
@ericsch - I use a PowerNode for my A/V system and it rocks. Imaging is so good that it sounds better than the 5.1 system I had previous.

Unfortunately the imaging on my Denon 5.1 amp is no match for the PowerNode, which is so much better

The sound effects, whilst not coming from behind me, do often make me look to the left and right about level with me.

Hope that helps
I just watched a Blu-ray movie in 5.1....could hardly understand the words.   That's true of tv as well.....sometimes it comes through fine...other times bad.  I think they produce it at a low resolution rate.
One thing you could try is disconnecting all the speakers except the center, and then placing your head just a couple of feet away from the center channel, on-axis. From there see if the dialogue you had trouble understanding is clear or muddy.

If it is clear in this situation, then the speaker's location, its interactions with the room, other speakers, and your usual seating location are the culprit. Some of that may be addressable to some degree.
I was forced to down size my 2 channel into the same room with my HT. I sold off all HT gear and went strictly 2 channel for TV and music. I added a swarm (4 subs) setup and this really helped fill out the sound stage. I love movies even better now. There’s no going back.
I use an poke TV as source.  A few years’ old HarmanKardon AVR. With a PS Audio S300 amp running L/R JBL 590.  The AVR runs the surrounds and sub.  I know this set up is not ideal but it does sound good. No need for a center channel. And Tidal runs in 2 ch mode.  It works great in 4.1 as well. 
Rats. I use Apple TV as the source. 
I hope the OP can read between the lines. The answers given here are correct for the most part although they might sound contradictory at times. Everyone is speaking from their own particular prospective, but not necessarily from his.  So let me try to be more flexible. If the system will be used mostly for music and for one listener, you probably would be fine without a center channel. On the other hand, if the system will be used for at least 50/50 music/movies, you should seriously consider a good center channel speaker. The idea that any integrated amp has a better preamplifier section than an AVR is not accurate. Owners of Datasats, Trinnov Altitude, Theta Casablancas, Marantz 880x, Lyngdorfs and many others may disagree. It certainly is not a given. These AVRs all have very capable preamp sections. Coupled with their DSP features, they can satisfy the most demanding audiophiles out there. 
I've run a stereo line from my DVR to a 100 watt (supposedly) receiver to an older but great sounding pair of Boston Acoustics A60s (replaced the woofer once) on stands for years. Excellent stereo sound for tubbage.
Thanks for all your suggestions. The Power Node might be an option or maybe upgrade the AVR. Another option would be to move his Yamaha Integrated from the turntable system and try it in the HT system for a while. 
If you have good LCR speakers, switching to an integrated makes no sense. Not knowing the models of your Mirage speakers does not help in making a recommendation because they have many versions. They have HDT High Definition Theater LCR's $1500.00 each. They OMC-2 center speaker which also an LCR $350.00 each or they have OM-Sat series which are compact monitors. Using an integrated amp has too many limitations for Home theater. First is connectivity. Most integrated amps are analog, most tv only have optical or Hdmi ARC outs, most new cable boxes don't have analog outs anymore, 99.9% of blueray players don't have analog outs. So unless you have a Sony Tv, the only major brand with analog outs, both Lg and Samsung are digital only. So to use a digital only tv with an analog integrated amp would require an optical to analog convertor and the tv would have to be able to convert bitstream or dolby digital to PCM. If you purchase an integrated amp with digital in then you will be ok as long as the tv can convert bitstream/dolby digital to pcm something that most panasonic tv cannot do. So logical thing to do is to upgrade the receiver. This allows for any easy switch from multi channel to pure direct for 2 channel. If music is the focus, then a new Marantz or Denon with modern Dac's and phono input should be fine so both worlds are integrated with minimal degradation. If you get a receiver with pre outs, you can always ad an amp for a better 2 channel experience and still enjoy better clarity with movies in multichannel. You can always add a better phono preamp for vinyl. The last issue with an integrated amp for video is with a simple soundtrack the phantom center image is fine as long as you are dead center between the speakers. Clarity will suffer when there are multiple listeners off axis. Modern soundtracks suffer the most because of their dense mix and poor dialog mix resulting with movie soundtrack drowning out the dialog.   
It all depends on what limitations you are will to live with. The other suggestion is having a dedicated system for music and 1 dedicated for movies. I am 30 year sales veteran in the A/V business and I have advised a few people on this matter. I sold  and currently own Mirage HDT LCR's with Denon's previous flagship Avrx7200 which I use pure direct for music and dts virtual x for video. I have 2 dedicated 2 channel rigs for music and a 2 channel rig for video in a small room. With the latter, I do notice the lack of dialog clarity with complicated & dense movie soundtracks.
I had a similar issue. I started out with a full 5.1 home theatre setup AND also a two channel setup, which I would switch between. I recently combined both setups by purchasing an integrated amp with a "home theatre bypass". This allowed me to use the main speakers in both setups. If your Denon AV has the a separate pre-out for the fronts, then an integrated with a HT bypass will allow for both a 5.1 system and a 2-channel system to use with the Node 2i.
I've never really care for 5.1 and disconnected the rears years ago.  I still have a center channel and try 3 channel every now and then go right back to stereo.
I connect a Laptop to My Sky Box with HDMI.
I select a Music File or Movie and Select Open with VLC Media Player.
Right Click when the File is Open, and on the Pop Up Tool Bar select Audio, and then select PDP, this then produces the Sound through the Amp and Speakers.
There are plenty of other tools to try out as well on VLC, the Graphic Equaliser can help set up a Movie to a more intense sound.
When PDP is selected it lets a Wireless Mouse Scroll Wheel act a Remote Volume Control.  
I concur with Tony1954. And there is a good YouTube on this very subject from New Zealand. He demonstrates home theater bypass function on Arcam SA20. Good luck. 
ericsch

I would never use AV receiver for a dedicated 2 channel music system.

But, starting with a Video System, and also wanting 2 channel stereo music from it can be done, and your original question indicates how confusing it can be.

Let’s not forget, golden eared reviewers, equipment behind a curtain, could not tell a low-fi Pioneer receiver from high end separates way back when, and it would be even harder today.

They are very complicated, I know this stuff, read and underline the manual, and still need to call the help lines to clarify options, usually restrictions.

Video Sound, small home theater:

I have used and currently use AV Receivers for a lot of years, there are many very good ones. Onkyo, Pioneer, now Sony. I select them based on features, typically wait for a sale when new ones come out, staying 1 generation back.

AV Receivers, for me, do either 5.1 dolby surround sound, which can be very involving if original was created and properly reproduced 5.1. BluRay DVD best, HD monitor, AV Receiver capable of 5.1 is needed.

The receiver SEPARATES the frequencies as intended/coded, the center channel information is NOT present in the mains, so a center channel speaker IS required for 5.1. The rear channel information is NOT present in the mains, so Rear channel speakers ARE needed.

the .1, the sub, is optional, for 5.1 sound, and it’s hookup and AV Receivers are critically important using the system for 2 Channel sound, both 2 channel video and 2 channel music.

Depending on the bass capability of your mains. IF you tell the AV Receiver’s brains that you will use a sub, then it does NOT send low bass to the mains. This is critical to how you hook up your sub, because

WHEN using the AV Receiver’s 2 channel stereo mode:

EITHER no low bass is sent to the sub, mains try to do low bass, whatever their size,

OR, your setup has stripped the low bass out, and low bass is NOT sent to the mains and missing because the sub is/may be OFF.

Much 5.1 content, movies particularly, specifically create low bass typically below MOST main speaker’s capability, and a SUB IS needed to get the effect i.e. Dinosaur Stomp.

If the original was/is 2 channel, then I/you use the receiver’s 2 channel mode.

IF cable has created psudo surround, or your AV receiver’s brain randomly, inadvertantly creates Pseudo surround from a 2 Channel original, pay atteention, change your AV receiver to 2 channel mode, most often it is better.

..............................
1 or 2 subs: I am quite happy with my single sub added effects for video, and, my mains have enough bass for 2 channel bass when it is off. 2 subs could be better, not for me.

btw, Don’t forget to tell the AV receiver’s brains what size your main l/r speakers are, mine are LARGE (10" woofers), so it knows it can send more bass to them.

IF wanting best 2 channel sound out of a small home theater (limited size mains probably) then I would want a stereo pair of subs, adjacent to the mains, capable of creating stereo bass, creating imaging via the fundamentals and overtones.
....................................

Now we have the ’how wide a center image for Video sound? for 2 channel Audio only? Enough for 3 people wide, on a couch or separate chairs.

The center channel speaker MUST anchor the dialog to the Video Image, I find just below the monitor best. For 2 channel, the mains MUST create the phantom center and various balances l/r to create imaging. Imaging for how many people?








The best movie/TV sound I ever had was two-channel: Quad ESL 57s, Townsend supertweets, REL subs, with an ARC Ref III pre, and VT100 amplifier.  It didn't play loud, but the sheer intelligibility of dialogue and realistic 3D soundstage more than made up for it.  There was no reason to add a center channel. 

My tastes run to classic Hollywood, indy, and foreign films. If you love blockbuster, spectacle type movies, then it makes sense to go multi-channel.  Efficient speakers, like Tektons or Klipsch, will give you the effortless dynamics of a movie theater with reasonably powered amps.  
FWIW, my main rig is in a dedicated listening room with only one chair.  I have a 7.2.4 Atmos setup, but my AV pre/pro’s LR outputs feed the HT bypass inputs on my separate stereo preamp.  I sacrifice nothing with my stereo listening this way.  Since I only have one chair in there, I don’t necessarily need a center channel speaker, but I decided to keep it nevertheless.  My stereo speakers are 4ft into the room and the center image is so good, so holographic, that it seems to float on its own detached from the screen.  Technically, the phantom center sounds better, but I prefer the dialogue to seem more like it comes from the actors’ mouths on screen.  Without the Center speaker, it sounds like the actors are a few feet in front of the TV in my room with me.
Now, I have a second system in the family room where there is also TV.  I had the opportunity to use an older AVR there and set up surround sound.  I chose not to and, like you’re considering, purchased a nice stereo integrated instead.  I don’t regret it at all.  To me, it’s better to do stereo well than mediocre surround, even for movies and TV.  I find that a good full range set up with adequate subwoofers is really what “wows” me when watching movies.  So I focused on getting good full range stereo in that room.  
Erik, perhaps I should have explained myself better. For two channel hi fidelity listening a center channel is detrimental. The only time it has merit is when the two channels are so far apart that you wind up with the proverbial "hole in the middle." Klipsch had this problem with K horns as they had to go into the corners and were frequently too far apart to image the center. Thus, he came up with the concept of the center channel in the late 50's. Now, if a good two channel system can image a singer to the center it can certainly image a speaking voice to the center. The problem comes when you are sitting off axis out of the listening position. The center image becomes blurred and the voice may or may not appear to come from the center with your eyes closed. But, as soon as you open your eyes the voice will snap right to the image, a trick our brains do automatically for us. 
In short, all these extra channels are just the audio manufacturer's way of trying to shove more speakers and amplifiers down our throats.
Erik, if you want to have a video game hi fi that is your prerogative. I do have a 5.2 system. it is up in my exercise room.