This article will describe the most frequently used center channel design layouts and will try to provide insight into the advantages and disadvantages of each layout.
Center Channel Speakers: What to Pay Attention To?
If you are interested in buying the best center channel speaker it is important to know how to choose the best one for you. Making the right decision is important here because you are investing your hard-earned money to get some value. Here are some of the key points you have to pay attention to.
We don’t have to mention that the speakers you already own and the new center channel speaker have to be compatible. In fact, this is the best thing you can do for your system. If you aren’t sure whether they are compatible it is always better to consult an expert or talk to the sellers in the store to check if there are any known compatibility issues before you make the purchase.
Ideally you should select a large center channel speaker because the sound they project is more flawless and remarkable. However, the size of the speaker is closely connected to your budget and it is not strange to see some smaller speakers that are more powerful than the larger ones in terms of sound projection.
Another thing about the size is available space you have. So, when you are choosing the right center channel speaker for you, you should pay attention to the space you have and the budget of course.
Placement and Installation Manual
When it comes to placement, ideally you would need to make sure there is enough space to position the speaker properly. To do that you should receive an installation manual from the seller. Just to make things clearer the speaker tweeters need to be positioned at the listener’s ear level.
Another thing worth checking before you buy the center channel speaker is the technical specification. In order to make the right decision you will need to know the configuration ratio, Bi-wire capability, impedance, frequency response, crossover frequency and soon.
Warranty is the last but not the least important thing to consider when buying center channel speakers. In most cases you can get a one- or two-year warranty. As a rule, you can expect a longer warranty if you choose to buy center channel speakers from well reputed brands because they are more confident in the quality of their products.
Which Center Channel Design to Choose for Your Home Theater?
Before we dive into details it is important to make some things clearer. When we speak about center channel designs, we are going to use the following letters:
- M – Midwoofer
- T – Tweeter
- W – Woofer
Now when we know what each letter means, we can continue.
Configuration Type: MTM
When it comes to loudspeaker design, in the past the standard vertical MTM design was very popular. When you orient them vertically, they tend to reduce the horizontal lobing amongst the midrange drivers and the tweeter resulting in a pretty nice response and the output is also more dynamic.
With the increasing popularity of 5.1 surround sound systems people became more aware of the importance of the center channel speakers. When they are oriented horizontally their profile is pretty low and for that reason MTM’s were used as individual center channel speakers.
Since people became more interested in these center channel speakers, manufacturers did their best to improve the MTM configuration, which was already pretty popular. To do that most of them decided to create a cabinet for these speakers and this was the first time the nested configuration appeared. As a result, there was some improvement in the off-axis response compared to the traditional MTM’s.
There were also attempts to achieve better output and broader coverage by employing extra midrange speakers creating an M(MTM)M configuration. In some cases, manufacturers were adding bass woofers on the sides of the nested configuration to create a 3-way W(MTM)W design which resulted in better power handling and bass response of the center channel.
Configuration Type: W(T/M)W
Another configuration which became popular is the W(T/M)W horizontal center channel design. We can describe this design as a 3-way loudspeaker design. What’s interesting about it is that it lets a crossover between the larger woofers. The frequency during this process is very low so there is no interference between the drivers. The dedicated midrange driver in this design is directly mounted under the tweeter. As a result, the off-axis performance and coverage area are greatly improved. The disadvantage of this design is restrained dynamic because of the smaller, single mid-frequency driver. There would be no issues if there were two of them as in the standard MTM design.
The second disadvantage in this design is that they perform better when positioned vertically and it is a problem when you need to position it under the display. For this reason, some users use a 2-way bookshelf speaker vertically oriented, which is an excellent option if you use the same speaker as a front-left or -right speaker.
Configuration Type: WTMMTW or TMMT
These center channel configurations are pretty rare. The W(TMMT)W is a 3-way design where the inner dual midranges take care of the vocal while the outer woofers handle the bass frequencies.
This center channel design allows production of loud and powerful speakers with multiple drivers and at the same time it saves vertical space.
One of the problems of this design is that the high frequency drivers are too separated and as a result there is an interference between the tweeters. The problem is evident if it isn’t sitting directly on-axis and on the same distance from the tweeters. However, if the listener is placed at the ideal position and the tweeters are at equal distance then this problem is not so noticeable.
This design is known to cause the worst lobing errors so it’s important to decide how far off-axis the seats will be positioned. If you are sitting directly on-axis to the speaker please be careful when selecting a TMMT or TMMMT center channel.
Other Center Channel Variants
All the different designs of the center channel speakers can’t be covered in this article by Audio Reputation team. However, the approaches described above are the basis of every major design. Most frequently used designs are based on the W(M/T/M)W, MMTMM or W(MTM)W driver topologies.
There are companies that have specific multi designs for example WTWTWTW but they still produce lobing errors. These designs are good because they reduce the distortion, are ore powerful and volume but they can easily break your budget.
We hope that this article will help you decide which center channel setup is best for you and what you should have in mind when choosing the best center channel speaker for you. We have to mention again that it is pretty important to match the front LCR speakers as much as possible. Because of that, when you decide to buy your center channel speakers it is recommended to have them all from a specific series because the driver specs are the same, and also the output capabilities and the quality of the components.