In the world of sound equipment and audio, precision is critical to achieving the perfect sound experience within your home. Using the right number of speakers and appropriately placing them is imperative. When it comes to center channel speakers, what boundaries are needed?
While you can run two 2 center channel speakers, this is often not preferred or able to provide higher-quality audio. Instead, running two center channel speakers can distort the audio through distorted timing of the same audio signals, comb filtering, and other sound distortion/confusion effects.
Also read: Can You Use a Soundbar as a Center Speaker?
Some say there is never too much of a good thing, but that might not be the case for running center channel speakers.
With the center channel speaker being one of the most important speakers in your entire sound system, it is important to get the number and placement right to achieve the high-quality sound you would like to achieve. Continue reading to learn more.
Why Should You Not Run 2 Center Channel Speakers?
Perhaps you are sitting in your newly-designed home theater enjoying the first of many family or friend movie nights when you think to yourself, “My center speaker could really use some additional force.”
You then remember that you have another speaker that could be plugged in to add an additional center channel. Before you begin this installation process, you wonder if this will really be better for your sound system.
Running two center channel speakers is not recommended due to issues with improper timing resulting in distorted sound, comb filtering, and additional sound distortion and confusion. You can maximize the center channel by adjusting the power or position and using high-quality equipment.
Since you can use two left channel speakers and two right channel speakers, you might wonder what makes the center channel speakers any different. However, this comes back to the role and importance of the center channel speaker and how it functions with the rest of the pieces of sound equipment in your entire sound system.
The center channel speaker is one of the most important speakers because it not only does most of the work, but it controls the balance of the left and right audio channels- creating a perfect blend of mid-range audio frequencies. This is one reason that it is heavily relied on for over 70% of the audio processing that takes place while watching a movie in your home theater.
As the center channel speaker relates to the other components in your sound system, it does most of the processing and provides efficient results that can help you to hear the audio clearly as well as beautifully.
This is imperative in your overall media-viewing experience. Without the center channel speaker, you would risk hearing muddled dialogue, missing the small details that go into a movie soundtrack, and more.
Because of this high level of importance that the center channel speaker plays within your home theater’s sound system, it is even more important that you do not mess this up.
Using more than one center channel speaker could run you the risk of distorting the audio. Moreso, this risk of distorting the audio does not come with much lenience, either, considering that adding two center channel speakers really does you no good in terms of improving your overall sound quality.
Instead, using two center channel speakers can result in distortion of timing, comb filtering, and sound distortion, as mentioned above.
In terms of distortion of timing, this occurs when two speakers receive the same audio signal (like in a setup with two center channel speakers) and consequently attempt to play the audio at the same time. However, even with the slightest variance, the sound quality will be distorted, and your resulting audio experience will be poor.
The same principle occurs with comb filtering when the identical sounds (coming from the same audio signal sent to two center channel speakers) become distorted as the frequency waves interfere with one another making the frequency response look like a comb rather than a wave.
This distortion of sound will result in worse audio quality than would have occurred if you just left your single center channel speaker.
Finally, other modes of distortion can also occur when attempting to set up two center channel speakers. This can come from improper connections, poor placement of two center channel speakers (not placing them at the appropriate height, too close or too far apart, etc.).
For these reasons, it is better to adjust the quality of your single center channel speaker than to try adding in a second center channel speaker.
How Do You Make a Center Channel Speaker Sound Better?
Ok, so now that you know the basics of why you should not run two center channel speakers in your home theater sound system, you might still be wondering how you can achieve the results of improving your sound quality.
After all, you understand the importance of the center channel speaker and how much of an effect it has on the sound quality overall.
So, how do you make the center channel speaker sound better? To make a center channel speaker sound better, consider the following tips:
Check the Center Channel Speaker Elevation
If you are wanting to make the center channel speaker sound better, you need to ensure that the speaker is placed at the appropriate height. The target elevation for a center channel speaker should be roughly 40-50” off of the floor, or roughly the height of the listener’s ear when the listener is seated.
This can be adjusted slightly depending on your particular home theater seating arrangement, but you want to keep this range in mind.
If you have no other option but to keep the center channel speaker placed higher or lower than this recommended range, you can tilt the speaker so that the audio waves are automatically directed to the listener’s ear.
This will help with the overall clarity and perception of sound that helps the human brain to localize and process the various audio streams that are sent its way.
By placing your center channel speaker at an appropriate height for the listener, the listener’s brain can do “less” processing and more enjoying the overall audio experience.
Ensure that there are Appropriate Connections and Ample Power
If you feel like your center channel speaker is never quite loud enough- for example, you keep missing the dialogue even though the room is relatively quiet- then you want to ensure that you have established the appropriate connections and are supplying ample power to your center channel speaker.
Now, these connections and power range will be strictly dependent on the model of center channel speaker that you use. However, you want to make sure that you are not using a strained amp when supplying power to your center channel speaker.
Making these adjustments with the perception of your sound system as a whole, and how it operates, can make quite a difference in the overall loudness and quality of sound achieved by your center channel speaker.
Test the Speaker Placement in Front/Behind an Acoustically Transparent Projector Screen
If you are using an acoustically transparent projector screen (one which is designed to let the audio waves pass directly through it rather than naturally projecting them in the opposite direction), you can consider placing the center channel speaker in front of this or trying it behind the screen.
You might find that with your particular setup, you can actually work to achieve better localization results by placing the center channel speaker behind the (acoustically transparent) projector screen rather than having it upfront. Still, you might find the opposite problem to be true, so testing the speaker placement both in front and behind the screen can help.
Along with this, you also want to consider whether you are mounting your speaker or placing it on a free-standing platform. This placement can help with the elevation as well as the overall sound quality depending on the rest of the pieces set up in your home theater.
Remove or Add Sound Absorption
Along with other suggestions, you might find that your center channel speaker sounds muddled meaning that something in front of this speaker could be blocking the sound waves from clearly being emitted throughout your home theater room.
In this case, you might want to remove any absorptive rugs, decorative pieces, or consider placing your center channel speaker on a free-standing mount.
Alternatively, if you are noticing that your center channel speaker is reverberating too much or sounds a bit echoey, this could be the result of too little sound absorption taking place.
Think of this as when you shout into the unknown and your voice carries on for what seems like forever. In the same capacity, you want the center channel speaker audio to be captured just enough so that it does not echo throughout your entire room.
If you are finding that this is the issue, you can consider adding a bit of sound absorption specifically placed near the center channel speaker.
This can include placing it on a soft item or small mat, or it could go as far as placing down an entire floor rug to help with the natural acoustics of your home theater room. This will be highly dependent on your personal situation.
Test the Speaker with an SPL Meter
If you are finding that you are still having issues with your center channel speaker, then you should test it in a few different locations with an SPL meter. This will give you numeric values that report the frequency ratings of your device.
From this, you can tell which placement options are best for your center channel speaker depending on the acoustics and other variables in your home theater room.
Use High-Quality Sound Equipment including Speakers, Amps, and Cables
Finally, if you are still unsatisfied with the quality of sound coming from your center channel speaker, you might want to consider upgrading your equipment.
This not only includes using high-quality speakers, but you need to make sure that the other components in your sound system are also high-quality.
This means that your amps and even your cables need to be made of high-quality materials and be able to perform well. Combining all of these strategies can help your center channel speaker to sound its best and can help you to avoid trying to run two center channel speakers at all.
Jason is a home theater expert with over 10 years of experience in setting up home cinema rooms and systems. What started out as a hobby soon transformed him into an authority in the audio-visual field. He is passionate about providing readers with accurate and up-to-date information on the latest audiovisual technologies and their applications for home theaters. Read more about Jason.