There was a time when no one had even heard of a center channel. I remember those days. But enough about how old I am, let’s talk about a center channel speaker. Ever since the invention of surround sound, people have been wondering if they really need a center channel. Let’s look at a couple of setups to see when a center channel speaker is, and is not, needed.
If you are creating a setup for music alone, then a center channel speaker probably isn’t necessary. Here’s why. Music, even today, is designed for the most part to run in stereo mode. That means that the music is mixed to play in either the right or left speaker or both. Traditionally, main audio tracks such as vocals are mixed into both speakers, while artists occasionally mix things up for different sounds. In this setup, a center channel just isn’t necessary as the main music will already be mixed into both the left and right speakers. So, adding a center channel won’t really provide you with any benefit, unless the music has been designed to play in a surround sound setup.
Movies, on the other hand, are an entirely different ballgame. Modern movies, and those that have been digitally re-mastered, have been designed to play through surround sound systems. That means you have many more channels through which you will hear the sound. In fact, there are a minimum of 5.1 channels – front left and right, surround left and right, the subwoofer, and the center channel.
In this setup, the movie soundtrack can be mixed to give the illusion of things moving from front to back and all around you. This may not work as well for music, but when you are watching an action movie, such as the latest Star Wars movie, it truly can add to the experience.
With surround sound and a center channel, much of your dialog will be played through here and often you can adjust it if the dialog is too soft on your system. At the same time, when you hear a ship roaring around you the center channel will give you the illusion of it really moving around you. However, if you don’t want a center channel, you can configure your front left and right speaker to accomplish the same thing, but the effect won’t be the same.
The bottom line is with movies it really isn’t required, but you will enjoy your movies so much more if you have it, especially if you enjoy watching the big blockbuster action and sci-fi movies.
So do you need a center channel? Not really. But if you are using your system to watch movies as a part of a home theater system, then you will be glad you have it. It truly does add a lot to these types of systems. Personally, I love my center channel speaker. I was like you once. I didn’t really think it was necessary. But now that I have one, I can’t imagine a system on a home theater system without one, and I think you will, too.