Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

SoundStage! TV




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To Doug Schneider,

I've been looking at changing my two-channel setup (NAD 3400 integrated amp with Snell J-III speakers) to a home-theater setup. The common thought out there is that the three front speakers (left, center and right) should be the same make and model to be tonally correct. Is this really the case? I would like to keep my current speakers and add a new center. Will there be a noticeable sound difference if the center-channel differs from the left and right?


This is a topic I’ve been writing about for years and feel is quite important for high-quality movie-soundtrack playback. In my opinion, it’s imperative that the center speaker tonally matches the left and right speakers if you want to get full enjoyment from a well-produced soundtrack. If the center doesn’t match completely, then what’s radiated from the center speaker will sound distinctly different from the left and rights and you will lose the cohesive sound that a well-integrated three-speaker setup produces. The difference between a well-matched three-speaker setup and a poorly matched one isn't subtle. In fact, in the past I’ve often recommended that if someone can’t find a center-channel that integrates well with their left and right speakers, then they’re better off sticking with just the left and right speakers and setting up their receiver or processor to produce a phantom center-channel image (basically, the center-channel information is sent to the left and right speakers). A phantom center doesn’t have nearly the same image focus outside the sweet spot that a real center-channel speaker does, but it’s a lot more natural sounding than a poorly matched center speaker is. . . . Doug Schneider