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Going Quad

I'm considering building a multi-channel listenijg environment and I'm wondering if it makes sense to build a 4 speaker system using good speakers rather than to spend equivalent money on a 5 or 7 "home theater" speaker system. I've had a good experience with the 4.0 system installed in a clubhouse where I hang out, but I'm wondering how much (if any thing) difference a discrete center channel would make for music and movies?

Going Quad

Reply #1
There is very little content that is actually 4.0 except for a handful of releases from the 70s and 80s, so the content you are dealing with will almost always be 5.1. It is likely that 5.1 downmixed to 4.0 would be acceptable, but I'd rather just get the 1 extra speaker and avoid downmixing personally.  (Any system I build, whether stereo or more channels, is going to have a sub.)

If you are going to be assembling the set from individual speakers, not buying them as a set, you could even go cheap on the center channel if cost is an issue. But buying 5 vs. 4 speakers is going to be in the same price ballpark either way.

Going Quad

Reply #2
I just bought a Meshuggah live Blu-Ray and for some reason the multi-channel on that is 4.0!?

Going Quad

Reply #3
I have to agree with slks.    Virtually all multichannel content is 5.1 (or 7.1).  I'd say, at least get a 5.0 setup.


Quote
I've had a good experience with the 4.0 system installed in a clubhouse where I hang out,
Is that a 4-channel system, or just 4 speakers with the left & right channels duplicated in the rear?

Going Quad

Reply #4
Is that a 4-channel system, or just 4 speakers with the left & right channels duplicated in the rear?

It can be configured either way (plus it can run as mono for speech reenforcement). The speakers in the system I'm looking to duplicate are Electrovoice ceiling speakers of some sort that were accquired via some dumpster diving. In 8 ohm mode, they sound pretty darn good. For surround, the center channel is sent by the receiver equally to both the front left and front right. I don't know what the system does with 7.1, as the receiver only supports 5.1 anyway. My home setup would probably use similar speakers but mounted in custom boxes to turn them into shelf speakers. Am I barking up the wrong tree here or can a DIY 4 speaker system handle 5.1 content well enough to be worth trying even where I'm not getting the parts for free?

Going Quad

Reply #5
Am I barking up the wrong tree here or can a DIY 4 speaker system handle 5.1 content well enough to be worth trying even where I'm not getting the parts for free?

For movies its definitely more interesting than "plain" stereo ( I did some tests (years ago ...) using some B&W boxes + amp for L and R and some plastic computer boxes for BL and BR and it was more than just ok ).

I would think that such cheap setups work rather well especially due to human problematic "Sound localization" of low freq (In my case most of the bass was also generated by L and R). "Problem" was of course badly defined center that would "move around" based on the listeners position.
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Going Quad

Reply #6
I work a lot in multichannel audio.  Some engineers don't even use the middle channel in the front - it doesn't do much the only danger is that someone might have put dialogue in it that you'd lose.

Going Quad

Reply #7
As long as receiver was an AV receiver, i.e. has various incarnations of Dolby surround and digital inputs, then you wouldn't miss out on dialog. All such units have a mode called "Phantom center" [even if they make no mention of those words in the manual] where the center ch content (pretty much the only place they put dialog in movies and TV content these days) is equally distributed between the front two speakers, L and R.

I think 4.0 can be rewarding, its main drawback from 5.1 or 5.0 would be that one must sit squarely in the center line for a proper soundstage, hence not a good idea for an audience of greater than one person. The primary reason we use center speakers is because not some, but rather the majority of movie viewers don't sit in the middle line so they need the center content to be steered to where they see the actors' lips flapping. Ideally the sound and the image should be coincident, which is why the center speaker is mounted behind an acoustically transparent screen in commercial cinemas, not above it or below it which is a compromise.

 
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