What does a Centre Speaker do?

Surround Sound Series: What does a Centre Speaker do?

So you’re thinking about setting up a 5.1 Surround Sound system? There is a lot of information available about speaker types and speaker placement which can be overwhelming. Over the next few weeks we would like to focus on the types of speakers which are part of a 5.1 system, and their role in giving you excellent sound. By understanding the basics of the “job” each speaker has, it will make it easier for you to get the best possible result. Today we'll talk about the "Centre Speaker".

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What does a Centre Speaker do? Referring to an audio channel common in surround sound formats, the main purpose of a centre speaker in a 5.1 set up is for the reproduction of dialogue in movies. Typically wider than other speakers in the group, the centre is designed to be positioned discretely above or below the screen. This allows the dialogue to primarily come from the direction of the picture. Without a centre speaker, your front speakers will have to take on the job, but with less effect. Already busy with a job of their own, allocating all the dialogue as well is never as effective as a dedicated centre speaker. If you can’t hear the words properly you’re probably not going to enjoy the movie as much either. (See red square in diagram below)

Centre Channel Diagram

With a wide frequency response similar to the front left and right speakers, a centre speaker is also used to reproduce some music and/or sound effects, which is especially important if you are seeking the true surround sound experience. During post production of movies, the engineers allocate the dialogue to specific speakers. The centre speaker is always allocated the majority of the dialogue. When it comes to pure audio listening without the visual element, a centre speaker is a matter of opinion and choice. Keep in mind the intention of the audio engineers when they produce the track. Often designed with formats such as Dolby Digital that produce a minimum of 5.1 channels, a centre speaker will give greater depth than a set up without. Again... everyone’s ears are different so there is no "correct" answer. If you would like more advice about your set up, feel free to give our Selby Techs a call on 1800 69 2225

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