Center Speaker Placement – Testing 5 Locations

Introduction

What is a good center speaker placement, that is what this article will illustrate.
I will test 5 different locations and give your my opinion on what I think is the best location, and what produces the best sound.

Center speaker placement – Inside cabinet

I have had my center speaker inside my media cabinet for a a few years. I thought placing it inside would give my home theater setup a good clean look. It sounded good but sometimes dialogue was hard to hear, and I had to turn up the volume to make out what people was saying. Particularly when someone was whispering or when dialogue was mixed with an action scene. Adjusting the level for the center speaker in the amplifier also didn’t help much.

center speaker placement - inside media cabinet

Center on top of the cabinet

I decided that I should try to move the center and place it on top of my media cabinet instead. A small plastic thing under the center to give it a slight tilt so it was aligned with the left and right speakers. I played a scene from the movie Deadpool and compared it to my previous location. WOW! After I did this move there was definitely a difference. It felt like the Center was much more alive. The sound felt less muffled and it had more power, more bass. And the dialogue was more crisp and did not get drowned in the action scenes like my previous setup.

center channel placement - on top of media cabinet
center speaker placement – on top of media cabinet

Center Higher up on the wall

I felt I wanted to experiment further with locations for the center speaker. I placed it on some weight as you can see, put it further up on the wall so that the tweeter are aligned with the left and right speakers. Most people can’t place their center speaker this way because you have to move your TV or projector screen abnormally high up on the wall. This can in worst case cause neck problems and is not good in the long term.

Comparing this location and the Center on the cabinet with a slight tilt I could not make out any discernible difference between these two locations. So placing it on the cabinet is a much better options since the sound is the same. I doubt anyone could tell the difference in a blind test.

center speaker aligned with left and right speakers

Center behind an acoustic transparent screen

I have a projector with a screen that happens to be acoustically transparent. This means that in theory you can place your center behind the screen a the sound waves will travel through the screens tiny micro holes without distorted sound. This gives your setup a clean look.

I placed my center on some weight again, but almost up against the wall. I then took down the screen from the wall and placed it on the cabinet, about 10cm/4inches away from the center.

After comparing the same scene again I felt like the sound was a little muffled. It sounded similar to when I had the center inside the media cabinet, it felt like it had lost some of its power.

center speaker behind acoustically transparent projector screen


There are a couple of reasons for the this in my opinion. If you want the sound to travel through an acoustically transparent screen you need to have a wall that you can modify and be able to put a speaker inside the wall with sound absorbing material. The wall behind the screen should also be treated with acoustic absorbing materials. This is called a baffle wall, see image below:

center channel baffle wall
image from www.acousticfrontiers.com


Although the screen is acoustically transparent some sound waves can reflect off the back wall if its not treated, resulting in uneven muffled sound.


I can’t place my speaker inside the wall and its also not practical for me to put the projector screen
further out, so this options is not good for my setup. But if this is something you can do than this can give it a more cleaner look.

Center speaker placement – under Tv

center speaker on floor

Finally I thought it would be a good idea to put the speaker as low as possible under the floor. The reason is that I wanted to see how bad it would sound.

Comparing the same scene again the sound felt muted and muffled. Similar to when I had it in the cabinet but maybe a little more worse in this location. I was not surprised since the center speaker is pointed to the lower end of the sofa. But I didn’t get the feeling the voices was coming from the floor.

Conclusion

Well there you have it. The best center speaker placement was as you might have guessed on top of the cabinet. Inside the cabinet and behind the screen was a step down in audio quality, not a huge difference but it was noticeable. The floor location was the worst, but It was a good location to try since it showed me the sound location does not change that much when moving the speaker.

As I said before I had the center on the cabinet with a slight tilt, I decided to remove the tilt and place it straight down. I tried to make out if there was any difference but not from my listening position so I will keep it without the tilt. I might add some sound dampening feet under the center in the future.

Hope you enjoyed this article 🙂

More Audio articles

Leave a Reply