There are a few reasons people prefer going to the cinema rather than watching the same movie at home. One of these reasons is the theater’s excellent sound quality, which you can imitate at home with optimal center-channel speaker placement. Since the center channel makes up about 75% of the entire audio playback, it makes each action scene of a movie feel like it’s happening in front of you.
Purpose of Center Channel
The center channel has three built-in speakers: the front, left, and right. These contribute to the front soundstage of the audio. They are responsible for merging all audio and delivering dialogue and vocals to create an extraordinarily intense, realistic experience. Since the voice has to flow from right to left and left to center throughout the movie, positioning the center channel appropriately gives a sense of the sound emerging from within the screen.
The center channel is often acoustically invisible to the listeners, so look for a speaker with its midrange and tweeter vertically aligned. This allows for delivering a more expansive sound field and presenting the best acoustics across the sound stage.
How to Mount a Center Channel
The center channel delivers all the vocals and dialogues, so positioning it right is essential. This will be the critical component of your audio tracks. The center channel should be near ear height, and you can place it either at the top of the TV or below it. You could angle it further per your liking. We’ve narrowed down some alternative ways in which you can place your center channel to experience the best acoustic experience. They are as follows:
Having the center channel below your TV screen is ideally the best option. While listening, this position makes it easy to identify the sound source. It makes it seem like it is coming out of the screen, providing real feelings and an adrenaline rush.
Alternatively, the other best position would be to place it above the TV. The goal is to keep it as close to the TV as possible. A further away placement would cause the sound to sound like it’s coming from far away. This will destroy the idea of the actor saying it on the screen in real-time, hence extinguishing your entire listening experience.
If you decide to place the center channel on top of furniture, avoid positioning it in the middle of your furniture. You wouldn’t want to hear the vibration of your wooden table as Star Wars heroes fight off their latest enemy.
You should also not place your speakers too deep on the shelf. That’s because the waves will be unable to propagate naturally and widely throughout the room from that position. Place your center channel at the edge of the shelf or right inside it. Placing it inside would provide more bass effect, enhancing the intensity and experience.
Also, if you cannot place the center channel on the furniture, adjust it on a stand. Mount it at almost the ear height.
Seeing fireplaces with TV space above them makes it clear why architects don’t go along with acoustic engineers. You cannot place your center channel below the fireplace or above it. The entire setup has a lovely aesthetic, but the sound quality is terrible. If you are a victim of such a situation, various solutions are available to you. If the size of your room allows it, you could place the center channel on the ceiling. The audio effect would do so long as the speakers are near the TV and positioned towards the listener. You could also use an in-ceiling center channel; it isn’t as effective but works fine.
Additionally, if you have space in the room, place the TV somewhere open and wide with a vast area, so it’s feasible to mount a center channel. If you’re looking to hang something above your fireplace, consider a piece of artwork. You could also get a relatively smaller TV to make space for the center channel. However, this isn’t the best option. What’s the use of a large TV if you can’t enjoy great audio? Finally, you could also get a custom-made mount for the TV. You can position the center channel using a 360° motion mount. It would allow you to extend and move the TV and make room for the center.
As the name would suggest, the optimal positioning for your center channel is underneath the center of your TV. By placing it as such, the audio will sound as though it’s coming straight from the TV, providing an overall better sound.
You cannot enjoy the movie if everything Professor Dumbledore says in his start-of-term feast seems like it’s coming from the next room. Hence, it’s best to keep it in the center for a better experience.
Choose the Right Angle
Often people place the center channel straight towards the ground while setting it up. Would you hold a microphone near someone’s face or their knees? The answer would be the face; the same is true for the center channel.
If you decide to place it at the top, make sure you tilt it slightly downwards such that the sound waves have a direct path to the listener. Similarly, if you place it at the bottom of the TV, position it upwards to face the listener.
That’s because as the frequency increases, the sound is more focused where it is directed. If the tweeter isn’t directed towards you, the sound won’t reach you completely.
If you have no other choice than to place the center channel in a non-ideal place, make sure you angle it right, and then you can still get all the audio fun you paid for. You can use rubber stops or wedges-like material to hold the center channel from slipping and aim it towards the listener.
Positioning the center channel is vital in setting up your audio system. You don’t need the fanciest speaker stereo system, but the center channel is the most important thing you need to pair with your movie. To get the best theater experience, put some thought into the ideal center channel positions; all you need is creativity, a sense of placement, a good movie, and popcorn.
Even if you think the center channel won’t fit anywhere in your room perfectly, take some time to consider the placement options we’ve outlined. By knowing how to mount a center channel, you’ll be able to enjoy the finest cinematic night from the comfort of your house.
John Fleming is the senior editor for Audiophilez.com, covering everything from headphones to smart speakers. He is a graduate of Music Production and Technology. Before Audiophilez, John began his career as a staff writer for two different magazines, where he became a skilled storyteller across different mediums. When he isn’t writing, he can be found biking, reading books, and playing the piano.