The days of silent movies are a long, long way behind us – ever since The Jazz Singer was released in 1927, every film has had some sort of talking character whether it be human, robot or animal; real or animated. So it goes without saying that the speech and dialogue is an absolutely fundamental part of any movie. If you are an owner of a 5.1 or 7.1 home cinema system, you have a speaker that is solely dedicated for this purpose – the centre speaker – so it is important that it is chosen and positioned carefully.
Choosing a centre speaker
The centre speaker will sit between your two front speakers so ideally it will be from the same range as these. If, for whatever reason, that is difficult then try at least to stick with the same brand. You can go for something completely different but you may need to spend time and effort ensuring it works well with your existing speakers. It is far easier if you buy all the speakers at the same time and if you cannot stretch to the full set up of speakers in one go, we would advise you buy the three front speakers to start with – these are arguably the most important. You can always add the two (or four) surround speakers and subwoofer later.
Positioning a centre speaker
By its very name, it’s pretty obvious where this speaker goes – right in the middle of the two front speakers! The centre speaker is supposed to ensure that the speech appears to be coming directly from the characters mouths on screen, so it is important that the speaker is positioned as near to the top or bottom of the screen as possible. Many people report that siting the centre speaker above the screen gives the best results, however like all things home cinema related, just as many people say that putting it below is just as good. In reality, most of us aren’t going to have a choice, but as long as it’s close to the screen you should get good results. If you can, it’s always a good idea to experiment to see what works best for you.
Many centre speakers these days are designed especially for the job – even it means they are just a horizontal version of the other speakers in the set. If you have a 2.1 system at the moment, and want to improve the overall surround sound experience, then take a look at some of the 5.1 home cinema systems available, prices start from under £200.
Image above shows the Tannoy Mercury V Centre Speaker. Many thanks to Tannoy for the use of this image.