ZVOX Blog

What's Missing From Most Sound Bars? The Center Speaker!

Posted by Tom Hannaher , Thursday, November 14, 2013
Before there were sound systems designed to work with your TV (in other words, before "home theater"), people rarely used their "hi-fi" stereo speakers with a TV. When a left and right speaker system was used with a TV, the dialog always seemed to come from whatever speaker was closer to listener, and not from the TV. Movie theater designers have always known about this "two speaker" effect. No movie theater has ever employed speakers on the just the left and right sides. Theaters have a center speaker, or a center speaker with left, right and effects speakers. The center speaker insures that every listener hears the same high quality vocal sound--even if the listener is seated off to the left or right of the movie screen.
In the early days of home theater, it was popular to sell systems with a “phantom center speaker.” What that really meant was “the center speaker costs too much so we’re leaving it out.” Multi-speaker home theater system available today all have a center speaker. Yet designers of almost all soundbar-type sound systems persist in using just left and right speakers.
It is a lot cheaper to make a TV sound system with no center speaker, but there is a sacrifice in sound quality and realism. Voice clarity is not as good with only left and right speakers, especially for a listener not seated exactly between the two speakers. A center speaker provides the same consistent sound quality for all listeners in the room, It “anchors” the sound to the center of the TV.
Even the most affordable ZVOX system features at least one center speaker. Center speakers, combined with our unique Dialog Emphasis feature (which uses hearing aid technology), result in super-clear voice reproduction. Our customers frequently comment on how our systems make it easy it is to understand what people are saying. Some people even use ZVOX systems as a substitute for hearing aids when watching TV.
So if you’re shopping for a TV sound system, stay centered.

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