Center perfection

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Over the years I have noticed a perfect center fill can foretell a perfect soundstage.

And while it might at first seem a simple formula—get the center image right and the soundstage falls into place—it doesn’t always work that way.

The problem with relying upon the center fill as a harbinger of soundstage correctness can be found in the difficulty of getting the phantom center channel perfected.

It’s easy to use extreme speaker toe-in to get a holographic center image. Unfortunately, that’s often at the expense of soundstage width.

Center fill perfection occurs when we have all the center channel elements in place: depth, height, size, palpability, and three-dimensionality.

As I write in The Audiophile’s Guide, the solution to getting the center channel right is found not with toe-in but without. The closer you can get to center channel perfection with the speaker baffles parallel to the left/right horizontal ear-plane, the wider, deeper and more convincing your soundstage.

As I explain in the book, the degree to which you can have your center channel and soundstage cake and eat it too depends on your speaker’s off-axis response character. A relatively flat off-axis response is key to soundstage perfection.

Set your bullseye for the center but don’t ignore everything around it.