Using the Center Channel
In a multichannel system, there are three ways to achieve a centrally placed sound image.
• Create a “phantom center” (mix sound to the left and right equally, as with
stereo): Commonly used, but assumes the listener is seated exactly between the speakers
(which is not possible in automobiles and not always the case in homes). The timbre
of sound is not the same as from a direct speaker because of cross-cancelation effects.
• Use the center channel alone: This creates a stable center image for listeners in any
location. (To prevent the audio from sounding too focused or narrow, its reverb can
be spread to the left and right channels.)
• Use all three front channels equally or in various proportions: This method allows for
greater control of the range of spatial depth and width. The phantom center can be
reinforced by additional signals in the center channel, which can be enhanced by signals
spread into the left/right pair. The disadvantage is that sound from all three speakers
may not blend well or may not arrive at the listener at the same time, causing side
effects such as comb filtering, shifts in tone color, or smearing. To counteract these
side effects, you can first process the additional signals to change their spatial character,
timbre, or prominence relative to the main center signal.