By Don Lindich
Week 23, 2016
Q. I purchased my sound system in December of 1998. It uses a Cambridge SoundWorks Ensemble surround sound speaker system, which is now discontinued. I am having trouble with the center speaker, and I can’t get it repaired. Can you recommend a replacement center speaker? I am happy with the system and not ready to replace the whole thing yet.
-D. D., San Diego, CA
A. The center channel is often said to be the most important speaker in a surround sound speaker system. Because of this, my advice may seem contradictory because I am going to recommend you forego the center channel speaker and try your system without one.
Go into your receiver’s speaker setup menus and for the center channel setting, turn it to “no center speaker,” or “off.” When you turn off the center speaker the receiver will send the center channel information into the left and right speakers equally, creating a “phantom” center channel that seems to come from between the two speakers. Some receivers, specifically older ones, actually call this “phantom center channel” mode.
When you have good speakers phantom mode usually sounds better than a mismatched center speaker. People sitting far off-axis from the center of the TV will not experience the sound coming from the TV the same way as with a dedicated center channel, but other than that I have not found many drawbacks to this approach. Two speakers can often do a better job reproducing sound than a single one, and I often find the sound from phantom center channel mode is much more open and effortless than you experience from a single center channel speaker.
Free Antenna Day Part 2 and Consumer Electronics Show wrap-up, continued: I had to put off wrapping up my show coverage by one week because I needed to address complaints about Channelmaster Free Antenna Day. Since the column ran, I received a few emails from readers who did receive a free antenna and it was gratifying that some people were successful. The Channelmaster FLATenna is a great little antenna for $10 delivered, and I commend Channelmaster for trying to spread the popularity of over-the-air television. It’s just disappointing that the giveaway was executed so poorly, with frustrated customers like last week’s correspondent given a stiff arm despite following directions to the letter and reaching out to the company multiple times before and after the promotion. Perhaps next time they can make it “Almost Free Antenna Week” and charge $5 delivered, while giving people a full week to get in their order. I’d rather see that, than a few people get a free antenna and a lot of people get angry.
This week’s CES product feature is Think Tank Photo’ Lily Deanne camera bags. I have always loved Think Tank Photo camera bags for their solid construction, array of sizes and styles and unique, thoughtful features. Most camera bags are very utilitarian in design and style, but the Lily Deanne collection of premium quality bags are designed with a woman’s aesthetic in mind. When I saw them and read about the concept I could only wonder, “Why hasn’t anyone done this before?” It’s a great idea with great execution, with an interesting story behind the design team that is well worth reading. https://www.thinktankphoto.com/collections/lily-deanne-series