Soundbar in the Center

I have the opportunity to update my home theater audio system and have decided on the Marantz SR7005 AVR. My room is small, and when I remodeled 10 years ago, I installed four Paradigm in-wall speakers and a large center-channel speaker for my 5.1 system. It occurs to me that if I replace the center channel with a 3-channel soundbar, I could use my existing in-wall speakers for the surround and have a full 7.1 system.

What do you think of this approach? Paradigm makes a 3-channel soundbar, the Millenia 20 Trio (shown above). I like my Paradigm speakers, but I thought that looking at other brands might be a good thing to do.

Byron Servies

I see a couple of problems with this approach. First, I assume that two of your in-walls are in the front of the room flanking the screen, which means they will not work as surround speakers. Second, using a 3-channel soundbar for the front LCR (left, center, right) is not ideal because the left and right channels are not separated by enough distance to create a wide soundstage. (Such a soundbar works far better than any TV's internal speakers, but it's not as good as fully separate speakers.)

In your case, I would get a center-channel speaker that most closely matches the tonal characteristics of the in-walls. Such a speaker will undoubtedly come from Paradigm—it's rarely if ever a good idea to mix different brands of speakers, because their tonal quality will probably not match well. This tonal matching is critical for good home-theater sound so that when a sound pans from one channel to the next, its character doesn't change.

You don't specify the exact model of in-walls you have, but I would get the Paradigm center-channel speaker that most closely matches them in tonal quality. This often means that the center has a similar compliment of drivers, but I would contact Paradigm for its best recommendation. If your current center speaker is a Paradigm, you might already have the best match for the in-walls.

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JoeBlogg1983's picture

I think the questioner wants to replace the center channel (and only the center channel) with the sound bar.

He does not want the soundbar to replace all 3 channels (front left, front right, center)...

Scott Wilkinson's picture
Byron says he has four in-walls, and a 3-channel soundbar would give him 7.1. According to my calculations, 4+3 = 7, so he wants to use a 3-channel soundbar for the front three channels. Byron, if I'm wrong about this, please let me know.
JoeBlogg1983's picture

Looks like your interpretation is indeed more accurate =)

Scottyb09's picture

I'd advise that soundbars are great for 1) areas where you simply want better sound - not necessarily surround sound, and 2) for bedrooms and the like. For a dedicated surround sound area, I would argue that you are best off not going with a soundbar, even if it's from a high quality line like Paradigm.

ByronServies's picture

Hi there!

Sorry for the long delay in getting back to this. Thank you very much for answering my question, Scott. As it turns out, I kind of followed it.

My living room has a unique shape. It has a low, 7.5 foot, ceilings over about 85% of the floor and on 2 edges is open to the story above. It is small, with lots of openings to other rooms, so available floor space is at a premium. This is why I chose Paradigm AMS-450 in-walls and CC-450 center channel when remodeling in 2000. They are arranged in a trapezoid as the available wall space allowed.

The wall where that was the "front" is now occupied by an upright piano. I have tried other arrangements, but this is the place the piano works best. So, I am re-orienting the "front" to the other available wall (there is only 1), which is why I asked about the sound bar.

When I remodeled, however, I ran 2 sets of speaker wire to each in-wall location. This includes the hanging speakers in my office, which is the other side of the wall that is now the "front". Once I realized there was unused wire in the wall, another pair of in-walls became a possibility.

One of my local home theater stores just moved locations, and I was able to pick up a pair of Paradigm AMS-350 3-way in-wall speakers for 50% off. These are now the front pair, and the original in-wall AMS-450s are "front wide" and "surround". I still use the other speakers and Sunfire subwoofer I bought in 2000.

All in all, I'm thrilled with my Marantz SR7005 and UD5005 blu-ray player. The Audyssey DX does a better job of setup than I was ever able to manage with a sound pressure meter with my Lexicon DC-1 and when things move around, re-tuning takes very little time.

Thanks for the advice! Love your shows on TWiT,

p.s. I am an adult beginner piano student. It's never too late, and I cannot recommend the experience enough

johnnyappleseed's picture

Howdy there,

I know this is an old thread.. but in case anybody's still out there.. I've been looking at various sound bars and I wondered what you all thought of this 3-channel as an only speaker paired with a good receiver and sub. I'm really interested in a very simple setup, I don't have a lot of space, and we move a lot.

I'm mostly interested in listening to music but also would be used for movies.

I'm also considering the Def Tech Mythos 50, b&w, and other "high-end" sound bars.

Thanks! Jon