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R Channel Speakers: Is the Right Channel Speaker Where It’s At?

R Channel Speakers: Pro Guide

Stereo audio was originally designed to separate recorded sound into two channels (that is what the term “stereo” means), with left and right channel speakers placed in front of the room. Although some sounds come specifically from the left or right channel speakers, principle vocals or dialog are mixed into both speakers. What is the function of the right channel speaker?

With the vocals mixed to come out of both the left and right channels, a “sweet spot” is created that is equidistant between the left and right channel speakers. It is the right channel speaker that gives the listener the illusion that the vocals are coming from a phantom center spot between left and right channel speakers.

In this guide, we are going to learn all there is to know about the right channel speakers on a set of speakers. The R channel is responsible for centering the sounds, vibrations, and frequencies being heard, and this article will lay out the reasons why. 

What Is an R Channel Speaker?

The most basic kind of stereo in a car — or in any environment — is the simple right and left channel stereo. This takes a piece of music recorded with two tracks — recorded at different distances through different microphones — and plays the two sounds through two different speaker systems, positioned to the listener’s right and left. 

Each of those audio signals is called an “audio channel.” In a car, the left and right channels usually refer to speakers planted in the doors of the passenger compartment. Even in systems with more than two speakers, the channels are split left and right. The right channel or “R channel” speaker is responsible for highlighting the most intense bass and rhythm sections of the audio. But it must work in tandem with the left channel speaker. 

A benefit of stereo sound using distinct right and left channel audio is better control over the sound that comes out in your car. Even the most basic car stereo systems give you independent volume controls over the left and right channels. 

More advanced controls may give you a graphical mixer, allowing you to fine-tune the audio using specific frequency ranges.

Most car audio systems have a pair of general speakers that try to replicate the full range of human hearing from 20 Hertz to 20,000 Hertz.  In fact, it can be said that most factory speakers are lower in quality than aftermarket speakers. While replacing all of your speakers at once saves on labor costs, if you’re comfortable doing the speaker upgrades yourself, you can do it in stages. 

How to find the best R channel speakers

Replace the worst sounding speakers first; this gets you the greatest sound quality improvement for the least amount of money.

Quadraphonic and Dolby Surround Sound systems add separate speakers for the higher-pitched sounds in music, often positioning them a bit forward of the “baseline” speakers to enhance the illusion of different instruments being in different locations relative to the listener. 

Subwoofers are used to drive lower frequency sounds — because these sounds aren’t as directional as higher frequency ones, the subwoofer is usually a separate channel from the traditional or enhanced left and right speaker channels. 

While Quadraphonic sound systems usually have four speakers and an optional subwoofer, Dolby sound systems for cars have a subwoofer, and position four or six speakers in different locations through the passenger compartment.

But even good brands can still leave some room for error in finding the correct R channel speaker that suits your preferences. 

How To Pick The Right R Speaker?

How To Pick The Right R Speaker

If you are adding a center channel speaker to an existing speaker setup, try to go with the same brand, and similar mid-range and high-end frequency response capability, as your main left and right speakers.

The reason for this is that the entire left, center, right channel sound-field should sound the same to your ear. This is referred to as “timbre-matching.”

If you are unable to obtain a center channel speaker with similar characteristics of your left and right front channel speakers, if your home theater receiver has an automatic speaker setup system, it may be able to compensate using its equalization capabilities.

Another option that you can try is if you are putting together a basic home theater setup from scratch, buy a speaker system that includes the entire speaker mix—front left/right, surround left/right, subwoofer, and the center channel.

If you are upgrading from two-channel stereo to a full home theater surround sound setup, whether you use a center channel speaker is up to you, but here are the main things to consider:

  • Audio anchor point: A center channel speaker provides a specific anchor location for dialog and vocals.
  • Independently adjusted volume: The volume level of a center channel speaker can be adjusted independently of the other speakers in a system, providing more flexibility in balancing the total sound of the system.
  • Get a speaker that complements your other speakers: When shopping for a center channel speaker, consider one that has similar sonic characteristics to that of your left and right front main speakers.
  • Consider a horizontal speaker: To facilitate optimal center channel placement, consider one that has a horizontal design so that it can be placed above or below a TV or projection screen and ideally positioned at an equal distance between the front left and right channel speakers.
  • Surround sound provides an effective solution to the center channel problem posed by two-channel stereo listening.
  • Unlike stereo, in a true surround sound setup, there is a minimum of 5.1 channels with speakers allocated as follows: front L/R, surround L/R, subwoofer (.1), and dedicated center. Surround sound formats, such as Dolby and DTS, feature sounds that are mixed into each of those channels, including sounds specifically directed to a center channel. 

Can You Swap Between Right and Left Channel Speakers?

Can You Swap Between Right and Left Channel Speakers

Yes, but it is complicated.

This is a quick and simple way to test whether one speaker is truly bad or not.

For example, let’s assume that the right channel does not work when connected to the right speaker, but the left channel works fine when connected to the left speaker. After switching them, placing the left speaker on the right channel and vice versa, if the left channel suddenly does not work when connected to the right speaker, then you know the problem lies with the right speaker itself.

If, after the swap, the left channel does work with the right channel speaker, then the problem is not the speaker. It has to do with something else in the stereo system — either the speaker wires or the receiver or amplifier.

As a result of how sounds are mixed for surround sound, instead of having the vocals/dialog placed in a phantom center spot, it is placed in a dedicated center channel. Due to this placement, the center channel requires its own speaker.

Although the added center speaker results in a little more clutter, there are distinct advantages.

Changing volume levels: Since the center channel is separated from the left and right front channels, its volume level can be changed without changing the volume levels of the left and right front channels. 

This comes in handy when compensating for dialog/vocals that are too low or too high in a music or movie soundtrack, as you can adjust the volume coming out of the center channel speaker independent from the rest of the speakers.

Ultimately, flexibility is crucial.

Although surround sound has its own “sweet spot,” it provides a more flexible listening experience. While sitting in the surround sound sweet spot is desirable, as you move your listening position from left to right, the vocals/dialog will still appear to come from its center position (although at an angle off-center from the sweet spot). 

This is more like it would sound in the real world if a person was talking or singing in that position while you move around the room.