Front and Center
Magnepan's Wendell Diller promised to demonstrate "an intriguing solution to the center channel," which was nebulous enough. Imagine my surprise when he demoed his new solution with a stereo! A three channel stereo, true, but a stereo nonetheless.
The system consisted of Bryston $2395 BCD-1 CD player, three $7500 Bryston 28B SST monoblocks, and $4995 SP-2multichannel preamp/processor, not to mention a pair of Magnepan 1.6s ($1775), a CC3 center channel speaker ($995), and a prototype ceiling-mounted magnetic planar speaker (price TBD) with a motorized lift that pulled it up to the ceiling when not in use (that's what Wendell is pointing at in the picture).
Wnedell pointed out that the CC3 carried most of the center signal, but feathering in just a little sound to the upper speaker lifted the center image so that it would appear to come from the screen of a large display—or, as in the case of Wendell's demo, to a height appropriate for the line-source-like 1.6s.
"The reason we're using three-channel stereo is that it illustrates the importance of center channel height even better than video, where the image obscures the directionality of the sound." It was a convincing demo. I look forward to seeing where Magnepan goes with this—and we may well find out at CES 2008.