How important is it to "Timbre Match" your speakers? (5.1 home theater) - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 18 Old 02-20-2013, 08:30 AM - Thread Starter
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I am setting up my home theater in our newly renovated living room. Here is my current setup:

1) TV - Sony Bravia 52" XBR3 LCD wall mounted
2) Center - Polk Audio In wall 255c-LS
3) Fronts - Polk Audio LSi7
4) Sub - PSW550
4) Receiver - Harman Kardon AVR 3600

I'm looking for surrounds that I can mount either in wall or on wall. I've read much about the importance of timbre matching speakers and this is primarily why I went with the Polk Audios (they share the same Vifa tweeter and similar 5 1/4 inch woofer). As a 3.1 system it sounds great but I'm ready to add the rear surrounds.

Here's my question: How important is it to buy the recommended "timbre matched" speakers for rear surrounds? Is this just marketing hype to get me to purchase from the same manufacturer? Will it make a difference if I buy completely different rear surround speakers? I'm considering small satellites (Polk Audio TL3) or Dayton Audio in wall speakers. If the woofers in front are 5 1/4 should I stick with this size woofer for the surround rears?

Any suggestions? I need a aesthetically discreet option (wife approval factor)....

thanks for the response in advance.
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post #2 of 18 Old 02-20-2013, 08:41 AM
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Timbre matching is really only necessary for the front three speakers.

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post #3 of 18 Old 02-20-2013, 08:42 AM
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Generally it is considered by most here "ideal" to match all five speakers. That being said, it is much more important to match the front three, which you have already done. I would pick the surrounds that best fit your space and budget without worrying too much about matching them. It looks like you receiver has room equilization, so that should help level match all 5 speakers even if the surrounds are much more or less sensitive than the front three.

I have 3 NHT on wall speakers up front and 2 Paradigm ADPs for surrounds and it seems to work fine for movies. I guess if you mostly listened to 5 channel concerts, then it would probably be better to match them all.

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post #4 of 18 Old 02-20-2013, 08:43 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks!
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post #5 of 18 Old 02-20-2013, 08:43 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by NewHTbuyer View Post

Generally it is considered by most here "ideal" to match all five speakers. That being said, it is much more important to match the front three, which you have already done. I would pick the surrounds that best fit your space and budget without worrying too much about matching them. It looks like you receiver has room equilization, so that should help level match all 5 speakers even if the surrounds are much more or less sensitive than the front three.

I have 3 NHT on wall speakers up front and 2 Paradigm ADPs for surrounds and it seems to work fine for movies. I guess if you mostly listened to 5 channel concerts, then it would probably be better to match them all.


Thanks for the suggestions!
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post #6 of 18 Old 02-20-2013, 07:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by keyxote View Post

I am setting up my home theater in our newly renovated living room. Here is my current setup:

1) TV - Sony Bravia 52" XBR3 LCD wall mounted
2) Center - Polk Audio In wall 255c-LS
3) Fronts - Polk Audio LSi7
4) Sub - PSW550
4) Receiver - Harman Kardon AVR 3600

I'm looking for surrounds that I can mount either in wall or on wall. I've read much about the importance of timbre matching speakers and this is primarily why I went with the Polk Audios (they share the same Vifa tweeter and similar 5 1/4 inch woofer). As a 3.1 system it sounds great but I'm ready to add the rear surrounds.

Here's my question: How important is it to buy the recommended "timbre matched" speakers for rear surrounds? Is this just marketing hype to get me to purchase from the same manufacturer? Will it make a difference if I buy completely different rear surround speakers? I'm considering small satellites (Polk Audio TL3) or Dayton Audio in wall speakers. If the woofers in front are 5 1/4 should I stick with this size woofer for the surround rears?

Any suggestions? I need a aesthetically discreet option (wife approval factor)....

thanks for the response in advance.

Panning from one speaker to another is the subject. So if you are watching a movie where the sound, a (motorcycle for example) is moving across the front stage and on to the rears, you will hear a difference if the rears are not matched to the fronts. I would look through your blu-Ray discs for a good example of this panning and see for yourself. Personally, I would consider doing this myself while upgrading my three fronts... (that is using different surrounds). It's not forever if you are upgrading often. I wouldn't worry too much about it.

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post #7 of 18 Old 02-20-2013, 11:08 PM
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Watched over a 1000 movies without matched rears and never noticed.
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post #8 of 18 Old 02-22-2013, 12:50 PM
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Myself, I believe the surrounds/rears matching the mains is not much an issue at all. I've experimented with several mains, for extended periods of time, with no issue with matching w/rears.

Clearly, the LCRs all need to be identical if possible. Likewise, it's best if all your surrounds are identical too. But front to back matching, I've never really experienced being a problem.

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post #9 of 18 Old 02-22-2013, 01:22 PM
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For multichannel music it's very important, almost critical. In the studio, such music is usually mixed on five identical full-range speakers. You could have the same vocal mixed equally into all five channels with the intention that it appear to emanate from the geometric center of the room; timbre-matching would be critical to achieving that effect.

But this is hard to achieve in a typical home setting even with identical speakers, because the room itself usually affects how each channel sounds.

For movies and video, not so much, as long as the mismatch doesn't exaggerate the differences. While sometimes you get the same sound panned around the channels, these effects are transient and you'll get the idea even if the reproduction isn't identical to the way it sounded when it was mixed.
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post #10 of 18 Old 02-22-2013, 04:47 PM
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Originally Posted by rdclark View Post

For multichannel music it's very important, almost critical. In the studio, such music is usually mixed on five identical full-range speakers. You could have the same vocal mixed equally into all five channels with the intention that it appear to emanate from the geometric center of the room; timbre-matching would be critical to achieving that effect.

But this is hard to achieve in a typical home setting even with identical speakers, because the room itself usually affects how each channel sounds.

For movies and video, not so much, as long as the mismatch doesn't exaggerate the differences. While sometimes you get the same sound panned around the channels, these effects are transient and you'll get the idea even if the reproduction isn't identical to the way it sounded when it was mixed.

I'm familiar with the best practices for surround sound production, but "have the same vocal mixed equally into all five channels with the intention that it appear to emanate from the geometric center of the room", ... I'm not so sure it would work like that. I'm not so sure any engineer would ever mix in that manner either. At least I can think of no scenario whereby that would be the chosen route to take.*

But, you're right, w/music the matching is likely more important. But my system is designed as a 5.1 ITU surround music system, .. adapted to multi-channel surround for movies. And I listen to a lot of SACD/discrete multichannel material, and it just doesn't seem to matter as much as many individuals say it does. In my experience, one can get away with moderate mis-matches quite easily .. as long as each sub-set matches identically. All three fronts-identical, all side/rear surrounds, identical.

My opinion, based on my experience.


Thanks

*It would seem the slightest movement off the center point of the room would pull the image in the direction of the nearest speaker. Instead of a stable image existing in front of you, it would move all over with your head movements. Some weird phasey effects would likely occur too.

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post #11 of 18 Old 02-22-2013, 10:15 PM
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Originally Posted by keyxote View Post

Here's my question: How important is it to buy the recommended "timbre matched" speakers for rear surrounds?

While it's not as important as matching the front speakers with one another and the surround speakers with one another, in my opinion a fully-matched system offers worthwhile benefits, depending on what you're listening to--in general, timbre-match all of your speakers if you can, or compromise with the surrounds if you must.

By the way, the "rear surrounds" I presume you're speaking of are actually "side surrounds" or simply "surrounds" in a 5.1 system. Technically the "rear" or "back" surrounds are the additional pair used in most 7.1 systems.
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Is this just marketing hype to get me to purchase from the same manufacturer?

Some manufacturers may do this, but most of us here do not (as far as I know) represent them, so my answer to you is no--it may not be absolutely crucial, but it's preferential.
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Originally Posted by keyxote View Post

Will it make a difference if I buy completely different rear surround speakers?

Yes, they will sound different from your front speakers, which may sometimes be less than ideal. For example, multichannel music sounds best when your entire system is timbre-matched, especially when there is imaging between the front and surround speakers or at least some of the same instruments are used in both areas. In the case of movie soundtracks that place only effects and ambiance in the surround channels, you may not be able to tell the difference, but some movies in recent years have their musical scores mixed into the surrounds, effectively making them pieces of multichannel music, and some occasionally image effects between the front and surround speakers (usually to one side or the other). If you're not critical about these things, then you don't need surrounds that are timbre-matched to your fronts, but personally I think that it makes a significant difference for the better, and not just for specific cases--the whole surround sound stage just seems more cohesive and the speakers don't call attention to themselves like they do when they're mismatched, at least in my experience (I'm probably more timbre-sensitive than some).
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Originally Posted by keyxote View Post

I'm considering small satellites (Polk Audio TL3) or Dayton Audio in wall speakers. If the woofers in front are 5 1/4 should I stick with this size woofer for the surround rears?

The size of the woofers, per se, doesn't matter, although obviously the best match would be identical (in every way) speakers all around; otherwise, they only need to be matched in timbre. Whether you try to timbre-match them or not, however, I would recommend using surround speakers that could legitimately be crossed over to the subwoofer at 80 Hz (or lower). While the surround channels are generally less demanding than the fronts, there are times when they contain bass-heavy effects and/or music, and ideally we would get the full impact while avoiding the localization to the subwoofer that can happen increasingly with higher crossover frequencies. As with timbre-matching the fronts and surrounds, try to use sufficiently large and capable surround speakers if you can, or compromise if you must.

The TL3 you mentioned is a bit puny by this standard because it can't reach down to 80 Hz with any authority. If you're willing to go with in-walls, then I think that an excellent option would be the Polk Audio 65-LS because it is both timbre-matched to your front speakers and quite capable. If full timbre-matching is not important to you and you wish to save some money (nothing wrong with this--it's your call and your money), then go with any decent-sounding and decently-sized in-wall speaker you like for the surrounds (others may have specific recommendations).
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Originally Posted by keyxote View Post

Any suggestions? I need a aesthetically discreet option (wife approval factor)....

I'm not nearly as familiar with in-walls as I am with regular speakers, but in case you'd prefer the latter, there are a few recommendations I can make. In Polk Audio's lineup, there are no timbre-matched speakers that are discreet (aside from in-walls), unless you wouldn't mind putting up a couple of additional LSi7s. wink.gif The Monitor 30 is probably too bulky as well, but maybe the T15 would work (it's the lowest quality option, though). Then there is the OWM5, which may just barely be able to cross over at 80 Hz (sort of); well, at least it's somewhat discreet with its shallow depth. Normally my favorite recommendation for "small" surrounds (or satellites, for that matter) is the Ascend HTM-200 SE, but I'm thinking that the best sonic match for the LSi series among compact bookshelf speakers may be the PSB Image B4 (the HTM-200 SE will hold up better at loud volumes in large spaces, though).
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post #12 of 18 Old 02-22-2013, 11:25 PM
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Originally Posted by NewHTbuyer View Post

I have 3 NHT on wall speakers up front and 2 Paradigm ADPs for surrounds and it seems to work fine for movies.

I'll grant that with many if not most movies, having surrounds that sound different from the fronts is not all that noticeable, since the two sets of channels usually have such different types of content. Being a "completist" compels me to cover all the possibilities I can, however, as long as it is practical to do so; otherwise, I'd feel that my system is lacking in some preventable ways, which in my view it would be (and the rate of exceptions to the "rules" regarding surround content seems to keep growing over time as individual re-recording mixers tinker with their styles). My basic philosophy on full timbre-matching and, for that matter, using relatively capable surrounds is: "If you can't, then fine, but if you can (and it does sound better at times), then why not?"
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Originally Posted by NewHTbuyer View Post

I guess if you mostly listened to 5 channel concerts, then it would probably be better to match them all.

This also depends on how the soundtracks are mixed, although in the typical case a mismatch is far more noticeable and distracting than with the vast majority of movies. But still, as mentioned earlier, there are movies that contain multichannel music with full-fidelity musical surround content. Off the top of my head, Disney's "Tangled" is a great example--the songs would actually still sound pretty full even if you literally turned off your front left & right speakers (just tried it now for fun).
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Originally Posted by chalugadp View Post

Watched over a 1000 movies without matched rears and never noticed.

I guess it's like never noticing faults in one's own speakers until auditioning a better one. wink.gif I didn't think that full timbre-matching would make such a noticeable difference until I finally tried it myself--I wouldn't go back to using unmatched surrounds if I could possibly help it. That said, your mileage may vary, so to speak.
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Originally Posted by rdclark View Post

For multichannel music it's very important, almost critical. In the studio, such music is usually mixed on five identical full-range speakers. You could have the same vocal mixed equally into all five channels with the intention that it appear to emanate from the geometric center of the room; timbre-matching would be critical to achieving that effect.

But this is hard to achieve in a typical home setting even with identical speakers, because the room itself usually affects how each channel sounds.

This is true, but somehow the direct sound, for me, always manages to assert itself. I've installed a number of fully-matched and unmatched systems by now (including several for myself over the years), and the fully-matched systems always sounded better in certain ways--more seamless, if you will, despite the wide variety of acoustic environments. The overall effect is often subtle, particularly in the case of movies, but then again so are a lot of things we talk about here.
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post #13 of 18 Old 02-23-2013, 04:36 AM
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I find it very important.
You are building a replay system. You want to enjoy the movie not be distracted by the possibility of a different sounding speaker. Not all speakers sound the same and you have enough issues getting a system to work right in a given room without adding any other factors.
I fully believe you should also use equal power for all channels to avoid any dynamic issues that could possibly be a factor with different amps. I'm not a fan of possibly causing any more issues.

I just want to know why one would want to mix and match speakers in a theater system? If you like the main channel speakers from a given company , why not use the matching center and surround channel speakers?
The only time I could possibly even consider not to do this if what the company offers as surround speakers simply don't work in the given room. Even then I might just switch to an entirely different speaker package that would work correctly in the given room. So I still see no reason to do this.
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post #14 of 18 Old 02-23-2013, 09:31 AM
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Originally Posted by Mantis10 View Post

I fully believe you should also use equal power for all channels to avoid any dynamic issues that could possibly be a factor with different amps. I'm not a fan of possibly causing any more issues.

Every channel has had equal potential for a while now, and I think that mixers are gradually coming around to using the surrounds as such. Some known mixers have altered their style dramatically, especially for the home video market when a remix is done, and new mixers are finding all kinds of different ways to mix sounds (some of which are really weird, by the way, such as putting dialogue from a single character in all three front channels at once). If you wish to cover all the bases, you should try not to skimp on the surround channels if at all possible. This encompasses speaker selection, amplification, and placement--in my opinion use direct-radiating monopoles (timbre-matched to the front speakers) mounted a bit high but tilted to point at the viewers, place and orient them to minimize the effects of the room (e.g. tweeters away from the walls and toward the viewers) and for the best dispersion characteristics (lay them sideways if you can't tilt them enough), and cross them over at 80 Hz.
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I just want to know why one would want to mix and match speakers in a theater system? If you like the main channel speakers from a given company , why not use the matching center and surround channel speakers?

People have a variety of reasons for compromising, and it doesn't help that they get the overall impression from this forum and others that they're not compromising in the case of the surrounds. Usually it's aesthetics or cost or both. Extreme (but all too common) cases of the former obviously limit the size of the speaker, which can limit not only output capability but selection to the point that other series or manufacturers must be considered (as in this case, except for the in-walls), and the latter often forces people (as well as those advising them) toward cheap surrounds so that they can at least have semi-decent fronts (better than cheap, puny speakers all around, I suppose).

By the way, using a matching but horizontally-oriented MTM-type center speaker is also a compromise--one that most people could easily live with and may not even notice, don't get me wrong, but it's still a compromise to sound quality for viewers off the central axis (not a reference to the Central and Axis Powers wink.gif). The main goal here, as I see it, is to inform so that people can make informed decisions, and few things in life are without some level of compromise.
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The only time I could possibly even consider not to do this if what the company offers as surround speakers simply don't work in the given room. Even then I might just switch to an entirely different speaker package that would work correctly in the given room. So I still see no reason to do this.

WAF and wallet are pretty compelling reasons.
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post #15 of 18 Old 02-23-2013, 10:10 AM
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I have matching L/C/R speakers my Height, Surround, and Surround Back are different speakers

For movie content, i have not noticed any difference, the only time i've noticed a difference is when running all channel stereo playing music.
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post #16 of 18 Old 03-06-2013, 09:48 PM - Thread Starter
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"The TL3 you mentioned is a bit puny by this standard because it can't reach down to 80 Hz with any authority"

Thanks everyone for your input and suggestions. I really enjoyed reading the different opinions. I ended up getting the Polk Audio TL3s for surrounds. I chose these due to similar tweeters and good reviews, but more importantly I purchased them because they were easy to "blend" with the rest of the decor due to the color (white) and size. I must say, I am impressed. My receiver (HK 3600) has an EzSet function that set the cross over at 60Hz. I was surprised because they are rated only down to 90Hz. I called polk audio tech support and they suggested setting the cross over at 120Hz. I'm pretty new at this and can't really tell the difference. Any suggestions/comments?

Any suggestions on Blu Rays to test these out?
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post #17 of 18 Old 03-07-2013, 05:05 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by keyxote View Post

"The TL3 you mentioned is a bit puny by this standard because it can't reach down to 80 Hz with any authority"

Thanks everyone for your input and suggestions. I really enjoyed reading the different opinions. I ended up getting the Polk Audio TL3s for surrounds. I chose these due to similar tweeters and good reviews, but more importantly I purchased them because they were easy to "blend" with the rest of the decor due to the color (white) and size. I must say, I am impressed. My receiver (HK 3600) has an EzSet function that set the cross over at 60Hz. I was surprised because they are rated only down to 90Hz. I called polk audio tech support and they suggested setting the cross over at 120Hz. I'm pretty new at this and can't really tell the difference. Any suggestions/comments?

Any suggestions on Blu Rays to test these out?


If you set them to 120Hz you will probably start to have localization problems with your sub. Which is why you want your surrounds to at least be able to cross at 80hz.

Try setting it to 80hz and then go from there.
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post #18 of 18 Old 03-07-2013, 11:13 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by keyxote View Post

"The TL3 you mentioned is a bit puny by this standard because it can't reach down to 80 Hz with any authority"

By the way, that was me--I wasn't trying to be a hard-ass or anything like that wink.gif, I was just trying to emphasize that some compromise would be involved, which is OK if you have reasons that are important to you. For a tiny "satellite" speaker, I think the TL3 is just dandy--better than the TL1, TL2, and some of Polk's larger speaker series in some respects.
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Originally Posted by keyxote View Post

Thanks everyone for your input and suggestions. I really enjoyed reading the different opinions. I ended up getting the Polk Audio TL3s for surrounds. I chose these due to similar tweeters and good reviews, but more importantly I purchased them because they were easy to "blend" with the rest of the decor due to the color (white) and size. I must say, I am impressed. My receiver (HK 3600) has an EzSet function that set the cross over at 60Hz. I was surprised because they are rated only down to 90Hz. I called polk audio tech support and they suggested setting the cross over at 120Hz. I'm pretty new at this and can't really tell the difference. Any suggestions/comments?

Polk's suggestion is a decent one--right at the edge of what the speaker can actually do, which would probably be too low for the TL3 as a front speaker but should be fine for its use as a surround. While I'd prefer to cross it lower and lose some mid-bass impact rather than have more localizable sound come from the subwoofer, with a ported (bass reflex) speaker like this one I'd want to protect it from excessively low frequencies, so I'd leave it at 120 Hz.
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Originally Posted by keyxote View Post

Any suggestions on Blu Rays to test these out?

I had mentioned "Tangled" earlier--this would be a great test for surround music in movies, because it has a ton of it (both the songs and the score are multichannel music). If it sounds good to you, and fairly seamless all around, then your match is close enough. Another good test would be "Brave" (yeah, I watch a lot of animated movies smile.gif), which has, as far as I can tell, zero music in the surrounds but lots of full-fidelity ethereal ambiance as well as some relatively big and highly directional effects (very "clean" and separated surround channels that test surround speaker quality but not timbre-matching with the fronts). Then of course there are war movies like "Saving Private Ryan" and "Black Hawk Down" that will give your surrounds a good workout--watch these first to help break in your new surrounds. wink.gif "Gladiator" also springs to mind as having a good variety of elements in its surround channels. Oh yeah, and "We Were Soldiers" has lots of flyover effects, if you're interested in testing that.
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If you set them to 120Hz you will probably start to have localization problems with your sub. Which is why you want your surrounds to at least be able to cross at 80hz.

Well, this would only happen with big, bassy surround effects (and possibly some music), and while I agree that larger surrounds would be better, with smaller ported surrounds, the crossover should probably be left at 120 Hz or higher (depending on the speaker).
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Try setting it to 80hz and then go from there.

I don't know about the TL3 specifically, but most ported speakers aren't innately protected well from frequencies below their tuning frequencies, since they rarely if ever have filters for this purpose and their woofer excursion would not be controlled. While surround effects that are loud and deep enough to potentially damage small speakers are rare, at the same time you wouldn't want to place unnecessary strain on them, in the interest of preserving sound quality. Besides that, some people just aren't all that sensitive to localization, which in this case would be more occasional anyway as opposed to the case with front speakers.
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