Originally Posted by Dayter
What's the best Center channel speaker you've ever seen and heard .... ?
A properly set-up/fully optimized, high capability center channel is vital to the HT experience. Yes, this is often stated, but it can't be emphasized enough. The center channel carries so much of the load.
My Seaton Catalyst12C center rates up there essentially nearly as good as any I've experienced. Granted, being fully optimized allows it to really shine up against some absolutely world class competitors I've experienced at audio shows, that may not have had the luxury of adequate set-up time, marginal acoustics, etc. I refering to two in particular; Peter Lyngdorf's phenomenal line source system, which I had the good fortune to experience front row center. After the experience, the one extended audition wasn't enough, so I returned the following day for another, .. again fortunate to get a superb seat up front.
The center was part of a $470k system consisting of amazing two-way, AMT tweeter/5.25" cone line sources, between 8-9 feet tall. A few stacks of boundary loaded LF (12" small-sealed) cabinets, also arrayed floor to ceiling complimented the entire system. I took many notes, but I'm unsure how many 12's were in the system. There were two 8x stacks up front, I believe there may have been more. Anyway, that center channel was unbelievable. It's ability to accurately track every nuance of the vocals, from the smallest detail to the most spectacular and loudest peaks, spot on silky and smooth hitting the highest instantaneous SPLs I've ever encountered at any show demo, ... with zero detectable distortion.
The second example was from the custom XTX Group. This was perhaps even better than the above demo. The imaging and realism was ratcheted up even more, yet all the dynamics one would ever ask for were all there. The design/build/install custom turn key systems for about $220k if I recall correctly. Again line sources rule the day, and these had superb ribbon drivers, (4), 4" magnet forward midrange drivers covering the critical range down into the mid 200s, and four 6.5" drives covering the power region until the subs take over. Power, impact, yet with superb clarity and finesse. Of course these incredible mains were supported by a well optimized array of subwoofers spanning the entire width of the LCR spread. Although the Lyngdorf center was stunning, this had an edge on realism and imaging depth.
The XTX guys were great, hard core engineering types it seemed. I really enjoyed my time there. I had extensive one on one demo time. What time I did share, I shared side by side with Curt Hoyt of Trinnov. We analyzed the system attributes, etc. But he seemed more focused on mating his EQ'ing tools/gear to this amazing system. This center channel was extraordinary. I spent a lot of time examining the center channel characteristics in these systems.
This XTX system blew away (not even close) an entirely DSP optimized (SFM by Harman) megabuck system exhibited one floor below by none other than Kevin Voecks and his tech staff at JBL/Harman. The center, and mains consisted of JBL Synthesis Atlas LCRs (the remainder was quite impressive too). Well, I spent a lot of time discussing SFM, multiple sub system optimizing etc, with the system tuner, he suggested I sit front center of three rows. I did, the system was decent a best. The imaging lousy, the CC quality marginal ... it was not what I thought I'd hear given the pedigree, and individuals involved. Mark Levinson amplification w/these Synthesis mains, ... this should've been spectacular .. lame. I've discussed this extensively, however this gave me much context for the wonderful XTX system upstairs.BTW; $220k with XTX gets you a couple on-site consultation visits with you, your acoustician if involved prior to project build
qty. 3 - 441 speakers for L,C, R
qty. 4 - 241 speaker for surround effects
qty. 10 - 112 12" woofers
qty. 2 - 118 18" subwoofers
23 channels of amplification @ almost 30,000 watts of RMS power full range
Complete DSP control per amp channel
Power filtering and protection by SurgeX
Engineering documentation including CAD drawings and wiring diagrams
2-3 days of on-site calibration and configuration of installed system