Center channel clarity - Ascend, NHT, Wavecrest, Philmarmonic AA - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 73 Old 03-20-2017, 09:15 PM - Thread Starter
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Help with center channel clarity - Ascend, NHT, Wavecrest, Philmarmonic AA, HTD?

So I was recently looking to get better vocal clarity from my center channel than I was getting from an old Polk CSi30. Reading here made me somewhat concerned about matching timbre to my AJ Pioneer BS22s that I've had (and liked) for the last 3+ years. The vocal clarity reviews of the Pioneer C22 here were not great, so I asked Dennis about his mod. He encouraged me to first test out the stock Pioneer C22 and return it if I didn't like it.

So I got the stock C22 and have pretty much decided that it is not much of an upgrade in the clarity department. Planning to return it.

I am considering moving my BS22s to the surrounds and getting new speakers up front and center. I'm also open to getting just a new center if the timbre match isn't really that big of a deal. Most of my use would be home theater/TV.

Would a sealed design have any advantage in clarity over ported? Output, though nice, is not my primary goal.

I've compiled the list below of front and center speaker sets that are within what I'm willing to spend. From those with experience with any of the them, which of these center channels give the best clarity? Is there a significant difference between any of them?

Contenders:
Philharmonics Affordable Accuracy ($420 shipped)
Wavecrest HVL-1s ($372 shipped)
NHT SuperOne 2.1 fronts, SuperCenter ($419 shipped - both B stock)
Ascend Acoustics HTM 200 SEs ($468 shipped)
HTD Level 2 Bookshelves and Center ($383 shipped)

Anything else I should be considering?

Receiver: Pioneer VSX-1022-K
Sub: SVS SB12-NSD
Fronts: Pioneer SP-BS22-LR
Center: Polk CSi30
Surrounds: Polk R15

Last edited by capo4u; 03-25-2017 at 10:02 AM.
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post #2 of 73 Old 03-21-2017, 07:10 AM
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Chane A1.4, A2.4 is what I am looking at.
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post #3 of 73 Old 03-21-2017, 07:31 AM
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There really isn't a bad choice on your list of contenders. All will be a noticeable upgrade over the BS22 and especially the C22 which the most complained about speaker in this forum. If you can, order a few and compare, keep the winner.
Since there was no mention of a sub in your 1st post, are you using a sub?

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post #4 of 73 Old 03-21-2017, 10:12 AM
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Food for thought. You used the word "clarity" and that spoke volumes to me. I would suggest that in-part, that lack of clarity that annoyed you was actually a combination of several aural differences between your center and front speakers. The words "timbre matched" are overused and most often entirely misunderstood. Different speakers use different materials...enclosures of different sizes, different drivers made of different materials, different crossovers made from different materials and tuned by different manufacturers, different frequency responses, different resistance and output at any given frequency and amount of input power, and different dispersion characteristics. all of those differences are exactly why there are so many posts about Center channels, upgrading them and people insisting "this center sounds great with these of those front L/RS"...frankly that's mostly BS or if true, dumb luck. Just because any two different speakers sound good independently, in no way insures that together they will produce even close to an accurate front sound stage or accurately reproduce movements engineered into the recordings.

The science of surround speaker system design has eliminated most of these issues L/C/R systems with matched and tuned speakers using the same materials for drivers, crossovers, and enclosures, with matched impedance, frequency response, SPL, and dispersion characteristics is both simple physics and good aural science. It is what it is.

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post #5 of 73 Old 03-21-2017, 10:54 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pase22 View Post
There really isn't a bad choice on your list of contenders. All will be a noticeable upgrade over the BS22 and especially the C22 which the most complained about speaker in this forum. If you can, order a few and compare, keep the winner.
Since there was no mention of a sub in your 1st post, are you using a sub?
Sub - recently acquired SB12-NSD.
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Originally Posted by JonfromCB View Post
Food for thought. You used the word "clarity" and that spoke volumes to me. I would suggest that in-part, that lack of clarity that annoyed you was actually a combination of several aural differences between your center and front speakers. The words "timbre matched" are overused and most often entirely misunderstood. Different speakers use different materials...enclosures of different sizes, different drivers made of different materials, different crossovers made from different materials and tuned by different manufacturers, different frequency responses, different resistance and output at any given frequency and amount of input power, and different dispersion characteristics. all of those differences are exactly why there are so many posts about Center channels, upgrading them and people insisting "this center sounds great with these of those front L/RS"...frankly that's mostly BS or if true, dumb luck. Just because any two different speakers sound good independently, in no way insures that together they will produce even close to an accurate front sound stage or accurately reproduce movements engineered into the recordings.

The science of surround speaker system design has eliminated most of these issues L/C/R systems with matched and tuned speakers using the same materials for drivers, crossovers, and enclosures, with matched impedance, frequency response, SPL, and dispersion characteristics is both simple physics and good aural science. It is what it is.
I was hoping that moving to the matched C22 would improve the clarity over the old Polk CSi30 I was using as the center before, but the C22 is not appreciably better.

Sent from my SM-G930V using Tapatalk

Receiver: Pioneer VSX-1022-K
Sub: SVS SB12-NSD
Fronts: Pioneer SP-BS22-LR
Center: Polk CSi30
Surrounds: Polk R15

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post #6 of 73 Old 03-21-2017, 11:17 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by capo4u View Post
So I was recently looking to get better vocal clarity from my center channel than I was getting from an old Polk CS130. Reading here made me somewhat concerned about matching timbre to my AJ Pioneer BS22s that I've had (and liked) for the last 3+ years. The vocal clarity reviews of the Pioneer C22 here were not great, so I asked Dennis about his mod. He encouraged me to first test out the stock Pioneer C22 and return it if I didn't like it.

So I got the stock C22 and have pretty much decided that it is not much of an upgrade in the clarity department. Planning to return it.

I am considering moving my BS22s to the surrounds and getting new speakers up front and center. I'm also open to getting just a new center if the timbre match isn't really that big of a deal. Most of my use would be home theater/TV.

Would a sealed design have any advantage in clarity over ported? Output, though nice, is not my primary goal.

I've compiled the list below of front and center speaker sets that are within what I'm willing to spend. From those with experience with any of the them, which of these center channels give the best clarity? Is there a significant difference between any of them?

Contenders:
Philharmonics Affordable Accuracy ($420 shipped)
Wavecrest HVL-1s ($372 shipped)
NHT SuperOne 2.1 fronts, SuperCenter ($419 shipped - both B stock)
Ascend Acoustics HTM 200 SEs ($468 shipped)
HTD Level 2 Bookshelves and Center ($383 shipped)

Anything else I should be considering?


Why not start with the AA center (125+shipping) which is an upgraded C22?
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post #7 of 73 Old 03-21-2017, 11:21 AM
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Chane A1.4, A2.4 is what I am looking at.
This.
Btw, what receiver are you running ?
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post #8 of 73 Old 03-21-2017, 11:24 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by christoofar View Post
This.
Btw, what receiver are you running ?
Pioneer VSX 1022 K

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Surrounds: Polk R15
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post #9 of 73 Old 03-21-2017, 11:26 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by crcostel View Post
Why not start with the AA center (125+shipping) which is an upgraded C22?
That's what I was originally thinking. Now I'm wondering if I shouldn't just upgrade the entire front soundstage.

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Receiver: Pioneer VSX-1022-K
Sub: SVS SB12-NSD
Fronts: Pioneer SP-BS22-LR
Center: Polk CSi30
Surrounds: Polk R15
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post #10 of 73 Old 03-21-2017, 11:58 AM
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Originally Posted by capo4u View Post
That's what I was originally thinking. Now I'm wondering if I shouldn't just upgrade the entire front soundstage.

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I think you are on the right track as my friend borrowed some real hi fi speakers I was testing and was blown away by the improvement over his Pioneers.

In comparison the Pioneers just sound "veiled" to any hi fi speaker, (they do after all only have small 4" drivers and a price point tweeter), and your list has speakers I would consider "hi fi" in that they have superior tweeters and larger main drivers in the front two.
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post #11 of 73 Old 03-21-2017, 12:10 PM
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I very recently tried out the BS22's and C22 combo. The BS22's were ok, but I didn't care for the C22. Movie dialog wasn't as clear as I thought it should be. Male voices had a resonance or boominess to them. My first thought was that I'm in a new room, everything isn't set up yet. The room doesn't have any acoustic treatments (nothing but parallel walls with painted sheetrock and a wood floor with no rug). It's a bad room right now, but, the volume was moderate enough and I was close enough to the speakers that believe I could give them a fair shake. I thought about doing the Philharmonic AA C22 but decided to just change the whole front.


I went with the NHTs (SuperOne 2.1 and Supercenter). Even with a "bad" room, the SuperOne's sound much better than the BS22's to me. More detailed and slightly better high-end. The SuperCenter is noticeably better than the C22, but just. I expect that room treatments will improve things.


So, I've had a positive experience with the NHTs you mentioned but I admit that I have not ever listened to any of the others (except for the Pioneers).


Cary
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post #12 of 73 Old 03-21-2017, 01:57 PM
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If it's within your range I would recommend Aperion Verus Grand center. Absolutely amazing sounding center...I think Aperion was closing the gen 1 cherry finish for $390 or so.

My next vote would be Ascend, Wavecrest or Phils. They all get good reviews.

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post #13 of 73 Old 03-21-2017, 02:40 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jcmccorm View Post
I very recently tried out the BS22's and C22 combo. The BS22's were ok, but I didn't care for the C22. Movie dialog wasn't as clear as I thought it should be. Male voices had a resonance or boominess to them. My first thought was that I'm in a new room, everything isn't set up yet. The room doesn't have any acoustic treatments (nothing but parallel walls with painted sheetrock and a wood floor with no rug). It's a bad room right now, but, the volume was moderate enough and I was close enough to the speakers that believe I could give them a fair shake. I thought about doing the Philharmonic AA C22 but decided to just change the whole front.


I went with the NHTs (SuperOne 2.1 and Supercenter). Even with a "bad" room, the SuperOne's sound much better than the BS22's to me. More detailed and slightly better high-end. The SuperCenter is noticeably better than the C22, but just. I expect that room treatments will improve things.


So, I've had a positive experience with the NHTs you mentioned but I admit that I have not ever listened to any of the others (except for the Pioneers).


Cary
Thanks for the input.

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If it's within your range I would recommend Aperion Verus Grand center. Absolutely amazing sounding center...I think Aperion was closing the gen 1 cherry finish for $390 or so.

My next vote would be Ascend, Wavecrest or Phils. They all get good reviews.
That's a little more than I'm willing to spend on just the center. I'm looking more at that price range for all three up front.

Plus, I'm looking to stick with a boring non-gloss black case. We're not particularly classy at our place - don't want the pretty speakers to look too out of place..

Receiver: Pioneer VSX-1022-K
Sub: SVS SB12-NSD
Fronts: Pioneer SP-BS22-LR
Center: Polk CSi30
Surrounds: Polk R15
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post #14 of 73 Old 03-21-2017, 02:43 PM - Thread Starter
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The SuperCenter is noticeably better than the C22, but just.
When you say, "but just", do you mean that they are barely noticeably better, or something else?

Receiver: Pioneer VSX-1022-K
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post #15 of 73 Old 03-21-2017, 02:54 PM
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Thanks for the input.



That's a little more than I'm willing to spend on just the center. I'm looking more at that price range for all three up front.
Then, IMO, you'll be looking at only a marginal upgrade. The Grand Versus center should be a significant upgrade. It's very large and a three way design.

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post #16 of 73 Old 03-21-2017, 02:56 PM
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If you're a music and HT guy, it might be worth changing out your whole lineup, but I don't know how "good enough" you need. I just got trialing out several speakers (Polk, couple of Bic models, and the Pioneers), and for music the Polks were more lively and entertaining to listen to, although the BS22 was comparable on some music as well. With HT I came away somewhat surprised of how little the fronts are actually asked to do. My mother in law just bought us "Moana" on blu ray for the kids, so I had the chance to try this out with the speakers. What was interesting is how much the center channel practically drives the majority of the movie, let alone all the singing sequences. Voices barely squabble out of the fronts during the singing scenes...it's all out of the center channel.


So, I'm personally going to keep my BS22s for now, purchase the Phil AA center channel and keep the coin in my pocket. That right now is my "good enough."
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post #17 of 73 Old 03-21-2017, 03:07 PM - Thread Starter
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Then, IMO, you'll be looking at only a marginal upgrade. The Grand Versus center should be a significant upgrade. It's very large and a three way design.
That's good to know - I don't want to spend a lot without an appreciable difference.

The Grand Versus does have nice specs, just more $$ than I can get the Mrs. to overlook.

Receiver: Pioneer VSX-1022-K
Sub: SVS SB12-NSD
Fronts: Pioneer SP-BS22-LR
Center: Polk CSi30
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post #18 of 73 Old 03-21-2017, 03:12 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by butie120 View Post
If you're a music and HT guy, it might be worth changing out your whole lineup, but I don't know how "good enough" you need. I just got trialing out several speakers (Polk, couple of Bic models, and the Pioneers), and for music the Polks were more lively and entertaining to listen to, although the BS22 was comparable on some music as well. With HT I came away somewhat surprised of how little the fronts are actually asked to do. My mother in law just bought us "Moana" on blu ray for the kids, so I had the chance to try this out with the speakers. What was interesting is how much the center channel practically drives the majority of the movie, let alone all the singing sequences. Voices barely squabble out of the fronts during the singing scenes...it's all out of the center channel.


So, I'm personally going to keep my BS22s for now, purchase the Phil AA center channel and keep the coin in my pocket. That right now is my "good enough."
I don't play a lot of just music on the system, though I'm not sure why not. Vast majority of usage is TV/movies. I'm tired of my wife looking at me asking "what did they say" and me shrugging my shoulders, skipping back, turning up the volume, and trying to catch it on the second pass.

Receiver: Pioneer VSX-1022-K
Sub: SVS SB12-NSD
Fronts: Pioneer SP-BS22-LR
Center: Polk CSi30
Surrounds: Polk R15
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post #19 of 73 Old 03-21-2017, 03:18 PM
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I installed the Philharmonic AAM + Center Channel a few months ago and could not be happier. They do lack a bit in the looks department but boy do they make it up on sound.

You may find my complete setup in my signature.

Philharmonic Affordable Accuracy Monitors as Main speakers
Philharmonic Affordable Accuracy Center Channel
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post #20 of 73 Old 03-21-2017, 03:44 PM
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I installed the Philharmonic AAM + Center Channel a few months ago and could not be happier. They do lack a bit in the looks department but boy do they make it up on sound.

You may find my complete setup in my signature.

Finally someone who can give their thoughts on this speaker! You are rare it seems! What center were you coming from before, and how does it fair in comparison? Do you feel like you can pump it up loud without much distortion? How articulate are voices? I have the stock C22 so wouldn't mind the looks at this point. Any thoughts you can give would be great. Thanks!
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post #21 of 73 Old 03-21-2017, 04:26 PM
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Finally someone who can give their thoughts on this speaker! You are rare it seems! What center were you coming from before, and how does it fair in comparison? Do you feel like you can pump it up loud without much distortion? How articulate are voices? I have the stock C22 so wouldn't mind the looks at this point. Any thoughts you can give would be great. Thanks!
I had a couple of Bose 301's as mains and a Sony center channel. They did sound ok, but there was something lacking about them and after lots of research I contacted Dennys Murphy. He is an honest and approachable person so I decided to try the Philharmonic's. The AAM’s are plain in appearance, but they have an awesome clarity in how they play music, deep and tight lows, fantastic midrange and amazing highs. Imaging is really good, providing a large sound stage.

I do not play music very loud but I do movies and they do not distort at any level I have tried. Voices are clear and easy to understand, even at low volumes.

these are very honest and humble speakers, that provide impressive and satisfying sound, and Dennis’ straightforward attitude is a big plus... anyway, if you do not like them you can return them.

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post #22 of 73 Old 03-21-2017, 07:38 PM
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Since you mention clarity from the center being your priority... might i suggest just investing in a really good center and maybe upgrading your front L&R speakers at a later date? That's what I would do.

I think you and your wife would be happier with the results in the long run.
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post #23 of 73 Old 03-21-2017, 11:21 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by GunmetalR56 View Post
Since you mention clarity from the center being your priority... might i suggest just investing in a really good center and maybe upgrading your front L&R speakers at a later date? That's what I would do.

I think you and your wife would be happier with the results in the long run.
I'd thought to replace all three so as to avoid any timbre issues negatively affecting the clarity. Also, the fewer times that I bring attention to my spending on the audio system, the better.

What would represent a significant center channel upgrade that would play nicely with the other pieces of the system?

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post #24 of 73 Old 03-22-2017, 01:52 AM
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While I haven't tried the stock pioneer bs22, I started with mica mb42x which are in the same range. Pioneers are probably a little better. I upgraded to philharmonic affordable accuracy monitors and was blown away. They can be a great 2.0 setup with bass extension down to the 40hz range. You have a good sub already so that might not be as important, but it at least it allows you to cross as low as 50hz if you're having problems with localization of your sub. The imaging and sound stage is distinct and clear. Mid range is very detailed and highs are crisp but without sibilance. I started with 2.0, added a sub, and then added my surrounds before my center because the phantom center of the AAMs were that good. Most of my content is about 60/40 movies & tv/ music. I've just put in my order for the AAM center to complete my front stage. So while I can't say much on the phil aam center, if they're on par with the monitors, it should not disappoint.
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post #25 of 73 Old 03-22-2017, 03:37 AM
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While I haven't tried the stock pioneer bs22, I started with mica mb42x which are in the same range. Pioneers are probably a little better. I upgraded to philharmonic affordable accuracy monitors and was blown away. They can be a great 2.0 setup with bass extension down to the 40hz range. You have a good sub already so that might not be as important, but it at least it allows you to cross as low as 50hz if you're having problems with localization of your sub. The imaging and sound stage is distinct and clear. Mid range is very detailed and highs are crisp but without sibilance. I started with 2.0, added a sub, and then added my surrounds before my center because the phantom center of the AAMs were that good. Most of my content is about 60/40 movies & tv/ music. I've just put in my order for the AAM center to complete my front stage. So while I can't say much on the phil aam center, if they're on par with the monitors, it should not disappoint.
Post some impressions after you get the phil aam center! Would love to hear some more feedback
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post #26 of 73 Old 03-22-2017, 05:29 AM
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Originally Posted by capo4u View Post
When you say, "but just", do you meant that they are barely noticeably better, or something else?
I meant "barely noticeable" but that's not fair to the NHT. Movie dialog was clearly noticeably better. I had chosen a scene from a movie ("London Has Fallen", maybe not the best choice but it was laying around) that had a good bit of dialog, background dialog, and bombastic action. I watched that scene A LOT of times with both the C22 and NHT Supercenter. The big difference was the dialog happening sort of in the background. We were meant to hear it but it wasn't very loud. With the NHT that dialog was clear and kind of "sitting on top" of everything else going on. With the C22, it was somewhat buried and almost unnoticeable. Outside of the dialog, I couldn't tell a difference between the two speakers.

As this was a small media/family room, I decided that "good enough" was what I was shooting for. If the Pioneers were at the limit of my budget, they certainly would have been good enough. (my two sons thought they were) As it was, I had budgeted (and been approved for ) a lot more so the next stop was the NHTs and I don't feel the need to try anything else. I like how they sound.

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post #27 of 73 Old 03-22-2017, 08:21 AM
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Just a little side note: The horizontal MTM Center speakers is an inherently flawed design born out of necessity. But there are ways to overcome that flaw. If any of those Center Speakers are 3-way, bass/mid/high, that gives them an advantage.

As I'm sure others have pointed out, to the extent possible you want the Front and Center to tonally matched so you get consistent sound across the front. The easiest way of doing that is to have the same Brand and Series across the Front.

Now if there is a tonal inconsistency, it depends on the degree and your personal tolerance for that mismatch. Many people use completely mismatched speakers and are perfectly content with the result. But that is very hard to predict.

I think all of the speakers in your list are very high quality, and should be very clear, so in general, there is no wrong choice, only the choice that will best serve your circumstance.

Lastly, if you are upgrading the Center, consider getting a brand that has Front Speakers that you would want it he future. That is, don't buy an Ascend Center unless you think you might want Ascend Front speakers at some time in the future. What I'm really saying is - don't satisfy the moment at the sacrifice of the future. Plan ahead.

Just a few random thoughts.

Steve/bluewizard
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post #28 of 73 Old 03-22-2017, 09:45 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bluewizard View Post
Just a little side note: The horizontal MTM Center speakers is an inherently flawed design born out of necessity. But there are ways to overcome that flaw. If any of those Center Speakers are 3-way, bass/mid/high, that gives them an advantage.
In theory that is absolutely true.

But I've had 5.1 since the mid 80's, my first center, a powered NAD, had one woofer and tweeter as "centers" didn't exist at the time and it sounded fine laid on its side.

My second center was a smallish B&W center with two woofers and a tweeter centered between them; theoretically the worse design and it worked just fine at all seating positions.

My current center is a 70lb monster from Usher with two 7" drivers flanking a tweeter in the preferred raised tweeter alignment.

It too sounds excellent at all seating positions.

So yes, the theory definitely states what you say but my personal experience over decades says that the "lobing" effect has not been noticeable in the least.

Geoff A. J., California
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post #29 of 73 Old 03-22-2017, 11:15 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the input, everyone. I still wonder if there's any clarity advantage in using a sealed center over ported?

Sent from my SM-G930V using Tapatalk

Receiver: Pioneer VSX-1022-K
Sub: SVS SB12-NSD
Fronts: Pioneer SP-BS22-LR
Center: Polk CSi30
Surrounds: Polk R15
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post #30 of 73 Old 03-22-2017, 11:28 AM
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many people in the past that have complained about muddy center channels simply did not understand how finicky they can be with aiming
some more then others

if you have not already done so, aim the center accurately at the listeners ears

I had mine pointing straight out from the tv stand, about seat level.
it was muddy
wedged up the front so it's aimed at my head and it made a big difference.


sometimes people do need a better speaker, but check the positioning first

Audyssey is a great start, but not always a great finish.
Receiver:Marantz SR-5010, Speakers:Def Tech ST-8060 towers, CS-8040 center, SR-8040 surrounds, Pro Monitor 1000 heights
Subwoofer: SVS PB-2000
TV: 65" LG UG8700 remote: Harmony 1000
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