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post #1 of 50 Old 01-10-2020, 08:02 AM - Thread Starter
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3.1 Setup - Center Channel dominating?

I have a 3.1 setup that I am slowly upgrading (Polk S55, Polk CS1 Series II, Polk PSW121, Yamaha RXV-377) and having some issues with sound output when running in 3.1 mode. The center channel is handling dialogue as it's supposed to, but it's ALSO handling a lot of the action effects. Ran two test movies yesterday (Heat [big street gunfight] and Lone Survivor [battle scenes], both on blu-ray). When running in 3.1 mode, the center channel is outputting a large majority of the audio in these scenes while my two S55 towers are barely doing anything. Needless to say, it doesn't sound very good when all of the explosions and gunfire are coming from the center while the towers do basically nothing. It almost sounds like the two towers are acting as surrounds, while the center is attempting to be the entire front system. If I disable the center, the towers take over and the system sounds infinitely better.



What would cause this? The speakers are all plugged into the correct inputs on the AVR. I've messed with every setting I can find, ran YPAO, etc. with no success.
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post #2 of 50 Old 01-10-2020, 08:16 AM
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Your center is playing back as it should - the center channel handles nearly all of what you see on the screen. The fronts and surrounds are handling things like soundtrack and sounds intended to be perceived as coming from those respective directions, which is by nature off-screen. If you like things in stereo better then go with that.

You could also check to make sure the levels are balanced properly but to me it sounds like everything is performing as intended in a 3.1.
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post #3 of 50 Old 01-10-2020, 08:48 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by KSpan View Post
Your center is playing back as it should - the center channel handles nearly all of what you see on the screen. The fronts and surrounds are handling things like soundtrack and sounds intended to be perceived as coming from those respective directions, which is by nature off-screen. If you like things in stereo better then go with that.

You could also check to make sure the levels are balanced properly but to me it sounds like everything is performing as intended in a 3.1.
Interesting. I'm fairly new to audio but I always thought the center channel handled mainly the dialogue while the bigger fronts were there to handle environmental/louder stuff. Wonder if this is an issue with my center not being a good match. I just put the Polk S55s in and was running smaller 5.25" bookshelves before. Was going to setup and run the bookshelves as surrounds and 5.1 this weekend but maybe I need to get the center channel figured out first.



Thanks for the clarity.

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post #4 of 50 Old 01-10-2020, 09:41 AM
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Originally Posted by WaterVsAnchor View Post
Interesting. I'm fairly new to audio but I always thought the center channel handled mainly the dialogue while the bigger fronts were there to handle environmental/louder stuff. Wonder if this is an issue with my center not being a good match. I just put the Polk S55s in and was running smaller 5.25" bookshelves before. Was going to setup and run the bookshelves as surrounds and 5.1 this weekend but maybe I need to get the center channel figured out first.



Thanks for the clarity.

I always run center hotter than LR, actually that’s only way I like because dialogues are much clear that way



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post #5 of 50 Old 01-10-2020, 09:47 AM
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I would unhook the center and run the towers and see what you prefer. The Phantom center can sound damn good, assuming you sit pretty close to dead center, you L/R aren't 30 feet apart and aren't running a theater for 8 people...
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Originally Posted by Elihawk View Post
I would unhook the center and run the towers and see what you prefer. The Phantom center can sound damn good, assuming you sit pretty close to dead center, you L/R aren't 30 feet apart and aren't running a theater for 8 people...


That’s a good option if the LR are not far apart, if you like more action from LR

Honestly it depends on scenes too, I use the opening scene from Overlord, San Andreas , train wreck scene from The super 8 to test speakers


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post #7 of 50 Old 01-10-2020, 10:04 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Elihawk View Post
I would unhook the center and run the towers and see what you prefer. The Phantom center can sound damn good, assuming you sit pretty close to dead center, you L/R aren't 30 feet apart and aren't running a theater for 8 people...

Yeah that'll be my first step. I do have my center on an entertainment shelf below the TV that is open. The shelf has 9.5" of height space, roughly 36" wide and 20" deep. I did notice that it sounded "boomier" than it does with just the towers running which I imagine might mean the shelf itself is causing some of the issues. Either way it seemed like the center channel wasn't up to snuff to match the audio quality of the towers for the louder effects sounds it was trying to push out. I don't have room to move the center speaker up onto the top of the stand but the slimmer Polk S35 speaker would fit up there under the TV so that might be a future upgrade option if needed.
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post #8 of 50 Old 01-10-2020, 10:04 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WaterVsAnchor View Post
I have a 3.1 setup that I am slowly upgrading (Polk S55, Polk CS1 Series II, Polk PSW121, Yamaha RXV-377) and having some issues with sound output when running in 3.1 mode. The center channel is handling dialogue as it's supposed to, but it's ALSO handling a lot of the action effects. Ran two test movies yesterday (Heat [big street gunfight] and Lone Survivor [battle scenes], both on blu-ray). When running in 3.1 mode, the center channel is outputting a large majority of the audio in these scenes while my two S55 towers are barely doing anything. Needless to say, it doesn't sound very good when all of the explosions and gunfire are coming from the center while the towers do basically nothing. It almost sounds like the two towers are acting as surrounds, while the center is attempting to be the entire front system. If I disable the center, the towers take over and the system sounds infinitely better.



What would cause this? The speakers are all plugged into the correct inputs on the AVR. I've messed with every setting I can find, ran YPAO, etc. with no success.
Did you set the center to "small" and the mains to "large" since you use "tower" speakers? If your AVR handles bass management correctly in such set up [3.1] than the mains should be much more active with lower FR's. While the center is the most dominant of channels in a typical mix, the fronts carry most of the music, and many effects as well as "duplicate". It seems to me that your Yamaha is doing a poor downmixing, or some sort of a summing, provided all of your settings are correct.

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post #9 of 50 Old 01-10-2020, 10:06 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by joy192k View Post
That’s a good option if the LR are not far apart, if you like more action from LR

Honestly it depends on scenes too, I use the opening scene from Overlord, San Andreas , train wreck scene from The super 8 to test speakers


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I don't own Overlord or San Andreas but I DO own Super 8 on blu-ray. I'll have to add that to my demo runs.
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post #10 of 50 Old 01-10-2020, 10:15 AM - Thread Starter
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Did you set the center to "small" and the mains to "large" since you use "tower" speakers? If your AVR handles bass management correctly in such set up [3.1] than the mains should be much more active with lower FR's. While the center is the most dominant of channels in a typical mix, the fronts carry most of the music, and many effects as well as "duplicate". It seems to me that your Yamaha is doing a poor downmixing, or some sort of a summing, provided all of your settings are correct.

I have both the mains and the center set to small which I thought was said to be the correct setup when a subwoofer is present.



I figured the fronts would carry more sound than they are when running 3.1. As an example, when the volume is set pretty loud, I have to move right up next to one of the mains to hear any sound coming from them during the street gunfight in 'Heat'. Everything except off screen surround effects come from the center.


Another example - In 'Lone Survivor', the scene where the helicopters come in and the Explosions in the Sky song riff comes on.. the music is pushed down to barely noticeable levels whereas in the theater I recall that music being very front and center to emphasize those scenes. Also much like in 'Heat', all direct combat sounds are being played through the center and the mains are hardly doing anything. While I'm new to setting up my own audio, I definitely appreciate good audio and I recall this entire movie being very loud, in your face and believable in the theater. Just trying to recreate that as best as I can/can afford.


The entire soundstage just lacks any real "punch", everything sounds thin except for the booms coming from the center.

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post #11 of 50 Old 01-10-2020, 11:18 AM
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I know this is a very basic question, but sometimes we need to ask them:

Did you run YPAO on your AVR? If so, what are the resulting speaker trims and distances?
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post #12 of 50 Old 01-10-2020, 11:23 AM
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Originally Posted by WaterVsAnchor View Post
I don't own Overlord or San Andreas but I DO own Super 8 on blu-ray. I'll have to add that to my demo runs.


Try that, also see if you can download atmos demos, you can download the iso files as well, because these demos are very immersive and involve all speakers so you have fair idea about the dynamics and timbre matching ( I run speakers with diff brands)


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post #13 of 50 Old 01-10-2020, 11:27 AM
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Originally Posted by WaterVsAnchor View Post
I have both the mains and the center set to small which I thought was said to be the correct setup when a subwoofer is present.



I figured the fronts would carry more sound than they are when running 3.1. As an example, when the volume is set pretty loud, I have to move right up next to one of the mains to hear any sound coming from them during the street gunfight in 'Heat'. Everything except off screen surround effects come from the center.


Another example - In 'Lone Survivor', the scene where the helicopters come in and the Explosions in the Sky song riff comes on.. the music is pushed down to barely noticeable levels whereas in the theater I recall that music being very front and center to emphasize those scenes. Also much like in 'Heat', all direct combat sounds are being played through the center and the mains are hardly doing anything. While I'm new to setting up my own audio, I definitely appreciate good audio and I recall this entire movie being very loud, in your face and believable in the theater. Just trying to recreate that as best as I can/can afford.


The entire soundstage just lacks any real "punch", everything sounds thin except for the booms coming from the center.


How do your speakers sound in stereo mode? Try phantom center as someone was suggesting, it will tell u if your LR are lacking anything ? I had Polk S60 I had to dial it down and it was pretty loud and bit bright too, I had to run them almost -2dB from center


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post #14 of 50 Old 01-10-2020, 11:35 AM - Thread Starter
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I know this is a very basic question, but sometimes we need to ask them:

Did you run YPAO on your AVR? If so, what are the resulting speaker trims and distances?

I did run YPAO a few times. Distances for the speakers/sub are all between 11-13 feet. I've run it a few times and the speakers sometimes are set to 'Small', or 'Large', or a mix. From my understanding, with a subwoofer present all speakers should be set to 'Small' and crossover setting should be used to configure the rolloff. I know on my AVR I am not able to set the crossover for each independent speaker, whatever setting is used will apply to all speakers set to 'Small'


I'll run YPAO again tomorrow once I get the wiring run for the surrounds so that I can test using a true 5.1 config
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post #15 of 50 Old 01-10-2020, 11:37 AM - Thread Starter
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How do your speakers sound in stereo mode? Try phantom center as someone was suggesting, it will tell u if your LR are lacking anything ? I had Polk S60 I had to dial it down and it was pretty loud and bit bright too, I had to run them almost -2dB from center


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I did turn off the center completely last night and ran a phantom center and it DID seem to sound better overall when the action audio was coming from the S55s vs the CS1 center. Definitely clearer and more balanced audio. The S55s are definitely capable of going loud. Since I'm going to run the bookshelves as surround I would imagine using a phantom center in essentially what would be a 4.1 system is not ideal.
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post #16 of 50 Old 01-10-2020, 01:11 PM
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Originally Posted by WaterVsAnchor View Post
I did turn off the center completely last night and ran a phantom center and it DID seem to sound better overall when the action audio was coming from the S55s vs the CS1 center. Definitely clearer and more balanced audio. The S55s are definitely capable of going loud. Since I'm going to run the bookshelves as surround I would imagine using a phantom center in essentially what would be a 4.1 system is not ideal.
What is your AVR showing when you're watching movies in 3.1? Is it showing Dolby True HD or DTX master (presuming you're using bluray)?

Do you have any DSP activated when watching?

IME the L/R do provide a LOT of the sound effects that are occurring on screen. Seems to me that something is off in the processing.

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post #17 of 50 Old 01-10-2020, 01:16 PM
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download an SPL app onto your phone, run the AVR test tones and check you are getting the same readings from all 3 speakers.
I use Sound Analyzer App and from the SLM screen set the parameter to LCS and read the SPL form there.
If the L&R are low then you need to up the level in the AVR settings
You could also try a factory reset on the AVR and start again - I have found that helps if you lose track of settings you have changed or if it is a 2nd hand unit.
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post #18 of 50 Old 01-10-2020, 02:01 PM
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Try crossing over the center channel at a higher point. Maybe somewhere between 120-150Hz. That will take most of the sound effects bass out of the equation, which might help. Another option is to stuff the rear port of the center with a wadded sock, or better yet, get it out of the cubby hole and set it on top of the furniture, in the open, very slightly overhanging the front. As you mentioned, I think you are getting a lot of additional muddiness from interacting with the furniture. Also, be sure the center channel speaker is isolated from the furniture with rubber feet.

Just some things to try out ...

It's a VIRTUAL channel unless stated otherwise.

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post #19 of 50 Old 01-10-2020, 02:10 PM
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Since I'm going to run the bookshelves as surround I would imagine using a phantom center in essentially what would be a 4.1 system is not ideal.
Not necessarily. If it's just you and maybe one other person watching and sitting in the sweet spot right between the L/R speakers, better to have no center at all than the notoriously craptastic CS1 (or any of the CS series by Polk) center.

The main advantage of having a physical center is that you can turn up the center level in your receiver if needed. If this is a benefit you want, I'd suggest trying out Polk's S30 center, or better yet, going with a deliberately mismatched center from an entirely different manufacturer like an Emotiva C1, Chane A2.4 or Ascend 340SE.

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post #20 of 50 Old 01-10-2020, 02:24 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by RayGuy View Post
Try crossing over the center channel at a higher point. Maybe somewhere between 120-150Hz. That will take most of the sound effects bass out of the equation, which might help. Another option is to stuff the rear port of the center with a wadded sock, or better yet, get it out of the cubby hole and set it on top of the furniture, in the open at the very slightly overhanging the front. As you mentioned, I think you are getting a lot of additional muddiness from interacting with the furniture. Also, be sure the center channel speaker is isolated from the furniture with rubber feet.

Just some things to try out ...

My AVR will only let me set the crossover for ALL speakers set to small so this would only work if I set the towers to "Large" (As far as the manual says). I'll try the sound dampening trick - I could remove it from the console but it's taller than bottom of my TV screen so that would be less than deal.
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Not necessarily. If it's just you and maybe one other person watching and sitting in the sweet spot right between the L/R speakers, better to have no center at all than the notoriously craptastic CS1 (or any of the CS series by Polk) center.

The main advantage of having a physical center is that you can turn up the center level in your receiver if needed. If this is a benefit you want, I'd suggest trying out Polk's S30 center, or better yet, going with a deliberately mismatched center from an entirely different manufacturer like an Emotiva C1, Chane A2.4 or Ascend 340SE.

Yeah I'm thinking I'm going to remove the CS1 Series II and see about upgrading to a better center channel. I only paid $70 for the CS1 a few years ago so not a huge loss.
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Originally Posted by WaterVsAnchor View Post
My AVR will only let me set the crossover for ALL speakers set to small so this would only work if I set the towers to "Large" (As far as the manual says). I'll try the sound dampening trick - I could remove it from the console but it's taller than bottom of my TV screen so that would be less than deal.
Ouch. Only having one crossover for all the speakers is an issue. If you have a couple of 2x4s sitting in your garage, put them under your TV stand and try the center out in the open. I believe you will find this position to be a significant improvement.

It's a VIRTUAL channel unless stated otherwise.
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post #23 of 50 Old 01-13-2020, 09:51 AM - Thread Starter
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Got the rear surrounds run over the weekend and reran YPAO and the overall soundstage seems to have improved a bit. I will still likely replace that CS1 Series II center once I decide which one to go for... S30 seems the most obvious choice. Didn't have much time to go through multiple demos over the weekend so I'll try some more tonight and see how it all sounds.

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post #24 of 50 Old 01-13-2020, 09:59 AM
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S30 seems the most obvious choice. Didn't have much time to go through multiple demos over the weekend so I'll try some more tonight and see how it all sounds.
Get Best Buy to pricematch Amazon for it, then you'll have 15 days to decide if it's enough of an improvement. The center does the 70-80% of the HT output, so don't accept anything but 100% satisfaction and don't hesitate to buy a center from a different brand if needed.

~ Are you a "geek hobbyist" obsessed with squeezing out that last 5-10% improvement? The economy will thank you...especially the Chinese one. Or are you more of a get-set-and-forget "casual user" who simply wants to increase your enjoyment of movies, TV and gaming? Relax, HT isn't rocket science, nor does it have to cost an arm and a leg---especially if you ignore the aforementioned vocal minority. And remember to smile...it's just a silly hobby, after all. :)
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post #25 of 50 Old 01-13-2020, 10:06 AM - Thread Starter
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Get Best Buy to pricematch Amazon for it, then you'll have 15 days to decide if it's enough of an improvement. The center does the 70-80% of the HT output, so don't accept anything but 100% satisfaction and don't hesitate to buy a center from a different brand if needed.

Looks like Best Buy only carries the S35 now? Odd
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post #26 of 50 Old 01-13-2020, 10:17 AM
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Looks like Best Buy only carries the S35 now? Odd
Makes perfect sense, given that BB caters to clueless newbies who would (if they don't buy Bose or a soundbar) are much more likely to prefer the lower profile look of the S35 over the taller bulkier look of the S30.

Amazon seems to have the best price on the S30, $212. Before Christmas I saw it on sale for as low as $160.

Personally, I'd happily pay the extra $38 to get the Emotiva C1, a proven performer with a 3-way design and sealed cabinet (no rear port = better for in-cabinet positioning).

PS. Just checked and Emotiva is closing out the original C1 for $200! The C1+ is $250, it supposedly has some kind of crossover upgrade but to be honest I can't imagine it making a big difference since the original C1 I used to own was already excellent.

~ Are you a "geek hobbyist" obsessed with squeezing out that last 5-10% improvement? The economy will thank you...especially the Chinese one. Or are you more of a get-set-and-forget "casual user" who simply wants to increase your enjoyment of movies, TV and gaming? Relax, HT isn't rocket science, nor does it have to cost an arm and a leg---especially if you ignore the aforementioned vocal minority. And remember to smile...it's just a silly hobby, after all. :)

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post #27 of 50 Old 01-13-2020, 11:14 AM - Thread Starter
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Makes perfect sense, given that BB caters to clueless newbies who would (if they don't buy Bose or a soundbar) are much more likely to prefer the lower profile look of the S35 over the taller bulkier look of the S30.

Amazon seems to have the best price on the S30, $212. Before Christmas I saw it on sale for as low as $160.

Personally, I'd happily pay the extra $38 to get the Emotiva C1, a proven performer with a 3-way design and sealed cabinet (no rear port = better for in-cabinet positioning).

PS. Just checked and Emotiva is closing out the original C1 for $200! The C1+ is $250, it supposedly has some kind of crossover upgrade but to be honest I can't imagine it making a big difference since the original C1 I used to own was already excellent.

Is my receiver capable of running the Emotiva C1 properly? I noticed it's a 4ohm speaker vs my Polk S55s which are 8ohm
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post #28 of 50 Old 01-13-2020, 11:23 AM
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Is my receiver capable of running the Emotiva C1 properly? I noticed it's a 4ohm speaker vs my Polk S55s which are 8ohm
I was powering mine with a ten year old, $229 Panasonic rated only for 6-8 ohms---it never even got warm. (Granted, I am not a volume freak trying to shake the walls or anything.)

I've always wondered whether Emotiva likes to list their speakers as 4 ohms in order to nudge more people into buying their external amplifiers.

~ Are you a "geek hobbyist" obsessed with squeezing out that last 5-10% improvement? The economy will thank you...especially the Chinese one. Or are you more of a get-set-and-forget "casual user" who simply wants to increase your enjoyment of movies, TV and gaming? Relax, HT isn't rocket science, nor does it have to cost an arm and a leg---especially if you ignore the aforementioned vocal minority. And remember to smile...it's just a silly hobby, after all. :)
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post #29 of 50 Old 01-13-2020, 12:21 PM - Thread Starter
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I was powering mine with a ten year old, $229 Panasonic rated only for 6-8 ohms---it never even got warm. (Granted, I am not a volume freak trying to shake the walls or anything.)

I've always wondered whether Emotiva likes to list their speakers as 4 ohms in order to nudge more people into buying their external amplifiers.

That's good to know. I'd assume there's probably nowhere I could go to demo the Emotiva to compare it to the Polk S30?
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post #30 of 50 Old 01-13-2020, 12:33 PM
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That's good to know. I'd assume there's probably nowhere I could go to demo the Emotiva to compare it to the Polk S30?
No, Emotiva is internet direct only. Amazon used to carry their speakers and subs but for some reason doesn't anymore.

Return shipping on a single center speaker would probably run around $30 depending on how far you are from TN.

I've never heard of anyone returning the C1 or C2, though...one of the safest bets around.

~ Are you a "geek hobbyist" obsessed with squeezing out that last 5-10% improvement? The economy will thank you...especially the Chinese one. Or are you more of a get-set-and-forget "casual user" who simply wants to increase your enjoyment of movies, TV and gaming? Relax, HT isn't rocket science, nor does it have to cost an arm and a leg---especially if you ignore the aforementioned vocal minority. And remember to smile...it's just a silly hobby, after all. :)
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