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Hello all,


Since starting here I've delved back into a land of seemingly never-ending upgrades for the sound system. This time was the center speaker.


My previous experience was with a Polk CS1. The polk was a decent center, but (for me) had a little resonance to it, and a bit too shrill for me (same with Monitor 50s for my taste). They match with the M50s well, though (since it was all Polk).


I had switched out the M50s for a set of MTX Monitor 12s, as I found them to be much more balanced, especially with mids, and lively, but not shrill highs (some would probably disagree with me). The CS1 did not blend quite so well with them, and was drowned out (94 dB efficiency on the MTX and 89 on the Polk).


I'd looked at getting a BIC FH6 or PL-28 (even the PL-26 looked good). I'd wanted horn loaded since I enjoy that type of sound usually. I'd eventually read some articles on center channel speaker design, and the inherent flaws on a lay-down design. Mostly it made sense to me, and went along with small dead spots I'd noticed in the CS1's coverage. The VK6 was the cheapest 3 way, raised tweeter design I could find, so I ordered it the other day, and it arrived today.


Major differences between the Polk and BIC:


1. Polk obviously is ported, the BIC is sealed. Usually I prefer ported designs, but the BIC clearly sounds superb as is. Very tight, fast response.


2. Wood finish vs. polished lacquer. I prefer my speakers to stand out a little, looking more like furniture or something ornate. The BIC looks like it really belongs in a small theater setup. Flawless finish (believe me, I checked). Easily finger-printed, but a very nice gloss piano black.


3. Speaker type/size. Polk has 5.25" and silk dome tweeter along the speaker horizontal center line. The BIC has 6.5", 2.5" and 1" titanium dome, with 2.5" and tweeter off the horizontal center line. The BIC's tweeter is slightly recessed in a quasi horn with beam blocker shield. To me, this is the next best thing to a horn, as it really cuts down on shrillness.


4. Tapping on the cabinet of each: Polk is more damped, yet sounds a bit more hollow. The BIC resonates with a woody sound, but it disperses much more quickly. The latter is likely braced less internally since it's a sealed cabinet design, with angled ends (very different from what I usually see). Lightly tapping on the speaker cones (I know...not the best to do at all) reveals the Polk feels much looser (even as new) and the BIC feels incredibly stiff, almost like an accordion surround PA/instrument speaker. VERY stiff, not really giving off much bass when tapping on it. Cone stiffness is miles ahead of the Polk, which feels like most poly cones I've dealt with.


5. Setup: The spring-loaded pinch posts are so much easier to work with vs the traditional binding post. They easily take 12 gauge tinned wire, and hold it very securely, while being easier/faster to connect/disconnect. This is a complete win for the BIC (never really cared for the plastic topped binding posts most speakers have).


Basic specs point the BIC as being 1dB more efficient, having a slightly better bass coverage, weighing more, and generally being larger. Knowing that I fired up my first blu-ray that seemed like a good chance to test voices: Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows.


Probably not everyone's first choice, but why not (I hadn't seen it)?


The first 10-15 minutes the voices sounded a bit sterile and crisp. Not much bass or body to the sound. After those first few minutes things warmed right up. Halfway through the movie the speakers seemed to have broken in a little more. It's something to hear a voice in person, or in a theater, but to hear a strikingly similar rendition in one's home is something else for me. Hearing Robert Downey's aspirated lines really was surprising. The balance of this speaker vs the CS1 is obvious. The 3 way crossover makes a big difference for me.


Bass response improved over the whole movie, and the ending music came through loud and clear. The speaker wasn't hidden away compared to the fronts, even though it's rated 4 dB less on efficiency. Overall sound coverage (just off the floor, angled up, ~10 feet away from the listener's ear) was better than the CS1, and I didn't notice any small dead spots or acoustic anomalies. Really just good, neutral coverage. It didn't sound so much like a speaker, but more like having people actually speaking in front. Overall, I have to say this is a very solid upgrade, and I have no regrets. I will update this periodically (as memory permits) as the speaker breaks in. This was its maiden voyage, and I am already very impressed. Twice the price, and twice the speaker for my ear.


System specs/settings.


Receiver: Denon AVR-891

Fronts: MTX Monitor 12

Center: BIC VK6-LCR

Rear: Klipsch Synergy B2 (on stands)

Sub: Dayton Sub1200

Wire: Monoprice 12 AWG, soldered ends in binding posts


Surround mode: PLII Cinema (usually use Neo 6, but trying something different)


I didn't re-run Audyssey since changing the speaker, but I plan to.


Crossover was 80 hz all the way around, later changed to 40 fronts, 60 center and rear. Sub kicks in at 80 hz. Fronts are -4 dB from the head unit, center is -1, rears are -12 (due to location, which is in turn due to lack of space), and sub is +5. I have medium depth/density white semi-shag carpet. I forget the room size, but again, listening distance is ~ 10 feet from the fronts/center. Sub is offset more, and is about 12 feet away, hence the increased gain over other channels (sub preamp gain is 4.5-5, depending). I have plenty of bass..almost overpowering, but I let it handle just the low frequencies, so it blends extremely well.


Definitely will not be using the CS1 any time soon, and already have some people looking to buy. It's a major upgrade over a HTIB (or as I once mis-heard, a "humpty in a box").


Any questions, I'll try to answer. Hope this gives a little more clarification on this speaker. Typical price is around $165 (Amazon is currently cheapest), so it's not the cheapest speaker ever, but is the cheapest 3 way I could find, and it is clearly no joke for the price. Great looks, great sound, and it can only get better from here. Color me impressed.


~Cow
 

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Great initial review! I am looking to upgrade my center speaker and the VK6-LCR is on my short list. I'm curious to know what this speaker sounded like after an Audyssey calibration, as well as additional hours of listening. I'm hoping to find something good for dialogue intelligibility for my projector setup. Also, I view movies in a large "great room" so the speaker would ideally be able to handle fairly high volume levels. Thanks for any input you might have!
 

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Thanks for replying. I don't think many have considered this speaker, perhaps due to price, or perceived performance.


I forgot to update, as shortly after I became embroiled in moving to another state, but I did manage to spend probably about 40-50 hours more using the speaker, and did test it out with my head unit (Denon AVR-891) which is supposedly 135 watts rms per channel. I never heard the speaker break up, or start to distort. It became ever-so-slightly more crisp sounding, but not like it was being over-driven, just working hard. I enjoyed hearing French Horns and other brass instruments through it, as they sounded quite real (I've spent a bit of time around ensembles and the like, mostly collegiate level).


Voices ended up warming up slightly, but retaining a very precise sound, and I found the speaker to even smooth out Christian Bale's dire need for a throat lozenge and make it less...harsh. It sounded more like he was growling (very aspirated, which the CS1 did NOT recreate well to my memory) in real life. It's not just specs of this speaker that I enjoyed, but really the way it performed. It just had a well-balanced sound.


Since moving I've not been able to hook it back up as I've no TV, and the sound system is still partially boxed (just enough for 2.0 with MTX running full range, as it's enough for listening). Mostly I've been using a modified Klipsch promedia setup (2xcenter speakers, 2xsurround speakers, but same specs for both, with dual 8" sub). The amp blew on it, so I replaced with a Dayton audio amp, and have an old JVC integrated receiver from the 80s. The DA amp powers the sub (quite well for its 100W rating), and the JVC (22W per channel RMS) works well powering the smaller Klipsch speakers in a 2.1 setup. I do miss the larger 5.1 setup that's languishing.


The speaker response, according to Audyssey, was kept mostly flat, with a very slight bump in bass (60hz to about 120hz), but the EQ was nearly nonexistent. I re-EQ'd 3 times, and it came up that way each time, while the other speakers would be re-calibrated depending on where I was standing in the room. The mic was located in my sitting position, which was about 9.5 feet from the BIC, according to Audyssey (and my tape measure). I re-ran calibration just after the first DVD, and then later on, after about 20 hours of use. It didn't change very much.


I will also note that after spending enough hours on this, the sound pattern from the speaker is more uniform than a Polk CS1 in that the tweeters, and upper mid driver are audible with the woofers. Contrastingly the Polk had a muffled sound at either end of its pattern area, and a really bright, brittle sounding center spot, so just being off center helped, but it was still (to me) a narrow field. My example is a 6 foot couch. The center cushion seat had the brightest coverage, and the left and right were somewhat muddy, so sitting between the two positions yielded the best sound. The BIC didn't suffer from this, and I wonder if it's because of the driver arrangement, or possibly size of the woofers. The woofers didn't loosen up much, either, and still have a PA speaker stiffness, but it doesn't seem to hinder them.


How large a room are you using? the VK6 is specified to handle 150 watts RMS, and I would say it's an accurate rating, and it can get rather loud (beyond what I can shout over) at my head unit's max volume. I don't know how well it would work as a complete surround speaker, and not just center, but considering how well it handles voice and brass (it even gets that slight brass ring from a trombone hitting low Bb, or blatting trumpet) I'd say it could do a whole lot more than what I put it through. I did try some Yngwie (concerto suite album) through it, and I can say (having years of experience playing a Strat through similar amp heads, and the same cabinets) that the speaker can emulate that style of guitar 100%. It really, really came through strong, and when cranked, sounded like standing in front of the amp. For me that was really my best benchmark, because I know the sound from experience. It was something else the Polk utterly failed at (very tinny, and reproduced sounding to me, but still good in its own way).


Bottom line - how "real" do you want it to sound. It's not like a movie theater sounding speaker to me. It's like someone is just sitting in front, speaking (or playing) at that moment. It might be more expensive than other BIC models, or other brands, but I found it to be well worth the money.


I'm still keeping mine, and the new place has hardwood floors, so I hope to get a TV and set things up again.


~Cow
 
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