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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello AVSForum --

I am looking for advice on selection of a replacement center-channel speaker.
I have posted this question earlier - and got a couple of very good responses. But I somehow wanted to check back in again -- as I wanted to consider more diverse opinions before jumping in.

Here is my current 5.1 set-up:

Energy RC-10 Bookshelves -- Left / Right
Energy RC-mini-C Center Channel
Energy Take Classic Surrounds
Martin Logan Dynamo 300 Subwoofer

Yamaha RX-V575 receiver

There is nothing fundamentally wrong with my above setup -- and I have been more than happy with it.
I mainly use it for music and movies/TV in roughly equal proportions.
But the center channel is providing difficult for me hear dialogues out of -- unless I pump up the sound to high levels.

I recently sold my Energy RC-Mini-C -- and I am shopping for its replacement.

I have had Energy RC-LCR referred to me by members of the forum.
And, it _is_ available at Frys for $219 today! I can get it.

BUT, I wanted to consider more opinions from members on whether this is the best I can get.
I have had some colleagues and friends refer me:

Def Tech CS-8040
KEF q200c
SVS Prime Center

I am looking at around $400 budget.
(I know that some of the above speakers cost more than $400..)

After reading various threads on this forum, I understand that there might be timbre matching issues if the fronts and the center-channel are not from the same manufacturer.
(please refer to: http://www.avsforum.com/forum/89-speakers/1421966-timbre-matching.html)

I tried searching this forum for this thread/question -- but couldn't find any threads that talks about my question directly.
Really appreciate this forum's inputs.

--
 

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All speakers are inaccurate to some degree (limitations of quality, technology and the room and placement). Some are "voiced" to be inaccurate in a certain way that appeals to some people. Either way, the signal going in is not exactly what comes out. Think of it like the speaker's "handwriting."

While avoiding distortion of the signal is important in a/v, what's also jarring and objectionable is an incongruance of the speakers' sound across the front sound stage. We expect sound from the sides, above, and behind to be different from the front. But we expect the front soundstage to match. If there's a car driving from right to left, it shouldn't sound different while the sound is coming from the center speaker.

Also, think of it like this: It ain't just "stereo" anymore. So, you wouldn't mis-match your Left speaker from Right, so you shouldn't mis-match your center.

So, to keep the "handwriting" as similar as possible across the front three speakers, we either use the same speaker, or a stereo pair with a 'matching' center from the same speaker model line family.

Unless you can upgrade the center within the model line, I'd suggest upgrading all three front speakers.

As an alternative, and as first things to try:
  • Swap center with left or right speaker. How does it sound?
  • Is the center on a table, in a shelf?
  • Can you change the elevation of the center?
  • How about the center pulled out in front of the display?
  • Do you have auto-eq in your receiver? Try it with, without.
  • Have you tried boosting the center level 3dB?
  • How about other up-mixing modes like Dolby PL IIx, Music Mode, Movie Mode, less or more content to Center?
  • How about turning off center speaker in receiver, so you have a "phantom center"?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
All speakers are inaccurate to some degree (limitations of quality, technology and the room and placement). Some are "voiced" to be inaccurate in a certain way that appeals to some people. Either way, the signal going in is not exactly what comes out. Think of it like the speaker's "handwriting."

While avoiding distortion of the signal is important in a/v, what's also jarring and objectionable is an incongruance of the speakers' sound across the front sound stage. We expect sound from the sides, above, and behind to be different from the front. But we expect the front soundstage to match. If there's a car driving from right to left, it shouldn't sound different while the sound is coming from the center speaker.
Eyleron -- Thanks for the detail.

I understood the transformation aspect of the speaker (i.e., its transfer function being a non-linear (and non-preserving) of the original sound input)
Yes -- the incongruity of the speakers across the sound stage will make it sound a bit jarring.. if the speakers are not matched.


Also, think of it like this: It ain't just "stereo" anymore. So, you wouldn't mis-match your Left speaker from Right, so you shouldn't mis-match your center.

So, to keep the "handwriting" as similar as possible across the front three speakers, we either use the same speaker, or a stereo pair with a 'matching' center from the same speaker model line family.
Unless you can upgrade the center within the model line, I'd suggest upgrading all three front speakers.
I agree that each speaker carries a distinct audio signature..and it is intuitive that Left and Right should match as much as possible.
Before I posed this question, I couldn't understand whether (or why) the center channel needs to match the signature.
But with your reply, I do agree -- that sound transitions from left-to-right or vice-versa will "sound good" if the acoustic signature is matched as much as possible.


As an alternative, and as first things to try:
  • Swap center with left or right speaker. How does it sound?
  • Is the center on a table, in a shelf?
  • Can you change the elevation of the center?
  • How about the center pulled out in front of the display?
  • Do you have auto-eq in your receiver? Try it with, without.
  • Have you tried boosting the center level 3dB?
  • How about other up-mixing modes like Dolby PL IIx, Music Mode, Movie Mode, less or more content to Center?
  • How about turning off center speaker in receiver, so you have a "phantom center"?
Thanks for this comprehensive list.
- I did try swapping the RC-Mini-C with the L/R RC-10 speaker -- and it did sound good. The audible level of mids and highs certainly improved with the RC-10 as the center.

- All the fronts (L/C/R) are on a media cabinet. I have small sticky pads on the speaker bottoms -- to isolate them from the cabinet by about 2mm..i.e., they do not touch the cabinet.

- Unfortunately (as of now), it is not possible to elevate the center speaker (or the L/R speakers)
Would elevating the center make a difference?

- I have calibrated my setup (when I had the RC-Mini-C) with YPAO -- and it put my center -2.5dB compared to the L/R

I never tried boosting the center (to +3dB) -- as I trusted the YPAO to do a good job.
But may be I was wrong.

I was under the assumption that changing the YPAO settings was equivalent to messing with the acoustic balance that is needed for good listening in my room.

- I do change my mixing modes -- switching between Dolby PL IIx / Music / Movie modes depending on the input source - but I felt that it wasn't making too much of a difference for hearing dialogues.
Perhaps, I should have experimented more.

  • How about turning off center speaker in receiver, so you have a "phantom center"?
Actually, I should have done this -- and I can still do it...
I will give this a try -- and observe how the sound quality changes.

Thanks again for your inputs, Eyleron
 

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I never tried boosting the center (to +3dB) -- as I trusted the YPAO to do a good job.
...
I was under the assumption that changing the YPAO settings was equivalent to messing with the acoustic balance that is needed for good listening in my room.
It may be doing a good job of level matching, but in Floyd Toole's book, he talks about how in his research people preferred the center level raise a few dB versus not understanding dialogue.

If you're a geek about this as I am and many people here are, you could run REW with a mic and laptop and see what the center is doing in the room.

Some other things to do:

If a dedicated room, you can acoustically treat the ceiling, if it's getting splashed with sound at certain frequencies and reflecting back down to listeners. Ceiling and floor reflections are generally not helpful.
No matter what the room, you can work on absorbing the floor reflection between speakers and listeners, esp. the center. The thicker the rug and pad, the better. Toole mentions jute as the pad material. As an experiment, thicky blankets on the floor.

If the speakers' off-axis response is ill-behaved, you could absorb their reflections at the side wall first reflection points.
 

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The Energy RC-LCR is the right choice, and I would order it as soon as possible as those sales/inventory doesn't last long at Frys. The Mini center you have now is not really on par with the RC-10s, and it makes sense that it would struggle some. The LCR is much more capable and will be able to keep up with the RC-10s.
 
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
It may be doing a good job of level matching, but in Floyd Toole's book, he talks about how in his research people preferred the center level raise a few dB versus not understanding dialogue.

If you're a geek about this as I am and many people here are, you could run REW with a mic and laptop and see what the center is doing in the room.
I (think I) am a geek. I just checked out REW software; and I _will_ use it to get more understanding of the room acoustics. I will first have to RTFM....to get an idea of how I could use it :)

Thanks so much again for the pointer. I have enthusiasm - but have been missing these pointers all along. May be audiophilia grows over time.


Some other things to do:

If a dedicated room, you can acoustically treat the ceiling, if it's getting splashed with sound at certain frequencies and reflecting back down to listeners. Ceiling and floor reflections are generally not helpful.
No matter what the room, you can work on absorbing the floor reflection between speakers and listeners, esp. the center. The thicker the rug and pad, the better. Toole mentions jute as the pad material. As an experiment, thicky blankets on the floor.

If the speakers' off-axis response is ill-behaved, you could absorb their reflections at the side wall first reflection points.

I currently do not have a dedicated room for my HT setup (being in a townhome) -- and it is in a big living area with all hardwood. I get the point that the reflections are affecting the audio transmittance to the listener position. I think it is time to shop for a good rug :) -- in addition to the above experiments / calibration.

Thanks, Eyleron
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
The Energy RC-LCR is the right choice, and I would order it as soon as possible as those sales/inventory doesn't last long at Frys. The Mini center you have now is not really on par with the RC-10s, and it makes sense that it would struggle some. The LCR is much more capable and will be able to keep up with the RC-10s.
Thanks, Transmaniacon.
As I would not be revamping my L/R speakers anytime soon -- I will get the RC-LCR to match them -- and run calibrations/checks to see how the frequency responses look.

Thanks for confirming my suspicion that the RC-mini is (probably) not on par with the RC-10s.

I will get the RC-LCR today!
 
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