How important is brand match in a 5.1 speaker setup?

Discussion in 'Home Cinema Buying & Building' started by IdahoEv, Jun 19, 2015.

  1. IdahoEv

    IdahoEv
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    I want to move from a 2.0 speaker system to a 5.1. Ideally, I'd like to keep the 2 main speakers I have -- a pair of Bowers and Wilkins CM5s-- because they are much nicer than what I can afford. (They are hand-me-downs -- thanks Dad!).

    But that means buying different brands at a lower budget for center speaker, subwoofer, and surrounds. Any recommendations on how best to do that? (FWIW i'm probably going to have to go with in-walls or in-ceilings for the surrounds, which is another wrinkle.)

    Is it better for me to just ditch the B&W's and go all lower budget if I can match brand? Or mix in other speakers for the other four speakers?

    I might just barely be able to justify getting a B&W 600 series centre speaker so at least the center has some match to the sides. But the CM series is definitely more than I can afford on my own.
     
  2. simonlewis

    simonlewis
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    Ideally you should keep left, right and center speakers the same, you can mix your surround speakers though.
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2015
  3. KelvinS1965

    KelvinS1965
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    It depends on what you're aiming for IMHO. If you really want to get the best imaging and surround effects then not only brand matching, but exact model matching too in my experience including surrounds.

    Anything less will work of course, just that imaging from between say the surround left and the front left won't be very good. It gives a much more 'solid' surround bubble when they all match, I often get an effect where a sound seems to come from the sofa to the left of me where there isn't a speaker, which I never got before. I ran mismatched surrounds/LCR for years, but once I saved up enough to get the proper matching surrounds then I really noticed the improvement.

    I'm also of the opinion that no centre speaker (ie a 'phantom' setting on the amp) is better than a mismatched one. In the OP's case it's hard to recommend putting a non matching centre (even another B&W model) as it will spoil the front sound stage, so it will sound like 3 separate sources rather than a 'wall' of sound. What might be better would be to look out for a used centre of the same range as the existing and just use 'phantom' mode for the time being (did it myself while I saved up for a third MK MP150).
     
  4. Joe Fernand

    Joe Fernand
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    Room - how optimised is the 2.0 layout?

    In-wall - assuming they can be placed correctly would get my vote vs. In-ceiling.

    Centre - I'm with Kelvin, either find the matching Centre or stick with no Centre.

    AVR - what are you using?

    Sub - what are you using.
     
  5. PSM1

    PSM1
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    As above if you can not get cm centre then just let your current speakers create a phantom centre. Better to have no centre than a poorly matched one. Also keep an eye out here and on places like eBay for a second hand cm centre.
     
  6. TobyKenobi

    TobyKenobi
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    An interesting discussion. I had a phantom centre for a while but got dissatisfied as my front surrounds are quite "widely spaced", one more than the other (room layout necessitates this). Consequently, I sometimes perceived a "hole in the middle" even when fairly straight on to the TV.

    Problem was, my surrounds were old Castle Severns (that are no longer made). Worse, they've been re-coned as one of the original bass drivers blew. There was matching centre but (always a niche product) now rare as a pig in flight.

    So, experimented with a few speakers I could lay my hands on and settled for a Q Acoustics centre that used similar materials on the woofer and tweeters. I have to say I am pleased with the result. Yes, I can detect differences in timbre if I listen hard enough, but dialogue is clearer and better placed.
     
  7. IdahoEv

    IdahoEv
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    As a result of this discussion, I'm running 4.1 - the B&W's front, Polk in-wall surrounds, and Polk sub. Pretty happy with the results so far. I'll save my pennies and buy a matching B&W center eventually.

    Thanks for all the advice, folks!
     
  8. IdahoEv

    IdahoEv
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    Hmmm.... used & clearanced B&W CM-Cs are available at a much more affordable price, less than half what the new CM-C2s cost.

    Sadly not available in the gloss black finish of my CM5s, I can only find the wood finishes. OTOH this will sit in my TV stand with a shelf not far above it, so it's much less visible than the L/R speakers anyway, so that's tempting...
     
  9. IdahoEv

    IdahoEv
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    Joe, they are:
    • I settled on in-wall, correctly placed. Polk RC65i. Hidden behind canvas prints, but the same type of canvas on both walls and they seem to be nearly acoustically transparent.
    • Centre: none for now, looking for used or clearanced CM-Cs
    • AVR: Yamaha RX-v477
    • Sub: Polk PSW10
    You can see from the Yamaha/Polk stuff that I'm neither a supreme audiophile nor unlimited in budget. :) So far I'm very happy with the results, though. You can see my layout, including a 3D model of the room, in this other thread.
     
  10. Joe Fernand

    Joe Fernand
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    Looks like a great 'stealth' install.

    Joe
     
  11. PSM1

    PSM1
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    Putting your centre in your tv cabinet is far from ideal and will adversely affect the sound. One of the best things I did was move my centre from my cabinet to wall mounting. Would not put it back now and my speakers are not that fussy with positioning. Again may be better to have no centre than one in a compromised position.
     
  12. IdahoEv

    IdahoEv
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    It's not really a cabinet, more a set of freestanding shelves. There's no front, side, or back on it, and there's several inches of empty space behind it. There's unfortunately really no other place for me to put it though, the TV is fairly big (65") and the shelf immediately above the screen is further away from ear level than the shelf immediately below.

    I definitely need to put in an area rug or something, though; it's all wood floors between the front soundstage and the couch.

    If/when I do add a center speaker, I'd actually need to build new shelf/stand for the center speaker and the TV, because the current one has a vertical support in the middle. Any suggestions on geometries for that that would be conducive to good sound?
     
  13. PSM1

    PSM1
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    A speaker does not sound its best on an open shelf or on top of a cabinet. This is made worse with a shelf above and even worse if boxed in as sides/back.
    The best compromise is nothing above and then a foam isolation pad for the speaker to rest on. Although ideally you would look to wall mount or use a proper speaker stand.
    We all have to have compromises in our systems the trick is to be aware of them and minimise their impact as much as possible.
     

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