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Upgrading existing 5.1 setup

pez

Established Member
Hi all,

Many years ago I purchased a Denon AVR2805 receiver, and the Acoustic Energy Aegis Evo 5.1 speaker setup (2 floor standing Aegis Evo 3s, which I love to this day, 2 Evo 1s, the Compact Sub and the Aegis Evo centre speaker). I've fed it stereo RCA inputs, optical digital from DVDs, and currently its taking optical digital from Sky HD and optical digital from a PS3 for Bluray.

Despite trying the autosetup on the Denon in every room where this setup has been placed, I've never been able to get a satifsactory sound from the centre speaker. The sound has always lacked a fair bit of body (mid ranges?), making speech almost unintelligable over the floor standers and surrounds when running it on the autocalibrated settings of the receiver (and other settings, I've played with most over the years). I've read that up to 50% of the sound in a movie soundtrack comes from the centre speaker, and for whatever reason, I've had a better (subjective) experience understanding speech from my TV speakers than I have from the centre. I've tried all sorts of EQ, level, and compression adjustments throughout the years to beef it up and fill it out a little, but nothing I've done allows me to run the setup at a reasonable volume and still make out speech from that centre speaker.

I've just moved into a house with a living room of just over 7m in length, with the floor standers approx 1.5m away from the side walls on either side of the tv (which is located right in the middle of the wall). Our main sofa is directly opposite the TV, about 4 meters away. I've tried numerous placements of the centre speaker, including on its side (just in case I was in a some sort of sound cancelling bermuda triangle), but nothing seems to help.

Now that we're in the new house, I'm starting to look at rectifying this (perceived) fault.

A few quick questions: How can I be sure that it is the centre speaker itself that I've been disappointed with, and not the receiver powering it? I'm tempted to grab one of the Evo 1 shelf speakers that we're using as surrounds and wire that up in place of the centre. Would that be a decent test?

Is there a way I could disable all speakers bar the centre to see how it sounds by itself (without the receiver then trying to mix everything into the centre channel)? If i disconnect everything bar the centre, could I damage the receiver?

I've come across the term tibre matching a fair bit here and on AVSForum, which appears to promote the use of like manufacturer speakers across a home cinema setup. I'm not looking to change everything (I like the sound of the floor standers for everything I put through them), but I am more than open to changing out the centre and the receiver - something with HDMI 2.0a would be nice. Could I remedy this fault without having to splash out on new L,R,and surrounds as well as the centre and possibly receiver?

Lastly, does anyone know of any places in or around Cardiff that will let you demo equipment? Would it be worth taking the centre with me to directly compare, or would that term timbre matching be my enemy here?

Any questions, please ask away.

Best regards,

Pez
 

PSM1

Distinguished Member
Where is the centre positioned?
Is it in or on a cabinet? If so then this is far from ideal and can cause sound issues. My centre sounded so much better when I took it out of my AV cabinet and wall mounted it.
You could try one of the Evo 1 as a centre with no issue and could probably disconnect the other speakers from the amp for a short time again without causing an issues to the receiver.
If you want to replace the centre I would want to at least replace the front L/R speakers with matching ones. However, if speaker placement is your issue then just changing the speakers may not help you.
 

pez

Established Member
Hi, the centre has been resting on a non enclosed glass shelf directly below the TV, about 30cm above the floor. I've tried a few different locations, but nothing seemed to improve it.

I hooked up one of the Evo 3s to the centre instead, and the sound was much improved. This was using the same "normal" EQ that was generated by the autosetup.

We fired up Gone Girl on Sky HD over the weekend, hooked up to the AVR via optical. It was still not as easy to understand speech in the film using the AVR and the Evo 3 as the centre as it was using the inbuilt speakers of my old Panasonic TX32LXD500 (only 2x10watt onboard sound - the speech seems to be more clear and other sounds less loud when using the TV speakers - something to do with the downmix to stereo?).

Is it unrealistic to want 5.1 sound at very low volumes at night from an AVR/surround setup? We've got a 3 year old sleeping directly over the sub (in the room upstairs - not quite "on the sub" although he's a heavy sleeper!). Gone Girl has a great soundtrack, and I was looking forward to enjoying that throughout the livingroom whilst watching the film with speech tied to the screen, but its just a bit muddy and lacking in clarity when I'm using my setup, improved by the use of an Evo 3 as a centre, but unusable with the centre at night.

I have previously run the system in the day at higher volumes, and the centre seems to come alive when run like this, but at the lower volumes its struggling and sounds really boxy (all lows and highs and no mid).

Now thinking of upgrading both the centre and the AVR initially, and sorting the rest out following that (getting serious gear lust looking at KEF!). It's going to be a piecemeal. The centre is the first thing I'm thinking of changing as it appears to be the bit most in need of an upgrade. Talking of KEF, would it be overkill to add something like a Q series or R series centre to this (take price out of the equation)? Is there a benefit to buying a larger centre if its main evening use is at lower volumes? And following on from that, is there any point getting an AVR that can output more than the 100w that the AVR2805 can? As previously mentioned, despite the room being over 7m by 4m and the tv being centred on the 7m wall, as its run at night its mainly going to be at low volumes. Id like clarity and intelligability from the centre speaker at night.

edit: Just got back from a retailer in Cardiff who were very helpful and suggested I take the centre speaker in, wire it up, and compare it against what they've got instore. Sounds like a plan!
 

PSM1

Distinguished Member
Where have you tried placing the centre? If it is still on a shelf then again this is not ideal and will affect the sound.
That said, when I demoed speakers a few years ago one of the things that separated good speakers from poor ones was how they sounded as you turned the volume down. A good speaker maintains its balance of sound hence sounds good at high or low volumes. Certainly I can listen to my system at lower volumes than I could the TV due to the improved clarity of sound. Hence better speakers could help you in this respect.
Also have you tried the DRC or night mode settings? These level of the sound making the quieter stuff like vocals louder making them easier to hear at lower volumes.
From Swansea here, did not clock you were close to Cardiff. Audio Excellence in Swansea (opposite Argos on high street) is very good if you are down this way.
 

pez

Established Member
We've tried the centre on a table in the middle of the room and on top of a high sideboard next to the TV (about inline with the top driver of the floorstanders).

On the AVR, I've had a play with cranking the compression all the way up, but whilst it does even out the volume, it doesn't seem to help with the clarity of speech and voices. The muddyness is apparent in crowd scenes where central characters are talking over background voices.

We run the volume at around -35db at night, so pretty low (new builds not so good at sound insulation). The centre channel is increased and the L and R are lowered. I've been googling this issue for the past few days and I've seen quite a few complaints that at low volumes dialogue becomes really hard to understand, across lots of different hardware.

I've read a bit about more advanced room EQ and low volume dynamic EQ that is present on more modern AV receivers, and I'll have to get one of these tested. Looking forward to diving in and seeing if I can improve this situation.

Next time Im in Swansea I will check out Audio Excellence, thanks for the heads up. Audio T were very helpfull in Cardiff when I spoke to them. Do you know of anywhere else I can go to demo equipment?
 

pez

Established Member
Just posted this over in the Receiver sub forum-looks like it's definitely the centre speaker having issues.

Well, I swapped over the Evo centre with one of my Evo 1 surrounds, and the +12db auto setup channel level followed it. I then took the centre down to Audio T in Cardiff who were kind enough to take a look at it, and allowed me to compare it against a B&W centre that had drivers of roughly the same size. The difference was like night and day!

Looks like my AVR will live to fight for a little while longer, but that centre speaker has seen better days!

It sounds like it's broken-it's sensitivity rating is higher than than the Evo1 and Evo3 so it shouldn't require a +12db from the auto setup, and it's almost completely lacking any midrange despite all 3 drivers appearing to be work.

Thanks for the troubleshooting tips!
 

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