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What makes a good centre speaker?

Discussion in 'Home Cinema Speakers' started by Rainbow6, Oct 28, 2003.

  1. Rainbow6

    Rainbow6
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    Forgive me if this question is too simplistic, but I appreciate your help here. (I'm looking for a compact system that compromises the least on quality but is not too expensive).

    OK, in my ever widening search to find a new speaker system, I'm wondering about the centre channel - I've been told that, in the whole set up (5.1 or 6.1), the centre is the most important speaker. So, what makes a good centre speaker?

    For instance, I'm interested in the new KEF eggs . But the centre is just the same as all the other eggs - i.e. it seems to be one little speaker thingy (I don't understand the technology, but it seems to have a woofer with tweeter inside?? dunno what you call that except uni Q).

    On the other hand, the likes of the Mordaunt Short Premier pack has what they refer to as a 'dedicated' centre speaker, with two woofers and a tweeter.

    Is one better than the other, for dialogue duties, etc.? Or is it all in how the system is set up?

    I know the KEF's sub is far better. But which would you miss more, in day to day listening? A better centre (if one is in fact better than the other), or a better sub?

    Cheers,
    Jim :confused:
     
  2. Ian J

    Ian J
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    90% of any film is dialogue and this is mainly reproduced via the centre channel so an ability to reproduce dialogue correctly is a prime requisite.

    As voices and sounds pan across the screen it is important to have three speakers across the front that are voice matched so that the sounds don't change as they pan. The best way of achieving this is to use three identical speakers but this isn't always practical so a compromise in the form of a "dedicated" centre speaker came about which tended to be a completely different shape, was magnetically shielded and often had a different set and number of drivers in it. Such is the power of marketing that the "dedicated centre" speaker is now deemed to be a good thing instead of the compromise that it really is.

    Unfortunately having said all that, I cannot answer your question as whilst an identical set of speakers like the Eggs is better in principle it doesn't necessary work in practice if a less well matched set of speakers are of significantly better quality.
     
  3. Rainbow6

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    Ian - thanks for your reply. So really, is it all just down to whatever sounds good to me, then? I mean, from you are saying, do I understand you right to think that there's nothing other than that which I should be looking for?

    To throw another speaker package into the mix, the Monitor Audio B2AV1, for instance. It has a 'dedicated centre' as well. But Richer Sounds claims that it will be a superior package to that of the KEF eggs. (My problem, again, is space - otherwise I might not hesistate to get MA speakers). But is this an example of what you are suggesting? And would the Premiers also fit into that category? Just trying to see whether to justify the more expensive price of the eggs - don't want to be disappointed, and there is little opportunity near me to hear them demoed properly - 'to know if it sounds good to me'.

    Thanks again.
    Jim;)
     
  4. buns

    buns
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    As much as it pain me to be agreeable with someone...... Ian is spot on the money. Despite what the majority have been convinced, dedicated centres are often a compromise...... they use different drivers so respond differently, they use different cabinets so resonate differently and i distinctly recall that the designs themselves are suspect..... but dont quote me on that because i cant find proof.

    That said, some dedicated centres really will be special, but it seems to me that in the low to mid end, centres are almost made to a template which rarely is the best way for high fidelity.

    I think given the nature of the eggs, to have a much bigger and different centre will result in it being way out of place, it may well be a better centre, but it will stick out like a sore thumb!

    If you were looking for something to upgrad form the eggs ad were concerned on the space issue, you could look to the anthony gallo balls and even the double ball jobby things (sorry dont know the name), i suspect this would provide you with a much better all round sound than the better centre

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  5. Rainbow6

    Rainbow6
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    Thanks buns. My problem is that I'm trying to work to a budget of about £800 max for the speakers (I actually raised my budget to accomodate the eggs when I heard that they were supposed to be so good). I think from what Lyric HiFi in Belfast said the Gallos would exceed that. Any other ideas?

    Cheers,
    Jim
     
  6. buns

    buns
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    Oh a Belfast man.... didnt realise that!

    The AG balls would exceed your budget, i wasnt aware what it was, hence why i said! Are you looking to get eggs from lyric or richers? Are you sure richers are the latest models? I'd strongly suggest dealing with lyric if you can accept paying a wee bit more (its not that much really) because they will let you have a listen in the shop, probably let you have a listen at your house and will set it all up for you. Plus they will most likely help you on the centre, though i doubt they would change it to be honest.

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  7. Rainbow6

    Rainbow6
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    Buns,

    No, it would be Lyric. Richers don't carry the eggs here in Belfast. But my problem is that Lyric wouldn't demo the eggs in the full set up. They used Mordaunt Short Bipole rears, the Kef Q series sub and three egg fronts. It sounded pretty good most of the time, but I was a bit worried about the centre from time to time for dialogue, and vocals on music. I've been told that the full set up might help matters, but I've yet to hear that for myself to know.

    Kronos in Dungannon sells the eggs, though that's a bit of a trek. As does The Flicks in Bangor. But I'd prefer not to go to the Flicks for personal reasons. So, that puts me in a bit of a tight spot, really, for making a decision.

    On top of that, Home Cinema Heaven wrote me back today: I asked how, in their opinion, the eggs would compare to the Canton CD1's or the Mordaunt Short Premiers which they sell, and their answer: 'Because the Eggs are a style system, they would sound the worst out of the lot.' Interesting.

    Thanks for any other thoughts.
    Jim
     
  8. buns

    buns
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    Well im not sure that addid the rear eggs will help the worries which you have, in fact im fair sure they wont. Im surprised they lyric wouldnt demo you the whole set up, i certainly wouldnt want to be going to a dealer and having to buy with one eye covered!

    How pushed are you for size? Could you handle small standmounts?

    The eggs are style thing, they apparently sound ok for the money, but in my little world, i wouldnt expect them to match up to something which was designed without their restrictions. That said, I dont know the other speakers mentioned, so i wouldnt comment.

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  9. buns

    buns
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  10. Ian J

    Ian J
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    If you were unhappy with the centre for dialogue and music a full setup will not help at all and whoever told you that it would is a bit naughty.

    Without wishing to denigrade Home Cinema Heaven whom I do not know it would appear that if you asked the same question to a dozen dealers you would get a completely different answer from each one depending on what their own particular favourite was.

    You will have to trust your own ears and if you didn't like the eggs, cross them off your list and move onto the next. Have you come across the JM Labs Sib & Cub system on your travels as they are supposed to be rather good.
     
  11. Rainbow6

    Rainbow6
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    Buns,

    Hmmm. Looks nice, but I see they're rear ported and need to be placed 8-20" from a wall. My TV set up is in a recessed corner, and at least the Left Front speaker would have to be touching the wall at an angle if it were that size, and both L and R would be pushed right next to the TV on the TV's stand (I forgot to look and see if they were shielded). There's no room in the front for floor stands - there is in the back for the rears, though.

    I had thought of the Monitor B1's, but they are the same problem. I'm considering the B2's in the front and B1's in the back, with the bronze centre, but I've already mentioned them to my wife, and I don't think she's having any of it. :( Not much WAF there, unfortunately. The Monitor Audio stuff can be had from Richer Sounds here in B'fast BTW.

    So, you can see my problem, and why the eggs were looking so attractive.

    If you've got any other thoughts, I'm all ears. ;) I also don't know much about the Canton products - I can't find anyone here in N. Ireland who sell them. My wife certainly likes the looks of them, but I see in What HiFi S&V they get a low rating for Music playback due to limited midrange (but great rating for films). Only these folks at Home Cinema Heaven on the UK Mainland carry them, that I can see.

    Several places around are doing the MS Premiers though (Richers is doing them for £299, but only graphite and cherry finish and they will order the Premier Plus pack at a price if I'm interested; LRG is doing them for £100 more.)

    Jim
     
  12. Rainbow6

    Rainbow6
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    Ian,
    Thanks for your frankness. No, I've not come across the the Sib and Cubs, though I've heard of them mentioned in this forum. No one I know of over here in N. Ireland carries them. In fact, Creative Audio is the only one I've heard of that does.

    Unfortunately for me in Belfast, they're a plane flight away. :( I phoned Creative and asked them to compare the Sib and Cubs to the KEF eggs, and he said that the eggs had a better sub, and the Sibs were possibly better sats. Hmmm.

    Any other thoughts on the matter?

    Cheers.

    Jim
     
  13. balders

    balders
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    Call me a cynic, but from their web site, Home Cinema Heaven don't appear to stock Kef goods. Whereas they do stock Canton and Mordaunt ... which may explain why they gave the answer they did.

    Isn't the Canton CD1 pack a 'style' type sat/ sub combo too? The spec on paper doesn't look better than the Kefs (in fact, imho, it's specs are worse), but I guess you can't tell unless you listen to them.

    Balders.
     
  14. wilber

    wilber
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    Rainbow6 have you considered Kef Qs? Q1s have no problem against a wall & they're cute - especially in maple. The Q9C has the same Uni-Q drivers so apart from cabinet design it's a good match. Kef have also announced Kef Q Compacts which will be smaller versions of the Q1s - should make great surround speakers (release due any day allegedly, but I was told that a month ago)
     
  15. Rainbow6

    Rainbow6
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    Balders,
    I know. I thought the same skeptical thing. Well, anyway. We'll see. I'll still keep the eggs in mind as I continue to look.

    And thanks for that Wilber. I'll think about the Q's too.

    Cheers.
    Jim
     
  16. balders

    balders
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    Hmmm ... Wouldn't the Kef Q's push the cost of the speakers+sub over £1000? ie £200 over budget. They're also not that small (especially the q9c centre).

    I think Rainbow6 is basically asking the same question that I've got:

    For £800 can I get a better compact speaker package than the standard Kef 2002.5 package?

    (The Sib Cubs seem to be the best alternatives for the price given the feedback so far, sounding as if they're on a par with the eggs)

    Balders.
     
  17. wilber

    wilber
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    Just for the sake of argument that Qs are acceptable -

    1 pair Q1 £250
    1 Q9c £250
    1 pair Kef compact £200

    I would expect £100 off for buying as a package so total £600 so yep you'd be over budget BUT you might consider buying speakers without a sub and adding a sub later (like I did with my MJA).

    If you can only have sub/sats then Qs are no good but as rainbow6 was considering MA B2s .....
     
  18. balders

    balders
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    Wilber,

    £600-£700 was about what I thought for the Qs.

    How do they perform without a sub? Would the Q's without sub be better than the eggs with sub?

    Also, to a relative hifi novice, is the sound quaity worth the difference in complete prices (eggs @ £650 from creative, vs Qs @ £1000+ with sub, ie 50% more)?

    Thanks,

    Balders.
     
  19. wilber

    wilber
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    Q "Would the Q's without sub be better than the eggs with sub? " IMHO yes - Whilst not the "bassiest" speakers in their field, they go pretty low (<50hz allegedly). But I think more importantly they will handle the whole range of frequencies much better than the eggs. More importantly still (and this comes back to the thread title) a kef egg cannot hold a candle to a Q9c. For 80% of the films / tv etc I watch, I don't think that the sub does all that much - sure I'd probably miss it if it was turned off but if you haven't had it then you won't know it's missing.

    If you had £950 to spend then it's no contest Kef Qs all round + a sub will blow away the eggs
     
  20. Steve.EX

    Steve.EX
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    From some experience, i would not write off the Kef Eggs until you have heard them.

    Whilst diminutive in appearance they really DO have an elegant presentation.


    Steven.
     
  21. buns

    buns
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    Steve,

    Rainbow has obviously heard and not been overly impressed with what was set up for him, do you think the full eggs set up would help to get around some of the concerns he had?

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  22. Steve.EX

    Steve.EX
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    Ad.

    One mans poison is anothers... etc.

    If WAF/space etc is the primary concern then the Kef's are without doubt the best small sat/sub combo i have heard, quite honestly i feel they are a bargain at 800.00 or so.
    These are NOT your sit-up-and-beg Klegg/RS affair IMHO and in no way would be shamed by the likes of a Denon 3803, Pioneer 2011 etc (in fact they demand something of this quality), obviously they are not best suited to a huge room but then neither are the q1's etc.
    As an unashamed lover of most things Kef, you will have to go some way to convince me that UniQ is anything other than a gift from the gods.

    regards

    Steven
     
  23. buns

    buns
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    Steve,

    I guess you have listened to enough stuff that experience can excuse your 'kef'erence! :D

    Would you agree that the egg package would be better left without trying to mix in a supposedly better centre?

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  24. Steve.EX

    Steve.EX
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    Ad.

    I would say to anyone that if you can't afford a mistaken purchase then listen (where ever possible) to each and every potential long term purchase.
    As we all know the slight niggle about (sound) quality today becomes a seething cauldron of loating tomorrow.
    I, personally would not buy a Kef egg package with the intention of changing the center etc etc.
    It (clearly) is compromised purchase to begin with.
    For me (that's me only) the order of individual components (if you are going that route) based on required quality for a movies based system is:
    Source
    Processing/Amplification
    Center
    Subwoofer(s)
    Front Left and Right
    Rear Left and Right
    Room E.Q (if required)

    The Kef egg package is equally at home with music for what it is worth IMHO.

    Regards

    Steven
     
  25. Rainbow6

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    Folks,

    Thanks for all your input and ideas. Balders I think has hit it on the head. I'm trying to stick to the £800 mark for the pack inclusive. The reason I mentioned the Monitor Audio B2's is that I can source that pack for about £650 at Richer Sounds Belfast, maybe cheaper if I get an amp from them too. Size is still an issue, though, as is colour. I haven't convinced my wife yet that the size or colour on offer with MA is OK - she wants small and silvery stuff. :( [I do see the Kef Q1's though, which is what I think you're referring to Steve? They look great - maybe I'll have to think hard about them too . . .]

    Steve: you don't happen to be employed by KEF? :D
    After your rave on the eggs, I'll keep them on my shortlist and maybe go back and have another listen. If I were to go for those, you say the amp/receiver is important. I see that What HiFi Sound and vision have matched them with the Yamaha AX640SE, but also with the Pioneer 812. Do you have any feelings on these, or on what might be better in the £400 or lower region to drive the eggs?

    Interestingly, LEConcepts have just written me back, and suggest that the eggs just need to be 'set up properly'. I'm not sure what that means, or whether they come with instructions for proper set up?? As you've mentioned, Ian, it seems that the distributors all 'say' whatever suits them to shift their product. It would be great to hear the truth through it all - maybe I'll just have to book another demo, and try to get them to set it up right this time??

    Thanks all for any other comments.

    Jim
     
  26. Rainbow6

    Rainbow6
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    Wilber,
    Can you tell me anything more about these? And are you suggesting them for rear surrounds when they do come out, if I were to go for the Q range?
    Cheers.
    Rainbow
     
  27. Ian J

    Ian J
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    That is the other old chestnut, that they probably weren't set up properly. When you coyly ask whether they are that difficult to setup then, the answer is always that it is very easy.

    From memory, KEF are particularly bad with their setup instructions as there are more setup questions asked from Egg noobs than any other type but in your example, you were talking about a dealer and any dealer that can't set up a simple sub / sat system for a demo should be run out of town.
     
  28. Rainbow6

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    Ian,
    Hmm. That's a bit off putting, but might explain a few things. Are they really that difficult to set up?? Would the other speakers I'm looking at fair better in this sense (MS Premiers / Premier plus; MA B2AV1) - or even sib and cubs, as you mention (though I'm still trying to decide whether I could live with one of the sibs sitting on it's side on top of my TV)?
    Cheers, and thanks for your time.
    Jim
     
  29. Ian J

    Ian J
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    Probably not to us but maybe someone moving into surround sound for the first time might be flummoxed by all the setup options, especially if they aren't explained properly.
     
  30. wilber

    wilber
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    Rainbow6 the news is patchy on the compacts at the moment. The manager of my local 7oaks told me about them after they had been to a kef launch for the new Q range additions. The compacts will be smaller versions of the Q1 - more the size of small bookshelf speakers but with the same Uni-Q array as the Q1. The official release date is meant to be mid November.
     

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