Help with Center Channel Speaker

Reader wants better center channel performance in his home theater


Mike wrote to Ask-a-Pro:

Hi, this is strictly about center channel speaker that I have now and one I’m looking at to up grade. I have the Klipsch RC62 and am looking at the mirage omdc1 to upgrade with. The Klipsch is “ok” but I’ve never thought it’s worth $500.00 either, I actually got it at Vanns for half price as a demo. The mirage is a close-out sale for only $329.00 normally $750.00. I do have mirage omni60 for fronts and Klipsch for the backs, along with a mirage prestige s10 sub. I realize a mirage center will work good with the fronts, but I mostly concerned with the clarity. Overall, do you think the mirage would be a better, more clear speaker? I’m using a denon AVR-1910 receiver.

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Mark C. of Orange Pro AV Offers this advice in the forum:

Let me start by saying that sound is one of the most subjective things in the world. What sounds nice to you, may sound bad to me and vice versa. There is no objective way to rate the sound quality other than efficiency, distortion, frequency response, etc.

The Klipsch has a slightly wider response and larger woofers. It is also 8db more efficient, meaning it will be louder when given the same power as the Mirage. Both sets of speakers have metalized cones and tweeters giving them crisper sound due to less flexing of the speakers, as well as the natural resonance of metal (tap a piece of metal and a piece of plastic, they sound different and those properties “color” the sound of your system).

So as for the subjective part, I am ALWAYS a fan of matching the L, R and Center Channels closely when it comes to frequency response and efficiency. As something moves left to right it will hit all three speakers and it should sound the same going through them. Using the Mirage will help that.

Clarity is interesting. First, make sure you adjust your subwoofer crossover down below 65Hz. Some subs go up to 100Hz or more. If you have dialogue or score in those lower registers, the subwoofer will muddy it up. Subs are non directional and seem to come from everywhere. You want your brain to associate speech with the direction, and letting the sub play these sounds minimizes that.

The Klipsch center has a horn loaded tweeter. Cup your hands over your mouth and yell. . .do it. . .now! Now remove them and yell again. What sounded more natural, and what traveled farther? The Mirage will give you a smaller sweetspot, as it is omnidirectional, and it will also have a more natural or open sound I would argue. I like Klipsch as well, but my personal preference is a more open natural sound. Klipsch gets loud fast, Mirage takes its time.

I hope that this helps. I think you will get the desired result replacing the center, given the rest of your system components.

CE Pro’s Bob Archer also comments:

You are correct that from a sonic perspective the theory that a Mirage center will better complement Mirage fronts is correct and it is normally a good idea to use speakers from the same company for front and center speakers for timbre matching purposes.

I do however question the the Mirage speaker’s ability to improve the sound ineligibility for a couple of reasons: OmniPolars (proprietary term), bipolar and dipole speakers are designed as I said earlier to produce big soundstages that are often diffuse (especially with dipole speakers), and these soundstage qualities can come at the expense of detail and tight imaging qualities.

The other reasons and these more likely the culprits with your system are room acoustics and setup. Depending on the room configuration, room materials and other factors, the frequencies in which dialog (voices) are reproduced could be affected by your room environment and the only true way to deal with these factors is a combination of room treatments and equalization done by trained professionals.

Setup may also be an issue. If your speaker isn’t aimed directly towards your money seat and seating area you may be off axis from where the speaker’s sweet spot is. (the higher the frequency the smaller the soundwave)

Looking at the speakers from a statistical standpoint, the Klipsch is easier to drive and it will play louder and deeper (this is based on looking at the speakers’ rated sensitivities, impedance measurements and frequency responses), Klipsch’s from a reputation standpoint are often said to be a “brighter” speaker because of their horn designs too.

Before buying a new speaker I would look at positioning your speaker better if it’s possible, I would also look at the setup of your speaker’s through your receiver’s setup menu to ensure that you have everything setup up properly (size, SPL level, distance, crossover setting), and finally I would look to see if your receiver has the room EQ (room equalization features) programs and I would run them either in their automatic or manual modes to see if that helps.

One final measure is if your room is full of sheet rock (dry wall) windows, glass, wood or tiled floors, leather furniture and other hard surfaces I would look to get some rugs to throw on the floor; blankets and pillows to throw on the furniture and some books to throw in the corners of the room.

Those are inexpensive ways to deal with acoustical reflections that affect sound in a home environment.

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