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AV123 X-CS Encore Center Speaker Review

Rate this speaker:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 33 23.9%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 95 68.8%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 9 6.5%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 1 0.7%

  • Total voters
    138

amirm

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This is a review, listening tests and measurements of the AV123-CS center speaker. It was kindly sent to me by a member:
AV123 X-CS Center Speaker X-CS Encore GR Research Kit Review.jpg


Speaker is long discontinued (reviews date back 2007). But it seems the designer (?) Danny Ritchie is selling a kit based on the same (GR Research X-CS Encore) for $239 (driver+xover only). Old prices I can find are just $139 for plain finish and $199 for the gorgeous sample I have:

AV123 X-CS Center Speaker X-CS Encore GR Research Kit old Review.png

As noted, the speaker weighs 33 pounds which is quite heavy. This is likely due to the very deep cabinet and heavy construction.

The grill is unusual: it is a very thick gage metal piece screwed to the cabinet using very long stand offs. Since it was fastened such, I assumed it was part of the design and performed my testing with it in place.

AV123 X-CS Speaker Measurements
As usual we start with our "spinorama" (CEA-2034) standardized frequency response measurements:
AV123 X-CS Center Speaker X-CS Encore GR Research Kit Frequency Response Measurements.png

Man, that is a rough response although overall average is not bad. Major thing that stands out is the resonance around 420 Hz and sloping down before it. There is no measurements of the AV123 speaker but GR research provides one for their kit:
X-CS Encore GR Research Encore Kit Review.png


Typical of GR research measurements, they look good at first blush until you realize low frequency is cut off at 200 Hz. Due to heavy gating (to remove room reflections), low frequency is massively smoothed so doesn't show the large anomaly we see in upper bass/midrange. It does show the peaks and valleys at higher frequencies but again, 1/3 octave smoothing helps hide them more (my measurements are 1/24 octave). These aside, GR measurements validates what we see more or less.

We can confirm the issues we see with our near-field driver responses:
AV123 X-CS Center Speaker X-CS Encore GR Research Kit Driver Frequency Response Measurements.png


The woofer clearly has a resonance around 420 Hz and then another post 2 kHz. The tweeter shows the same ups and downs which could be due to the grill but then again, we saw them in GR research which I assume is without grill. Either way, the flaws are very obvious with the design.

Early/important room reflections are smoothed a bit but otherwise, are messy:
AV123 X-CS Center Speaker X-CS Encore GR Research Kit Early Window Frequency Response Measurem...png


Resulting in predicted in-room response that has a lot of ups and downs:
AV123 X-CS Center Speaker X-CS Encore GR Research Kit Predicted In-room Frequency Response Mea...png


Building an EQ by eye is going to be difficult for this speaker but I took a shot at it (see Listening Test section).

The two mid-woofers cancel each other ("beam") once the wavelength of the sound gets close to their distance as you shift left and right:
AV123 X-CS Center Speaker X-CS Encore GR Research Kit Horizontal Beam width Measurements.png


Which as we know is not a good thing for a center speaker. Best to stay close to the center of the tweeter or flip it up vertically if your display/screen allows it:

AV123 X-CS Center Speaker X-CS Encore GR Research Kit Horizontal Directivity Measurements.png


Here is our vertical which is naturally much cleaner since the drivers are aligned in that axis:
AV123 X-CS Center Speaker X-CS Encore GR Research Kit Vertical Directivity Measurements.png


Impedance and phase show the clear resonances we have seen in the response:
AV123 X-CS Center Speaker X-CS Encore GR Research Kit Impedance and Phase Measurements.png


GR research measurements again don't show these due to large vertical scale (and likely lack of overall resolution):

x-cs-impedance_orig.jpeg


Minimum impedance of 6 ohm makes the speaker an easy load.

"MTM" configuration is not great for horizontal directivity but produces a lot more power, or said inversely, less distortion at the same power:

AV123 X-CS Center Speaker X-CS Encore GR Research Kit distortion Measurements.png


AV123 X-CS Center Speaker X-CS Encore GR Research Kit relative distortion Measurements.png


Finally here is the step response:
AV123 X-CS Center Speaker X-CS Encore GR Research Kit CSD Step Response Measurements.png


AV123 X-CS Listening Tests and Equalization
First impression wasn't too bad. I think this is because the average response is not too far off. At first I wanted to stop there as attempting to manually clean up that on-axis response seemed daunting. :) But I thought it is important to do and see the impact of the various response errors. I don't claim high accuracy here but the result was a definite improvement:
AV123 X-CS Center Speaker X-CS Encore GR Research Kit Encore Eq Parametric Filter.png

As you see, it took quite a few filters to deal with all the response errors. Once there, there was more body in bass response and much improved clarity in high frequencies. Indeed with the filters in place, the sound was quite clean and would delight from time to time with its clarity of high frequencies and openness of it.

Testing for dynamic power, the mid-woofers handle a fair bit until they develop a gradual crackle which scales up with volume. In a home theater setting, they would be high pass filtered which would remove this issue, allowing to play quite loud.

Sub-bass response was barely there and somewhat distorted but not as bad as I see with ported bookshelf speakers.

Listening to a number of soundtrack such as Arrival was a joy with EQ and aiming directly at tweeter axis.

Conclusions
We can start with how much our money bought back 15 years ago! Such a solid speaker with beautiful hardwood veneer for just $199? Even in today's money that would be a steal. Alas, what was shipped was a faulty and unfinished design. Clearly the speaker had not benefited from proper objective measurements and analysis. If the GR research is continuation of the same, it means that sin is still being committed even today! Misleading measurements show a speaker that has no flaws where in reality it has plenty.

It is a shame really as the platform -- the woofers and tweeter -- seem quite capable in that large and solid cabinet.

I can't recommend the AV123 X-CS and by implication, GR Research X-CS Encore kit. However, if you are in a position to develop proper set of filters to it, then it can be turned into something worthwhile with a level of build that you don't see in commercial speakers anywhere close to these prices.

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As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 

Attachments

  • AV123 X-CS Frequency Response Measurements.zip
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Not terrible IMHO - as a "dialogue enhancer" in small, cheap surround systems.
Its build quality and price saves it from (my) "poor" rating.
 
Okay or better for the price and age.

The current version is called the 'X-CS Encore' with finished version selling for over $1000usd ($1025-$1285)

I would suspect there are upgrades and some crossover revisons. The original was designed for value, I think the 'Encore' is more akin to what they would have done if price wasn't the main focus. Or maybe it is the same for much more loot.
Who knows??? - well Danny knows...


1671340218419.png
 
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A pass in my book, as it is does not show any of the most recent upgrades in speakers: better cross-over design, acoustic tweeter lenses and extended bass response. Is there any center channel worth the effort to build a shelf, pass the wires, calibrate for directivity? Are we better off with two speakers, right and left, considering the relative small distance required between them on the side of a 55 to 75 inch wide monitor TV?
 
A pass in my book, as it is does not show any of the most recent upgrades in speakers: better cross-over design, acoustic tweeter lenses and extended bass response. Is there any center channel worth the effort to build a shelf, pass the wires, calibrate for directivity? Are we better off with two speakers, right and left, considering the relative small distance required between them on the side of a 55 to 75 inch wide monitor TV?
Many of the 3-way designs are quite good.
The Polk L400 comes to mind as a well reviewed unit. I personally don't know if I want that line of speakers but many really like the L400 paired with the other Legend stuff or maybe paired with the Reserve line as they are noted for having very similar tonality(the reserve centers are not like the legend, they are 2 ways)

Here is the L400 a 'Wt/mW'

Heavy @40.8lbs

Can be had refurbished or new on discount from a motivated seller for the price of the finished 'X-CS Encore'


1671343968122.png
 
Chief, a slight tangent if I may, but I’ve noticed that my Revel f208s + SVS subs sound way nicer when their response curve is not corrected by Audyssey in 200-400 Hz region. Your measurements of f208s show smooth response in that region but in my room REW measures some nastiness (image attached, the line in the shadow). When corrected not up to 200 Hz but up to 400 hz (highlighted line) the sound of voices becomes more metallic.

My question: is there a fundamental reason why the speaker that measures good should not be corrected in mid bass even if the far field response is messy?

Thank you!
 

Attachments

  • ABDA333B-AD8D-4C57-B842-659CC576C679.jpeg
    ABDA333B-AD8D-4C57-B842-659CC576C679.jpeg
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Still, even if this was available for 200€ I wouldn‘t say it‘s particularly worth it. The Elac UC52 is around 250€ usually, it doesn‘t look very good, but it‘s a coaxial 3-way with decent performance which I would always prefer.

And, well, the less said about the 1000$+ GR variant, the better.
 
I optimised the PIR to see if that would help and it does at least a bit.

Score is 3.9 and goes to 5.3. If you add a perfect subwoofer then score is 6.2 and goes to 7.5.
With EQ, if you stay on axis, you should be fine.
filters_eq.png

Code:
EQ for AV123 X-CS Center computed from ASR data
Preference Score 3.9 with EQ 5.3
Generated from http://github.com/pierreaubert/spinorama/generate_peqs.py v0.17
Dated: 2022-12-18-09:48:01


Preamp: -2.1 dB


Filter  1: ON HP Fc    50 Hz
Filter  2: ON PK Fc   111 Hz Gain -3.81 dB Q 1.82
Filter  3: ON PK Fc  1560 Hz Gain +2.21 dB Q 3.00
Filter  4: ON PK Fc  4267 Hz Gain -1.95 dB Q 1.00
Filter  5: ON PK Fc   361 Hz Gain +2.02 dB Q 3.00
Filter  6: ON PK Fc  7623 Hz Gain -0.96 dB Q 3.00
Filter  7: ON PK Fc   467 Hz Gain -1.77 dB Q 3.00
Filter  8: ON PK Fc   714 Hz Gain +1.34 dB Q 2.43
Filter  9: ON PK Fc    86 Hz Gain -0.83 dB Q 3.00
 
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For a dialogue speaker, that massive discrepancy right in the middle of the vocal range would have to be a no-no!

Got to say I was always biased against plastic chassis cheap speaker drivers and if I'm on the right lines in remembering the otherwise excellent Purifi driver with a slight thing going on at 380hz or so (only visible at all because the rest of it was so darned excellent), I wonder if the driver construction could be the issue (OK, a hunch suggestion)?
 
At $200 there isn't really room in the bill of materials for a 2.5 way crossover, but it is a shame the more expensive modern version is still a 2 way.
 
Not terrible IMHO - as a "dialogue enhancer" in small, cheap surround systems.
Its build quality and price saves it from (my) "poor" rating.
A "dialogue enhancer" which has major issues in that range? Sometimes I feel the great work @amirm is doing to educate the audio world is going to nada :-(
 
At $200 there isn't really room in the bill of materials for a 2.5 way crossover, but it is a shame the more expensive modern version is still a 2 way.
Even if there was the layout is not suitable for a 2.5 way.
 
who actually started this bad solution for a center and why did everybody copy it and nobody came up with a better one?
I think it is simply a matter of a couple of things many people have a flat panel and need something that is not very tall. The various MTM horizontal designs can fit that need, in particular with multiple 3-6 inch drivers. As soon as it goes to a 3 way they require more space.
 
Score is 3.9 and goes to 5.3. If you add a perfect subwoofer then score is 6.2 and goes to 7.5.
I am sure people have heard enough on this subject from me but really? This speaker's preference score matches KEF R5 or Revel M22, when used in a HT (with sub & EQ) and can beat the JBL M2's at 5.15.9. o_O
 
I think it is simply a matter of a couple of things many people have a flat panel and need something that is not very tall. The various MTM horizontal designs can fit that need, in particular with multiple 3-6 inch drivers. As soon as it goes to a 3 way they require more space.
But wasn't it more difficult to place a centre speaker when we used to use a CRT or a pull-down projector screen?
 
A "dialogue enhancer" which has major issues in that range? Sometimes I feel the great work @amirm is doing to educate the audio world is going to nada :-(
But center speakers are meant to be driven by an AVR? If Audyssey (or whatever "room correction") can't mitigate its "sins", the speaker would clearly be "headless panther worthy". The more expensive "follower" even more so.
 
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To clarify: This speaker is the AV123 X-CS Encore. The original AV123 X-CS used a different tweeter and had cloth grills. The Encore uses a Peerless tweeter I believe.
Also, while I am unsure of the original cost of the X-CS, all finishes of the Encore were $199.
 
Centre Speakers seem so rubbish most of the time, oftentimes it would seem better to use any type of speaker that has good output and good horizontal and ok vertical directivity, which probably encompasses a good number of 2 way bookshelf speaker options, but of course it has to fit under your TV! Centre speakers seem so deficient!
 
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