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JBL Stage 125C Review (Center Speaker)

Rate this speaker:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 100 57.8%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 63 36.4%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 10 5.8%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    173

Bear123

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Fit in a very low space, not cost a fortune, and to provide decent sound. (low priced to mid priced center speaker)


The reviews I posted from Crutchfeld make it obvious that most people do think they deliver.

Provide some reviews from actual owners that show they think most center speakers are not delivering please.
This is a weak argument and not really a good indicator of how good the center channel is. You could probably find reviews on TV's with consumers who rate the sound 4-5 stars…..using the TV speakers. You can find reviews all day long of Bose lifestyle soundbars and minicube speakers with 5 star reviews. Miniature bluetooth speakers with 5 star reviews. This in no way proves that they are exceptionally well designed products. Some people are very easily satisfied and have never experienced higher fidelity solutions. That's why cheap sound bars have extremely high subjective ratings on Amazon or Crutchfield…..its a pretty low bar when coming from TV speakers….so it is a drastic improvement and may be the best they've heard….they literally can't imagine better sound.

Then people upgrade to a cheap 2 way MTM center channel, a cheap pair of bookshelf speakers and a Polk 10" "subwoofer"…again, the upgrade is enormous so it's the best sound anyone can imagine….having come from a cheap sound bar or TV speakers.

But compared to a well designed 3 way center channel, its an inferior product with inferior acoustic properties. That't the cool thing about facts and the laws of physics….they're not swayed by opinion. Fact….pretty much all 2 way MTM center channel speakers have compromised off axis response. A big section of frequencies will play much lower than the rest of the frequencies when you are off axis. Measurements tell you this….buying the speaker and listening to it in person is not necessary to know this. Five star reviews on Amazon or Crutchfield also don't change this fact.

I have a friend who put together a very very low cost, starter home audio system. It started with a pair of Pioneer BS-22 bookshelf speakers for $99. He bought the cheapest entry level Denon AVR that he could get. He wanted a center channel and subwoofer but again, wasn't into it enough to spend thousands of dollars. I strongly encouraged him to get the Emotiva C1+ center channel for $249. He is thrilled with it and probably has one of the best center channel speakers available under $500. Availability is really really tough right now. If I needed a center channel and had a really low budget, I would probably just tough it out and wait for the C1+ to become available, or the RC263 to go on sale, or get the SVS Prime 3 way center for $399. There just isn't much point in making a huge sacrifice in sound quality with what is arguably the most important speaker to TV/movie viewing. And a 2 way center is a BIG sacrifice IMO….lousy dialogue intelligibility is a deal breaker IMO for a center channel, which is pretty common with 2 way MTM's due to the inherent design flaw of the product. Heck, you could get a pair of KEF Q150's for $349, use one as a center, use the other in the garage or put it up for sale in the classifieds for someone else who needs a center.

As far as subjective consumer reviews on Crutchfield or Amazon, here are two user reviews on Crutchfield for the same TV:
Customer A: "Pros: If you have a small space where this is going, before buying a sound bar listen to it first the sound is outstanding for a TV."
This person thought the sound quality was so good that you don't need a sound bar….so sound bar is their *reference level*.
Customer B: Cons: "For a company that makes some great audio products, the sound on this TV is embarrassingly poor."
TV reviews at Crutchfield

This is an example of why good objective data is helpful for making an informed decision…..facts are indisputable, opinions vary wildly based on personal experience.

You can find the most glorious reviews of the amazing sound quality of products that, when tested, turn out to be some of the worst performing products in existence. You are free to use whatever information you would like for your purchase decisions. But I wouldn't expect many here to feel obligated to adhere to your opinions that subjective user reviews are the best indicator for sound quality, or that they disprove that a product has poor test results.
 
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Bear123

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Me thinks you just do not "Get it".

Do you think Polk takes more stock in those Crutchfield reviews of people that OWN this, bought it and USE IT, or of ASR ,of a bunch of guys that have never owned the speakers they complain about?

One is based on reality and actual owners, and the other on guys looking at a chart and measurements.

Honestly bad form to say the audience buying this will not care very much. That is condescending.
Are you saying that the only way to know something about a product is to own it? So, if someone wants to buy one of the fastest cars made, they should ignore all reviews in which cars have been tested in the 1/4 mile with factual numbers presented? After all, how do you know unless you own it and use it, according to you. So people should just buy random cars until they find the one they "feel" is the fastest….be sure to ignore horsepower ratings…..facts don't matter right? OR, maybe someone should use objective facts on cars that have been tested by others, and pick the really fast car that they like the best, take THAT car for a spin and buy it if they like it. I think most folks are going to agree that having facts available to make an informed purchase decision is a good thing. Let's try your route….there's a bunch of kids that apparently think the Honda Civic is really fast, so lets go with that. Your reasoning is silly. The kid that owns the Honda Civic might have the subjective opinion that it is fast, but the guy in the Tesla Plaid(fastest production car in the world, and I didn't have to buy one to know this) would probably disagree.
 

Namesbuck

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I have seating for 3 in front of a 75 inch TV. The center channel will be about 10 ft from the MLP. I presume all listeners will be on axis for the most part but how do I measure/verify this? Is it 20 deg off center of the tweeter? Does moving my couch back increase the sweet spot? If we three are all in the sweet spot what advantage would a 3 way design have for me?
 

More Dynamics Please

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One of the marketing goals of these MTM centers is to fit in the narrow spaces under TVs that so many people seem to have. What performance improvement could be gained by having the two woofers as close together as possible with a 1" dome tweeter in the upper notch between the two woofers? It seems as if that might only add ~.5" to the height of the speaker (see quick and dirty graphic below). Adding a waveguide would of course further increase speaker height.

mtm.jpg
 

Bear123

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I have seating for 3 in front of a 75 inch TV. The center channel will be about 10 ft from the MLP. I presume all listeners will be on axis for the most part but how do I measure/verify this? Is it 20 deg off center of the tweeter? Does moving my couch back increase the sweet spot? If we three are all in the sweet spot what advantage would a 3 way design have for me?
Much of the sound we hear in a room is from the off axis reflections created by the speaker. This is why speakers with excellent off axis response sound better than speakers with bad off axis response, and this is true regardless of where you sit.

A good 3 way center channel will sound good no matter where you sit. A 2 way MTM with poor off axis response will sound bad off axis, and less bad on axis. So the question is, do you want a speaker that sounds good, or one that sounds less bad only if you sit directly in front of it?

If you can find a reasonably priced 3 way center that fits your space, why spend roughly the same money for a sub-optimal design?
 

Namesbuck

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Much of the sound we hear in a room is from the off axis reflections created by the speaker. This is why speakers with excellent off axis response sound better than speakers with bad off axis response, and this is true regardless of where you sit.

A good 3 way center channel will sound good no matter where you sit. A 2 way MTM with poor off axis response will sound bad off axis, and less bad on axis. So the question is, do you want a speaker that sounds good, or one that sounds less bad only if you sit directly in front of it?

If you can find a reasonably priced 3 way center that fits your space, why spend roughly the same money for a sub-optimal design?
Thanks that makes sense. I would think JBL and others know this and could if they wanted, make affordable 3 way centers. That said, there seems to be a specific use case for this type of center that JBL knows the consumer has in mind. It's a sealed box and obviously designed to fit in a tv stand under a tv. Form over function for sure but audio fidelity would likely be compromised with a 3 way in a cabinet as well even if scooted all the way forward to avoid immediate reflections. I guess a 2 way could sound worse in that situation but either way it won't be great for people on the sides. What percentage of the market is going to put their center directly center behind an accoustically transparent projector screen? Or is it worth craining your neck to get the TV mounted high to fit a tall center? I think a balance needs to be struck.
 

Namesbuck

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Thanks that makes sense. I would think JBL and others know this and could if they wanted, make affordable 3 way centers. That said, there seems to be a specific use case for this type of center that JBL knows the consumer has in mind. It's a sealed box and obviously designed to fit in a tv stand under a tv. Form over function for sure but audio fidelity would likely be compromised with a 3 way in a cabinet as well even if scooted all the way forward to avoid immediate reflections. I guess a 2 way could sound worse in that situation but either way it won't be great for people on the sides. What percentage of the market is going to put their center directly center behind an accoustically transparent projector screen? Or is it worth craining your neck to get the TV mounted high to fit a tall center? I think a balance needs to be struck.
To add some actual "science" to my post, If one were to sit 12 ft from an MTM like this in a home theater that features a 3 person couch and we assume the 2 people off center are 3ft from center then the off axis angle would be 14 deg. Arctan 3/12 = 14.03 deg.

In room response could vary depending on the presence and closeness of side walls of course, but my point is simply that there is a use case for the MTM design where respectable audio and WAF can coexist. Nobody wants to live in Zeos' old apt.
 

sword

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One of the marketing goals of these MTM centers is to fit in the narrow spaces under TVs that so many people seem to have. What performance improvement could be gained by having the two woofers as close together as possible with a 1" dome tweeter in the upper notch between the two woofers? It seems as if that might only add ~.5" to the height of the speaker (see quick and dirty graphic below). Adding a waveguide would of course further increase speaker height.

View attachment 170453
I think you're overestimating how close the drivers can get. The center of that face would be weaker the closer the drivers get.
 

abdo123

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To add some actual "science" to my post, If one were to sit 12 ft from an MTM like this in a home theater that features a 3 person couch and we assume the 2 people off center are 3ft from center then the off axis angle would be 14 deg. Arctan 3/12 = 14.03 deg.

In room response could vary depending on the presence and closeness of side walls of course, but my point is simply that there is a use case for the MTM design where respectable audio and WAF can coexist. Nobody wants to live in Zeos' old apt.

That’s a gigantic home theatre and this speaker would arguably be way too cheap and way too small for it.
 

More Dynamics Please

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I think you're overestimating how close the drivers can get. The center of that face would be weaker the closer the drivers get.
Sure, that was a quick and dirty rough drawing just to illustrate a general concept. A better way to state the question would be what performance gains can be achieved compared to existing MTM centers by moving the woofers as close together as possible without compromising baffle integrity? How much of a performance penalty is there for spacing the woofers further apart than they could be? Is any gain for close woofer spacing so small that closer spacing wouldn't achieve much so no one bothers to do it?
 

Bear123

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Sure, that was a quick and dirty rough drawing just to illustrate a general concept. A better way to state the question would be what performance gains can be achieved compared to existing MTM centers by moving the woofers as close together as possible without compromising baffle integrity? How much of a performance penalty is there for spacing the woofers further apart than they could be? Is any gain for close woofer spacing so small that closer spacing wouldn't achieve much so no one bothers to do it?
Revel's C25 has the drivers quite close together, infringing onto the tweeter waveguide actually. Combined with the 5.25" woofers(vs 6.5), I think they have engineered this 2 way MTM center to be as least bad as possible. I predict it will measure somewhat better than most other 2 ways tested if Amir tests one:
1638835025845.jpeg
 

Bear123

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Thanks that makes sense. I would think JBL and others know this and could if they wanted, make affordable 3 way centers. That said, there seems to be a specific use case for this type of center that JBL knows the consumer has in mind. It's a sealed box and obviously designed to fit in a tv stand under a tv. Form over function for sure but audio fidelity would likely be compromised with a 3 way in a cabinet as well even if scooted all the way forward to avoid immediate reflections. I guess a 2 way could sound worse in that situation but either way it won't be great for people on the sides. What percentage of the market is going to put their center directly center behind an accoustically transparent projector screen? Or is it worth craining your neck to get the TV mounted high to fit a tall center? I think a balance needs to be struck.
Well there is a 3 way center speaker made by the parent company of JBL that sells on sale for $149, and I doubt they sell it at a loss. So it is possible to make a very low cost, reasonably good performing 3 way center channel. No doubt they are using inexpensive drivers as distortion is not as low as the Revel centers. Despite being cheaper and having (a little bit) higher distortion at low levels, the Infinity RC263 will keep getting louder after the C25 craps the bed.

I used a two way center channel for years and was reasonably happy with both that I had. 1st was the Hsu HC1 MK2 center channel, and the next was the Revel C25. The Infinity RC263 is now in place and it indeed has better off axis response, and will play louder without heavy compression/distortion, so its a win win for both home theater and music for me. It's frustrating to people that it sometimes takes months to either be available or go on sale, but there are several good 3 way options under $500 that I would take over probably any 2 way:
Infinity RC263 $499/as low as $149 on sale
Emotiva C1+ $249
Emotiva C2+ $399
SVS Prime $399
Monoprice THX-365C $399/currently on sale $349

As far as "craning your neck", this is not even close to being an issue. Raising the TV a few inches to accommodate a 3 way center will result in a nearly meaningless change in viewing angle….that any human is capable of accommodating without any strain or discomfort. In fact, most TV's mounted at the same height as the seating results in looking significantly *down* to see the TV once comfortably relaxed back into the seating.

Try it yourself. Sit back on your couch, relax your head against your seat back as you would watching a movie….almost gauranteed you have to direct your gaze downward to see the TV.
 

Namesbuck

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Well there is a 3 way center speaker made by the parent company of JBL that sells on sale for $149, and I doubt they sell it at a loss. So it is possible to make a very low cost, reasonably good performing 3 way center channel. No doubt they are using inexpensive drivers as distortion is not as low as the Revel centers. Despite being cheaper and having (a little bit) higher distortion at low levels, the Infinity RC263 will keep getting louder after the C25 craps the bed.

I used a two way center channel for years and was reasonably happy with both that I had. 1st was the Hsu HC1 MK2 center channel, and the next was the Revel C25. The Infinity RC263 is now in place and it indeed has better off axis response, and will play louder without heavy compression/distortion, so its a win win for both home theater and music for me. It's frustrating to people that it sometimes takes months to either be available or go on sale, but there are several good 3 way options under $500 that I would take over probably any 2 way:
Infinity RC263 $499/as low as $149 on sale
Emotiva C1+ $249
Emotiva C2+ $399
SVS Prime $399
Monoprice THX-365C $399/currently on sale $349

As far as "craning your neck", this is not even close to being an issue. Raising the TV a few inches to accommodate a 3 way center will result in a nearly meaningless change in viewing angle….that any human is capable of accommodating without any strain or discomfort. In fact, most TV's mounted at the same height as the seating results in looking significantly *down* to see the TV once comfortably relaxed back into the seating.

Try it yourself. Sit back on your couch, relax your head against your seat back as you would watching a movie….almost gauranteed you have to direct your gaze downward to see the TV.
I gotta disagree on the tv height piece. There is an entire reddit community devoted to tvs being mounted too high r/tvtoohigh. I find that that you can't really go too low for the most part (reasonably speaking) but you can easily go too high particularly with large TV's.

I'd happily take a look at the infinity center if I could find it at $150. 2 ways are easier to drive by nature so for those with budget AVRs like me that's a consideration particularly if you have to stretch power to cover height channels.
 

Namesbuck

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That’s a gigantic home theatre and this speaker would arguably be way too cheap and way too small for it.
12 ft from the center channel is gigantic? No matter moving in to 10 ft or 8 ft has a small impact on the angle.
 

More Dynamics Please

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Atlantic technologies 4400
OK, that Atlantic Technology 4400C is exactly what I was trying to illustrate. The only question is how much performance they gained with that configuration, which has the two bass drivers even closer together than the Revel C25 and about as close as you can get.

4400-C-BLK-front-ng.jpg
 

More Dynamics Please

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A sign that Atlantic Technology saw performance value in pushing the woofers so close together on the 4400C is that instead of simply carrying over the 4400LR for horizontal center use they added the effort and expense to rearrange the drivers. Looking at the 4400LR pictured below they had already pushed the woofers as close together as possible with the tweeter in the center. It would probably take a comparison of Klippel data from both driver arrangements to see how much this improved performance for horizontal MTM center use.
4400-LR-GLB-front-ng.jpg
 

Bear123

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I gotta disagree on the tv height piece. There is an entire reddit community devoted to tvs being mounted too high r/tvtoohigh. I find that that you can't really go too low for the most part (reasonably speaking) but you can easily go too high particularly with large TV's.

I'd happily take a look at the infinity center if I could find it at $150. 2 ways are easier to drive by nature so for those with budget AVRs like me that's a consideration particularly if you have to stretch power to cover height channels.
If the theory is that keeping a neutral head/neutral gaze is highly important, then too low would be just as bad as too high. Again, if people honestly evaluated how they sit, *especially* if they recline, no way a TV close to the floor results in a neutral gaze. Regardless, humans can look at a TV close to the floor or close to the ceiling without strain.
 

617

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OK, that Atlantic Technology 4400C is exactly what I was trying to illustrate. The only question is how much performance they gained with that configuration, which has the two bass drivers even closer together than the Revel C25 and about as close as you can get.

4400-C-BLK-front-ng.jpg
It still sucks. I've simulated this. It's still the equivalent of a 10-12" woofer with a 1" tweeter. There's no way to get around it.
 
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