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Need a cheapie center channel speaker

rdenney

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My current TV setup is suboptimal. Okay, it's crap. But we are not really movie nuts and for watching TV, who cares? What I have is a lot better than any soundbar I've heard, but I make no claims and have few requirements beyond that.

The amp is a relatively inexpensive Yamaha RX-V683. It does not have pre-outs, but it's video management met my requirements and I found a used one for about $350 when my old Onkyo died.

The current speaker arrangement is 4.1. The fronts are old Linn Index Plus two-way closed speakers, which I bought about 30 years ago. Opinions on these are somewhat polarized, but I have never disliked these speakers. The surround speakers are Polk Audio RT15i speakers I bought at (probably) Best Buy about 20 years ago. The sub, bought at the same time as the Polks, is a Boston Acoustics PV500 10" 100W cheapie. All these are adequate to needs, so I'm certainly not trying to explore the state of the art. I do not listen to music seriously on this system, and we do not listen to movies played loudly.

In terms of placement, well, that's also suboptimal. The TV, a heavy 50" plasma display that's gotta be 15 years old but still works perfectly and looks great (and I am picky about that), sits on a rolling cabinet in the corner of the room. Behind it on Stage Left (viewer right) is a built-in bookshelf wall unit, and behind it on Stage Right (viewer left) is a wall of windows. It points into the room at a 45-degree angle. The right Linn is on that bookshelf system and is probably a touch too high. The left Linn is on a stand in front of the windows and several inches lower than the right speaker. Both are about two feet from the edge of the TV. The surrounds are poorly placed wherever I could get approval. They are to the sides but forward of the seating positions, and not symmetrical with the fronts. Where I sit is left of center and my wife sits right of center. The only placement I rather like is the sub, which sits behind the plasma display on the same rolling cart, completely invisible, and taking advantage of corner reinforcement in the room.

When I first turned on the Yamaha, the sound was horrible--far too much on the sub and with strange echoes suggesting to me that timing was really off. I don't know what the previous owner was doing, but he was obviously into something different than me. I used the Yamaha microphone and their automated setup, and that simply worked perfectly--I have not felt the need to for further adjustment. I was rather amazed at how well it worked--I'd had the impression that Yamaha's automated EQ setup was not any good.

The big hole in this is a center speaker, as I keep reading. I'm thinking a center would help with dialogue, which sometimes gets a bit lost in the soundtrack with some movies, and that's the only thing the wife has complained about.

There are constraints. The center speaker has to fit on the rolling table that the plasma display uses. I have about 7.5 inches from the table to the edge of the screen, so the speaker is really constrained to 7" tall, and no more than about 10" deep front to back, or I will have to lift the TV.

I have a pair of the Pioneer SP-BS22LR speakers in my office, driven by an old Adcom GFA-535, and generally think pretty highly of them, except for their bass extension (and for the music I listen to while working, even that is no real issue). Given that I'm constrained to the horizontal center speaker arrangement anyway, I thought I'd take a look at the center speaker in that system. Even though Pioneer seems to have discontinued this line, I found a the SP-C22 for quite cheap that is available. I will probably just buy it and see what happens (it is returnable), but I thought I'd give the forum a shot at setting me straight for a few hours first. Opinions on that Pioneer are rather polarized, but those are just subjective opinions based on who knows what requirements and context.

My suspicion is that it is competent and probably would be acceptable given the system and my expectations. But my mind is open.

Rick "advice sought" Denney
 

RickSanchez

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Despite being on sale I don’t know that this is quite in the “cheapie” category: https://www.polkaudio.com/en-us/product/center-channel-speakers/s35

I have the S35 as the center for my HT setup. I don’t listen to music on that setup so all it does is handle center channel duties for TV/movies. Seems fine. I imagine the directivity is poor. But for my setup I needed something low-profile and its dimension work great for where I have to place it. Sounds like that’s a factor for you as well, although you have more room than I did.
 

Colonel7

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My current TV setup is suboptimal. Okay, it's crap. But we are not really movie nuts and for watching TV, who cares? What I have is a lot better than any soundbar I've heard, but I make no claims and have few requirements beyond that.

The amp is a relatively inexpensive Yamaha RX-V683. It does not have pre-outs, but it's video management met my requirements and I found a used one for about $350 when my old Onkyo died.

The current speaker arrangement is 4.1. The fronts are old Linn Index Plus two-way closed speakers, which I bought about 30 years ago. Opinions on these are somewhat polarized, but I have never disliked these speakers. The surround speakers are Polk Audio RT15i speakers I bought at (probably) Best Buy about 20 years ago. The sub, bought at the same time as the Polks, is a Boston Acoustics PV500 10" 100W cheapie. All these are adequate to needs, so I'm certainly not trying to explore the state of the art. I do not listen to music seriously on this system, and we do not listen to movies played loudly.

In terms of placement, well, that's also suboptimal. The TV, a heavy 50" plasma display that's gotta be 15 years old but still works perfectly and looks great (and I am picky about that), sits on a rolling cabinet in the corner of the room. Behind it on Stage Left (viewer right) is a built-in bookshelf wall unit, and behind it on Stage Right (viewer left) is a wall of windows. It points into the room at a 45-degree angle. The right Linn is on that bookshelf system and is probably a touch too high. The left Linn is on a stand in front of the windows and several inches lower than the right speaker. Both are about two feet from the edge of the TV. The surrounds are poorly placed wherever I could get approval. They are to the sides but forward of the seating positions, and not symmetrical with the fronts. Where I sit is left of center and my wife sits right of center. The only placement I rather like is the sub, which sits behind the plasma display on the same rolling cart, completely invisible, and taking advantage of corner reinforcement in the room.

When I first turned on the Yamaha, the sound was horrible--far too much on the sub and with strange echoes suggesting to me that timing was really off. I don't know what the previous owner was doing, but he was obviously into something different than me. I used the Yamaha microphone and their automated setup, and that simply worked perfectly--I have not felt the need to for further adjustment. I was rather amazed at how well it worked--I'd had the impression that Yamaha's automated EQ setup was not any good.

The big hole in this is a center speaker, as I keep reading. I'm thinking a center would help with dialogue, which sometimes gets a bit lost in the soundtrack with some movies, and that's the only thing the wife has complained about.

There are constraints. The center speaker has to fit on the rolling table that the plasma display uses. I have about 7.5 inches from the table to the edge of the screen, so the speaker is really constrained to 7" tall, and no more than about 10" deep front to back, or I will have to lift the TV.

I have a pair of the Pioneer SP-BS22LR speakers in my office, driven by an old Adcom GFA-535, and generally think pretty highly of them, except for their bass extension (and for the music I listen to while working, even that is no real issue). Given that I'm constrained to the horizontal center speaker arrangement anyway, I thought I'd take a look at the center speaker in that system. Even though Pioneer seems to have discontinued this line, I found a the SP-C22 for quite cheap that is available. I will probably just buy it and see what happens (it is returnable), but I thought I'd give the forum a shot at setting me straight for a few hours first. Opinions on that Pioneer are rather polarized, but those are just subjective opinions based on who knows what requirements and context.

My suspicion is that it is competent and probably would be acceptable given the system and my expectations. But my mind is open.

Rick "advice sought" Denney
I haven't heard it but If it's $55 jump on it - they're never in stock esp at that price. you can't buy the drivers for that cheap. If you don't like it send it back or do the Dennis Murphy mod that you can piece together from this page and the links in it. https://www.diyaudio.com/community/...e-andrew-jones-pioneer-speakers.222977/page-3
 
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rdenney

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Despite being on sale I don’t know that this is quite in the “cheapie” category: https://www.polkaudio.com/en-us/product/center-channel-speakers/s35

I have the S35 as the center for my HT setup. I don’t listen to music on that setup so all it does is handle center channel duties for TV/movies. Seems fine. I imagine the directivity is poor. But for my setup I needed something low-profile and its dimension work great for where I have to place it. Sounds like that’s a factor for you as well, although you have more room than I did.

Thanks, I looked at those, but I’m saving for another tuba. :)

Rick “$55 requires no justification” Denney
 

escape2

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I bought that Polk S35 a few years back. It sounded thin and bright to me. I returned it. Apparently the S30 one is the better of the two.

Many people like this JBL Studio 520C, currently on sale for only $90:
 
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rdenney

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I haven't heard it but If it's $55 jump on it - they're never in stock esp at that price. you can't buy the drivers for that cheap. If you don't like it send it back or do the Dennis Murphy mod that you can piece together from this page and the links in it. https://www.diyaudio.com/community/...e-andrew-jones-pioneer-speakers.222977/page-3

Oh, yes—that’s exactly the sort of thing I was trolling for. I went ahead and ordered it—$55 is almost a no-risk proposition. I paid that much for an air-tight coffee canister.

If it seems needed, I’ll ping Dennis and figure out the mod.

It occurs to me that the Linns may end up in my office, and the little Pioneers straddling the TV. Or maybe the Linns may end up in the workout room, and the Canton GL260 pair (which are better) may end up in the office. Or…

Rick “many possible permutations” Denney
 

SMc

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I've accumulated a few center speakers over the years, including the Pioneer SP-C22. Although my initial impression was negative, leading to it going into long-term storage, I've recently reconsidered. While I wouldn't use it for a music-only system, it makes plenty of sound in a small room and projects voices intelligibly without the chestiness and sibilance that annoyed me using "better" speakers.

One of the better ones is a Linn Trikan that would probably be an okay match for those Indexes. I had the Index II back in the day and enjoyed the pair in an apartment system.
 
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rdenney

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I've accumulated a few center speakers over the years, including the Pioneer SP-C22. Although my initial impression was negative, leading to it going into long-term storage, I've recently reconsidered. While I wouldn't use it for a music-only system, it makes plenty of sound in a small room and projects voices intelligibly without the chestiness and sibilance that annoyed me using "better" speakers.

One of the better ones is a Linn Trikan that would probably be an okay match for those Indexes. I had the Index II back in the day and enjoyed the pair in an apartment system.

Thanks. The Trikan looks a bit pricey for the task at hand, and also a bit tall for the spot. But your description of the SP-C22 fits pretty close to my objectives.

Rick “arriving Tuesday” Denney
 

ThatM1key

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Polk sin to pair a Polk S30/S35 with Polk Audio RT15i surrounds. For a long time I paired a Polk CS400i center with my Polk S55 towers, blended in very well for me and sounded. I gotten a Polk RTi A6, which sounded horrible, I thought it was strange because my Polk RTi6 surrounds and heights paired nicely with the rest of the setup. I returned it and gotten a "refurbished" Polk S30.

You could go with the Polk T30 which costs around $60 to $80. It uses the "wave guide" tweeter from the Polk T50, which was well reviewed here. On Polk's website the Polk T50 features a "flat nose" tweeter that comes from the RT15i and the dreadful T15 , I don't know if its just a "concept speaker" photo or not but I digress. The Polk T30 fits your dimensions, height of 6.5" and a depth of 8.5".

The Pioneer SP-C22 costs the same as the T30, but I heard people are mixed about it despite the speaker being made with Andrew Jone's golden fingers.

Polk made lots and lots of centers, I think more than bookshelf's themselves. A Polk center to avoid is the Polk CS175i. I don't have to tell what's wrong with it, just look at it:
h107CS175iMT.jpeg

I've very certain your "budget" Polk RT15i's are made a lot better than the Polk T15 these days. I know the Polk RT25i's/Polk RTi28's are very sought after because there the "highest trim" of very small Polk bookshelf speakers.,
 

Colonel7

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Thanks. The Trikan looks a bit pricey for the task at hand, and also a bit tall for the spot. But your description of the SP-C22 fits pretty close to my objectives.

Rick “arriving Tuesday” Denney
How is your bargain bin center working out?
 
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rdenney

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How is your bargain bin center working out?
Only a bit of testing so far, but 1.) I don't hear it separately from my fronts, 2.) the wife is not annoyed by it, 3.) it fit in the proposed spot, 4.) I'm not sure dialogue is enough more clear to be the night-and-day difference that I've read about. I did listen to a bit of some movie that had a lot of energy in the soundtrack (can't remember which one, now), before I was instructed to turn it down.

I used the Yamaha YPAO automated process to set levels, timing, and EQ for the (now) 5.1 speaker arrangement, just as I had done when it was 4.1. I went through the process a couple of times with the microphone in a couple of different spots, but didn't hear much difference between them, except that the first time through resulted in a noticeable echo, which I think was caused by the mic being too close to a wall and it was timing the speaker for the first reflection rather than the direct sound. I moved it to the coffee table in front of our seating, at ear height, and the results were pleasing enough. I've heard people complain about the YPAO solution, but the result is fulfilling my requirements so far. This is for my TV system, which is not critical for me. My music system in the next room is my main hobby system and that's a whole other thing. But it's a stereo system at present, with full-range tower speakers.

I have not had an opportunity to crank it up, but that wasn't its real purpose anyway. I will not use REW to evaluate it--that is firmly in the category of questions to which I do not want to know the answer.

So, the experiment was a success so far. The supposed faults of this speaker, and of two-way MTM center speakers in general, have not proved to be an issue. But neither did it change my life for the better.

If my wife would approve (she won't), I could have repurposed two of my four large Advents for the front R and L, moved the Linns to Surround R and L, and moved the Polks to Rear R and L for a 7.1 setup. But that would fulfill no requirements in return for "putting those big ugly speakers next to the TV". Which is fine--I have other plans for a more interesting setup. I just built a new garage/shop, and will be converting my current garage into a workout space. I have an old Samsung plasma TV (42"--big enough), four large Advents, two B&K 125.2 amps--I see the makings of a HT system that could be more fun, and that would make working out more fun.

Rick "worth the $55 I paid for it, but glad I didn't spend a bunch more" Denney
 
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