B&W HTM-61

I am trying to decide on a center ht speaker to go with my new B&W 683s, and have read a number of negative reviews of this one, particularly from Thomas Norton in Ultimate AV Mag.

So I am wondering if anyone has experience with this speaker, or can offer other choices?

I just purchased one today and am listening right now. I can't imagine why this would receive a negative review. The HTM61 is the correct matched CC speaker for the 683's. To me, the mid-range, vocals, and upper bass are all well balanced with excellent soundstage. I auditioned it at the store before I walked out with it. If I had heard anything funky, I would have caught it. What does this negative review say about it? I'll have to search for it. My advice, go out tomorrow and buy it. The red cherry finish is real smart looking and attractive.
Here is one negative comment:

I am sorry to hear of the troubles but, frankly, the HTM61 is not a promising
design, simply judged from the published information and pictures. It is one of
a myriad of so-called dedicated center speakers that have been offered to
(foisted on) the uninformed who think that a horizontal array in a horizontal
box is acoustically correct for this application (or any other).

The ideal center is designed pretty much on the same principles as any other
speaker, so three identical floor-standers or bookshelf speakers is fine.
Unfortunately, the public seems to think that horizontal arrays are correct when
they are merely accommodations to convenience and visual aesthetics.
Kal Rubinson

"Music in the Round"
Contributing Editor, Stereophile

and here is the relevant part from the Norton review in Ultimate AV Mag:

The problem was the HTM61 center channel speaker. Despite the pedigree offered by its FST midrange, it blended poorly with the left and right 683s. Its sound was thicker, duller, and less open—a characteristic that was different depending on whether I was seated on-axis or off to the left or right by about 30-degrees (it was also different in the two directions). This not only reduced dialog intelligibility but also significantly reduced the "jump factor" of the whole system in full surround mode. Yes, the HTM61 was stand mounted below the screen, which placed it less than two feet from the floor/ But that position has worked well with innumerable center channel designs that have lived there before.

What the measurements will show remains to be seen, but a few basic in-room measurements indicated nothing obviously defective about our sample of the HTM61.

When I substituted the similarly priced Revel Concerta C12 for the HTM61 the soundstage and clarity opened up considerably. In fact I lived with that setup for a couple of weeks as I reviewed other gear and movies on the system.

But that setup was hardly appropriate for this review. So when I got down to serious business I tried something else. The vital front channels and the subwoofer, of course, had to be all B&W. So I pulled one of the 685s from surround duty and pressed it into service as a center channel.

There are, of course, downsides to using a small bookshelf speaker as a center channel. When positioned upright (the only way I recommend), such a speaker could look awkward when sitting atop a big-screen TV. But with today's more compact digital displays, it could be easily positioned on a real bookshelf above or below the screen. A little creativity in this area, such as surrounding the speaker with books—admittedly a novel idea for a bookcase these days—should make it acceptable to the interior decorator in the family, as well as minimize the adverse affects of shelf mounting. (This sort of speaker nearly always sounds best when located well away from surrounding walls and on stands that place the tweeter at or near ear height.)

If a 685 is mounted above the screen and you can't tilt it toward the viewing area, try positioning it either tweeter up or tweeter down to find the best-sounding option. Just don't mount it horizontally!

Speakers such as the 685 are also generally sold in pairs. If you use a 685 as a center, that will leave you with a single, an odd man out speaker. If your dealer won't sell you just one (unlikely, since the speaker is not only sold in pairs, but also packed that way), and you can't find an audiophile friend who is considering the same system, you could use the extra 685 for a center surround if your receiver allows for a 6.1-channel option (most do).

While not intended as a center channel speaker, the 685 performed the job remarkably well. Apart from a slightly more pronounced top end directly on axis, common to nearly all speakers, its balance was consistently good across a seating area approximately 30-degrees on either side of center—and respectable even beyond that. Since it was mounted relatively close to the floor, I used the provided foam plug to fill half of the port (filling it completely leaned out the balance too much for me, but your mileage may vary). In this configuration, well-recorded voices were consistently natural-sounding.

The 685 kept up with the most action-heavy soundtracks. Crossed over at 80Hz, I heard no obvious distortion or overloading from it even in the heavy metal chaos of Transformers played back at theater-like levels in my 3200 cubic foot room.

Are you using the HTM-61 horizontally?

And many thanks for your feedback!

Yes, horizontally directly underneath my LCD TV. Fits perfectly and looks great. While I can understand the reviewers concerns about it being a bit thick, I bought it to add more overall bass extension in my room so this works for me and not to rely just on the subwoofer. It's frequency response rating is 38hz on the low end so that's fairly bassy. I will agree it is slightly subdued but that's the FST bass driver in the unit.

I wonder if the reviewer just doesn't like this particular speaker? What would he think of its predecessor, the LCR600 S3? That drops to 48hz, not as boomy.

I was just listening to Marcia Ball (CD: Blue House, cut "Why Do I") and when the sax solo came in from one of the guys in her band, boy did that sound alive and right there. It felt like the performer was right in front of me. Her vocals are alive and well also but not bright, a bit more subdued. I think it just comes down to a matter of preference. I sit about 8' from it and right in the middle of my system.

You may want to get a preowned LCR600 S3 which is the previous series 600. Hope this helps.

Thanks once again for your feedback. The salesperson also highly recommends the HTM61, and even spent some time listening to it in the store in order to help dispel my concerns.

Are you using some sort of speaker stand that you can recommend for it?

I sit only about 4-1/2 to 5 feet away from my 32" LCD. The 683s are about 6-1/2 feet apart.
I have mine positioned horizontally directly underneath my 32" LCD TV. I have the TV sitting directly on top of it separated by a soft cloth. The TV (Sony Bravia 32" LCD, 37.5lbs)'s pedestal fits perfectly on top of the long side of the speaker with room to spare. There is absolutely no problem doing this. I checked into that. It does not harm the speaker and if anything, will dampen in a bit more. The HTM61 is rock solid with an improved enclosure over the 600 S3 series. I have both sitting on top of a standard small oak colored TV entertainment center I purchased in Target. Nothing fancy but fairly solid and heavy (the kind you assemble at home). Would you like me to take a photo of it and e-mail that to you?

Hi again, and thanks for the info. I have the same TV, interestingly enough.

And yes, a photo would be most excellent!

Email is merlin@evening-sun.com