You would be better off with matching center channel speaker. Their will be things that will pass from left to right or right to left and will travel thru the center speaker. If they do not match fairly close, you will hear the tone change as it sound leaves the outside speaker, passes thru the center channel, then change back as it enters back thru the opposite outside speaker. Of course, if you find a dealer that will let you demo a non matching center speaker, try it and see. You just might get lucky!
the center may not have to be an exact match for your mains, but you're better off if it's a close match. If Dynaudio has a budget center - not necessarily the same speaker elements but having the "house sound" it will probably work. When I first started to assemble my HT, I tried a couple of center speakers that were decent, but not the same brand - it was awful. I now use the entry model center speaker in the same brand as my mains (which aren't entry) and it works nicely.
For proper film, center is for dialogue only-so that leads one to believe you could use a different speaker successfully. Music/effects are NOT sent to the center. However, there are some newer mixes that defy this and who knows what future mixers might do? So this sort of says "the only safe bet for the future" is all speakers the same. In my own case, I cannot do the same so I use (the same brand center) that is voiced the same as my L/R/SR/SL. Less low end in it (fine for dialogue) but sounds very much like the mains. I spent more than I thought I would for the center but all other lesser options sounded too different. I am glad I did, sounds really nice now.
For music, different story completely. Music mixers DO use the center for music, they can sort of do anything they want, so this means all speakers must be the same, rear channels, center, fronts.
I have been using a Kef 204c center channel with Revel Studio, Verity Audio parsifal and Avalon eidolon respectively, and I have always been very pleased with the result. However, ever susceptible to the "upgrade" itch I started looking around for a better match for the Eidolon's. Considering Avalon does not make its own high end center, (and if they did it would be prohibitively expensive), I ordered the Salk Soundscape center, which has the same accuton midrange driver. It will be arriving tuesday. During my search I came across a company call Selah, who will custom build a center with the driver you want to match. I believe he will charge you around $2500 and use the esoteric tweeter and matching midrange. Worth considering.
This is so often a snobs arguement. So many speaker use a box, a port, off the shelf drivers so how much at odds would sound be between similar makes and sizes? Could 90% pick a well matched non matching center with a blindfold? Could 50%? Could 20%?
Then you have those who have a "matched" center, yeah its from same company but the drivers arent even identical...huh?
The point is far, FAR more speakers that dont match makers or even drivers can and will work just fine, I have 3 surround systems with 1 correctly matched and 2 not matched but carefully selected, well 1 was lol,if anyone wants to come down and take my challenge I will film it and post on youtube.
Buy what you can or what you want, it will in almost ALL cases within reason work just fine.
A lot of debate about high-end audio is pure voodoo. Matching powercables anyone? That is part of the fun though.
I have two 5.1 systems in my house. My living room system has all speakers (except the sub) from the same company (Silverline Audio). My basement system was cobbled together from various speakers I had accumulated. The mains are old Paradigm towers and the center is from Boston Acoustics. The mains of both systems are of comparable size, and the centers are as well. The AVrs of the two systems have comparable power ratings and the rooms are of similar
fwiw, the basement system sounds better, especially with movies and t.v. I therefore don't think that it is all tha essential to have all speakers be from the same manufacturer, despite all the advice from HT gurus to the contrary.
My LRs are a pair of KEF 104/2s with dome tweeters. I used a KEF 200C center channel with a Uni-Q tweeter. That arrangement worked fine except for opera on Blu-ray, where a disconnect was obvious when a singer moved about the stage. I replaced the 200C with a pair of older 102s that have the same dome tweeter used in the 104/2s. Tracking a singer is now smooth without the disconnect.
To answer ur question, NO! The center channel does not have to match. But, I highly recommend it.Your C1s have the ESOTAR SQUARE tweeter...not the esotec. In the Dynaudio line, u have two options: Contour SCX center, or the Confidence center. They both have the ESOTAR SQUARE tweeter. The Contour will be about half the price. And there are deals to be had right here on Audiogon. I find that matching the center for HT has a certain degree continuity in sound quality. Same tonality if u will.I have the C2s and a Contour SCX center. This combination works fine. However, I wish that I would have waited a little bit longer to get the Confidence center. I'm still considering the upgrade. I guess that it all depends on how well u want ur HT presentation to sound. I've heard other systems that mixed mains with different brand centers. To me, it's noticeable! And that is distraction for me. Others are not as discerning. I've always felt that the equipment facilitates the goal of the director..."to suspend your disbelief" while watching a film. I really enjoy watching film...and to listen to a soundtrack that gives u goosebumps while watching, can be very rewarding. But, then again, this is coming from a guy who has enjoyed film all of his life. I hate using the word "serious," but I guess it all depends on how serious u are about viewing movies.
All good answers. I agree with both points of view on this subject. That's only because of all of the variables involved, content,equipment,room and so on and so on. A mix of speakers can work well, my father in-law has a mix all the way around and it's all entry level stuff and actually sounds pretty good. I've also heard many systems that are mixed that are awful. But for me I will always use matched speakers, it sounds more balanced and even across the whole sound field, not just the front sound stage. Go out and demo and see what you can come up with.
Thanks for all the help. All excellent points.
I just got a pair of the new Sony AR1s. They don't make a matching center channel (and apparently have no plans to do so), so I am currently using a Dali mentor vokal center channel which I plan on upgrading (to possibly a dynaudio confidence center). Truth be told, I am currently using a different amplifier and speaker cable to my center channel as my Sonys. Most of my music listening is in 2 channel and I don't do a lot of critical multichannel listening, but I do listen to 5.1 for concert DVDs, and I would say that while not a perfect match, the center channel did not detract at all from my listening enjoyment. For movies, the mismatch doesn't bother me at all.
In the perfect world, all speakers should be exactly the same. This is rarely practical, so usually the surrounds are different and very often the center as well.
I would get a center that is designed to match your fronts... yes, you can get close with a different brand (you can also go very wrong with a different brand...). I used to use a Linn center with my Thiel fronts and thought it sounded good. That was until I got a matching Thiel center and only after that did I realize how much I had given up by not matching my fronts...
My new Salk Soundscape that replaces a Kef 204c center channel arrived lost week. The midrange driver of the Salk matches my Eidolons. I am quite pleased with the upgrade, but it was not night and day as was going from Revel to Kef.