I'm sure others will say otherwise, but IMHO it's no big deal if they don't match. I have Sonus Farber fronts, a Monitor Audio center, and Cambridge rear surrounds.
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Having surrounds whose timbre closely matches that of the fronts is a pretty big deal, IMHO. The improvement in the transition from front to back is noticeable - the entire soundfield becomes more cohesive and natural.
I used Gallo Ref. 3.1s from my fronts and Gallo Dues for the Center and Surrounds. And I thought it sounded pretty good. But when I swapped out the Dues for Ref. AVs, the improvement was way more than subtle...
It's a "nice to have" .... Not a "need to have".
Visually: matching is highly sought after for sure.
Sonically: .... Preferred / Nice to have, but not a critical "gotta have it" moment.
The rears and rear surrounds are a purely "manufactured" "fill-in" signal path sourced from the pre/processor. It's not the same as creating a seamless soundstage across the LF and RF as in two channel critical listening.
For HT, the audio differences in audio / soundtrack performance are significantly reduced ... thats why they make di-pole surround speakers for cramped listening environments without a fatal result .
For the same reasons that's why significantly lesser grade speaker cables are frequently used for the rears and surrounds. You are not going to see rears and surrounds cabled with Nordost Valhallas even though the fronts representing the critical tracks can be.
For multi-channel audio, sure... It's preferred. But ..... Unless it's a rare audio track actually recorded in the rare discrete channel ultra high-Rez PCM 7.1 format (e.g AIX records) wherein the discrete soundtracks place you on stage in the middle of the performers, the differences in audio performance are similarly nil to negligible.
For the 99+% of your audio and soundtrack listening, .... It aint gonna cripple you to select different rears and surrounds.
I am a low budget home theater guy and simy run a 4.1 setup with my Focal mains and some "junk" rear channel speakers. I have obviously heard much better systems, but I don't feel like I am missing anything. I would have a matched center channel, but simply didn't have the room in the cabinet and have been happy with the ghost center effect.
With stereo audio the music is all you have, but with movies there is a significant visual distraction making the audio a smaller part of the overall experience. Great movies can suck you in no matter the speakers or TV just like great music can suck you in on any system, but I think movies can suck you in easier.
I can get a pair of aerial model 5s but i have no room behind the listening area
I concur with the other comments about the surrounds not necessarily needing to match, but have you considered finding brackets or shelves to mount the Ariel 5s on the wall? Just a thought....not sure you can do so however.....
I'd mount the Aerial 5s on the wall to the side of your listening position. In my experience it is important for the mid and HF to be similar to the LR mains, especially for music recorded in DTS.
After some experimenting, I use a pair of KEF Reference 102s mounted on the wall as surrounds for my Reference 107/2 mains. It adds a nice depth to the sound stage with DTS and many SACDs. The newer KEFs with Uni-Q just didn't sound right. I no longer use a center channel, and rarely turn on the amp for the rear channels, so I mostly use 4.1, or is it 4.2 with 2 subs.
I have done it both ways, and having all the same brand and family of models designed to work together a big difference in sound. I find on both 5.1 Audio (SACD/DVD-A) and movies especially noticable on DTS soundtracks. As mentioned is it a must have? No! But is it an avenue to maximizing the sound track reproduction, in my opinion and experience, Yes! Especially on movies where the sound shifts from front to rear or visa-versa, matching speaker voice creates a seamless transition. My advice is, if you can afford it, do it. If budget doesn't permit then try to voice match as closely as possible.
Take a look at this article, especially the last comment. All identical speakers is the absolute best for a multi-channel system, theater or audio, but difficult to use without a dedicated room. The best alternative is a timbre matched system using center and surrounds designed for the mains.
The rears and rear surrounds are a purely "manufactured" "fill-in" signal path sourced from the pre/processor. It's not the same as creating a seamless soundstage across the LF and RF as in two channel critical listening.This was true many years ago with Dolby Pro-Logic, however, today all channels are discrete, uncompressed, and full bandwidth. A sound may move through the room in anyway imaginable, or be fixed at any place in the room, therefore any two or more speakers may be used to create the sound. Looking at the picture in Matching Front and Surround Speakers, it is obvious that the jet would sound exactly the same, front or rear in the room, with all identical speakers. Using timbre matched rears should be extremely close, but still not exactly the same, however, mismatched rears will have a definite difference in the sound. This is easily heard by running the test tone around the room. For all identical speakers, the tone sounds exactly the same in every channel, and with timbre matched, it should be very close, but likely a slight difference. For mismatched surrounds, the difference will be much more. Matching the rears with the fronts will give you a better balance to the sound throughout the room.
I've done it both ways and gotten good results both ways.
My listening room does double duty as a home recording studio. Since I use a pre-pro in my 2 channel rig, I'm able to quickly go surround if needed for an audio-video session. I have a small Marantz projector and use 3 of the 4 powered M-Audio monitors that are usually dedicated to the recording studio or connected to a remote Sonos zone as surrounds and a center. These M-Audio monitors are both less than optimal for surround duty (dispersion) and very different from my main speakers - usually Ohm 100s, sometimes MMGs, occasionally Verity P/Es. In all cases, the results are satisfying to me.
It may or may not make a difference. I had Focals as surrounds paired with my Revel fronts. There was a difference. One wasn't necessarily "better" than the other but it was different. When I replaced the Focals with Revel S30 surrounds, I only then appreciated what the full voice matching did for the surround experience. It was truly seamless.
I think that matching all speakers and timber matching is critical to the home theatre experience. I do think that when creating a home theatre like the movie experience the only way is with horn drivers-like the theaters have. The heart pounding dynamics are only created with a full horn loaded speaker. Plus subwoofers to add those last octaves. Take a look at Casta Acoustics and see what I am speaking of. Custom horns are simply amazing. You will not need another speaker.........
I personally care nothing for multi music surround, but rather only movie surround. That said, by far, I find that effective diffuse dipolar or similar type surrounds - which are EQd out from the main processor, to match the timber n response of the mains - which envelope the listening area, are of more importance than matching or identical speakers all around. But to each his own. (Surrounds at most movie theaters not same as fronts either!?)
The main fronts n center are BY FAR the most important for anchoring the front soundstage, n carying the content, IMO. The surrounds are mostly for carrying secondary ambiance cues,and should be placed so as to not be localizeable, create a large diffuse side and rear soundstage, and for "fill" (as a priority order, that is -minimumally speaking). Thankfully, it's also most impractical to place larger, even full range, direct firing traditional loud speakers up on rear walls n ceilings, anyway.. Not to mention decor eyesore!
Yes, mostly match main fronts, n work on system set up n integration, proper crossover response n placement, and EQing, I say. let the diehard audiophile music only lovers worry about 5 or more matching speaks! The wife or girlfriend will never love it anyway, otherwise.
My opinion, if you want to achieve the movie experience like/better than the theatres in your home in a medium to large space to work with, you will need horns and the less crossover and calibration the better as it is all filtering holding back dynamics and natural quality. If speakers are chosen correctly, crossovers and calibration will be minimal. Identical speakers/drivers are best for timber matching across the range. Dipole speakers beside or behind listening position or both are beneficial to surround duty. Carpet or cork is good for flooring and paneling behind front speakers on wall and in back corners work extremely well. A suitable sub(s) are the icing on the system for low bass duties. Placement is critical with sub(s) as to smoothen out the low end. In the end if this achieved, everyone will come to your house for movies instead of paying and waiting at the local theatre. Enjoy and cheers!!
We sit pretty close to the apex of an equilateral triangle with the front LR speakers. I removed the center channel because the mains (KEF 107/2s) image so well dialog is intelligible and seems to follow the speaker. Placing a matching speaker in the center of a projection screen would be impractical and is unnecessary.
Rmichael21, I'm not sure if you are still interested in answers, but in the event that you are, I'll add mine.
I think the answer to your question depends on the value you place on your HT experience. The more value (and means) you place on your HT experience, the more likely you are to value the timbre matching in the surrounds.
My interest in HT is mostly casual; I like it but any extra funds I have usually go into my 2 channel system. My surrounds are not timbre matching and I'm good with that.
Having said this, a recent experience is causing me to rethink the need for timbre matching surrounds. Earlier this spring, I caught the bug and decided to "upgrade" my L/R mains; but, I decided to keep my existing center channel. While I'm quite pleased with the stereo sound in my new speakers, the surround sound experience can be frustrating at times. The only reason I know this is because I used to have timbre matched speakers across the front. Now I'm wondering what my experience would be like if I was accustomed to five timbre matched speakers instead of three.
I had 3 identical speakers across the front and 2 smaller timber matched for the rears. I upgraded the 2 fronts for stereo and now waiting for the matched center and rears to arrive. For me, I like everything to match sonically and visually. The biggest improvement I noticed was upgrading my pre/pro, amps and source though.