Surround speaker upgrade

Hi Guys

I recently upgraded my home theater. I had an all Focal system.  Now I have Wilson Audio Sophia fronts a Wilson  Audio Watch center and 2 JL audio subs and Focal Cobalt surrounds.  The weak link in my system is the focal surrounds.  So I would like to upgrade them..  My room is about  13x20.  I guess the ideal would be to find a used pair of Wilson watch surrounds ? (Easier to say than to do, finding them are not so easy, thought I had found a pair but were sold out from under me)

I am not totally sold on the Wilson surrounds or should I be.  There are dipole, bipole,  front firing etc etc  Do not really know the advantages of different types of surrounds (or explain why I should not use front firing speakers for surrounds)  Can any one give suggestions as to good quality surround speaker that would fit my system   Would like to keep the cost in the $1500 to $3000 used range if possible.

Thanks for all and any input

Norm L

Hi Norm,

The whole bi/dipole thing was a gimmick to try to make up for the differences in a living room compared to a theater. In a theater you usually have 1 pair of surrounds per side, plus rear surrounds. Also, in a theater surround speakers are usually at least 10’ away from the listeners, allowing for a wide coverage area.

I’ve found in modest living rooms 1 monopole (i.e. normal) speaker per side is just fine, if well matched. Fortunately, most HT processors these days include the ability to match speaker’s tonally.

Do you really hear deficiency’s in the Focal’s or are you just trying to match the quality of your system? Not that I'm a Focal fanboy, just wondering what it is you are missing.



I should also point out that manufacturers have a vested interest in di/bi-polar surrounds. Having twice the drivers they often cost twice as much. Fortunately most buyers felt they were gimmicky too and most of these have gone the way of "smell-o-vision."

For a real high-end HT experience with seating for at least 20 I’d recommend going closer to the auditorium, and using 1 pair of mono-pole (i.e. normal) surrounds per side if space allowed.


Thanks for the input Erik.  I did not think that there was going to be that much difference in the fronts or center when I upgraded but their is.  especially on the bottom end.  The Wilsons are that good.   The JL Audio subs used to stand out in my system now I hardly notice them   I am a Focal guy and have been for decades.  The Cobalts are middle to lower end of the Focal line up when they made them.  Even if I went to Electra,s in the Focal line(Step up from the Cobalt) it would be an improvement   I am hoping that it will make a difference to upgrade my surrounds      
I am not going to suggest you upgrade to other Focals, that’s for sure. :)

How are you configuring the surrounds though? I only have really 2 full range speakers, and the rest are satellites, but I can cross them over fairly well at 80 Hz.

My mains are ported and only go down to around 40 Hz. I do like to run them full range, I think it makes a small difference, but rarely in movies like Pirates of the Carribean they can get over excited. With the woofer well integrated though, I can run my 5 speakers as satellites and it’s pretty awesome.  With a 6.5" woofer, I can only go so far.  For music  I never need more.

The rest of my speakers use 5.25" woofers though, so when I do movies I have to set the crossover the the highest common denominator, which is around 80 Hz.



Hi Erik

Thanks for reply.  My pre/processor controls the crossover to my subs in the movie mode at 60Hz My fronts each have a 10 inch woofer and my subs are also 10 inch the JL Audio subs and Wilson audio woofers are very tight when pushed  A t the introduction to terminator 2 intro when they have the DTS intro you can actually feel the sound I am not kidding the room vibrates,  The processor allows me to select crossover manually as well if I like, and when listening to music in direct mode I have the subs control crossover at around  between 40 and 60 Hz

My surrounds have a 6.5 inch mid woofer or maybe its 5.25 I forgot its been a while  They are very efficient as well as the center and the Wilson fronts are just the opposite the gobble power. They are 4ohms and at certain frequencies can dip to 3.  So the power amp is pushing about 30 amps for the fronts at 225 watts.  Its a good thing that the processor can set the db level for each channel   other wise the center and surrounds would dominate and I would barely hear the fronts  I understand that the Wilson surrounds are much like the fronts with respect to power requirements

Any way thanks again getting carried away

Norm L


So different pro's have different capabilities. Some let you set the crossover point differently for different speakers, some do not.

That's fine.  Yes, processors MUST let you set distance and volume independently. The power difference isn't really an issue here. Usually the limiting factor is excursion of the surrounds. They tend to be the smallest, so you are forced to choose between dynamic range and low crossover point.

Make sure your surrounds and center are set to "small" but leave your L and R as "large" and make sure  you set the frequency a little higher, I'd go with 80 Hz or maybe up to 100.

This should give you a lot more dynamic range with them.