My experience suggest that it's very important to match the center channel to the fronts. I went from the Monitor Audio PLC150, to a Gold C350, to a PLC350. I have Monitor Audio PL500s as my fronts and it just didn't sound good with the PLC150 and C350 when watching television or a movie. There is complete integration with the PLC350 and PL500s.
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Are you getting the B&Ws? I'd wait until you choose your L/R speakers first. But if clarity is paramount and you don't care about matching...
A used Aerial CC3 would be a good option. Too bad there was one here just recently. A couple other options:
As mentioned above, make sure you have settings properly set if you haven't already.
There are many reasons why your current center may not sound clear and they have nothing to do with the actual speaker. Sorry if I shouldn't take your comment literally, but no center speaker will sound clear just sitting "on the floor." Positioning for the center and adjustments in the processor can greatly affect how it sounds.
Sorry again, but it makes no common sense to use a center that's not timbre matched to the L&R. The only result will be degradation.
My HT guy was over to make sure that the B&W 800s would fit in my space. I am only about 14.5' wide, so we cut out some paper the size of the base and tried to place it in the front of the screen, and there was just no room to turn the speakers towards the centre chair without the speaker being in the way of the light from the camera, and the speakers will be sitting right next to each of the side walls.
The B&W are just too big for my room, and I am really upset, but have to move on, so I guess my next step iwas to order the newer Triton References.
Sorry, didn't read your whole post before. Do you have the center speaker angled so that the tweeter is firing toward your ears? Assuming you do, I suspect there's something wrong with the ribbon tweeter in your XXL (or somewhere further up the chain, but that seems less likely). The reviews I've read of that speaker are very positive and praise it specifically for its clarity, so I highly doubt another center speaker will solve the problem. And if the L/R speakers sound clear to you without the center then it's not your hearing either. Best of luck in figuring this out.
In my case I had to build a speaker box to match my 4 towers in a 5.1.4 Atmos set up. The factory is gone but I can still source parts and get repairs and get new parts. I am very old and my experience goes back to the late 60s. I am a stereo 2 channel guy to begin with but evolved into the surround sound beginning with quadraphonic. I have experimented with 2 seperate stereo systems in the beginning just because of economics. After years of mixing and matching I now am using all speakers the same. It sounds so much more connected and creates a seamless illusion. All the same drivers and same crossovers.http://https//www.dolby.com/us/en/technologies/dolby-atmos/dolby-atmos-home-theater-installation-guidelines.pdf
This should help significantly
Just wanted to add that I noticed a huge improvement when I completely destroyed my entertainment center and got my center channel the exact same height as the 4 towers, the tweeter and midrange at the same height. Wife came home and had a fit and 3 weeks later she got over it. Placement as well as timbre matching is the way to go.
In a perfect world, we would all run five or seven identical speakers for all floor channels, heck even suspending some for overhead channels. However, the world isn't perfect, and I'll go against the grain here and say that I don't think timbre matching is very important for a center channel. I know that's the prevailing wisdom, but my experience has taught me different.
To me, the absolute best setups I've owned and heard are where all speakers are of very high quality. The differences between these speakers, even one brand or design criteria to the next is significantly smaller than the audible differences between the bottom shelf, big box store offerings. Add to that that most HT setups run some form of advanced room correction and the differences get even smaller. For instance (because lets face it, we're talking mostly about tweeters here), I have mixed diamond (802 D2) and ribbon (ML Focus) tweeters, and currently mix beryllium (Focal Sopra 2) and ribbon tweeters. Both setups sound far superior to all ribbon (ML 60XT + Focus), all aluminum (B&W CM9 S2 + CMC2 S2), or other mixings thereof where the speakers were not as high quality, especially after Anthem room correction.
Your center speaker IS your main speaker in a HT setup, and as such will be almost single handedly handling all of the dialogue and on screen effects. The mains and surrounds are there mainly to fill out orchestral scores and off screen effects. You system though will sound pretty much like your center channel and subs.
As another guy who struggles to hear dialogue (in movies, parties, etc.)...
I have gone through similar problems with dialogue clarity. My experience is that the actual center channel speaker makes a HUGE difference in enjoyment of TV, movies, etc. I have found minimal positive effect to adjusting center channel EQ curves, some beneficial effect to just raising center channel volume, and a large beneficial effect to getting a center channel built for dialogue. To various degrees, I have been unimpressed with various center channels from B&W (entry level), Aerial CC3b (sounded like a blanket over the speaker, very disappointed given glowing reviews), Focal Chorus (nice for music, bad for dialogue), Martin Logan Motion 30 (could not understand males despite a "shouting" quality).
These speakers have been run by a variety of high-end amps, preamps, processors, speaker wires, and +/- room correction, but it seems that the actual center channel speaker is the overwhelming piece of the puzzle.
I have Salk HT-3 mains, and talked with Jim Salk about my problems. He built me the HT-3 equivalent center and it solved everything. Great dialogue at low and high volumes. Consider giving him a call to build a speaker, suggest an existing speaker from his lineup, or just give you some good advice. Who cares if the center "matches" the rest of the system if you cannot understand what is being said.
My 2 cents
Well, hello, and good to hear that you are a GE lover too!
My room is 14.5' x 23'
Have put in a raised 2nd row just under the projector at the end of my room with a 128" screen
I have a Marantz 8802A with 2 amps, a 5-channel Classé + a 7-Channel Emotiva
I have my front L & R just in front and a little in from the side walls, my centre on the floor, with 4 atmos speakers in the ceiling, and 2 sides + 2 rears that are all built into the walls. I have 4 subs, 2 behind a false front wall, in the corners, and the other 2 subs in the rear corners of the room. I have installed a 12th inwall speaker as a 2nd centre channel just above my other CC. At this time, I do not like my centres, as I do have a challenge in hearing the dialogue clearly.
No room treatment!
Also, ahem, I use my own center channel, the design is free of charge:
I encourage every Audiophile to build at least 1 pair of DIY speakers in their hobby lifespan.
It's my understanding that the closer to the corners you have your speakers, the more increase in bass you'll have and muddy the sound of your room. You didn't mention your ceiling height, but I'm guessing you have your front LRC positioned the way you do because of the size of the screen.
What I would try before replacing my center, is repositioning your front speakers and subs disregarding how they affect your picture to see if you can get the sound right first. Try using just the single XXL center and get it off of the floor to ear height or up a little and pointing toward ear height. Move the subs out of the corners. Also, I bet those T Refs will sound a lot better a little farther out and away from the side walls, too. If the clarity improves, you might want to get an acoustically transparent screen and/or replace the false wall.
Depending on how well the T Refs do, I'll bet Sandy will come out with a matching center like he did with most of the Triton series.
My HT setup is in my living/family room/kitchen and the acoustics are pretty bad. I'm hoping to get a better room for it soon.
Guys, thanks for the emails, and suggestions.
I was going to get a used B & W HTM 1D to use as a new CC but the seller had the older L & R 800 speakers but they where just too big for my room so I ordered the Triton Ref and will try to get a stand for my XXL speaker to see if there will be any difference in clarity.
Guys, I just purchased a speaker stand for my centre channel so it is now about 19" above the floor, almost at my ear level. We shall see if I will be able to hear any better after I see a few movies in the next week.
Joe, so you love your Illusion. Are the rest of your speakers all Martin Logan?
Having this center speaker "almost" at ear level is not sufficient. Having your ears even slightly above the tweeter will result in a big loss in perceived detail from the listening chair. It is most important that the tweeter be at the same level as or aimed directly at your ears with this speaker. In fact, if you read John Atkinson's review of the Triton Reference you'll notice he actually propped the speakers up from behind to get the tweeters pointing more inline with his ears to achieve good treble balance. Feeling like a broken record here so I'm done. Best of luck.
Sorry for late response about Salk center channel option.
Anyway, here is mine
Seems it was around $2K to build and ship. He is a custom builder --- he will build it with the port in front, in back, or sealed, and whatever finish you want. He has less expensive options that probably are just as good, especially if you are mostly after dialogue. Just give him a call and describe your situation. Salksound.com
Martin Logan 50xt
Over the years I have changed out the center channel more times than sense just trying to get that clarity in dialogue that is essential to home theater.
I bought this 3 years ago and the changes have ceased!
I believe the "folded motion" tweeter is the key
None of my other speakers are Martin Logan
I have not bought into the all speakers from same manufacturer, have tried that twice and still was not happy.
Just my thoughts and experience