who makes a decent center channel speaker?


thinking of going vandersteen...any others come to mind?
phasecorrect
aerial cc5; it's a beast weighing around 90 lbs; great cross overs; good sound controls to allow it to integrate well with many different mains..crisp; warm; and detailed...
Magnepan makes a nice one ( MMG-C ).

And since you seem to always be on a tight budget, it wont break the bank.

http://www.magnepan.com/
I would stick with the same brand as your left and right channels, Personally I prefer B&W
Not only with the same brand but as similar to the L/R speakers as possible. I prefer and use three identical speakers across the front.

I understand that this might not fit for many people but I advise against the ubiquitous MTM horizontal centers, if at all possible.

Kal
I second Kal - same brand and even better if same type - not always practical though.
"I would stick with the same brand as your left and right channels" (Mlawitm)

"Not only with the same brand but as similar to the L/R speakers as possible. I prefer and use three identical speakers across the front" (Kr4)

"I second Kal - same brand and even better if same type" (Shadorne)

I wouldn't even think twice about using a different center than your mains! You'd be better off either with no center at all, or using some other combo of L/C/R speakers as your multi-channel setup, rather than mixing and matching speakers across your front, yes! (it's basically like haveing a different left and right speaker in a stereo setup - you wouldn't do it).
I basically disagree with the line of thinking of getting a "good center" to go with your mains. This is a SURE way to end up with an incoherent, totally unbelievable soundstage, different sounding pans across the front 3 speakers - drawing you out of the illusion of one soundfield! And yes, every professional audio reviewer will agree here. But, you make your choices, and live with your results, either way.
So what are your left and right speakers, and what's your setup like now?
I agree with the first reply, Mribob. Arial CC5 is one best Center. But if you are asking for a DECENT one, hummm, it'd be lots of them on the menu.... Good luck finding.
I wouldn't think twice about using a different centre channel than what is used for the left and right channels in a home theatre application. However, it is critical that the centre be tonally matched. The centre speaker reproduces information that is in phase, i.e. mono. Usually this is voices that are in front of you on the screen. The centre speaker can be optimized for the reproduction of midrange, which is the frequencies where the voices are located. When voices are off-centre, the information is out of phase and in stereo. The left and right speakers will take of care of it, but they must be tonally matched so it doesn't sound different from voices reproduced in the front. Using identical speakers all the way across obviates the tonality problem. And that's fine, but it fails to take advantage of the speaker specialization that the centre is designed for and which enhances the home theatre experience.

Music and home theatre are not the same. You can't automatically apply what you would do in a two channel stereo to a multichannel home theatre. A single centre speaker is not a stereo speaker, Neither is a single sub. A sub is another example of a specialized speaker that exists in home theatre that many two channel people have no use for. Same logic and principle as for a centre. You give something up, i.e. integration, in order to get something else, i.e. low frequency reproduction of effects at louder volumes. It's not needed for most music, but it enhances the home theatre experience.

On the other hand, for discrete, multichannel music (or older, alternative forms of stereo using three speakers), I would want all speakers to be identical, front, centre and rear.
Markphd: "The centre speaker can be optimized for the reproduction of midrange, which is the frequencies where the voices are located.".................."And that's fine, but it fails to take advantage of the speaker specialization that the centre is designed for and which enhances the home theatre experience."
Can you tell us what those 'specializations' are? What optimizations for voice distinguish it from proper main speakers and do not compromise frequency response?

Unfortunately, the construction of the vast majority center speakers is faulty BY INTENT as they cater to aesthetics and convenience rather than performance. This leaves the users of those companies main speakers in the lurch, without a satisfactory alternative other an using an additional main speaker.

Kal
Unfortunately, the construction of the vast majority speakers is faulty BY INTENT as they cater to aesthetics and convenience rather than performance.

I quite agree.
If you are trying to match R&L's that either don't have a center or the center is too much $$$, contact speakercity.com Tell them what you have and they may be able to build you something voiced very closely, even using the same drivers. They did this for my Coincident speakers before there was a center available. It was fairly cheap too.
I think Vandersteen is a wise choice. VCC5 or VCC2 are both amazing.
Elevick:
If you are trying to match R&L's that either don't have a center or the center is too much $$$, contact speakercity.com Tell them what you have and they may be able to build you something voiced very closely, even using the same drivers. They did this for my Coincident speakers before there was a center available. It was fairly cheap too.
Sure. ;-)
Do you really think they can clone any decent speaker you send them? I am very skeptical.

Kal
Markphd.....great post.
In a perfect world we would all have same brand center speakers and even same model but its not a perfect world and there are space, money, wife and others issues that get in the way..........Mark is dead on and dont be afraid to get what you can, if you are careful it wil work great.
Now back to something useful for you, the Vandersteen VC5 is a FANTASTIC speaker (my dad owns one) and while the other Vandersteen center offerings are good the 5 is very good.
"Unfortunately, the construction of the vast majority speakers is faulty BY INTENT as they cater to aesthetics and convenience rather than performance."

Faulty by Intent? Um whatever "faulty" means. I've known enough high end speaker manufacturers to know that, at least with reputable hi-end makers, that there certainly isn't any "faulty" built into ANY speaker they make! That's my experience. In fact, the better speaker designers, if they do make a dedicated center speaker offering, spend time to ensure that the speaker is designed, matched and voiced to go with their products, at least.
As for different manufacturers, my experience from having sold/installed dozens and dozens of different speaker products over the decades is that THEY ALL SOUND DIFFERENT! That said, wisdom simply tells me that you have a much much better chance of putting together a cohesive, properly matched set of speakers, if they're from the same manufacturer, specifically ones that are designed side-by side with ones they're trying to mate with.
But hey, sounds like most here are all for you matching whatever otherwise "good" speaker you can find. Well, it's a choice. I mean I guess you could use 3 of the same tires on your race car, with one odd-ball, or wearing one shoe different than the other, if you like. Don't get it.
I've been doing systems both as a hobby and professionally for almost 2 decades now, and it's been a life's work for most of it - learning to build better systems and such.
So my advice is obvious, but you walk it out, try some things, and see for yourself, to be certain(if you want to know that is).
Like I said, not only does my experience tell me otherwise (Lord knows I've tried many many mis-matched speaker setups in my years, and learned eventually), but yes, all the speakers in a system should ideally be the same. I mean you've gotta be missing something if your thinking tells you to use the same L/R speaker, but then it's ok to add one in the middle which can be different!!! DOH!
Um, well all I can say is that, especially in this case, indeed, "the crowd is always wrong" (unless you're talking about sales. LOL). Basically, if you value quality, I'd go with what the pro's suggest. And they surely would NOT be recommending just go out an get some good speaker to put in there.
Nevertheless, let us know how it turns out.
BTW, if you do decide on going with some other brand center, and you are sifting through the advice being recommended here, how will you know who's suggestion to take?..I mean which ever choice sounds interesting?! Um, OK...?
Iplaynaked: "Unfortunately, the construction of the vast majority speakers is faulty BY INTENT as they cater to aesthetics and convenience rather than performance."

Faulty by Intent? Um whatever "faulty" means.
Simple. Have you ever asked why reputable companies make all their speakers, except dedicated centers, as vertical arrays? Horizontal MTM arrays (and, in fact, almost all horizontal arrays) are faulty because the create irregular dispersion in the horizontal plane. (If you do not know why, Google a bit and find out about 'Venetian blind effect.') The reason they make horizontal MTMs for centers is, despite their knowledge of its faults, they have fed the public's misapprehension that centers should be horizontal. The only reasons for the horizontal arrangement are convenience, esthetics and/or ignorance. (I am not discounting the importance of convenience and esthetics but one should know the trade-offs before choosing.)

Note that some companies have changed their designs and all the new Paradigm 3way centers have the HF/MF arranged vertically. Note also that some companies, such as B&W, use the horizontal array for their less expensive models, like the HTM61 and HTM62, while reverting to proper design principles in their statement products, like the HTM7 and HTM1 through HTM4 models.

Kal
I have all Vandersteen and there big center vcc5 is the best I have herd. I love it! the vcc1 is ok soud reproduction is smooth and accurate but is lacking in the low range.

Ok that being said your center is only as good as it matches your sides so go with the best matching center you can for your sides. The center is the most important speaker 70% of your sound will be form it.
Interesting thread. I do think that with an A/V system like the Anthem D2 it is easy to get past the urge to stick with the same manufacturer.
Unclejeff: Interesting thread. I do think that with an A/V system like the Anthem D2 it is easy to get past the urge to stick with the same manufacturer.
If you had to, ARC or Audyssey will compensate greatly but not entirely. Also, since there are limited resources in the products using these softwares, you have to consider whether you want to use them for an avoidable issue or conserve them for the unavoidable ones. ;-)

Kal
I am not discounting the importance of convenience and esthetics but one should know the trade-offs before choosing.

Sadly, these trade-offs are nearly always in the top three for most speakers designs out there.

The number one trade-off, being COST - small light weight cheap drivers (small motor small voice coil) with an aesthetically pleasing look being the principal approach, as it gets two birds with one stone.

The reality is that ugly speakers with cheap cabinets and expensive drivers do not sell to "audiophiles" as well as those speakers designed the other way round!!!

It is rarely about the performance. It is most often about the look. It is the same with sports cars...

Car manufacturers are not at fault if they build what customers really want rather than what they "claim" they want. It is the same for speakers...

Do you really think all those weird fanciful shapes are necessary? Like the aerofoil and go faster stripes on a car...

B&W knows a thing or two about industrial graphic design, so do many many speaker manufacturers....
Kal, they can't clone a speaker but the unit should get someone by for a while. I didn't have an extra couple grand to buy another pair of coincidents and they didn't have a center on the market yet. Speaker City made me a reasonable unit. Same drivers, similar crossover specs, totally different cabinet.
"If you had to, ARC or Audyssey will compensate greatly but not entirely."

Amazing. What's being inferred to the uninformed here is that these DSP processing technologies will make all speakers in your system sound the same, regardless of make, model, manufacturer, etc! Well you could call Audyssey and ask em if this is the case. I've been to their training. Let me assure you a forehand that that IS NOT the case!!
You can't expect to use whatever speakers you want all around the room, mix-match er whatever, and think technology will do all the fixing and mating for you. Nonsense I say! Anyway, that's what's coming across from this tone here.
Well all I have to say is that those advocates here (majority - amazing to me as it is...WOW!...WOW!!!) of using whatever "good center" you can pick up, is that you are certainly contrary to the pro's who make their living eating and breathing this stuff, and who've been in this passionately for decades! - and they have always preached matching speakers, ideally identical if you can. Getting into other technologies will only lead you astray, my friends. But invest and build at your own peril, I say. What is wisdom? You be the judge here.
But hey, if any here want to chose other paths, it's all good. What's fundamentally sound judgement? Well I've been deep into this stuff for almost 2 decades now, and I am still learning things new all the time! So what chance has ANY audio newbie out there who's taking ill-advised recommendations got of figuring out how to "build a better audio mouse trap"? Might as well just get whatever and hope for the best, cause a solid starting foundation and fundamentally sound choices you will not be making! Of that I can assure you.
Like I said, if I were looking for solid investing advice, I wouldn't be going to those who never got anywhere, financially! Nor would I be going for medical advice from someone who read a couple of articles in a "Better Health" magazine. Or for that matter, asking advice on how to rebuild my automatic transmission from someone who's only done and oil change and brake job!
Well, I made my point. Personally, if Phasecorrect decides to go the "whatever is good" route, I think maybe the best route here would be for him to go out and by whatever center he thinks sounds good in some system he auditions over at Best Buy! That way, when it doesn't work down the line, at least he can return it. Now that sounds like more sound advice. Lol. At least you know BB is going to be there over the next 90 days when he finds out this theory is no good.
I'm just simply blown away here by how the majority of those chiming in here all believe contrary to people who've invested blood sweat and tears into learning how to do this stuff right! I mean I'm befuddled. Really I am. To me the responses here are nothing short of the equivalent of having everyone you talk to recommending you go to the local "psychic adviser" for all your financial decisions!!!
DOH!
To much to read in Iplaynaked's post but he takes my comment beyond its intentions and implications.

Adding Audyssey/ARC will correct FR anomalies between the speakers, whether those are due to the speakers themselves or to the room. Otherwise, why have an option, as there is on some systems, to match the rears/surrounds to the fronts?

What should be emphasized is that these systems cannot completely match mismatched speakers and that people reading this have a wide variety of interests and goals. For some, "good enough" is good enough but, for the rest of us, "good enough" is never enough. Depending on who you are, you accept different sets of compromises. For those making major ones (completely mismatched centers, "center less tha 5" high," center behind/above/inside the plasma, etc.), the DSP EQ will help.

Kal
I've since reformed my "critically accurate recommending ways" here. I've apparently missed the question - running off on my own tangent. To that, I apologize.

Good center speakers: NHT VS2, NHT Audio Center 2, Paradigm Pro Studio, Mcintosh HT-1, Infinity MTS Center, Wilson Watch, B&W Nautilus HTM2, KEF Reference 202/2C & C200, Meridian DSP7000c ($?) Dynaudio Evidence ref center (a little pricey).

If I've left any good candidates out, I'm just a little fuzzy on some candidates at the moment. But the above should "get you buy" otherwise.
I am not endorsing (or not not endorsing) Iplaynaked's list because I so not have experience with many of them but would endorse the recommendation that the center match the L/R and, if possible, not be of the horizontal MTM, WMTMW, or WTM configurations.

Kal
I've capitulated to the argument advanced by Kal to dispense with the horizontal center channel speaker and use a traditional vertical speaker closely matching the L/R. I have Martin Logan CLS IIz as L/R. Because of space limitations, I am moving one of the surround Martin Logan SL3s as closely to the center (between one of the CLSs and the flat screen tv). For the surround speakers I will be using Eminent Technology LF8a. I am currently not using a center channel speaker and going with phantom right now for music. It actually sounds better than when I was using a Logo all the time. Any comments would be appreciated.
Yes the question was indeed posed, "who makes a descent center channel?". While you do not for sure need to endorse the speakers I have listed, it is most accurate to state that those are abslolutely, possitively, most assuredly "descent center channels!" Whould you argue that point? That's all that's being asked here....not weather any particular speaker is a good match with some other invisible speaker in a given system.
My list stands on it's own merit.
Personally I think someone should call Dynaudio and Meridian and inform them that Kr4 is not endorsing their $22k center speakers! They may be a little dissapointed...
Yes, they come from decent houses but, unless I went through and looked up each and every one, I cannot say anything about them, one way or the other. I suspect there are one or two that would not appeal to me. (Are any of them MTM?)

Kal
"Yes, they come from decent houses." Kr4

"Descent houses", ey? LOL. Well, they may not be as "descent" as say, the number one selling speaker brand in the world (B.)
But hey, I'm sure they can at least throw a little somethin' together that you ought to be able to hook up to the center channel connection thingy in the back of one's receiver, right?. Which, in the end isn't that all that matters?. Cause you wouldn't want to have nothing connected there, when they went out of their way to make a thingy there in the first place.
I always say...
Oh I forgot one more. Ya know who else I think makes a descent center channel? Vandersteen...
Hey Kal, get the 'nudist' off your mind and please comment about what I posted. I would appreciate your thoughts.
What comment is needed? I would see if the phantom arrangement is satisfactory for you. Planar centers have not bee very successful. The best Maggie center I have hear, for example, was a pair of 20.1s angled together with the tweeters together and pointing at the listener. No place for a video display, though.

Kal
My post mentioned using a Martin Logan SL3 as a vertical center to go with the M-L CLSIIz to achieve a rough match in tonality and timbre, for purposes of movie dialogue
But off-center, if I read you correctly.
yes, as close as i can get it to the flat screen display. my setup is almost 'nearfield' due to room size
Another center worth mentioning is the Dunlavy SCVI...stacked vertically for best dispersion, of course.
Ok, phasecorrect, so I'm curious. Have you narrowed down your selection any? What speaker are you leaning towards buying now? Did any of this help you decide? Personally, I would opt for the Dunlavy SCVI for the money you'll save over the Dynaudio at $22k. But that's just me. I am, however, 1000% certain the performance specs and ratings are going to be higher for the single Dunlavy SCVI over the Vandersteen center you're considering.
So which is it, which is it, which is it!?!...
maggie or vandersteen
Well, I have yet to see/hear a Maggie center, other than those paired 20.1s, that is entirely successful.

Kal