Tip of The Day: Mixing and Matching Speakers

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admin

Audioholics Robot
Staff member
As a general rule, we do not recommend mixing and matching different brands of speakers in a surround sound system. Even mixing different lines within a particular brand can present problems. In order to maintain a reasonably consistent timbre (sonic signature) between different speakers, it's a good idea to have a matched system. Matching your front three speakers is most important, but if the manufacturer of your front speakers doesn't make a suitable surround speaker you can consider going with a different brand for surround speakers. Still, we recommend trying to stay within the same brand and series for all of your speakers. A notable exception to this rule is the subwoofer, which fills in the low end. In fact, there is rarely any reason to keep your subwoofer the same brand as your main speakers. There are several companies specializing in subwoofers, such as SVS, Hsu Research, Velodyne, Rythmik, and Power Sound Audio whose products have consistently proven to be better than many of the alternatives on the market.

Tell us about your mix and match loudspeaker successes and *gasp* failures.



Discuss "Tip of The Day: Mixing and Matching Speakers" here. Read the article.
 
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theaterphile

Audiophyte
hey I know about the rewards of having all the same type of speakers in a surround setup , but I had awesome results with a pair of B@W cdm 9nt that I modded for the front channels with a def tech clr 3000 center channel and a pair of paradigm legend v3 for the back surrounds . Yamaha a1000 receiver powering the center and carver a220 powering the front and back channels it sounded awesome . Then I swapped the B@W's for a pair of Dali Ikon 7's and the whole thing fell apart . Ive tweaked everything I can think of and it just aint the same . WTF . Any suggestions !!!!
 
lsiberian

lsiberian

Audioholic Overlord
Matching surrounds normally results in a lower quality front set because they are overpriced for the system. My tip is put as much money as you can in the Subs and Front speakers. Cheap out on the surrounds.
 
Cliff_is

Cliff_is

Audioholics Content Manager
Matching surrounds normally results in a lower quality front set because they are overpriced for the system. My tip is put as much money as you can in the Subs and Front speakers. Cheap out on the surrounds.

I tend to agree. The price of some surround speakers are way too high compared to the matching main speakers.

I have also really noticed the benefits of full-range surround speakers. I went from using a typical bi-pole design that played down to 80Hz, to a active full-range towers, and have really enjoyed the capabilities of the towers as surround speakers.
 
gene

gene

Audioholics Master Chief
Administrator
I tend to agree. The price of some surround speakers are way too high compared to the matching main speakers.

I have also really noticed the benefits of full-range surround speakers. I went from using a typical bi-pole design that played down to 80Hz, to a active full-range towers, and have really enjoyed the capabilities of the towers as surround speakers.
Floorstanding surrounds is good if you can place the listening seats far enough away from the surrounds otherwise they will tend to be too localizable. It may be preferred for music, but not as much for movies.
 
Cliff_is

Cliff_is

Audioholics Content Manager
Floorstanding surrounds is good if you can place the listening seats far enough away from the surrounds otherwise they will tend to be too localizable. It may be preferred for music, but not as much for movies.
I should clarify, they are pretty close to the listening position but they are also bi-pole speakers.
 
Steve81

Steve81

Audioholics Five-0
Floorstanding surrounds is good if you can place the listening seats far enough away from the surrounds otherwise they will tend to be too localizable. It may be preferred for music, but not as much for movies.
I do use floorstanders as surrounds; at the money seat they're both about six feet away, and the performance is pretty good. Of course, move a couple seats to the right, and you've got problems. Doesn't make much difference in my case as I don't entertain much in the theater room. I would reconsider it in the future though, as I lose a lot of output potential on that right side given that I've got a load bearing pole in the way, and the speaker is firing largely into the back of the couch. Audyssey bumps it up about 2dB relative to the left, and 5dB relative to the center which has the same rated sensitivity and is further away.
 
Marshall_Guthrie

Marshall_Guthrie

Audioholics Videographer Extraordinaire
Floorstanding surrounds is good if you can place the listening seats far enough away from the surrounds otherwise they will tend to be too localizable. It may be preferred for music, but not as much for movies.
Plus Dolby specs have them 2-3 feet above earlevel, also to reduce localizability, which means some hefty 2' speaker stands (stacked cinderblocks or patio bricks works great).
 
Marshall_Guthrie

Marshall_Guthrie

Audioholics Videographer Extraordinaire
Agreed on the front 3 approach.

Conventional wisdom has it that the center channel is the most importance as the majority of information is presented through that channel, and it is intended to be localizable. I used the JBL S-Center ii for a while, but decided it was too wimpy for my listening levels. Bumped up to a serious "bookshelf" speaker, the JBL S38 ii. If I had extras, I'd run 3 identical speakers up front for the best consistency during front channel pans.

CW holds the opposite for surrounds. My biggest challenge with surrounds relates to my family room setup. With 4 walls in a rectangular room, you have plenty of mounting options. I don't have a back wall (opens to kitchen) or side wall at 90-110 degrees (open hallway to the left). Ceiling is vaulted (no good option for in ceiling), so I went with in-corner speakers at the intersection of a lower ceiling just behind the seating position.

In Corner??? Look here and you'll see what I mean: http://lucysblog.com/wp-content/plugins/jbl-control-now-aw-i9.jpg
--not my picture, not my ceiling

So, I stuck with JBL, but traded driver composition and cabinet design. At the end of the day, it didn't sound as good as when I had a pair of JBL S26 ii on stands at 100 degrees 2 feet above ear-level, but it reclaimed my floorspace, and prevent crushing deaths related to unstable/top-heavy speaker stands.

Is 5, 7, or 9 identical speakers the ideal? I think so. Is it practical? Not for most people. Start with a good front 3 set and adjust to taste with your other channels.
 
woofersus

woofersus

Audioholic
I agree that the front three are most important, but whether or not you should spend most of your budget on them depends on just how much you're stretching your budget I think. It might make the difference between a really good front stage or a mediocre one, or maybe a front stage that sounds decent vs just a cheap system that happens to surround you. However, once you have front speakers that you really like, or can afford to have 5 nice, well design speakers there are distinct advantages to matching all around. (or even series matching) Of course some companies make miniature versions within the same line that are timbre matched for surround duty, but timbre matching isn't the only issue. There's the advantage of being able to cross over to a sub at the same frequency, (and a lower one) and it seems like having the same off axis frequency and phase response makes a real difference in creating a seamless circle rather than just some rear effects. I've heard systems with 5 or 7 really great speakers all around and systems that had three really great speakers up front with mini monitors in the back for similar sums of money, and the former did a much more convincing job.
 

mikebabcock

Audiophyte
Upgraded centre

As another poster mentioned, a good centre speaker can be very important, especially to movie watching. Since I primarily use my system for movies and video gaming, I've often wanted to upgrade my centre speaker alone to something clearer and more perfect sounding. Not being able to afford to replace all three fronts, I'm loathe to buy just a centre and not know how it will mix ... although I suspect my receiver's centre EQ option exists for that reason.
 
roleydre

roleydre

Audioholic
i have never had matching fronts and center...i have the energy c-c50 center,and now,im still tweaking ,my new ssf7000 floorstanding speakers from sony....i have to set the center to large along with the frolonts,and sounds good,some movies i have tro tweak...but i like it....
 
E

English210

Audioholic
I keep wanting to get a center speaker, but the very limitted space available in the 'easy' location, and the difficulty of placing a good one where I want it has made me hold off. Plus, I've noticed during movies, or even regular TV, the dialog is rooted to the center, and I haven't had difficulty discerning what's being said. I am in a position where I haven't had a center before, so perhaps it would make more of a difference than I can anticipate. My mains right now are old speakers that will be upgraded, to PSB Synchrony towers, so when I found a set of Synchrony S surrounds at a good used price, I grabbed them in anticipation of getting the towers up front. The main fronts are old Infinity Kappa's, and from what I've heard so far, I'm not hearing anything to indicate 'Oh the rears don't match the fronts!' audibly.
 
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twoeyedbob

Audioholic
Of all the changes to my system...matching the centre was probably the most benificial....feels like a wall of sound now
...whereas before it was almost 3 different sources....
Although recent repostioning of the front spkr's and nice wire,.
Also made a very noticeable difference.



Sent from my HTC Vision using Tapatalk 2
 
ARES24

ARES24

Full Audioholic
I think that a very important method has been over looked, get lucky!!

I picked up a monitor center at a lost freight auction and it goes remarkably well with the ER18's. I would say that it is a bit harsh sounding (exaggerated in words compared to reality) compared to the fronts but I would say that I am in love :D
 
nleksan

nleksan

Audiophyte
First of all, HELLO! Long time lurker/stalker/knowledge-absorber, first-time poster! Thanks for having me on your wonderful forums!

Regarding the topic at hand...

I have gone through about 5-dozen sets of speakers, from low-end Sony/Polk/etc to Sonus Faber Cremora and the like, but I am currently getting ready to move and so I decided to sell off all my "nice" home theater/"audiophile" (I hate using that word... it's gotten such a bad rap in the last few years/last decade) speakers.
Thus, I am back to using my "budget" home theater setup, which works great for movies, video games, and even music, considering the cost.
It consists of:
55" LG LED-LCD Television
Pioneer VSX-D509S 5.1Ch DD/DTS Receiver (110W/Ch, I believe... I took a multimeter to it about 2yrs ago and was surprised to find that it was actually within 2% of the rated RMS over a 30min reading!)
2x Cerwin Vega VE-12 Speakers (FR/FL; used just in stereo for a while, these are "fun" speakers because they WILL shake the 5200sq-ft house WITHOUT a subwoofer! Fantastic film speakers)
2x JBL Cinema-Series 500 Bookshelf Speakers (SR/SL; 2-way speakers with 5.25" mids/woofers and 1.25" tweeters, these serve very well as surrounds, filling the room with ambient sounds but being "undetectable" at the same time)
2x RTR Series V Model20 4-Way Towers (using just 1 as the Center; has a 10" woofer, a 5.25" mid, a 4.5" mid, and a 1.25-1.5" (not sure) ribbon tweeter; got these, in almost perfect condition, for free; surprisingly excellent voice-match to the Cerwin Vega's, and the one sounds so good as a center channel that I wish I could use both!)

I have the CV's about 4.5' to either side of the TV (about 10-11' total space between) and toed-in about 20-25*, the RTR Tower Center is directly in front of the TV and angled up about 3-5*, and the JBL surrounds are to the exact left and right of the main seating area (line up with my head) but not quite as far out as the CV's (about 3.5-4' on either side) and they sit about 14-16" higher than my head, with a very slight toe-in of maybe 5-10* (otherwise they are too localized).

Sure, they are not all voice matched, but it's a DA*N FUN system to listen to! Watching any kind of Blu-Ray or DVD with a good audio track makes the room just come alive with sound, and all of this equipment cost less than $400 TOTAL (well, can't remember how much the receiver was... had it since new, same with the Vega's; price not including TV).

I think having three towers in the front is the better alternative to trying to find the "closest voice match", if it comes down to it....
 
S

skipnie

Audiophyte
HSU, I highly recomend them for subs. I find they present the most accurate (timbraly accurate), natural sound (not bloated) than many subwoofers "out there".
 
2

20Steve

Audiophyte
I have a question, that I would appreciate feedback on regarding mixing and matching of surround sound speakers. Firstly, I have an old 8-9 year old 5.1 channel "surround sound system in a box" so to speak, however it is a real 5.1 Kenwood receiver model VR-716 with the matching 5 speakers plus the subwoofer.

I'm at a point where I just want an upgraded surround system without spending a fortune. I started by pulling out some old Realistic Minimus 7 speakers I've had since the late 70's and used these for the surround Front Right and Front Left. Incredibly pleasing! Next I thought I would upgrade the center channel speaker. So I started looking for a used center channel speaker on Craig's List. I found many...DCM, several Polk models..CSi25, CS2, CS2 series II, Definitive Technology, JBL, Infinity P-CC, BIC America DV62-CLR.
Next I found Audioholics.com and this forum. This site said it's best NOT to mix surround sound speakers because the "timbre" would be off. The posts however show folks who have mixed and are pleased with their results. This only makes me more confused! ugh!

So what would work with good results on a budget? Suggestions on what brand or models of speakers to definately steer away from? Buy a used matching system? Upgrade the center and forget about timbre? Help!
 
B

Bigdog02

Audiophyte
Hi, I have a question about mixing speakers. I'm relatively new to this and just want to learn more. Currently I have a 9.2 setup. I will be replacing some klipsh quintet speakers as I can afford a new of axioms. In the front I have the axiom m22 and the klipsh quintet center channel...for side surrounds klipsh quintet....for rear surrounds klipsh quintet..for front height some old pioneer satellite speakers...for subs I have 2 10" klipsh..the marantz sr7010 av receiver...also I have another pair of axioms m22'so on the way but not sure of the best place to put them..I'm working towards the auro 3d 10.1 setup..so should I use the axioms on the lower level and move the klipsh quintet speakers to upper level? Or should I put the axiom speakers that are being delivered directly above my other axiom m22's in the front? In other words axioms for front upper and lower and quintets for rear upper and lower surrounds. or axioms all lower and quintet all upper level?
 
R

Rugbyfan

Audiophyte
Hello all. This is an important topic because mixing and matching audio equipment is almost unavoidable, and I think it is also at the core of the 'spirit of audio enthusiasm'.
Purists may certainly (and rightly) recommend a matched set of equipment from same maker and same line for most appropriate results. But for the amateur audio enthusiast, especially in countries like mine that are somewhat 'young' by audiophile frame of reference, mix and match is often the way to go.
We in India tend to get audio equipment from a wide variety of makers, much of it regular commercial models of varying quality, and the greater part of the creative challenge is to mix'n'match them to produce a technically good and pleasing sound.
The choice of components certainly differs for home theatre and music.
I appreciate the replies to the original post and shall give my own humble input in my next reply.
 

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