Center Channel

QotD: Can I Buy A Different Center Speaker From The Same Company?

The common wisdom is that the center speaker is a very important part of your home theater. While we don’t necessarily agree, if you are going to get a center speaker, we agree you should get a good one. This will often lead people down the path of buying speakers from a company but then eyeing the more expensive (and assumed more capable) center from a different line. So then the question is, can you buy a different center speaker if it is from the same company?

Answer: Usually.

It’s All About the Timbre

We’ve talked about timbre matching and speakers before. Most speaker manufacturers have a design aesthetic. A “sound” they are trying to achieve. A company may have different center speakers in different lines at vastly different price points, but they are still going for that same sound. We often talk about how a speaker is “voiced” or its “timbre” but this all points to how the manufacturer wants their speakers to sound.

Some companies are trying to achieve the purest sound possible. That means their speakers are all designed with a flat frequency response in mind. A speaker with a flat frequency response when asked to play a sweep, will play each note at the same volume. But not all speakers are designed this way. Some companies have a “sound” they are going for. With that type of speaker, the sweep will have slightly higher or lower volumes at some points. This might be because of the limitations of the drivers or design, or it might be because that is just what the company thinks sounds good.

Don’t Count Drivers

One common mistake is to look at the drivers as some sort of indication of how well different speakers match. Driver size and materials don’t necessarily affect how the speaker sounds. There is much more that goes into the sound of a speaker other than if the woofers have four- or six-inch diameter cones. A company can make a center speaker with vastly different drivers that sound very similar. Often the driver size, number, and materials are a function of how low, high, or loud they want the speaker to play, not how the speaker sounds. Assuming that a speaker will sound different because of the size or number of drivers is often incorrect.

Always Good to Ask

If all the speakers from the company are voiced the same, it is fine to buy a different speaker from another line. Can there be discrepancies? Of course. The entry-level bookshelf speakers might not sound similar enough to the top-of-the-line center to present a clean side-to-side pan. But they might. The only way to know for sure is to ask the company. Now, they might try to up-sell you, but if you persist, they should be able to tell you if the speakers are voiced close enough to match. And in the end, that’s all you need to know.

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