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  1. #1
    golden ear
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    floorstand or bookshelf

    for the same budget, which one would be a better buy if the purpose would be for stereo music listening only. music type would be standard vocal jazz and mellow love songs.
    i am sometimes finding the sound of bookshelves to be overbright...on the other hand, i sometimes find the sound of floorstanders dull.

  2. #2
    Loving This kexodusc's Avatar
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    This question is asked often. If the bookshelf and the floorstanding model are built with the same drivers and crossover, it's an easier comparison. You'll see many companies do this too. Paradigm comes to mind. Look at the Monitor 5 and the Monitor 7. Besides the $150-$200 price difference, the only the only difference between them is about $2 in particleboard and $2 in vinyl finish to make the cabinet taller. $150 for $4 in materials, not a bad business to be in.

    Tone wise, there should be absolutely no difference in "brightness or dullness". The same drivers and crossover would be used. The biggest difference comes in the bass of course. Floorstanders can play lower. Sometimes this comes at the expense of "tightness" of bass, and transient response, but that would depend on the woofer used and how much larger the floorstander cabinet is.

    Bookshelfs typically have better imaging - speakers will deliver better imaging and soundstaging in smaller cabinets. Smaller cabinets will also produce less edge diffraction that introduces irregularities in the response.

    How much these differences are noticeable will depend on how well the designs are implemented. I really notice the smaller speakers do image better and have somewhat better soundstage, if everything else is kept the same.

    For home theater, I always recommend bookshelf speakers if available, because they are almost always much cheaper than the towers, and offer as good or better performance in the mids and highs. A subwoofer should be used for home theater anyway.

    For stereo music listening though, I still prefer floorstanders quite often. The extra bass presents a more complete musical experience to me. Integrating a subwoofer with bookshelfs would be pretty difficult - especially since a lot of good integrated amps and pre-amps don't come with LFE/Bass management controls. I don't think it would be impossible to get better performance with a sub and bookshelf speakers, but it would be very difficult to do it right.

    For the same budget, however, as you mentioned, you'll often get much higher quality speakers. When I bought my Paradigm Studio 20's and I almost went with Monitor 7's for fronts. The studio 20's don't have as much bottom end, but it's enough for most music, and the midrange and highs are much better, as was imaging and soundstaging. To me, better sound quality was worth more than lower bass. I knew eventually I'd add a subwoofer anyway, if I really wanted to use it.

    But I can see why some people would prefer the floorstanders. Include a pair of stands, and the prices aren't that different.

  3. #3
    BooBs are elitist jerks shokhead's Avatar
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    Nowadays you can get good bookshelfs with pretty good bass as the floorstanders but throw in the price of good speaker stands and the price difference is very narrow.
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  4. #4
    cam
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    Also looks wise, a pair of bookshelves on stands just doesn't look as good as a pair of moderate sized floorstanders. I've done both and even my wife prefers the look of our floorstanders (Paradigm Monitor 7's) as apposed to our bookshelves on stands we had previously. Granted, the design of today's floorstanders is narrow which does look appealing even to women. I wouldn't be saying this about the old eighties style speakers that were really wide and would look sick flanking either side of your big screen.

  5. #5
    Super Moderator Site Moderator JohnMichael's Avatar
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    I tend to prefer bookshelf sized speakers for the imaging qualities that kexodusc mentioned. I have also found smaller enclosures to be less resonant then larger enclosures for the same money. The lack of cabinet colorations is a plus of small speakers. Of course there are very well made floorstanders that are well braced but usually more expensive.
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  6. #6
    BooBs are elitist jerks shokhead's Avatar
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    Still need to put floorstanders on stands most the time to get the right level.
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  7. #7
    golden ear
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    btw, my bookshelves are the paradigm studio reference 20 V3 and my floorstanders are the Mordaunt Short 502. yes i agree the 20's have better imaging, soundstage, and overall sound character than the MS but i tend to get fatigued listening to it at extended periods of time especially when playing female vocals. on the other hand, my MS floorstand would give me very smooth listening experience even for long hours of female vocal music. could this be an influence of the electronics i am using? the MS is with CA 540 azur, marantz SR5500 pre amp and rotel rb03. the 20's are with rotel rcd06, HK235 and custom built 250wpc power amp. id like to experiment in bi-amping the 20's in the hope of bringing its overall tonality a bit lower though.

  8. #8
    Loving This kexodusc's Avatar
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    Accastil: I doubt it's the electronics. I found my old Studio 20's, the Studio 40's I still have, the Monitor 5's I had, the Mini Monitors I had (briefly) and even my very old Titans and Atoms to all be on very bright speakers. I actually prefer this sound for it's exceptional detail and liveliness compared to, say, my older Wharfedale Emerald 97 3-ways. They were definitely warmer, but I did feel it to be a bit on the dull side.

    Paradigm likes their aluminum, titanium, metal domes and hard poly woofers - which are notorious for break-up, something that can contribute to a "fatiguing sound". Paradigm also just seems to voice their speakers on the bright side. Their fans like it. But it's not to everyone's taste.

    I haven't heard the Mordaunt Short model, but I'd assume the crossover and design are voiced for a slightly warmer, relaxed sound than your Paradigms. Since you have both, pick the music that sounds best for each.

  9. #9
    rockin' the mid-fi audio_dude's Avatar
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    i can hardly agree with you kex, I have a pair of atoms, and they are not bright whatsoever, I listened to many speakers, and none of them sounded too bright...

    energy brand speakers sound WAY bright, thats what pursuaded me not to buy 'em

    IMO, give paradigm a listen to see if you like em, you'll be happy you did!

  10. #10
    cam
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    Quote Originally Posted by kexodusc
    Accastil: I doubt it's the electronics. I found my old Studio 20's, the Studio 40's I still have, the Monitor 5's I had, the Mini Monitors I had (briefly) and even my very old Titans and Atoms to all be on very bright speakers. I actually prefer this sound for it's exceptional detail and liveliness compared to, say, my older Wharfedale Emerald 97 3-ways. They were definitely warmer, but I did feel it to be a bit on the dull side.

    Paradigm likes their aluminum, titanium, metal domes and hard poly woofers - which are notorious for break-up, something that can contribute to a "fatiguing sound". Paradigm also just seems to voice their speakers on the bright side. Their fans like it. But it's not to everyone's taste.

    I haven't heard the Mordaunt Short model, but I'd assume the crossover and design are voiced for a slightly warmer, relaxed sound than your Paradigms. Since you have both, pick the music that sounds best for each.
    I agree with the speakers you listed as being on the bright side. You notice all the speakers you listed are bookshelves and have a somewhat poor bottom end. When you listen to a speaker (doesn't matter what the tweeter is made of) that doesn't reproduce the low end at a reasonable level, of course it may sound bright. That same tweeter with that same woofer in a bigger cabinet tuned to go lower will sound warmer. The brightness doesn't go away, but the introduction of some lower octaves all of a sudden tends to balance the sound. The word bright all of a sudden is not even a concern. Floorstanders are better hands down. You don't need to buy stands, they work better without a sub, they are usually more efficient, and they always produce a warmer sound then their bookshelf equivalents.

    And one more thing, alot of people such as yourself will promote bookshelves coupled with a sub. Why have floorstanders if they are to be crossed over with a sub woofer. I'll tell you why, if you have bookshelves crossed over at 80hz with a sub and then you have the equivalent floorstanders crossed over at 80hz with a sub, even if the bookshelf speaker claims they are flat to say about 60 hz, they won't beable to produce the energy between 80hz and 120hz that the equivalent floorstander can. That's why the bookshelf will seem bright and the floorstander won't even crossed over.

  11. #11
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    So when the speakers are EQ'd over to the sub for at least some portion, does that free up power handling for the upper bass in the mains, and improved performance for lower frequencies in the sub?

  12. #12
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    For the type of music you will be listening to i would go with a quality
    standmount.I have a set of Jm Labs cobalt 806s and my listening habits are close to yours.I do have a sub that i use with certain types of music and they blend seamlessly,i have not experienced the loss of midbass that some posters have reported,my 806's have strong output down to 50hz and maybee just a little lower.Great music speakers.

    bill

  13. #13
    If you can't run-walk. Bernd's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cam
    I agree with the speakers you listed as being on the bright side. You notice all the speakers you listed are bookshelves and have a somewhat poor bottom end. When you listen to a speaker (doesn't matter what the tweeter is made of) that doesn't reproduce the low end at a reasonable level, of course it may sound bright. That same tweeter with that same woofer in a bigger cabinet tuned to go lower will sound warmer. The brightness doesn't go away, but the introduction of some lower octaves all of a sudden tends to balance the sound. The word bright all of a sudden is not even a concern. Floorstanders are better hands down. You don't need to buy stands, they work better without a sub, they are usually more efficient, and they always produce a warmer sound then their bookshelf equivalents.

    And one more thing, alot of people such as yourself will promote bookshelves coupled with a sub. Why have floorstanders if they are to be crossed over with a sub woofer. I'll tell you why, if you have bookshelves crossed over at 80hz with a sub and then you have the equivalent floorstanders crossed over at 80hz with a sub, even if the bookshelf speaker claims they are flat to say about 60 hz, they won't beable to produce the energy between 80hz and 120hz that the equivalent floorstander can. That's why the bookshelf will seem bright and the floorstander won't even crossed over.
    Couldn't agree more. Well put. Another Vote for Floorstanders from me.I only ever heard two standmounts I liked (Proac Response 1SC and the new ART Stiletto Monitor). However in the right room or a small space that would be the correct choice. A Speaker that is too big for a given room is just horrible. It's like trying to poor a gallon into a pint. In this instance bigger is not always better.

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  14. #14
    Loving This kexodusc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by audio_dude
    i can hardly agree with you kex, I have a pair of atoms, and they are not bright whatsoever, I listened to many speakers, and none of them sounded too bright...

    energy brand speakers sound WAY bright, thats what pursuaded me not to buy 'em

    IMO, give paradigm a listen to see if you like em, you'll be happy you did!
    There's a difference between "bright" and "too bright". I actually like the "brightness" and I don't use that words as a negative discription at all. It just is what it is. And of course, that's relative to other speakers. Paradigm is known for being towards the bright side of the spectrum. They may not sound bright to you depending on your hearing characteristics, but on that note, most other speakers would sound less lively in the highs to you.

    Some people like bright, some people don't.

    Interesting what you said about Energy - they sound very similar to Paradigm to these ears.

  15. #15
    Loving This kexodusc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by teledynepost
    So when the speakers are EQ'd over to the sub for at least some portion, does that free up power handling for the upper bass in the mains, and improved performance for lower frequencies in the sub?
    When the speakers are crossed over to the sub, they are relieved of the 2 most difficult octaves. This lowers dramatically (well over 90% on my speakers) the excursion demands. You get a better transient response, less power demand, lower distortion, and the woofers just concentrate on what they do best - midrange frequencies.

    The subwoofer doesn't benefit much, it plays the frequencies it's fed, but without a crossover, it'd be playing higher than it should. A 10" woofer or larger will become very directional and not very good sounding above 200 Hz. You just wouldn't want that.

  16. #16
    golden ear
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    hi kex. are you saying that there is really nothing i can do to somehow tame the brightness of my 20's? how about changing my player or my receiver or my power amp? how about bi-amping? how about damping the speaker grill with a more dense material? ill be doing all of these to hear the difference but maybe you or some other dudes in this forum has a better idea.

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    accastil

    I'd have a serious sort out of your front end electronics before pumping for an even MORE revealing set of loudspeakers.

    How do you even know where the problem lies in your system when none of your electronic boxes matches another?

    You have:

    Cambridge Audio Azur CD player (sounds like a CA CD player)
    A Marantz SR5500 pre amp (sounds like a Marantz pre)
    A Rotel rb03. (sounds like a Rotel power amp)
    MS 502 (sound like MS speakers)

    Rotel rcd06, (sounds like a Rotel CD)
    HK235 (sounds like a HK pre)
    Custom power amp (who knows WHAT that sounds like)
    Paradigm studio reference 20 V3 (sound like Parradigms)

    So which is the bit that's making it do this or that? How would you ever know?

    IMO you need to take a very diifferent approach to hifi - that is: build a synergy.

    Many hifi marques now build a complete solution, from CD to amp to speaker.
    Most recommend at least to use a matching CD and amp.
    Each company definitely has its own idea of sound and they don't all line up.
    Putting this with that leads to verryy happhazard results.


    Anyone who makes blanket statements about speakers doing this or that without taking into consideration the preceeding electronics has no idea what they're talking about.

    A speaker cannot improve what has not come before it. That's impossible. The best a speaker can do is deal faithfully with the information it has been given, within its own limits.
    Therefore any loss in an amp cannot be made good.
    An amp's job is to deal faithfully with its signal, once again within its design limits.

    So you go back to the source component, the first thing to deal with the source.
    The game is won and lost here. Any loss here cannot be made good.
    What's on a CD is all you get - no more, only LESS through LOSS.

    You do yourself no favours by too good an amp on a poor source, and an even worse disservice by too good a speaker on a poor amp.

    My point? Don't rush to blame the loudspeaker as they have THE LEAST effect on your sound.

    For my money you would be better putting the Rotel CD player with the Rotel power amp and getting a Rotel pre, and I reckon that'd go best with the Paradigms.
    I'd get a Cambridge Audio pre power for the Cambridge CD player and run the MS502s off that.

    Go to a good dealer and get a demo before plunging ahead. Find out whether you really like the Rotel sound, or the Cambridge sound on your speakers.

    At the moment however, if I was your concientious dealer, I couldn't even begin to tell you what your sound is.

  18. #18
    Tyler Acoustics Fan drseid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by IRAWB
    accastil I'd have a serious sort out of your front end electronics before pumping for an even MORE revealing set of loudspeakers.

    IMO you need to take a very diifferent approach to hifi - that is: build a synergy.

    Many hifi marques now build a complete solution, from CD to amp to speaker.
    Most recommend at least to use a matching CD and amp.
    Each company definitely has its own idea of sound and they don't all line up.
    Putting this with that leads to verryy happhazard results.

    Anyone who makes blanket statements about speakers doing this or that without taking into consideration the preceeding electronics has no idea what they're talking about.

    A speaker cannot improve what has not come before it. That's impossible. The best a speaker can do is deal faithfully with the information it has been given, within its own limits.
    Therefore any loss in an amp cannot be made good.
    An amp's job is to deal faithfully with its signal, once again within its design limits.

    So you go back to the source component, the first thing to deal with the source.
    The game is won and lost here. Any loss here cannot be made good.
    What's on a CD is all you get - no more, only LESS through LOSS.

    You do yourself no favours by too good an amp on a poor source, and an even worse disservice by too good a speaker on a poor amp.

    My point? Don't rush to blame the loudspeaker as they have THE LEAST effect on your sound.
    I will respond to your points one by one in italics below with my take on things...

    IMO you need to take a very diifferent approach to hifi - that is: build a synergy.

    I agree, synergy is important.

    Many hifi marques now build a complete solution, from CD to amp to speaker.
    Most recommend at least to use a matching CD and amp.
    Each company definitely has its own idea of sound and they don't all line up.
    Putting this with that leads to verryy happhazard results.

    Well, this certainly can be true, however buying all of your electronics from one brand or another may not maximize your results... To me, that is one of the primary benefits of separates... you can mix and match to optimize your results. That said, you have to make sure the mix works together well.

    Anyone who makes blanket statements about speakers doing this or that without taking into consideration the preceeding electronics has no idea what they're talking about.

    Not exactly... Measurements of the speakers can tell a good bit of the story. That said, if you mean the sound in a specific system without taking account of the other components, then I would generally agree (although I would have said it more tactfully). :-)

    A speaker cannot improve what has not come before it. That's impossible. The best a speaker can do is deal faithfully with the information it has been given, within its own limits.
    Therefore any loss in an amp cannot be made good.
    An amp's job is to deal faithfully with its signal, once again within its design limits.

    Agree.

    My point? Don't rush to blame the loudspeaker as they have THE LEAST effect on your sound.

    Absolutely disagree here. The speakers will have the most effect on the sound (well, the room plays a very large role too... maybe as much). It is true that a speaker cannot make up for a lousy front-end, but if the speakers are poor, who cares what the front-end sounds like unless you are going to listen with headphones? The differences on CD players and amps are much more subtle than ones on various speakers. I guess we will have to agree to disagree on this one...

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  19. #19
    Loving This kexodusc's Avatar
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    drseid is absolutely right

    Quote Originally Posted by drseid
    [I
    Absolutely disagree here. The speakers will have the most effect on the sound (well, the room plays a very large role too... maybe as much). It is true that a speaker cannot make up for a lousy front-end, but if the speakers are poor, who cares what the front-end sounds like unless you are going to listen with headphones? The differences on CD players and amps are much more subtle than ones on various speakers. I guess we will have to agree to disagree on this one...[/I]

    ---Dave
    If you put every piece of electronics in the path together, it still wouldn't generate as much audible difference as speakers or room acoustics. Simple measurements verify this.
    Source components are important, no doubt, but there's a reason blind testing is very inconclusive when comparing 2 source components - the sound differences are either small, or smaller to the point they don't exist. Pick whichever you want. Nobody complains about the merits of blind testing when speakers are the subject - they'll produce valid results every single time. More proof of their impact.

    Room acoustics introduce unwanteds and take away desireable aspects of the reproduction, and also need to be taken into consideration. Once you get those done, then you can start worrying about the finer, subtle differences a source component, pre-amp, and amplifier make.

  20. #20
    Loving This kexodusc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by accastil
    hi kex. are you saying that there is really nothing i can do to somehow tame the brightness of my 20's? how about changing my player or my receiver or my power amp? how about bi-amping? how about damping the speaker grill with a more dense material? ill be doing all of these to hear the difference but maybe you or some other dudes in this forum has a better idea.
    I didn't find bi-amping did anything positive for my 20's or 40's other than increased power that I didn't really need. But I suppose you could try it.
    I wouldn't damp the grill at all...you'll probably do more harm than good, or in the best case just lower the volume a bit for all frequencies above 200 Hz or so. Then it'll sound boomy and bright.

    How do you have them placed? I found with the Studio 40's especially that almost no toe-in was the best. The off-axis resonse of those speakers really tames the high end and lowers that "brigthness", while increasing the soundstage. Give it a try.

    You migth also consider room treatments. If you have bare walls, floors, ceiling at any of the reflection points, you'll tend to get a livelier sound that can add to the fatigue.

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    Have you tried running the Paradigms directly off the Marantz.I have heard this combo and it did not sound bright to me.

    bill

  22. #22
    Clueless Koggit's Avatar
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    This thread's been an immense help for my floorstander/boolshelf decision as well.

    Quote Originally Posted by shokhead
    Still need to put floorstanders on stands most the time to get the right level.
    This has me a bit concerned. I have a fairly large TV (56" Samsung DLP), when on its stand it's roughly 5 and a half foot (66") tall. Will not having a stand for floorstanders (which seem to average around 36" tall) make a huge difference? The factory speakers are at the base of the TV, much less than 36" high, so I never gave this serious consideration.

  23. #23
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    In response to the original inquiry, I don't think that standmounts or floorstanders are inherently "brighter" or "duller," especially if the speakers come from the same family and use identical drivers. The biggest differences will typically occur in the overall linearity of the frequency response, especially in the lower frequencies where the cabinet design will make a huge difference; and in the imaging, as Kex has already explained.

    As others have touched on, the room acoustics and the alignment will go a long way towards defining how your speakers actually sound. Something as simple as the speaker height or the toe-in angle can noticeably change the behavior of the high end in particular. Other simple measures like thicker rugs, absorptive wall coverings at the reflection points, or uneven surfaces to break up the reflected sound waves can reduce the "slap echo" in your room that creates time domain distortions. Those time domain distortions can make a speaker subjectively sound "brighter" than it would in a more acoustically controlled room that produces less timing smear.

    Conversely, hard reflective surfaces will make a room sound livelier. It's up to you to determine when a room sounds overly absorptive or reflective. Anyone who tells you that the front end sources make a bigger difference than the room acoustics and positioning in taming a "bright" speaker or livening up a "dull" speaker has been sipping way too much of the snake oil kool-aid.
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    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Koggit
    This has me a bit concerned. I have a fairly large TV (56" Samsung DLP), when on its stand it's roughly 5 and a half foot (66") tall. Will not having a stand for floorstanders (which seem to average around 36" tall) make a huge difference? The factory speakers are at the base of the TV, much less than 36" high, so I never gave this serious consideration.
    That depends on your seated height. A lot of older floorstanding speakers have very squatty proportions and thus require short stands. But, the newer tower speakers are designed to position the speakers close to the correct height. 36" is a little bit shorter than some other tower speakers, but it should work fine. With the stands, my speakers are at 40", which puts the tweeters right about at ear level.

    When you're talking about "factory speakers" I hope that you're not using your TV speakers for the center channel! That's an absolute no-no because of the severe timbre mismatch that you'll get between the TV speaker and the L/R mains. In that case, you're much better off going with no center speaker than trying to use the TV to handle the center channel. Just make sure that the center channel is turned off on your receiver's setup menu.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woochifer
    That depends on your seated height. A lot of older floorstanding speakers have very squatty proportions and thus require short stands. But, the newer tower speakers are designed to position the speakers close to the correct height. 36" is a little bit shorter than some other tower speakers, but it should work fine. With the stands, my speakers are at 40", which puts the tweeters right about at ear level.

    When you're talking about "factory speakers" I hope that you're not using your TV speakers for the center channel! That's an absolute no-no because of the severe timbre mismatch that you'll get between the TV speaker and the L/R mains. In that case, you're much better off going with no center speaker than trying to use the TV to handle the center channel. Just make sure that the center channel is turned off on your receiver's setup menu.
    Currently, I'm using only my TV's factory speakers. So I don't have to worry about it matching -- both speakers are awful! =)

    Don't worry, I joined this forum primarily to learn about my upcoming speaker/receiver purchase. I'll have something tolerable pretty soon.

    Thanks for the info.

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