KRIX EPICENTRIX MK2 CENTRE-CHANNEL SPEAKER
This model from Krix will most likely improve the sound of your home theatre speaker system, no matter what brand it is…
Want to know a dirty secret about multi-channel home theatre speaker systems? It’s that most of them are using the wrong centre-channel speaker: one that’s not a tonal match with the front-left and front-right loudspeakers.
Let’s look at what’s required in a centre-channel speaker. In an ideal world, that speaker would be a perfect acoustic match for your main front left and right speakers. That is, it must be not only be made by the same manufacturer, but should also use exactly the same drivers as your main front speakers. And for best effect, it should actually have at least one additional driver, meaning that if your main speakers each have a bass/midrange driver and a tweeter, your centre-channel should have two bass/midrange drivers and a tweeter. If each of your main front-channel speakers has two bass/midrange drivers and a tweeter, your centre channel should have four bass/midrange drivers and a tweeter.
Why are so many drivers required in a centre-channel speaker? It’s all about tonal quality, frequency response and sound-staging.
Think about an ordinary stereo system. You wouldn’t dream of using a three-way floorstander as your left-channel speaker and a small two-way bookshelf as your right speaker, would you? You wouldn’t do it even if they were made by the same manufacturer.
Yet if you look at the centre-channel speaker that’s offered with most home theatre systems, either included in a package, or available as an option, you’ll most often see that the front-left and front-right channel speakers are completely different from the centre-channel. The left and right-channel speakers will usually have more drivers, and often larger ones than the centre-channel.
Does this matter? You bet it does!
In a stereo system, sounds that ‘appear’ to come from exactly midway between the left and right speakers are created by those speakers… exactly what the stereo illusion is all about. The better the left and right speakers are matched, the better the illusion that the sound is coming from an imaginary point midway between them. And because both speakers are matched, the tonal character of the sound coming from midway between the speakers will be the same as that coming from either the left or the right speaker alone.
However, in a home theatre speaker system, sounds that come from midway between the left and channel speakers come not from the front left and right speakers, but from the centre-channel speaker. So if the centre-channel speaker is not identical to the left- and right-channel speakers, the tonal character of the centre-channel’s sound will be different.
Let’s look at an extreme example. Imagine a system where the front-left and frontright channel speakers are large, three-way
floor-standing models with excellent bass response and the centre-channel speaker is the size of a matchbox, with no bass response at all. You’re watching a movie in which the lead actor is a male, and he’s standing at the left of the screen. As he speaks his lines, his deep, baritone voice will be reproduced by the left speaker. If his image moves across the screen until he’s positioned at the far right, his deep baritone voice will now be reproduced by the right speaker with exactly the same depth and clarity as it was by the left speaker. But now our hero walks to centre stage and, as he speaks, we hear not a deep baritone voice but a pip-squeaky sound because the matchbox-sized centre-channel speaker just can’t handle the actor’s voice.
So you can see why the centre-channel speaker should be identical to your left and right speakers. However, it’s actually preferable if the centre channel speaker has more bass/midrange drivers because in a home theatre system the centre-channel is doing almost all the work when images are centred… which they are most of the time. So whereas in a normal two-channel system you have two loudspeakers combining to produce a central image, in a home theatre system, the centre-channel has to do it all on its own. In fact, in most home theatre systems the centre-channel speaker delivers more than 50 per cent of the movie sound track and the majority of the movie’s dialogue.
So why don’t manufacturers offer correctly-matched centre-channel speakers?
In smaller home theatre systems from reputable manufacturers you’ll find they often do. The front-left and front-right speakers will have single bass/midrange driver and a tweeter, and the centre will have two identically-sized bass/midrange drivers and a tweeter. You do have to look carefully at driver size, because some manufacturers still use slightly smaller bass/midrange drivers in their so-called ‘matching’ centre-channel speakers.
However once the left and right channel speakers become larger, almost all manufacturers cut back on the size of the centre-channel cabinet, the number of drivers in it, and the size of those drivers. Why? Because they know that consumers who are given the choice between a system with a small centre-channel speaker and one with a proper-sized centre-channel speaker will mostly opt for the one with the smaller speaker cabinet… and most especially if they’re buying with their eyes instead of their ears.
All of which is a really, really long explanation as to why Krix’s Epicentrix Mk2 centre-channel speaker is so large, as well as why it costs $2,495. It’s designed to be a perfect sonic match with Krix’s Neuphonix Mk2 stereo loudspeakers.
As you can see, the front panel of the Epicentrix Mk2 has lots of drivers—six to be precise. Four of them are dedicated solely to bass reproduction, each one of these being 130mm in diameter, with a 26mm voice-coil wound on an aluminium former. Four drivers means increased capacity to deliver bass, thanks to a greater cone surface area, but it also means four voice-coils to dissipate heat and thus an increased power-handling capability. Also, because using four drivers means each one has lower cone excursion, they can move in the most linear part of their operating range, where distortion is least.
The four bass drivers cross to a single midrange driver, which is physically and electrically exactly the same design as the bass drivers, so tonal cohesion across the crossover point is perfect, as is the sonic transition from the bass to the midrange.
The tweeter is a 25mm dual-concentric diaphragm model with a neodymium motor system, a non-resonant aluminium rear chamber and a patented phase-plug.
So far as the crossover network is concerned, the Epicentrix Mk2 is a true threeway design, using a hard-wired and hand-soldered crossover network with components that include air-cored cross-mounted inductors, Krix-branded MKP capacitors and high-power cermet resistors that deliver nominal crossover points at 300Hz and 2.5kHz. The midrange driver operates from its own sealed enclosure while the bass drivers operate in a bass reflex environment, with dual symmetrically-positioned reflex ports.
The cabinet of the Epicentrix Mk2 is 233mm high, 910mm wide and 370mm deep and is available in Black Ash, Atlantic Jarrah, Walnut, Blackwood and Cola veneer finishes.
IN USE AND LISTENING SESSIONS
Installed in a 5.1-channel home theatre system comprised exclusively of Krix loudspeakers, including the Neuphonix Mk2s as frontleft and front-right speakers, I was completely floored by the front-channel sound: and not just by its out-and-out quality, but also by the seamless way sounds shifted across the front sound-stage. So seamless that I never had a sense of there being a transition at all: images were just precisely placed, and that was that.
The fact that the sound also moved so seamlessly right across the width of the room from extreme left to extreme right, without changing tonal quality as it shifted was remarkable enough, but what was even more remarkable was the performance of the Epicentrix Mk2 when it was delivering its sound almost solus, particularly the silkysmooth highs which have the kind of ‘air’ around the high-frequencies that you usually hear only from high-end stereo hi-fi speakers. But good though the treble sound was, the midrange was at the same high performance level, a level that’s essential for the correct reproduction not only of singing, but also of the spoken voice… not least because when watching movies, after the images themselves, the dialogue is the most important part of the movie, and it’s essential that you hear every word clearly.
With every movie I watched, whether it was an old black-and-white movie, rich with dialogue ( Raising Baby) or a more modern fare, where background sounds and effects are constantly threatening to obscure the dialogue ( The Fifth Element), the dialogue was beautifully articulate and crystal-clear. Our family movie nights, which are notorious for my mother-in-law, who’s hard of hearing, constantly asking ‘ what did he say?’ during our movies suddenly became much quieter affairs… though we still did get the occasional query from her.
So why don’t manufacturers offer correctly-matched centre-channel speakers?