Home theatre on a grand scale: this centre channel speaker is designed to truly match the pace of our high energy Neuphonix floorstanding speakers. Like the Neuphonix, multiple 130mm bass drivers deliver punchy, ground-shaking bass energy. A 130mm midrange driver and 26mm tweeter complete the picture, reproducing vocals and sound effects with meticulous precision and depth that will defy the dimensions of your room. Put yourself at the epicentre of the action.
When purchasing a home theatre speaker system, few customers realise that the centre channel speaker is the most critical and most important speaker in the entire set-up. The centre channel is much, much more important, in fact, than the (usually much larger!) front left and front right speakers.
Why? Because when you’re watching a movie, or listening to any type of video with a multi-channel soundtrack, it is actually the centre channel that’s doing the lioness’ share of the work, not the front channel speakers or the surround channels. Most of the time the centre channel speaker will be reproducing ALL the dialogue, together with many of the sound effects – at least those effects whose frequency is high enough to be within the centre channels range. The problem with this is that almost all centre channel speakers are too small to deliver realistic sound levels, particularly in the lower midrange regions, and mostly too small to be a proper acoustic match for the front left and right channels.
By ‘too small’ I mean physically too small, and here I’m referring to both the physical size of the cabinet, and that of the drivers the cabinet contains. The physical size of the cabinet constrains not only the bass response (due to the inadequate internal volume) but also the dispersion of the drivers, because the front baffle does not have sufficient are to position the drivers for best off-axis performance, which means that with most centre channel speakers, the only person who’ll benefit from their already limited performance is whoever’s sitting smack-bang in front of the screen.
At this point, you’re probably asking why, if all of the above is true, are the great majority of centre channel speakers so small? The single word answer is breathtakingly simple, but at the same time insufferably tragic. Marketing. That’s right. Speaker manufacturers build small centre channel speakers because their market researchers tell them that the great majority of consumers won’t buy large centre channel speakers. The closest most get to a workable solution is to down-size their front channel speakers to be the same size as the centre channel. Properly handled – and always provided the centre channel isn’t too small – this can be a practical solution, but the smaller front left and front right speakers then introduce practical difficulties of their own, particularly if you also use your system to listen to stereo CDs.
As you have probably already gathered, there are still a few loudspeaker manufacturers in the world that are not prepared to sacrifice sound quality simply in order to increase sales. That Krix is one of those select few is evidenced by its Epicentrix centre speaker, which is 900mm wide, 360mm deep and 218mm high and tips the scales at a back-breaking 24kg.
Rather than being a three-driver/two-way design, the Epicentrix is a full six-driver, three-way design. And instead of the usual sealed enclosure, which restricts bass response, the enclosure is a bass-reflex design, with front firing ports.
Four of the six drivers are identical, and operate in tandem to ensure that the Epicentrix can deliver high levels of bass, particularly at very low frequencies. Although the driver sitting immediately below the tweeter looks externally identical to the four bass drivers, it’s actually a dedicated midrange driver with a different magnetic circuit. Because Krix is using only a single midrange driver, there are no interference effects for off-axis listeners, ensuring greatly enhanced sound quality for those listeners. Note also that Krix has squeezed the acoustic centre of the midrange driver as close as possible to that of the tweeter by actually physically overlapping the two drivers. This ensures correct spatial imaging. Krix has also provided the midrange driver with its own sealed sub-enclosure. This ensures firstly that it cannot be affected by the rear energy from the bass drivers, but secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it allows Krix to use the volume of the cavity to optimise the low frequency performance of the midrange driver, which has significant implications at the lower crossover frequency.
The 26mm tweeter is a very high-spec unit usually reserved for use only on high-end two-channel speakers. Regular readers with keen eyesight might have already recognised it from the product photo, due to its unique dual concentric diaphragm and central waveguide, as a Vifa XT25, made in Denmark. There are several lower-spec versions of this design available, but Krix is using the best, which is rated out to 40kHz. It assumes its duties at around 2.5kHz, which is high enough that it’s able to handle plenty of power.
The bass drivers (and mid), which are made specially for Krix by Peerless in Denmark, all have coated paper cones, rubber roll suspension surrounds and presses steel chassis. The paper cone means minimum mass, for a nice, fast action. The drivers have a diameter (overall) of 152mm, but the important Thiele/Small diameter is 106mm, for a piston area (SD) of 88cm². However, because there are four bass drivers, the SD of the speaker is 352cm², which means that if Krix had used just a single bass driver, its diameter would be about 210mm. (So you can see why you need four bass drivers!). The bass drivers cross to the midrange at 340Hz.
It’s very important to note that none of the drivers in the Epicentrix are shielded, so you can’t use the speaker close to an ordinary television set (one with a cathode ray tube, or CRT), because the powerful magnetic fields would result in severe picture distortion due to them bending the electron beam. However, the speakers’ magnetic fields do not affect plasma or LCD screens (or of course, an image from a projector!). (When we queried Krix on the lack of magnetic shielding, the company replied that it thought it unlikely that anyone likely to consider purchasing a centre channel as ‘serious’ as an Epicentrix would own a CRT TV. I’d have to agree.
Speaking of plasma and LCD, I found when it came time to install the Epicentrix that in some ways, its size is a blessing, because in fact it’s large enough – and more than strong enough! – to easily support even the largest LCD or plasma screen. And if your projector screen is acoustically transparent, you won’t even see the Epicentrix.
Although this review was of the Epicentrix, Krix kindly supplied a pair of its Neuphonix speakers as well, because this is the model with which the Epicentrix is the closest timbral match. The Neuphonix are large speakers as well, so at least the ‘scale’ of all the front channel speakers is the same. First-up I fired up some concert footage, and despite the soundtrack being only fairly ordinary DTS 5.1, 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.
But I was also floored by the sound of the Epicentrix itself, so rich and powerful that on occasion I wondered if I really needed the Neuphonix there at all: a question that answered itself whenever on-screen sounds moved to the left or right! That said, it’s not as silly as it sounds, because if you mainly watch conventional movies, it’s the Epicentrix you’ll be hearing most of the time, and not your left and right channel speakers. However, this certainly won’t be true if you watch concert footage or DVD, or musicals, and of course if you use your home theatre system as your main music system, the left and right speakers are indispensable.
Yet the Epicentrix had other delights in store. Unlike almost every other centre channel I’ve ever auditioned, the Epicentrix’ sound remained excitingly dynamic and wide-range no matter how the movie sound engineers panned it across the front sound stage. Then there was the superb off-axis performance. When I shifted to an extreme off-axis viewing (listening) position, I found that not only was the location of sound images still correct, so you could hear that one actor was to the left (or right) of another actor, as well as see it, but that the tonal balance was almost exactly the same off-axis as it was when sitting directly in front. Yes, there was a very slight diminution of the very highest frequencies, but I couldn’t hear any change in the reproduction of voices, even of soprano voices (which I checked by playing the only opera DVD I own). Across the midrange, the sound was smooth and balanced.
If you’re a believer in the old – and very true! – adage that ‘the proof is in the pudding’ you’re going to live Krix’ Epicentrix, because its performance is so far ahead of almost any other center channel I can bring to mind that when it comes to doing an A-B comparison, you really will hear that the difference is ‘chalk and cheese’. Just ask your nearest stockist to play one of his demo movies first with any other centre channel and then again with the Epicentrix. With the Epicentrix wired in, you’ll hear the Dolby Digital soundtrack leap out, loud and dynamic, and you’ll realise that you’re in for the finest movie sound experience of your life. The quality of the sound should be more than sufficient to outweigh any fears you may have about the size of the Epicentrix, but if you’re still wavering, I’d suggest checking out what the Krix looks like when it’s doubling as a stand for a flat-screen, and also remind you that because both reflex ports are on the front baffle, it would be easy to build the Epicentrix into a cabinet or wall unit, should you wish. Personally, I have to take my hat off to Krix for doing what’s right, and I can only hope that other manufacturers follow by example.
- Australian HiFi - Australia , Greg Borrowman