Sound Advice: Quality speakers, good values are available

Sound Advice
By Don Lindich

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Q: I would like a recommendation for a center speaker to go with four Insignia NS-B2111 speakers from Best Buy. I use a pair for fronts and a pair for surrounds and need a center channel to finish the system.

JIM SANDERS Shoreview, Minn.

A: The only way to build a perfectly matched home theater surround system with the Insignias is to buy a third pair for $88.00 and use one of them as a center channel. Unfortunately the Insignias are large bookshelf speakers, which means one would be kind of overpowering sitting on top of your TV. They also aren’t magnetically shielded, so if you have a tube TV, the magnets in the speaker will cause color blotches to appear on the screen.

I recently found a good center channel solution for my readers with Insignias. The Speaker Co. is a direct-sales company promising “quality speakers for half the price” to compete with the offerings of big-box stores. Their RC1 center channel is only $49.99 and a gem at the price, featuring clear, clean vocal reproduction, very open sound and the proper form factor and magnetic shielding for use by a TV. If you have Insignias and want a center channel, I recommend you give the RC1 a try.

A better choice for budget-conscious readers who haven’t invested in speakers yet is to bypass the Insignias and build a perfectly matched surround system with speakers from The Speaker Co. Shipping on all speakers is free, and if you are not satisfied with your purchase, TSC will refund your money as well as pay for return shipping.

I recently reviewed some of The Speaker Co.’s speakers and have posted my findings on my Web site, along with lots of pictures. The test system used a pair of P6 bookshelf speakers ($89) for fronts, P5 bookshelf speakers ($69) for surrounds and an RC1 center channel ($49), totaling $207. A 250-watt powered subwoofer is available for $149 for a total system price of $356, about the same price as a quality pair of bookshelf speakers from a high-end brand.

The P6’s performance compares very favorably to the Insignias. I’d describe the products as equal in quality, but with different sound and character. The Insignias have a warmer tone that some may find more pleasing to the ear, at the cost of accuracy. The P6 has a noticeably fuller midrange and more detail, which lends itself well to movie soundtracks. The smaller P5s are very easy to place as surround speakers and combined with the RC1 center channel, the system creates a seamless, room-filling soundfield for a satisfying home theater experience. It won’t knock your socks off, but it sounds good and will satisfy its intended customers.

One huge difference between the products is warranty. The Speaker Co. offers five years parts and labor, while Insignia offers only 90 days. You can learn more by seeing the review on my Web site or visiting The Speaker Co. at

Please note that when I recommend budget products such as these, you have to take the recommendation in context. These are quality products and good values, but if you want want premium, high-end sound, you have to be prepared to spend much more and consider speakers from high-end companies such as Axiom, Acculine, Monitor Audio, Ohm or Paradigm.

(For more on The Speaker Company and their new high-performance offerings that are significantly better than the P5/P6/RC1, check out their TSAT1000 here and here as well as my review of their new T-series bookshelves at

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