Q: How important are the surround channel speakers in a 5.1 home theater system? Do they have to match all the other speakers, or is it not critical that they are the same as the front and center speakers? I recently moved and was forced to leave my expensive in-ceiling PSB surround speakers behind. I had a PSB Image system. Should I get the top-of-the-line $350 PSB CS-650 speakers, or can I use a lower-priced alternative?
A: It is considered ideal to sonically match all five speakers in a surround system. Subwoofers you can mix and match, but a modest system with five matched speakers often will produce a more coherent, satisfying sound than five more expensive, but mismatched speakers.
PSB makes very fine speakers. Since you are using them for surround, you can go with the entry-level model, the CS-610, which is only $249 per pair. People do not hear sound that comes from behind as well as they do sounds in front of them, so you don't really need the extra performance of the CS-650 for good surround effects. psbspeakers.com
I don't know the circumstances of your move or why the speakers were left behind. If it was because the new buyer insisted you leave them, I understand. But if it was because you could not leave holes in the ceiling, there would have been an easy solution. If this situation arises again, I suggest you get some less-expensive in-ceiling speakers that are the same size and swap them for the good ones before you leave. That way you can keep your good speakers and keep the ceiling intact.
Speaking of speakers
Last week I must have done a better job of explaining the ZVOX SB380 soundbar introductory promotion than I have done in the past because I haven't gotten any purchasing questions. But I have gotten a few questions about the product itself, so let me address those.
Q: What are the main differences between the SB380 and the larger SB400?
A: The sound is almost identical. The SB380 is smaller and costs less — $299 instead of $399. The SB400 can play louder, and it has Bluetooth.
Q: Does the AccuVoice feature for improving television dialogue perform the same in the SB380 as it does on the other ZVOX soundbar models?
A: It works exactly the same and is just as effective.
Q: The info for this soundbar says it can be laid flat on its back for use. Will it sound as good?
A: Although I have not heard it myself, there is a setting for flat placement that, the company says, optimizes the sound from this position. The company says the sound is very similar.
Send questions to Don Lindich at email@example.com. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.