Plus a few of our favorite models
If you’re an audiophile looking to set up your own home theater system, you need to learn as much as you can about speakers. Everyone focuses on huge 4K screens, but they forget that sound is at least half of the experience.
To nail your home theater, you need to focus on center channel speakers. Read on to learn what a center channel speaker is and why you really need good ones. You’ll also find a few recommendations from us by the end of the article.
What Is a Center Channel Speaker?
Those who enjoy home cinema argue that the center channel speaker is the most important one in the whole surround sound system. Why? Because it’s this speaker that is responsible for dialogue reproduction. It will also play all the acoustics of the action that is taking place in front of the viewer.
The center channel speaker is always placed right above or below your TV set, and you should always sit directly in front of it when watching a movie. A home theater setup is never complete without a dedicated center channel speaker.
Choose your center channel speaker carefully. You want high-quality sound and maximum immersion experience.
Do You Need a Center Channel Speaker If You Have a Soundbar?
A soundbar is a stand-alone speaker that will improve the sound of your TV set. You simply plug it into your TV and you are good to go. But it is by no means designed to reproduce the movie sounds as they were created.
If you want a home theater and a surround sound system, a center channel speaker is essential. It is a part of the sound system comprising a center, left, right, and two surround speakers. It will also enable you to control the volume of each channel separately. Unlike a soundbar, a center channel speaker requires an external AV receiver, or at least a power amp that will power it.
Specifications and Features to Look for in a Center Channel Speaker
If you don’t have a surround system, and you use two decent speakers for your home entertainment, adding a center channel speaker can greatly improve the overall sound. But to choose the one that would suit your needs, you’ll have to learn what makes one center channel speaker better than the other. Here is a list of technical specifications and features you should be looking for.
- Power Output: This will tell you the level of the speaker’s loudness without having to hear them. A center channel speaker with 200 Watts will have greater audio possibilities than any other speaker with only 100 Watts. The greater the power output, the louder the speaker will be. If you enjoy loud music, this should be an important specification to look for.
- Size of the drivers: In this case, bigger is better. Bigger drivers simply produce clearer sound than smaller ones. This will greatly influence the quality of the sound.
- Configuration ratio: The configuration ratio numbers will display how many drivers a center channel speaker has, and if it has a subwoofer. For example, a configuration ratio of 3.1 means that a speaker has three drivers and a subwoofer.
- Frequency response: This indicates the ability of a speaker to reproduce the sound frequencies that a human can hear without irritation. That means a range between 20Hz and 20kHz. A center channel speaker with a wide frequency response will let you enjoy both high and low-frequency instrumental sounds.
- Bi-wire capability: Speaking of frequencies, a bi-wire capability means the center channel speaker has two sets of connections, for high-frequency drivers and low-frequency drivers. Different cables for the woofer and tweeter will ensure crystal-clear sounds and you will be able to make a distinction between all the high and low sounds.
- Number of woofers: This is an individual preference and although not a crucial feature of the speakers, you should decide if you want two, four, or more woofers. The more a center channel speaker has, the greater the sound coverage. That means that the sweet spot in front of your TV set will increase in size with more woofers you add. But make sure your cabinet has enough room for all the woofers you want.
- Material: The materials from which the speakers are made can greatly influence the sound of the speaker. High-quality speakers typically use the best possible material. For example, silk tweeters have a smoother sound compared to metal ones which emit a bright sonic signature.
- Warranty: Make sure to read the warranty conditions when buying a center channel speaker. Typically sound systems are not easy to break, and they have a very long life span. But if by any chance your center channel speaker is faulty, you want to make sure you’ll be able to replace it.
Match It With the Left and Right Speaker
It’s very important to match your speakers, especially if you’re adding a center channel speaker to an existing set. Try buying from the same manufacturer if possible. This is important as each manufacturer uses different components to build their speakers. Home theater speakers from the same manufacturer will reproduce sound and frequencies in the same way. This is called a sonic signature. A different sonic signature will produce a jarring effect when the sound moves from one side of the setup to the other.
Some speakers are very versatile and will match perfectly with others. Make sure you do your research and even test the center channel speaker with your setup before dedicating yourself to it. If you are buying a mismatched setup, make sure that at least all the speakers have similarly sized woofers. You don’t want your left and right speakers to be louder than the center ones. A mismatched size will result in a mismatched sound.
Position Your Center Channel Speaker Correctly
Positioning your center channel speaker correctly is an important factor that will greatly influence the quality of the sound. When sound waves cross each other before they reach the listener, they create the effect of sound loving.
The different frequencies of different speakers will cross each other and the tonality of the original sound will be lost. Because of this, it’s important to choose the size of the center channel speaker according to the room size. The bigger the room, the wider the listening range is needed. Therefore you should opt for the bigger center channel speaker.
You should position the center channel speaker below or above your TV system, but always at the ear level of the listener. This might mean you will need to tilt the speaker up or down. If you’re using a projector with an acoustically transparent screen, you can place the center channel speaker behind it.
Top Center Channel Speaker Brands and Where to Buy Them
Whether you are buying a whole new surround sound system, or you already have a pair of high-quality speakers, it’s important to choose the center channel speakers well. More than 70% of the overall sound is coming from them, and most importantly the dialogs, vocals, and human speech.
Some of the well-known brands that produce them are Klipsch, Sony, Yamaha, SVS, Paradigm, KEF, Martin Logan, and Definitive Technology. They are all worth checking out, but here’s a list of several center channel speakers that dominate the market right now.
Klipsch is a synonym for American-produced audio systems. With over 75 years on the market, the company makes some of the best speakers for high-fidelity audio systems. With that said, the R-52C model takes sound quality to the next level. It comes with 90×90 tractrix horn-loaded technology that ensures the frequency waves hit the listener’s ear. It also limits how the sound waves bounce off of the walls and furniture in your room.
It also has a Linear Travel Suspension (LTS) which ensures minimum sound distortion. Its frequency response is 80Hz to 22kHz and it can handle 400 Watts of power making its woofers fill the room with sound.
A budget-friendly Polk Audio CS10 goes for as low as $90, but it is a reliable choice among center channel speakers. It has two bi-laminate drivers that are 5.25 inches. They offer minimal sound distortion and incredible bass. In the center of the CS10 is a 1-inch tweeter that can handle high frequencies pretty well.
This center speaker can cover a wide range of frequencies, from 53 Hz to 23 kHz, and offers a clean and crisp sound in different settings. Its power output is only 125 Watts, but this proved to be adequately powerful and loud to fit into a home theater system.
With its slim design, the Polk Monitor XT35 won’t be difficult to fit in your home tether room design. But other than looks, this center channel speaker offers an incredible listening experience and crystal clear sound whether you enjoy movies, gaming, or music. It has four Dynamic Balance woofers and one 1-inch tweeter. This setup results in high-quality mid-range sound and impactful bass.
Polk Monitor XT35 is compatible with Dolby Atmos & DTS:X surround sound from any source which makes it perfect for enjoying ultra-HD movies or multichannel music videos. It has an overall frequency response of 57 Hz – 40 kHz and can handle power output up to 200 Watts. Combine it with other S Signature line bookshelf speakers for a complete surround system experience.
Definitive Technology CS-9060 is an amazing solution for people who don’t want a separate subwoofer. It even has a separate subwoofer control dial for intelligent bass control. That makes it a larger than average center channel speaker, but with its simplistic design and complete grille coverage, it will fit into any room decor.
Although you can’t see them, CS-9060 has two front-firing woofers with BDSS technology and one aluminum dome tweeter. Its frequency response ranges between 50Hz and 40kHz, and the recommended power output per channel is up to 300 Watts.
5. Sony SSCS8
Sony is a well-known name in the market of speakers, and their SSCS8 is an excellent budget choice for a center channel speaker. It comes with a removable magnetic grille, so you have different options when it comes to its aesthetics. Sony SSCS8 has 2-way center channel woofers, and one tweeter made of polyester.
The maximum power input Sony SSCS8 can handle is 145 Watts and its frequency response is from 55Hz to 25kHz. This results in an accurate but neutral sound that will lack a punch.
If you have a large room and a big home theater system, you want an audio system to match it and Klipsch RP-504C would be an amazing addition to it. This is a very large center channel speaker that won’t fit in just any room. This is a 2-way speaker with 5 drivers, four Cerametallic woofers, and one titanium tweeter equipped with Klipsch Tractrix technology.
The impedance of RP-504C is rated at 8Ω, while the highest possible power output is 600 Watts. It has a frequency response between 58Hz and 25kHz. This is a very powerful and extremely loud center channel speaker. Its bass has a strong punch but it is easily controlled.
Enjoy Clear and Crisp Sound
Center channel speakers are the crown jewels of all home theater systems. They deliver crisp sounds like you’ve never experienced before and a clear vocal range that transports you to the center of the action. Get the most out of your favorite movies and shows by adding one of the center channel speakers on our list to your setup.