Best center channel speaker for home

Electronics for Home
Center speakers are the core of the home surround system because all dialogues in a movie typically run through the center channel.

Therefore, you should pay attention to the quality of the center speaker. Our overview should save you the practical test in the home environment.

Many users are overwhelmed by the research: Are more watts automatically better? Does it have to be a model from the same manufacturer as the rest of the surround system? What’s the deal with impedance? Find out in our guide which points you should definitely pay attention to when buying a center speaker.

What is a center speaker?

A center speaker is the real star of any home theater system. Besides the bass of the subwoofer, the front speakers, and the sound stage, it should be given more attention. It is responsible for the voice reproduction of the surround system. This is the only way that whispering, shouting, and speaking from the speakers can sound authentic and real. Without good quality, speakers can quickly become a problem. Basically, it is the most important speaker of the system. In a movie with a 5.1 or 7.1 soundtrack, most of the dialogue goes through the center channel. A center speaker is therefore not only responsible for voice reproduction, but also for sounds that take place in the respective scene.

  • The center speaker is one of the most important boxes in a 5.1 sound system. This is because the dialogs are reproduced via the center channel.
  • A center speaker significantly improves the surround sound, especially for people sitting sideways.
  • A center speaker is not a replacement for the subwoofer but complements it. Both are placed in the center but have different tasks.

Best Center Channel Speaker

Polk Audio Home Theater Center Channel Speaker

Polk Audio T30 100 Watt Home Theater Center Channel Speaker

4,6 Rating

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  • Peak Power Handling: 100 Watt
  • Overall Frequency: 60Hz-24kHz
  • Nominal Impedance: 8 ohms
  • Compatible with most home theater av receivers

How does a center speaker work?

It is often said that the dialogues from a movie sound through the center speaker. However, the center channel is intended for more. Sometimes small parts of the sound effects, as well as the film music, are output through it. This results in different demands on the speaker. Dialogues tend to require mid-level frequencies. Generally, the fundamental tone for men is around 100 to 125 Hz and for women around 200 to 250 Hz. Even when speaking, singing, whimpering, or screaming, other frequencies arise, some of which are significantly higher. And the center speaker tries to reproduce these as realistically as possible.


Why do you need a center speaker?

The center channel can basically be reproduced through the stereo speakers- For music, both stereo channels are still mixed. If you are in the center of the speaker, you hear the room acoustics of the singer as if he were standing in front of you. Without the center, no realistic sound can be reproduced. Without a center, the room acoustics work only in a limited way. With the help of a center speaker, everyone in the room can hear a good sound. The sound is evenly distributed throughout the room thanks to the center. In addition, the sounds sound much clearer. Especially with a sound permeable wall, the center speaker is recommended.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a center speaker?

Center speakers are mainly used for one’s home theater to get the most realistic impression of the story. However, there are also one or two disadvantages that should not go unmentioned.

Advantages:

  • depending on the film material, realistic audio results are possible for movies;
  • same feeling as in the cinema;
  • is perfectly suitable for gamers.

Disadvantages

  • the wiring of the speakers can be complicated and time-consuming;
  • depending on the model, prices can be higher.

Best slim center speaker

Polk Audio Signature Series S35 Center Channel Speaker

4,6 Rating

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Polk Audio Signature Series Center Channel Speaker

  • Strikingly bold, dramatic looks and dynamic heart-thumping sound
  • 4”- tall slim profile
  • with an anti-diffraction magnetic grille

What should I consider when buying a center speaker?

If you are enthusiastic about a purchase, you should not buy too hastily. Because with the center speaker you want to get above all a good reproduction of sound effects and voice reproduction. Therefore, there are the following criteria to pay attention to during the purchase.

  • Design of the center speaker

In principle, all center speakers are designed to be placed horizontally. There, the tweeter sits centrally between two low-mid drivers. Depending on the model, the speakers can be implemented as a 2-way or 2-1/2-way box. Models in which the tweeter is slightly offset upward creates fewer problems with interference. In a 2-way system, both midrange drivers reproduce the entire frequency range. In the other variant, the woofer is responsible for the bass range. Above a certain frequency, the midrange of the system is used. As a result, a better and higher quality frequency is created.

However, this type is rather less suitable for purchase, because a good sound can be achieved only with several speakers. An important purchase criterion is, among other things, the diaphragm area of the woofer. The larger the membrane, the better the sound can be reproduced.

  • Bass reproduction at the frequency range

The next point deals with the bass response at the frequency range. Manufacturers always specify the frequency of the center speaker on their products. Only the upper end of the spectrum can be neglected. People can hear a maximum of up to 20 kHz. The specification for low tones is also interesting. Center speakers are usually used together with a subwoofer, which among other things take over the bass. However, the lower frequency response is also important. This determines the crossover frequency at which the subwoofer takes over after a signal.

In addition, the speakers need air when they are adjusted. This is the only way to achieve full performance. As a rule of thumb, the speakers should go at least 20 Hz lower than the crossover frequency. However, the data from the manufacturers are rather to be taken with a grain of salt. It is often unclear how they were determined. Especially with cheap speakers, you can be blinded.

  • Power handling

The power handling should also not be forgotten. In the search for the right-center speaker, one always comes across the terms power handling (in watts) as well as impedance (in ohms). Both values should match the amplifier used. Otherwise, the device may even suffer damage in the worst case. Impedance is the electrical resistance that the signal from the amplifier must overcome. Therefore, the amplifier must always be able to supply the speaker with sufficient power against the resistance. Many of the devices have impedance between 4 and 8 ohms. In the best case, the specifications of the center speaker and those of the amplifier match each other. In no case should the impedance of the amplifier be greater than that of the speakers. Otherwise, the speakers run the risk of getting too hot. Damage can then no longer be avoided.

The power handling of the loudspeaker is the counterpart to the power in amplifiers. Both values are given in watts. Usually, two different values are given, the maximum power handling and the nominal power handling. Only the nominal load capacity is relevant. The value indicates how long the amplifier can withstand a certain power. Therefore, the power handling capacity of a HIFI speaker must always be higher than the power of the amplifier. By the way, an amplifier should never be turned up completely. It is not uncommon for the speakers to be damaged.

  • Characteristic sound pressure

The last point is the characteristic sound pressure. Especially the volume depends on this pressure. It indicates how high the sound pressure is at a distance of 1 meter from the speaker. The input power is 1 watt. Center speakers with a high sound pressure level need correspondingly less power from the amplifier. Basically, the characteristic sound pressure is much more important than the power handling, which is specified in watts.

Yamaha Center Channel Speaker

Yamaha Center Channel Speaker

4,4 Rating

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  • Slim design matches flat-panel TVs
  • Frequency Response: 65 Hz – 45 kHz
  • Sensitivity: 6 ohms

TOP 3 Center Channel Speakers

Top pick

Polk Audio Series II Center Channel Speaker

Polk Audio CS1 Series II Center Channel Speaker

4,6 Rating

Reversible Design – Flexibility to position the loudspeaker below ear level. Turn the cabinet upside down and it aims the sound up, at a listening level.

Perfect Pick

SONY 2-Way 3-Driver Center Channel Speaker

SONY 2-Way 3-Driver Center Channel Speaker

4,4 Rating

2-way, 3-speaker bass-reflex system. Wide dispersion Super Tweeters for lifelike high-end. Mica Reinforced Cellular woofer for bigger bass response. Stylish wooden finish.

Editor’s Pick

Klipsch R-25C Center Channel Speaker

Klipsch R-25C Center Channel Speaker

4,3 Rating

Sturdy, versatile, and high-quality terminals that provide the benefits of bi-wiring and bi-amping. Fills rooms with powerful, lifelike performances

Buying advice: You should pay attention to these points

When you buy a center speaker, there are a few things to consider. A center speaker should definitely match the rest of your surround system in terms of its sound characteristics. The best center speaker is usually a speaker from the same series or at least the same manufacturer as your other speakers. Otherwise, it is best to test the center speaker in your own setup.

  • There are no clear winners when it comes to the design of the center speaker

All center speakers in the comparison are designed to be placed horizontally. In doing so, you use the so-called D’Appolito arrangement, where the tweeter sits centrally between two mid-bass drivers. However, the speakers can be implemented either as a 2-way or 2-1/2-way box.

TIP: Boxes where the tweeter is slightly offset upwards have less to contend with interference.

In the 2-way system, both woofers reproduce the entire frequency range below the crossover frequency. In the 2-1/2-way system, one of the two woofers is reserved for the basses, while the other additionally reproduce the mids above a certain frequency. This is supposed to result in more homogeneous frequency response.

However, the design is unsuitable as a purchase criterion; the good sound is available in both center speaker categories. The cone area of the mid-bass drivers is a better criterion. Larger membranes can reproduce low tones better and are therefore preferable. For tweeters, domes are usually used, but some manufacturers like Klipsch use horn speakers.

When it comes to the frequency range, bass reproduction is especially important

All manufacturers specify which frequencies a center speaker (or any other speaker) can reproduce. The upper end of this spectrum is negligible in practice. All products in our center speaker comparison reach the 20 kHz that a human can hear at most.

The specification for the low tones is more interesting. Although center speakers are usually used together with subwoofers that take care of bass reproduction, it is still important how far down the frequency response extends. This is because this determines the possible crossover frequency above which the subwoofer takes over the signal.

When setting the crossover frequency, the speakers should still have some air to ensure full performance even at the limit. As a rule of thumb, the speakers should go at least 20 Hz lower than the crossover frequency. So if your subwoofer is supposed to take over from 80 Hz, the speakers should manage 60 Hz.

Power handling & impedance: The data should match the amplifier

Two values you will always come across when researching speakers are power handling (in watts) and impedance (in ohms). These values should always match those of the amplifier you are using, otherwise, your equipment may even be damaged in the worst-case scenario.

Impedance refers to the electrical resistance that the electrical signal from the amplifier must overcome. The amplifier must therefore be able to supply the loudspeaker with sufficient power against this resistance. Most devices work with impedances of 4 or 8 ohms. Ideally, the center speaker and amplifier specifications should match exactly.

CAUTION: The impedance of the amplifier must always be equal to or lower than the impedance of the speakers. Otherwise, the amplifier may overheat and suffer damage. On the other hand, if you drive speakers with a higher impedance (e.g. 8 ohms) to a speaker with a lower impedance (e.g. 4 ohms), the power of the amplifier will not be fully utilized – but there is no danger of a defect.

The power handling of loudspeakers is the counterpart to the power of amplifiers. Both values are given in watts. Often two different values are given, the maximum power handling (sometimes called music power handling) and the rated power handling (or RMS power handling).

The value that is relevant for practical use is the nominal power handling capacity. This indicates the amplifier power that a loudspeaker can handle in continuous operation. The power handling of a hi-fi speaker should always be slightly higher than the power of the amplifier.

BUT: You should never turn up an amplifier to full power! If the power is too low, clipping will occur, i.e. distorted sound reproduction. If the power is too high, the speakers can be damaged.

The volume depends on the characteristic sound pressure

The characteristic sound pressure indicates how high the sound pressure (i.e. the volume) is at a distance of 1 m from the loudspeaker at an input power of 1 W. Center speakers with high characteristic sound pressure, therefore, need less power from the amplifier for the same volume. The characteristic sound pressure is clearly more important than the power handling (in watts) when it comes to the volume of a loudspeaker.

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Steve Toomey

The main inspirer and creator of this resource. In passion about gardening, home decor & interior. Also, likes to DIY projects and interesting in house gadgets. Moreover, he likes to find out how to make cooking easier and simple with kitchen gadgets. Read More.

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