Best Center Channel Speakers: Buying Guide
You don’t need a center channel speaker, but you’d be remiss if you didn’t look into getting one, especially if you have an enhanced audio system hooked up to your TV. It can amp up your TV viewing experience and make all of your audio sound more balanced.
Because dialog is directed to the center channel speaker, movies and TV shows can sound a bit unusual if you have a surround sound system without it.
The good news is there’s no shortage of quality center channel speakers on the market, and they pair well with a variety of home theater systems and stereo speakers for clarity and balanced audio.
Center channel speakers are small enough in size to sit nearly anywhere, from the top shelf of your TV stand to inside a cabinet.
- 1 How to Select the Best Center Channel Speaker
- 2 Yamaha NS-C210BL
- 3 Pioneer Elite SP-EC73
- 4 Polk Audio CS10
- 5 MartinLogan Motion 8
- 6 Micca MB4 2X-C
- 7 Fluance Signature Series
- 8 Cerwin-Vega SL-45C Quad 5 ¼”
- 9 Klipsch RP-25C
- 10 JBL Arena 125C 2-Way
- 11 Sony SSCS8 2-Way 3-Driver
- 12 FAQs
- 13 The Verdict
How to Select the Best Center Channel Speaker
There are a variety of considerations to think about when shopping for center channel speakers. You need to get the right product for your setup, or you won’t enjoy its full range of features.
The first thing to consider is regarding your existing home theater system. If you already have surround sound or other speakers installed, make sure the product you want to buy is compatible.
The sound needs to travel from speaker to speaker and will do so more smoothly if they work together well. If your center channel speaker is acoustically different, it can create unbalanced audio and sound unnatural.
You should always consider a center channel speaker from the same manufacturer as your other speakers. If you can’t find one you like, you can look at others, but it may be wise to read reviews or contact customer service to ask questions about which devices work best with yours.
Configuration ratios vary among systems. You could have ratios like 3:1, 5:1, 6:1, or 7:1. The first number tells you how many surround sound speakers you have, and the second number tells you how many subwoofers you have.
Make sure the center channel speaker you want works with your current configuration of speakers.
The central channel speaker power rating is measured in decibels and ohms. Make sure the power rating matches that of your existing home theater system.
The size of the center channel speaker you need depends on the size of your room. While most center channel speakers don’t take up a lot of space, they could produce too much sound for the room and end up sounding horrible.
Size doesn’t always mean quality. The center channel speaker must fit the room and the current system, or it won’t sound very good at all.
Equally important is your speaker arrangement. Audio waves reach your ears in different ways depending on your positioning and the angle of the speakers. If sound waves have to intersect before they reach you, this affects the sound quality.
You want wide hearing angles for the best audio quality, so ensure that you get a center channel speaker that will sit exactly where you want it to sit for the best results.
The same goes for how you’re going to use your center channel speaker. The sound quality you want will vary based on whether you watch a lot of movies, listen to a lot of music, or play a lot of video games.
Some center channel speakers are specifically designed for one application. If you’re doing all of the above, you want a well-rounded center channel speaker that can handle all three.
The process of crossover involves segregating the signal and sending it out to different speakers. This redirection is based on frequency. High frequencies are sent to tweeters, low frequencies are sent to woofers, and middle frequencies are sent to mid-range speakers.
Higher crossover frequencies are best, and a three-way center channel speaker can typically make the most of this audio redirection for a cohesive experience.
This feature is reserved for high-end center channel speakers. These center channel speakers have two sets of connectors to drive sound to the tweeters and woofers. Your ears detect the best quality sound when these speakers are powered using two different sets of wires.
The Best Center Channel Speakers in 2020
Taking all of these things into consideration, we’ve compiled a list of the best center channel speakers available today. Here are some products you may want to look at if you’re in the market for a new addition to your home theater system.
The Yamaha NS-C210BL is designed for multipurpose use, so you can hook it up to your stereophonic speakers or an elaborate home theater system. You get a great experience whether you’re watching movies or listening to music.
It’s sleek and elegant design ensures that it fits in with your current decor, and it won’t look out of place in any room. Plus, it does a great job of reproducing trebles, basses, highs, mids, and lows.
The aluminum woofers and receptive tweeters produce premium audio. The cone diaphragm woofer design responds quickly to bass sounds, optimizing your audio reproduction. Dome tweeters offer more balance.
Experiencing excellent reproduction of sound is enhanced by the slim design that coordinates well with flat-screen TV profiles.
- Extreme compatibility with other audio systems
- Excellent sound reproduction
- Multi-purpose use
- Sleek and attractive
- Not great for large spaces
- Doesn’t respond well to low bass notes
Pioneer Elite SP-EC73
The Pioneer Elite SP-EC73 operates on a coherent source transducer. This driver controls the sound direction at all frequencies and ensures that the sound is directed and reflected accurately.
This center channel speaker does a great job of ensuring that the sound arrives at your ear with identical timing and timbre, thanks to the interference between the center tweeter and the midrange speaker is nearly non-existent.
The Pioneer Elite really shines when it comes to bass sounds. It’s dynamic, fast, and tight. It has an aluminum woofer, and a large diameter vented pole on a passive radiator, which helps to eliminate unwanted noise.
This center channel speaker is a floor-standing model with its own cabinet, so it fits in with your decor, but open the cabinet, and you’ll see the components clearly.
The curved sides help reduce standing waves while the CST driver is in its own compartment to keep it away from pressure waves from the main cabinet. The 5.1.4 surround sound system offers performance beyond its price point.
- Quality construction
- Sleek, sophisticated design
- Supports DTS:X and Atmos
- The vinyl finish could look better
Polk Audio CS10
A step down in size from its big brother doesn’t stop the Polk Audio CS10. The frequency response range is 25Hz to 53Hz, so you will experience great sound when listening to both music and dialogue.
Polk Audio has been a big name in audio equipment and acoustics for a long time, and they’re quality speakers. The MDF construction ensures that this center channel speaker cabinet is durable and will withstand extreme volumes, deep bass, and clear treble for long life.
The dome speaker provides dynamic balance thanks to its polymer and fabric composition. It produces great sound reflection while the lightweight tweeters deliver bass without much distortion.
The profile of the Polk Audio CS10 is angular, so when you put it in the TV cabinet, it’s in an inverted position. It’s a performance-driven choice and designed specifically for heavy-duty use.
It’s sleek and elegant, but compact. It has a black top plate and pewter accents. It doesn’t take up much room and will fit nicely wherever you decide to put it.
- MDF framework supports exceptional audio reproduction
- Five-way post connectors for a solid installation
- Compatible with many other AV devices
- Slim design
- Could experience crossover coverage in small rooms
MartinLogan Motion 8
If you’re looking to splurge on a center channel speaker, this may be the right one for you. The Martin Logan Motion 8 delivers maximum performance in an elegant package. It’s pricey, but worth it if you can swing it.
It comes with brackets to mount on the wall and keep it off of a shelf if you want to keep it out of the way. You can also place it either horizontally or vertically and experience the same awesome quality either way.
Its understated design fits nicely with any decor and doesn’t draw unwanted attention. It was a real-wood finish, perforated grille, subtle curves, and a high-gloss sheen. The curved design helps direct sound where it’s supposed to go.
The large surface area of the folded motion tweeter ensures you get clear and precise sound, no matter where it’s located in the room and no matter where you sit. The curved terminals ensure easy to hook up and installation of your system.
- Versatile wall mounting
- Elegant design
- Powerful bass
- No extra amplifiers or subwoofers needed
- Misses some high notes
- Frequency is less dynamic at the low end
Micca MB4 2X-C
At the other end of the spectrum, the Micca MB4 2X-C is affordable, but still great quality. It’s kind to your wallet, and it’s a space-saving solution, too. The compact body fits comfortably underneath your TV.
While it’s lightweight and compact, it tends to rattle at high volumes. However, it’s compatible with quite a few high-quality home theater systems. The driver and the tweeters work together to deliver a full spectrum of sound.
Two carbon-fiber woofers are balanced to produce a sound that’s not distorted so you can hear both music and movies with clarity. The frequency range of 20Hz to 60Hz supports more high-quality audio.
A simple and graceful profile appeals to many, with curved edges, smooth bevels, and a fabric grille. However, some say that the combination of affordable price and simple design make it look cheap.
- Great frequency range
- 86dB rating allows you to hear quality audio throughout the room
- Carbon fiber construction promotes resonant bass
- Throbs at high volume
- To get the most out of its performance, you need an extra subwoofer
Fluance Signature Series
For the best overall sound, you might want to check out the Fluance Signature Series. You can have cinema-quality sound in your home after all. This is a two-way center channel speaker that allows you to watch music or listen to music in high-quality audio.
Fluance focuses its design on excellence in sound, and every detail of the Signature Series is perfected to support that. Whether you’ve heard of them or not, they’re a household name in audio products of quality.
You’ll get powerful midranges and ultra-high-end sound with dome tweeters. Dialogue is lifelike with crisp, clear detail in all vocals. High frequencies are smooth and controlled for the best detail and clarity.
The overall design fits nicely underneath your TV. It’s lightweight glass fiber with clean lines for optimal linear movement and sonic clarity at any volume. It has two midrange drivers to ensure you hear movies as the producers intended.
- Powerful, accurate bass
- Natural sound quality
- Reduced parallel surfaces in cabinet design
- Not good for small rooms
- Midranges can be muddy
Cerwin-Vega SL-45C Quad 5 ¼”
The Cerwin-Vega SL-45C Quad center channel speaker is the best option for optimizing your home theater system. It has an updated design with a quad-woofer driver that provides awesome midrange clarity.
You can easily decipher every word of every song with this center channel speaker. Crisp, clear vocals will be your new normal. A wide frequency range of 26Hz to 55Hz offers even more excellent clarity.
The aesthetics are also rather attractive, and the compact design fits easily inside your TV cabinet. The detachable grille provides more maneuverability and sound versatility. 89dB sensitivity allows you to pick up on a full range of notes.
- Compatible with a wide range of brands and home theater systems
- Customized audio setup
- Wide frequency range
- Clear vocals
- Sleek design
- Cabinet shelf may sag over time
The sophisticated brass woofer insets on this black cabinet look elegant and upscale. It’s a bit of an eccentric look, but it’s reminiscent of the company founder, who’s also an audio genius. With its included Tractrix Horn Technology and aluminum tweeter, you can experience the best audio possible for your home theater system.
The audio is realistic without distortion for dynamic imaging. Even at high decibels, you experience the same performance. Even the low-frequency bass sounds respond well and have limited distortion.
Dual 5-way binding posts offer bi-wiring and bi-amping so you can make the most of your entire system setup.
- Dual 5-way binding posts
- Tractrix Horn Technology
- Copper spun woofers for long life
- Removable grille
- Doesn’t work in small rooms
JBL Arena 125C 2-Way
The contemporary design of the JBL Arena 125C 2-Way is unique. It has simple, clean lines and looks rather attractive in the modern home. The looks don’t detract from the excellent audio it produces.
It’s a versatile center channel speaker that’s compatible with a wide range of audio systems. With high definition imaging and waveguide technology, you hear best-in-class audio from the twin poly cellulose subwoofers.
Crisp, clean highs are balanced with powerful lows. Dual poly-cellulose speakers give you excellent HD sound. However, crossover coverage is a bit poorer than you might like to experience.
- Modern design
- Dome tweeter delivers crisp highs
- HDI and waveguide technology
- Rear-firing ports and dual woofers produce great surround sound
- Crossover coverage is not as good as it should be
- It could be too long for a TV cabinet
Sony SSCS8 2-Way 3-Driver
As is consistent with most Sony devices, you’ll see the silver word ‘Sony’ on the front of the Sony SSCS8 Portable Center Channel Speaker. While there are many Sony center channel speaker options, you may find this one superior.
It has a 4-inch cellular woofer reinforced with foamed mica for incredible sound. The 1-inch central tweeter has a 6-ohm rating for minimal distortion. And with 145 watts of power, you get the perfect crossover consistency so you won’t have any overlap in sound delivery to your ears.
The wide dispersion super tweeter is new on this model and gives you clear, natural vocals with great high-frequency audio. It’s compatible with many small home theater systems, or it can be used as a standalone speaker.
- Compact design
- Versatile pairing with a home theater system or as a standalone speaker
- Dual woofers fortified with mica
- Wide dispersion super tweeter
- Can’t pair with multi-channel home theater system speakers
- Doesn’t give clear mid or low ranges
If you’re looking for a center channel speaker, here are some frequently asked questions that may help you with your decision.
Is a center channel speaker necessary?
While you don’t have to have a center channel speaker, it is an important speaker in your home theater system. It can help you focus on clearer audio without it getting lost in the mix. You’ll get a properly mixed audio stream right in the center, and it will improve your overall clarity, no matter what you’re watching or listening to.
How high should a center channel speaker be?
The ideal height for a center channel speaker is two feet above ear level. However, placement varies based on your room and existing surround sound configuration. A 5-channel system should have side speakers located 90-110 degrees off-axis.
Can I place the center speaker behind the TV?
You shouldn’t have to hide your center channel speaker behind the TV. The placement of the TV will distort the audio by blocking its direct path to your ears. It should always be mounted in front of the TV or in a cabinet below the TV.
However, you can mount your center channel speaker on the wall directly behind the TV, as long as you position it a foot or two above the top of the TV. This provides a clear path for the audio to travel across the room without interference.
Should the center channel speaker be louder?
No, your center channel speaker should integrate seamlessly with your other speakers. It should not be louder or quieter than the rest of your system.
Balanced audio is a significant part of what makes your surround sound system feel natural, so your center channel speaker should offer the same level and quality acoustics as the rest of the speakers.
Can I use any speaker as a center speaker?
You don’t have to buy a center channel speaker. You can use any speaker that’s not a subwoofer for your center channel. However, it’s best to use a speaker with a horizontal orientation or a square cabinet design. Vertical speakers do not give the same effect.
It’s important to consider all the factors before deciding which center channel speaker is right for your configuration. If you’re looking for an affordable speaker that still provides great audio, the Mica or Sony are solid choices.
If you’re looking to treat yourself, you may want to go all out on the MartinLogan or the JBL. Big names in the game that are always solid choices you can feel confident in are Sony, Pioneer, or Polk.
A lot of it may have to do with aesthetics, and if that’s the case, the JBL is sleek and modern, but the Klipsch is unique and eccentric. Any way you go, you’re getting a quality device. The choice is ultimately up to you based on your home theater goals.