The Best Center Channel Speakers For 2023
The Best Center Channel Speakers For 2023
First off, hope everyone is doing well. 😀
This will be an article covering (you guessed it) the best center channel speakers for 2023.
Since I know firsthand how hard it can be to choose, I created this with the goal of making things as easy as possible for you.
These are the top 10 center channel speakers for the year that I feel perform best.
There’s of course many others that also could be on this list realistically, but for the sake of simplicity, I narrowed it down to these.
The top picks are listed below, with a guide detailing what to look for in a quality one under that.
The Best For Very Small Rooms (8 x 10 feet). Polk Audio TL1
For those of you with very small rooms that still want a genuine home theater experience, then this is the perfect choice for you. Let’s take a look at why.
So, the first feature that you’ll certainly appreciate is what Polk calls their signature Time Lens Technology.
Say what now?
Well what you’re getting is a 2-fold benefit. The time portion of that refers to the way the tweeter and the midrange are arranged. They’re placed one after the other, with special settings that allow them to stay closer in phase with each other.
This ultimately gives you a much more cohesive and immersive sound all around. The lens portion is in reference to the special type of grille being used. The grille is curved, with a little divot in the middle for the drivers to project. By doing it this way, what you ultimately get is an incredibly wider soundstage than normal. http://www.audionetwork.de/time-lens-technology
The next thing presented here is the addition of a port in a back. This serves a few purposes. It helps to reduce chuffing, (unwanted noise) and it allows it to seamlessly blend together with a subwoofer. This is awesome because you end up with a much clearer and enjoyable experience as a result.
There’s 2 ½ inch drivers that are able to output much more than initial numbers would suggest. You really will be amazed. The addition of a ½ silk dome tweeter gives you the ability to hear every minute detail.
There’s a keyhole slot in the back, which makes wall mounting a reality as well as well. In terms of appearance, this ones really small. It’s about 3.35 pounds and 15 inches long.
- Time Lens technology gives a wider soundstage and more uniform output overall
- Port in the back helps with better synergy with a subwoofer and reduces chuffing
- Keyhole slot in the back allows for easy wall mounting
- Small footprint
- Audio is very clear
- Excels in small rooms but struggles in really large ones
Like I said before, if you had the intention of setting a home theater in a smaller room, this is definitely a great choice.
The Best For Small Rooms (10 x 12 feet) – Micca MB42-C
For a small room, the Micca MB42-C is your best bet. The first thing you’ll notice about this one is how the drivers look with the grille off. There’s a woven carbon material over the 2 4-inch woofers.
This is done to improve the bass response of the speaker itself so what you get is much more impactful result. There’s a .75 inch silk dome tweeter that manages to reproduce the higher end beautifully, allowing you to hear a wider variety of details.
In fact, the frequency is rated from 60Hz-20kHz. This means you’re really getting the full spectrum; rich lows, and pristine highs.
There’s also a port in the back that helps to filter out unwanted noise.
Furthermore, because of this port, there’s also less distortion at higher volumes. The best way to describe how this one sounds overall is incredibly clear.
It’s probably one of the most balanced centers I’ve heard.
This will be great for the audio purists out there that like a more neutral sound. Another thing that a lot will really appreciate is its compact design. It measures 9.5 x 5.8 x 6.5.
That’s good news for you because that just means you won’t have issues placing it as opposed to something burly and unwieldy. It’s also not too heavy either at about 6 pounds.
There’s a 75 watt peak, so there’s no doubts here that it is more than capable of getting plenty loud. On the appearance front, it’s simple but attractive.
The black wood grain looks nice in person, and as a plus, you’ll never really have to worry about finger prints. It really is a great choice.
- 4-inch woofers provide a natural and satisfying sound
- .75-inch tweeter gives amazing clarity
- Stout size makes it easy to place it anywhere
- Rear port further enhances that clarity
- Is able to get really loud without distortion
- 5 way binding post allows for any connection type
- Not too great in the biggest of rooms
Overall for a small room, this one is certainly amazing.
The Best For A Medium Room (14 x 16 feet) – Polk Audio CS10
For average rooms, this is a fantastic choice to go with.
There’s 2 5.25-inch woofers that are able to output a respectable amount of bass thanks to their material.
They’re made of a stiff composite material that allows them to retain their shape even at high volumes.
The advantage of this is that you get less distortion, with incredibly clear imaging as a result.
This will really take your movie watching to the next level.
There’s a 1-inch silk dome tweeter that does a fantastic job of reproducing the higher end.
The result is an unprecedented level of clarity.
So when you’re watching movies or listening to music, it’ll sound incredibly lifelike.
Another really cool thing is its angled design. So let’s say you didn’t have room in the cabinet underneath your TV for anything else.
Well what you’re able to do with the CS10 is flip it upside down so that the sound then projects upwards towards your listening position. Come on, how cool is that?
Even better is the inclusion of a beautiful MDF wood finish with ¾ inch baffles. Now if you’re not sure what a baffle is, just think of it as a material that helps keep the drivers in place. A quality baffle also helps the sound as well. https://www.techwalla.com/articles/what-is-a-speaker-baffle
There’s a 5-way binding post meaning any connection type will do here which is a plus. The speaker is moderately sized at 9.8 x 20 x 6.5-inches. It weighs 16 pounds as well.
It also looks amazing with piano gloss material on the sides and a textured wood on the front.
- Quality 5.25 woofers reproduce great bass and midrange
- Can be flipped upside to project sound upwards
- 1 inch tweeter that’s able to reproduce high end sounds with great detail
- 5-inch binding posts that accept any connection type
- Great design means it’ll likely look good wherever you decide to place it
- A little on the heavier side
Other than the weight, there’s no real cons with this one. Simply put, it’s an amazing choice that’ll excel in your typical room.
The Best For a Medium To Large Size Room (16×20 feet) – JBL Studio 520CBK 2-Way Dual 4-Inch
In a medium to larger size room, the JBL Studio 520CBK works incredibly well. With two 4 inch drivers, impressive output won’t be an issue.
You’ll be able to hear every word of dialogue without having to ask, wait what did they say?
The 1-inch high frequency driver included ensures you don’t miss a single detail as well.
At 150 watts of output, it’s pretty easy to see why that’s the case.
There’s even the inclusion of JBL’s signature HDI technology. HDI stands for high definition imaging. The basic jist of it is that the drivers are set up in a very specific way which ultimately results in an impressively wide soundstage.
Movie watching then becomes a more memorable experience as well because of it becoming that much more immersive. There’s increased accuracy as well, so things seem incredibly lifelike.
In terms of appearance, it’s definitely unique allowing the speaker to exude character both in sound in aesthetic with the cabinet itself angled on both sides
- Amazing output
- Great Highs
- Horn technology provides a wide soundstage
- Beautiful angled cabinet
- Relatively heavy at nearly 18.83 pounds
- Somewhat large at 21.9 inches wide
The JBL Studio 520CBK is an amazing addition for those of you that want to hear dialogue the way it’s meant to be heard. It truly is great.
The Best For A Large Size Room (22 x 25 feet) – Klipsch R-52C
The Klipsch R-52C really excels in large listening areas. But why is this? Well there’s a few reasons that’ll inevitably make you want one for yourself most likely.
A big thing to note about this center is its frequency response. Now for those of you who might not be aware of what that means, it’s basically a measure of how high or low a speaker is capable of going.
Ideally you want to shoot for one that can at least go down to 80 Hz because that’s the point where the subwoofer should take over, ensuring you get smoothest output. In the case of the R-52C, it can go down to 67Hz in output which is amazing.
On the high end, it can go up 24kHz meaning you’ll get an extremely crisp sound. Another thing that is truly awesome about this speaker is its sensitivity.
Now I’ve talked about this before, but what it basically is is a measure of how loud a speaker can get given a certain amount of electricity.
The higher the sensitivity, the louder it can get at a lower volume setting. Anything over 90 is relatively high, but in this case, it’s 96. That’s insanely good. https://www.sniffoutdoors.com/speaker-specifications-explained-beginners-guide/
As a result, this thing can get incredibly loud at lower volume settings. The additional benefit of this is that because you wouldn’t need to turn it as high to get it to an appreciable level, this also lowers the level of distortion as well.
This gives you improved clarity. As if this wasn’t enough, it has a 400 watt peak… (yes you read that right)
So not only can it get louder faster, it’s incredibly powerful in general. This is going to give you a movie watching experience you won’t forget.
The inclusion of Klipsch’s signature Tractrix horn even makes an appearance. This helps to disperse the sound over a wider area making things that much more dynamic and immersive.
There’s 2 5.25-inch drivers that help to pump out a seriously impressive low end, and 1-inch titanium tweeter that sings on the higher end of the spectrum.
As far as looks go, this one certainly is a looker.
With the grille off, the copper drivers look stunning.
There’s also 2 ports on both sides that help to reduce distortion even further (also referred to as a bass reflex design)
- High sensitivity means it can get louder without the need of cranking up the volume settings
- 400 watt peak offers an incredibly powerful output
- Dual ports help to reduce distortion
- Tractrix horn disperses sound over a wider area giving you an enhanced listening experience
- Respectable low end
- Beautiful copper drivers offer looks and performance
- 5-way binding posts allows you the ability to use any connection type
In total, this is one of the most impressive centers especially for a larger room.
The Best For A Very Large Room (22 x 28 feet) – Polk Audio S35
Now for those of you out there with the largest of rooms (lucky you) The S35 will fit the bill perfectly.
Even by simply taking a look at it, it becomes immediately apparent why.
There are 6 3-inch polypropylene drivers arranged in what Polk calls a Dynamic Balance designed acoustic array.
By doing it this way with so many drivers, it is able to not only output more, but be a lot more accurate in doing so.
There’s a 1-inch tweeter that is able to produce incredible details even at higher volumes. There is also the inclusion of their signature powerport technology as well.
This helps to further reduce distortion, giving enhanced clarity beyond what’s normally possible.
Another added bonus is that it helps improve bass response as well. In fact, it helps so much in that regard, that it offers a 3db advantage.
The higher end also gets a push with boasting the ability to go up to 40kHz.
That’s incredibly good. What that’ll mean for you is the articulation of minute details you wouldn’t otherwise be able to hear.
- 6 3-inch drivers reproduce the lower and midrange beautifully
- Powerport technology reduces distortion and increases bass response by 3db
- Able to go up to 40kHz letting you hear every single detail clearly
- Powerful rich output
- Long and skinny profile gives it the advantage of being able to be placed almost anywhere
- Keyhole slot makes wall mounting a reality
- 5-way binding posts means any connection type is possible
- Slightly heavy at 14 pounds.
- Very long at 27 inches
Still, for the people that need a lot of output in a very large space, this is a fantastic choice.
The Best Looking – Klipsch R-25C
Now if you were after the best looking center speaker, but you didn’t want to compromise as far as performance goes, then it turns out you’re in luck.
The Klipsch R-25C is the perfect one for you.
There’s 2 5.25-inch copper drivers that are able to output an incredible midrange while looking great doing so.
Even better is the fact that they are IMG (Injection Molded Graphite)
That allows them to remain stiff even at higher volumes, provides for a much cleaner and satisfying sound. There’s also a 1-inch horn loaded tweeter that’s able to represent the high end spectacularly.
This really makes dialogue and sound effects in movies convincing to an astonishing degree. It really will be lifelike.
The Tractrix horn that it’s placed in further increases immersion by dispersing sound over a wider area resulting in a memorable listening experience.
The cabinet itself is a brushed black polymer veneer wood that looks and feels solid.
Even with the grille on, this is still an attractive speaker with a single gold Polk logo placed on top.
- Copper drivers look just as good as they sound
- Incredible bass response
- Amazing clarity
- Doesn’t distort at higher volumes
- 5-way binding posts so you can connect it however you want
Slightly heavy at almost 15 pounds
It’s pretty hard to go wrong with this one.
For an average room, if you’re looking for a speaker that looks and plays exceptionally well, then this is the one for you.
My Personal Favorite – ELAC Uni-fi 2.0 UC52
Truthfully, I love all the ones included on this list which makes picking a favorite really hard, but if I absolutely had to choose, this would be one of my favorites.
Well it has to do with the overall build of it. It’s a 3-way design which is an awesome addition. For those of you that don’t know, a 3-way design is essentially the separation of midrange, bass, and treble into separate channels.
By doing it this way, you’re able to get more accuracy. The interesting thing though is the fact that the 1-inch tweeter sits inside one of the midrange drivers.
This is what ELAC call their concentric design. It allows all three frequencies to blend together more seamlessly. The result is truly impressive. It was easy to immediately notice the difference.
There’s 2 aluminum woofers too that because of their material, retain their shapes at louder volumes. The result is a virtually 0 distortion sound, even when cranked all the way up.
The binding posts are also specially designed to hold a firmer connection which will also give a clearer sound.
It’s also a much nicer speaker in person, with the brushed aluminum on the woofers really making it a beautiful design.
- Incredibly clear sound, probably my favorite thing about it. Handles low end respectably
- 3-way design allows for more accuracy
- Beautiful cabinet
- Heavy at about 25.7 pounds.
This is certainly one of the best centers you can get in my opinion. It performs well in a variety of room types, and looks great doing so.
My Other Personal Favorite – Polk Signature Elite ES30
One of my other favorites if I had to choose would be the Polk Signature Elite ES30 for a few reasons.
One of the main reasons is it’s a speaker that’s similar to the much larger S35, but with a smaller stature and similar quality sound. That makes it versatile in placement and use.
But one of the other reasons like I mentioned is its sound quality.
Not only is the clarity something truly to behold, but it surprisingly has a good amount of bass which wasn’t something I was expecting.
The frequency response goes from 40kHz to 55Hz which is an incredible range.
Without being too long winded, It’s just such a well rounded speaker that it’s hard for it not to be a favorite of mine honestly.
- Impressively well rounded audio
- Gets plenty loud
- Looks beautiful
- Manageable size at 19.69 x 10.63 x 7.43 inches
The Best High End – Klipsch Reference Premiere RP-504C
Now when it comes to the Klipsch RP-504C, from the sound to the look, everything about it screams quality. The 4 copper spun woofers included here not only look amazing, but sound amazing as well.
The vented tweeter sits inside one of Klipsch’s signature Tractrix horns. This creates a much wider soundstage. What separates this from the other ones and truly makes it high end is the sound.
Holy guacamole not only is this thing powerful, but it sounds so good I can’t even put it into words. Part of this might be attributed to its ported design, but then again who knows.
What I do know is that this is a speaker that truly performs spectacularly (even that’s probably an understatement)
The cabinet is made of MDF wood, and feels really solid. The grille is removable with a simple Klipsch logo on the top.
- 4 copper woofers allow for more accuracy and output
- Tractrix horn expands the listening area
- MDF wood
- Ported design gives allows for less distortion at higher volumes
- Incredible sound
- Heavy at nearly 30 pounds. Very long at 26 inches across
But like I said before, if you were concerned with the best of the best, this is a solid choice.
What Is A Center Channel Speaker?
Anyway, what exactly is a center speaker? Well to start, think of it as the most important component of your home theater.
It’s the speaker that sits in the middle, between the front left & right speaker, that’s responsible for reproducing a large majority of the dialogue and sound effects in movies. In fact in some instances, it can be tasked with up to 80 percent of the entire sound mix all together; how crazy is that??
So yeah to say it’s important would be an understatement. Have you ever watched a movie, and immediately noticed that the sound effects were loud, but the voices were hard to hear? Well you can attribute that to your center; or lack thereof.
If you skimp on getting a quality one (or even foregoing one all together) you’ll quickly begin to realize how much the audio quality suffers.
I mean a single piece that can literally dictate how the rest of your system flows together would obviously be something you’d need to pay attention to, but that unfortunately brings up yet another question.
How Do You Pick The Right One?!
With so many options out there, how can you really be sure you’re choosing the one you’ll be happy with? Like what is the best center channel speaker exactly?
Luckily that’s pretty easy to decide once you know what to look for. Keep in mind that the best option varies for each person since each room and place where the actual speaker is placed will be different.
The first thing that you’ll certainly want to do though is take into account it’s power rating. You’ll often see this referenced 2 ways; decibels and Ohms. Decibels is a gauge of how much power a speaker can audibly output, while Ohms is essentially the amount of electrical resistance it has doing so (you may also see this commonly referred to as the impedance) https://www.lifewire.com/speaker-impedance-3134705
You’ll definitely want a higher wattage number too because that’ll mean a more powerful center, thus making it perceiveably louder.
However you also have to be careful with the previously mentioned Ohm rating as well.
Well, some receivers only support a certain impedance number, and if you try to use it with one that isn’t specified, you’ll likely run into issues. For example, let’s say you have a receiver that can handle 85 watts per channel (meaning per speaker) at 8 Ohms.
Then let’s say you purchased a speaker that happens to be rated at 4 Ohms. In that case, what would happen is 2 things. First, at lower volumes you would likely find it to sound just fine.
But when you began to turn it up to moderate or louder levels, the receiver would struggle to get it to an appreciable degree of fidelity. At this point it may even begin to start clipping the sound. This is where it basically becomes distorted and loses dynamic range. https://www.lifewire.com/what-is-audio-clipping-2438534
Even worse though, is the fact that it could short circuit everything connected to it all together, (as terrible as it sounds, I’ve had it happen to me before 🙁 ) so definitely be wary of what your specific equipment is rated to support.
Just remember that the lower the impedance is, the easier it is for electricity to flow through the speaker, and the higher the impedance is, the more difficult it is for it to travel through it.
This is why another factor to keep in mind, sensitivity, is so important. A speaker’s sensitivity is basically how easy it is to get to a certain volume, given a specific amount of electricity. So if you see one speaker with an 89 sensitivity rating and another with a 96, it’ll be much easier to power the latter one.
Typically you’ll want one with a higher rating since that just means it’ll be that much easier to power, putting less strain on your whole system overall.
The takeaway from all of this is that you basically want to try to get the strongest one that your current receiver comfortably supports that’ll also fit in the space that you’re planning on putting it in.
That way there’s no surprises, and you get the best option that works for you without any compromises.
Try to Get A Center Channel Speaker With A Wide Frequency Response
Now for those of you who might not be aware of what that means, it’s basically a measure of how high or low a speaker is capable of going. You’ll often see this referred to as Hz (meaning hertz), with a number on each side creating a range.
The frequency response is important because it gives you an idea of what the speaker is capable of, and how it might sound.
The number on the left stands for the bass side of the spectrum, while the one on the right is indicative of the higher end. So if you see a speaker that lists something like 70Hz – 30000 kHz, you’ll know that they’re referring to how high and low it can go.
Ideally, while you want one that has as wide a range as possible, even though it’s widely recommended to get one that goes down to 80Hz, I’d personally say you should try to shoot for the lowest Hz possible.
Why’s that exactly? Well because even though 80 Hz is the point where the subwoofer is supposed to take over, (what’s also commonly referred to as the crossover point) if a center speaker is rated at that number on the low end, that means it’s also likely rated at + -3db.
What that basically means is that while yes it can go down to that number, the perception of how loud that actual note is may be lower since that’s where the sound begins to roll off to the point you can’t hear it.
This will likely give you a lot more overhead in terms of power, along with the fact the speaker also won’t be under a lot of stress struggling to get to 80 Hz since it’d be able to go much lower, giving you a cleaner sound as a result.
If the crossover is only rated at 80 Hz, then it’ll still work fine. Just remember getting one that can go lower will likely provide some benefit in terms of sound quality.
That said though, even if the Hz happens to be higher than 80Hz, that’s still fine since the frequency range isn’t the end all be all in determining a center speaker.
There’s actually plenty of amazing speakers I’ve heard with a higher lower Hz range.
It’s just I’ve often found it to be a helpful reference point that sometimes gives an idea of what the speaker might be capable of.
Timbre Matching Is Really Important For Even Sound
The next thing that’ll influence which one you choose is the concept of timbre matching. I’ve talked about it before, as well as discussed its importance, but to simplify it, you usually want to get at least the left, right, and center speaker all from the same manufacturer.
This is because different brands have different sound signatures, and if you pair it with one from a completely different maker, the result probably won’t sound too even.
Often times in movies, you’ll get action scenes where the sounds pans from left to right (or vice versa) and if you have a different center, you’ll notice right off the bat that something doesn’t seem right.
For example with Polk CSI A6, timbre matching allows it to blend with other speakers in its line for a more seamless sound.
So make sure that whatever you choose, the rest are from the same manufacturer. Doing so ensures that you get the highest sound quality possible.
Biwire Capability Might Be Something To Consider
Some higher end center speakers have what are known as biwiring capabilities. Simply put, with biwiring, the tweeter and the woofer each get 2 separate wires of their own before connecting back into the receiver. This supposedly allows a cleaner, and more detailed sound due to the separate connections.
I’d say they do offer a slight difference, but whether that difference is worth it or not really will depend on the individual since everyone has varying degrees of hearing.
It’s one of those things that’s nice to have but certainly not necessary.
Your Budget Ultimately Decides What You’re Capable Of Getting
Of course the amount that you’re willing to spend is going to obviously impact what you end up getting too. Now something to keep in mind is that price isn’t necessarily indicative of quality; it isn’t the end all be all when it comes to how good a speaker might be.
So while a more expensive center speaker has a higher likelihood of possibly being better, this certainly isn’t always the case. It’s for this reason that it’s often useful to reference reviews to see what other people think of the speaker you might be thinking about getting.
What better way to decide than to get feedback from the people who already own it right?
The Size Of The Center Channel Speaker Can Make A Big Difference
As a rule of thumb, what I like to do when making a new system is get the biggest center channel speaker I can comfortably fit in a room and decide the rest of my components based on that.
You don’t have to do it this way, but the advantage of doing so is you won’t be compromising the most important part of your setup by getting something that’s underpowered or lacklustre.
If it’s responsible for 80 percent of the dialogue and effects, why skimp on something that important you know?
You’ll want to get one that’s just right for the room you plan on putting it in. It shouldn’t be so big that you have to maneuver around it anytime you get up to go to the bathroom, but it shouldn’t be so small that you’re turning the volume up all the way to 11 (literally in this case)
While other factors like the material it’s made of (highly recommend MDF wood) and power matter too, it’s the physical size that ultimately dictates whether or not it’ll even work for your room.
When choosing, make note of the dimensions of not only the speaker, but of the spot you plan on putting it in.
This way there’s no surprises along the lines of it not fitting or something similar.
Speaking of which…
Room Size Is A Good Indicator Of The Type Of Center Channel Speaker You Should Try To Get
The last thing you want to do when choosing one is taking into account your room size. The larger your room is, the more power you’ll need.
A good rule of thumb is to at least shoot for a center with a 4-inch driver in smaller rooms, and a 5-inch or larger in medium to larger rooms. That way you’ll get the best clarity.
Placement is also just as important by the way. Ideally you want to place it as close to the center of the screen as possible, and level with your left and right channel speakers. This will give you the best sound imaging possible.
Even things like room treatment make a huge difference. This is where you optimize the sound of the room to reduce sound reflections by either adding additional soft material objects like rugs, couches sound panels, or soundproofing a room entirely through the use of soundproof curtains or a renovation of the room itself.
I wrote an entire article that goes over this and more, so you can reference that when you get your new speaker. Plus I give you even more pointers on getting the most out of your room along with a few tips that I personally use (highly recommend you at least give it a look)
I honestly hope all of that helps since I realize it can be a little confusing sometimes; but hey now you know right?
But that’s it for now folks. I really do hope you enjoyed this article on the top center channel speakers.
Now mind you, these are just some of the ones that I’ve enjoyed thus far so this list is bound to change. But for right now, I feel pretty confident with these choices as of 2023.
Let me know if you have any questions as well since I’ll be more than happy to help.
With that, I’ll see you all next time and like always, make it easy, keep it simple!
Hey everyone it’s nice to meet you. I’m Jay & I’ve been with this hobby for many years now. I decided to create this site to share everything that I’ve learned from personal experience with you. I also happen to be a huge gamer, lover of all things tech related, and a major fitness buff (love weightlifting)