The Top 10 Center Channel Speakers
The Top 10 Center Channel Speakers
First off, hope everyone is doing well. 😀
This will be an article covering (you guessed it) the top 10 center channel speakers. But for the sake of those who might not know, I want to quickly go over what the function of a center speaker actually is, and what you should ultimately look for when choosing one.
Though if you want to just skip ahead to the actual list, you can do so by clicking here.
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?!
With so many options out there, how can you really be sure you’re choosing the one you’ll be happy with? That’s easy!
The first thing that you’ll want to do 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 output, while Ohms is essentially the 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 because that’ll mean a more powerful center, thus it’ll be louder. However you’d also have to be careful with the Ohm rating as well. Why?
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 audibility. At this point it may clip 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.
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.
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 70-40000 Hz, 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, try to shoot for one that can at least go down to 80 Hz because that’s the point where the subwoofer should take over, which will ensure you get the smoothest output.
The next thing that’ll influence which one you choose is the concept of timbre matching. I’ve talked about it before, 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.
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.
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.
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?
Size Of The Center Channel Speaker
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 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…
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.
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? Anyway without further ado, onto the list!
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.
here’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
But like I said before, if you had the intention of setting a home theater in a smaller room, this would be the one to go with.
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 value.
- 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 amazing. You really can’t go wrong with it. Others seem to agree as well. Go see for yourself.
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. Even better is the inclusion of MDF wood 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 so any connection type will do here. The speaker is moderately sized at 9.8 x 20 x 6.5-inches. It weighs 16 pounds as well. It even looks amazing with piano gloss material on the sides.
- Quality 5.25 woofers reproduce great bass and midrange
- Can be flipped upside to project sound upwards
- 1 inch tweeter for higher frequencies
- 5-inch binding post.
- Nice design
- A little on the heavier side
Other than the weight, there’s no real cons with this one. Simply put, it’s an amazing value that’ll excel in your average room.
The Best For a Medium To Large Size Room (16×20 feet) – JBL Arena 125C 2-Way, Dual 5.5-Inch
In a medium to larger size room, the JBL Arena 125C will be perfect. With two 2.5-inch woofers, 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 soft dome tweeter included ensures you don’t miss a single detail as well. 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 definitely seems like JBL took the simple yet elegant approach with this one. There’s a removable grill, with brushed metal accents on the top and bottom adding a premium feel.
The cabinet itself is a black wood grain that feels nice to the touch. An interesting thing to note is the shape of it, as its angled on both sides as well as on top. There’s no real benefit to this, but come on, doesn’t it look cool? 😀
- Amazing output
- Great Highs
- HDI technology provides a wide soundstage
- Beautiful angled cabinet
- Relatively heavy at nearly 18 pounds
- Very large at 24 inches wide and 10 inches deep
The Arena 125C 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 67 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 you can get bar none. If you have a large room, get it. It seriously is that good.
The Best For A Very Large Room (22 x 28 feet) – Polk Audio Signature Series S35
Now for those of you out there with the largest of rooms (lucky you) The Signature Series 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 15 pounds.
- Very long at 24.4 inches
Still, for the people that need a lot of output in a very large space, this is a fantastic choice to go with. I have no doubt that you’ll love it.
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 – Polk CSI A6
This is definitely one of my favorite center speakers truthfully, especially in the cherry red color. I’m not sure if it’s how it looks, or how it performs, but in all honesty, it’s probably a combination of both. So a cool fact about this one is that it’s timbre matched to work with any other Polk products. So if you were to get a bookshelf or tower from them, you wouldn’t have to worry about how the A6 blends with them.
On the front, there are two 6.5-inch drivers that offer some serious output. In fact, they’re so powerful, it’s entirely possible to use this thing without a subwoofer all together; how crazy is that?
It goes down to 45 Hz, so you’ll certainly notice voices being much more rich and full bodied than ever before. This is further helped by the cabinets size and construction.
By no means is this a small speaker. It’s made of MDF wood which lends it a real solid feel. There’s two rear ports in the back that allow it go loud with virtually 0 distortion. Usually a good audio component will have at least 1 port, but the fact there’s 2 here really helps that much more.
Even the grille is specially designed to enhance output with a pattern that helps to disperse it wider. In terms of looks, the grille looks awesome with a small Polk logo on the bottom. It’s simple but it definitely works.
The cabinet is also angled which allows it to be placed upside down. Now you might wonder why in the world someone would do that. Well if you had zero space for your center, you could actually place it on the floor, and because of its angled design, sound would be projected upwards towards the listening position.
There’s even a little kickstand in the back to prop it up even further. There’s also the ability to wall mount it as well if you so choose. A 5-way binding post rounds out this one’s feature set.
- Absolutely gorgeous in person
- Huge 6.5 inch drivers output insanely powerful low and midrange
- 1-inch tweeter reproduces the high end extremely well
- Dual Ports in the rear minimize distortion to virtually nothing
- Removeable grill with a special design that disperses sound over a large area
- Can be used without a subwoofer
- Dialogue is crystal clear with it
- 5 way binding post for a myriad of connection options
- Incredibly heavy at about 30 pounds
- Very large at 14 x 7.8 x 24 inches. This is definitely one for people with a lot of space.
- Picks up fingerprints and dust easily
If you don’t mind occasionally wiping it off and you have the space, the CSI A6 is an amazing offering that you would truly hard pressed to dislike.
My Other Personal Favorite – ELAC Uni-fi UC5
Who said you can’t have more than one favorite? 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 another 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. You’ll immediately notice the difference.
There’s 2 aluminum woofers 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 to 11.
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 adding a premium feel.
- 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 pounds.
This is certainly one of the best centers you can get, no doubt about that. It performs well in pretty much every room type, and looks great doing so. You’ll certainly want to check this one out.
The Best High End – Klipsch Reference Premiere RP-440C
Now this is one for those of you that want the absolute best of the best, no compromises. In that case, the Klipsch RP-440C is the perfect one for you.
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 1-inch 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. 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, then you’d find it hard to dislike this one.
Well that’s it for now folks. I really do hope you enjoyed this article on the top 10 center channel speakers.
Now mind you, these are just 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 2019. Let me know if you have any questions.
See ya next time! 😉
Hey everyone it’s nice to meet you. I’m Jasmere, the founder of Easy Home Theater. I’ve been with this hobby for many years now, and decided to create this site to share everything that I’ve learned from personal experience with you. I hope you find it helpful, and if you ever have any questions, be sure to reach out!