Best Center Channel Speakers

Updated August 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

20 Models Considered
7 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
241 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best center channel speakers

Last Updated August 2019

The rapid growth of streaming services and the availability of theater-quality speakers have made watching films and television at home an all-encompassing sensory experience. With some of the most popular movies skipping theaters altogether and releasing direct to your TV, there’s no better time to invest in a high-quality center channel speaker for your own system.

What’s more, flawless sound at home offers more benefits than that of a mere accessory to your television. A great center channel speaker can be the glue that holds your entire sound system together and offers countless hours of entertainment; it can keep your friends dancing all-night at your next house party or showcase your dulcet tones at the next family karaoke jam. Before purchasing, it’s worth considering your primary use for your center channel speaker.

Shopping for home theater components can be a daunting, even harrowing experience. With every passing day, there are more options available to shoppers and it’s difficult for even an experienced audiophile to know where to begin. We’ve compiled this buyer’s guide to help you get started on your journey toward the perfect pitch for your home. 

 

Center channel speakers only really became necessary once televisions and receivers gained the capacity to offer a true surround sound experience.

What is a center channel speaker?

In a home audio system, the center channel speaker is a jack of all trades. Most basic home theaters will have a subwoofer for low bass, and peripheral speakers for the higher treble tones. A good center channel speaker will deliver solid lows and highs as well, but also fill in the middle frequencies with a crisp, full sound that completes the audio equation.

Because a center channel speaker delivers a full range of sound, it can also be used as a standalone speaker for your television or stereo system. Though they have this capability, they are more often used as part of a larger system, which usually includes an audio receiver.

DID YOU KNOW?

Center channel speakers are offered in a variety of cabinet finishes and trims. Although most are plain black, you can find anything from polished wood to brushed metal to fit your personal aesthetic.

Key considerations

When choosing a center channel speaker, it’s important to think about how you will be using it. Will you be blasting the latest action movies through it every weekend, or do you plan to use it to enjoy Vivaldi’s Concerto for Strings as daily background music? This is not to say that most serviceable center channel speakers aren’t capable of doing both but thinking about your regular usage needs will help you narrow down your options.

Once you’ve considered these items, you will need to take price into account. People often buy multiple home stereo components at the same time. Doing so means that you may need to sacrifice cost on one item for your system and spend more on another. Piecing together a home audio system can be like putting together a very expensive puzzle. You don’t need to spend like crazy to have a respectable sound system but try to find a balance that you are comfortable with between price and sound quality.

Related: If you’re looking to put together a full system, make sure you check out our best bookshelf speakers.


Cabinet size
An important aspect of choosing a center channel speaker is size. Speaker options currently on the market run the gamut from bulky to low profile, so you will want to measure the space where you plan to put the speaker before buying.

Cabinet shape
In addition to size, shape is an important consideration when choosing a center channel speaker. As the name would imply, this speaker is intended to be placed in the center of your sound system. It is usually either wall-mounted above or below the television or placed in front of it on a TV stand. Whether the speaker you choose is rectangular, narrows in the rear, or is rounded may have an impact on where you are able to place it.

Woofer and tweeter size
In a center channel speaker, the size of the woofers and tweeters determine the tone and loudness of the speaker. Larger is not always better. What’s more important in determining the right center channel speaker for your needs is the mid and high ranges of your satellite speakers. You’ll want to match those to the center channel speaker, so if those are of a higher pitch, then you’ll likely want a smaller woofer and tweeter, and vice versa. 

EXPERT TIP

You can hook most center channel speakers directly to a TV without any receiver or other speakers if you want to use it as a standalone.


Staff  | BestReviews

Center channel speaker prices

Because center channel speakers are usually purchased as one component of a larger system, the majority of them are moderately priced. Although it is easy to find a high priced, exceptional center channel speaker, this level is usually reserved for professional audio needs. It is not difficult to find a center channel speaker with impressive sound at an affordable price. Inexpensive does not necessarily mean cheap when it comes to these speakers.

Inexpensive: There are many center channel speaker options for slightly less than $100. In general, these speakers offer pleasant sound quality at a lower decibel. They tend, however, to have less capacity for high volume levels. When the sound exceeds the more narrow range of these speakers, the sound can become distorted, and the speaker may even sustain damage.

Mid-range: The vast majority of center channel speakers fall between $100 and $300; right in the center. Purchasing in this price range will offer you the greatest variety in options and in quality. Most people purchase center channel speakers within this category, and it’s what most people probably expect to pay for a theater-quality mid-range speaker.

Expensive: The speakers available for more than $300 are reserved more often for professional needs than personal ones. Of course, professional prices will likely lead to professional level sound, but this isn’t necessarily what most people need from their home theater. The speakers in this range will likely offer larger cones and tweeters than the other options, and a more powerful and robust sound palette.

DID YOU KNOW?

Some of the most expensive center channel speakers can cost between $500 and $1,000 for a single unit.

Tips

  • Installation. Although you may be tempted to perform a DIY installation on your home theater components, it’s always best to consult a professional. From using the best speaker wires to speaker positioning a professional installation makes your entire system more likely to perform at its peak capabilities.

  • Timbre-matching. If you’re not able to find a center channel speaker you want of the same brand as your other speakers, at least try to find one that has the same mid and high range capacity as your current system. This will guarantee that you are getting the most of the whole system.

  • Audio receiver. Be sure to have a good receiver feeding the sound to your speaker. You’ll want to check that the receiver is providing the best quality signal to your system.

  • Volume. One advantage of a full surround sound system over 2-channel stereo sound is the ability to adjust the volume level of the center channel speaker in relation to the subwoofer and peripheral speakers. Use this benefit to your advantage in adjusting the center speaker volume situationally.

  • Equalizer. In addition to volume, the sound recipe being fed through the receiver is of the highest importance. Try out a number of equalizer adjustments on your receiver to arrive at the best sound for all of your speakers.

Other products we considered

There are a dizzying number of center channel speakers on the market, and many of them offer exceptional sound. Unfortunately, there are also some on the lower end that just aren’t up to par for the average user. We did find a number of other high caliber center channel speakers that will do a great job for your home theater needs. The Polk Audio Blackstone TL1 is a surprisingly potent little speaker with a reasonable price tag. On the other end of the price range, the same company makes the Polk Audio Signature Series S35. We like the compact low-profile look of this 4” tall speaker that doesn’t sacrifice power for size.

The technology of stereo sound was based on the fact that two speakers could create the illusion of a center speaker using a range of frequency. Unfortunately, that technique cannot offer a full surround sound experience matching today’s movie soundtracks, necessitating a center channel speaker.

FAQ

Q. Why do I need a center channel speaker?
A.
Two-channel stereo sound used to be the standard for the home sound experience. That was sufficient when the only use for home speakers was listening music in an analog format. In order to keep up with technological advances in digital sound, a center channel speaker fills the missing sound link and offers a true surround sound experience. Without one, you are only scratching the surface of your home theater’s potential.
 

Q. Are more expensive speakers always better?
A.
Not necessarily. Although higher priced speakers do often give a higher quality sound, they may not offer what you are looking for or need in your own circumstance. We recommend that you consider your usage needs above all else to make sure you invest the amount that’s right for you into your speaker system.
 

Q. How long should a good center channel speaker last?
A.
Modern electronics have made improvements in both quality and durability in recent years. Even those speakers in the lower price ranges should work well for at least five years and beyond before they need to be replaced. The greatest determining factor in longevity is how you treat the speaker. Being careful not to jostle or drop the speaker too much, as well as not pushing it past its capacity limits are key to keeping any speaker from breaking down prematurely.

The team that worked on this review
  • Jacob
    Jacob
    Editorial Manager
  • Jennifer
    Jennifer
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Steph
    Steph
    Web Producer

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