Best center channel speaker reviews 2018
Klipsch Reference Premiere RP-440C Center Channel SpeakerPerfect for any home theatre
Center channel speaker delivers theatre-like sound clarity and accuracy to your home.
Klipsch RP-440C Review
Coming in three attractive finishes and blending seamlessly into any interior, the Klipsch RP-440C employs state of the art technology that delivers crisp, clear sounds.
Stylish and performing, this center channel speaker is equipped with four Cerametallic cone copper woofers designed to ensure sound clarity and accuracy, a 90×90 hybrid Tractrix horn and a brand new Tractrix port.
A flexible and removable grille attaching with magnets allows a smooth transition from powerful to discreet performance.
Then, flawless lines integrate the speaker with success into your living room. The system is enclosed into a quality MDF cabinet with brushed baffle finish and available in three colors, ebony, cherry, and black.
Crystal clear sounds, attractive aesthetics, and quality components make the Klipsch RP-440C the best center channel speaker on the market.
Polk Audio Signature S35 Slim Center SpeakerBest value for money
Modern styling lines, compact dimensions and crystal clear sounds integrate with success in all homes.
Polk Audio S35 Review
The Polk Audio Signature S35 is perhaps the best center channel speaker for the homeowners looking for versatility. The compact dimensions and slim lines of this speaker allow for horizontal and vertical installation, making the system ideal to use as left, center, or right channel speaker.
Sound clarity is ensured by the 3-inch mica-reinforced polypropylene cone woofers which provide a clear bass and better sound linearity.
A Dynamic Balance design with anti-diffraction magnetic grille also ensures a smooth flow of the sound and a fine transition from powerful to discreet performance.
Designed for high resolution audio performance, this center channel speaker also provides a 40kHz support to guarantee improved audio extension and theatre-like sound accuracy.
Another defining feature is the Power Port bass enhancing technology designed to deliver elevated sounds for movies or music. Stylish, versatile, and compact enough to fit in all homes, the Polk Audio Signature S35 delivers a great value for money.
Klipsch RP-250C Center Channel SpeakerSmall but performing
Dual cone woofers and state of the art components deliver crystal clear sounds to a smaller living room.
Klipsch RP-250C Review
Similar to our best-in-class pick but smaller, the Klipsch RP-250C uses state of the art technology to deliver clear and accurate sounds for a real home theatre effect. Compatible with Dolby Atmos, this center channel speaker delivers overhead soundstage to create a hemisphere of sound.
This technology delivers crisper tones than just surround sound, making your movie experience more real.
Like the RP-440C model, this loudspeaker is enclosed in a stylish MDF cabinet with brushed polymer veneer baffle finish and comes equipped with two spun copper Cerametallic cone woofers which ensure sound clarity.
A 90×90 hybrid Tractrix horn, a brand new port, and a flexible and removable grille are a few other features that add value to this center channel speaker. Compact, dependable, and available in three colors, the Klipsch RP-250C is a great alternative for a smaller home.
Polk Audio CS10 Center Channel SpeakerBudget-friendly speaker
Low distortion, excellent bass, and unique reversible design at a price that won’t break the bank.
Polk Audio CS10 Review
The Polk Audio CS10 is a center channel speaker ideal for the passionate gamer but also for the homeowner looking to build a home theatre on a budget.
With a unique reversible design, the speaker can be turned upside down and placed under a monitor, or it can be placed in the traditional position on a shelf under your TV.
Sound clarity is ensured by the non-resonant all-MDF enclosure with ¾-inch thick baffles. On the other hand, the speaker comes with a Dynamic Balance dome tweeter and Neodymium magnet structure which ensure a realistic reproduction of the musical instruments and dialogue.
Furthermore, the speaker has excellent bass, while the Dynamic Balance drivers ensure good damping and lower distortion, for sound efficiency. Sleek, performing, and affordable, the Polk Audio CS10 is a great low-cost option.
2. Why invest in a center channel speaker?
The center channel speaker is perhaps the most important element in a home surround sound system. Its function is that of reproducing sound effects, music, and dialogues but it also acts as a bridge between the right and left front speakers, allowing acoustic events to transition smoothly from one acoustic screen to another.
In short, a center channel speaker serves to:
- Reproduce dialogue and vocals
- Reproduce delicate sound effects
- Create sound continuity
3. Best center channel speaker design
A center channel speaker consists of a series of components including a tweeter, midwoofers and woofers arranged in various configurations.
- Tweeters: are designed for producing high-frequency sounds in the 2-20 kHz range, although some tweeters can handle frequencies up to 100 kHz.
- Midwoofers: produce the mid-frequency sounds in the 500 Hz – 2 kHz range, although some specialty units can deal with broader ranges.
- Woofers: produce lower frequencies in the 20 Hz – 2 kHz range, and they sometimes replace the midwoofers in the 2-way speakers.
The internal design of a central channel speaker has a great influence on the unit’s performance. There are four design topologies.
- Midwoofer-tweeter-midwoofer (MTM) design: Is perhaps the most popular. This type of speakers have a low profile, and most of them can be positioned either vertically or horizontally and used as left, center, or right channel speakers. Despite its popularity, this design has some off-axis performance limitations.
- Nested MTM design: Presents itself as an upgraded version of the popular MTM and is specific to the center channel speakers. This design reduces the spaces between the woofers, improving the off-axis response and minimizing errors. Some of the best center channel speakers employing this design now present a three-way variant with dedicated bass woofers located on the sides of the nested MTM, resulting in a WMTMW design. This arrangement extends the bass response and the center channel power.
- Woofer-(tweeter/midwoofer)-woofer (WTMW) design: Is nothing but a three-way design with the tweeter placed above a dedicated midrange driver and between the two lateral woofers. This design improves even more the off-axis performance and widens the area of coverage, but it can restrain the dynamics of the sound.
- WTMMTW design: Perhaps the rarest three-way system design; the woofers, midrange drivers and tweeters are arranged horizontally with the outer woofers handling bass frequencies while the inner tweeter and drivers handle the vocal duties. These speakers can play very loud and clear sounds. However, this design produces many errors and has multiple off-axis limitations.
Which design do I need?
If you want a high performance sound system, it is essential to invest in a central channel speaker able to allow sounds to flow from left to right without breaks to ensure acoustic continuity.
Perhaps the best design for a home theater is the three-way WTMW design which ensures an accurate and smooth transition of the sound across the front stage speakers while delivering a great performance.
4. Bi-wire capability
Besides choosing the right design, you must also know that some of the best center channel speakers have the bi-wire capability, a feature that improves their performance.
These speakers are actually equipped with two separate sets of female connectors for the tweeter and woofer instead of just one. This arrangement delivers a better bass definition and a clearer reproduction of the vocals and dialogue.
5. Speaker compatibility
If you already own other home theatre speakers, it is important to invest in a center channel speaker compatible with the other components of the system. Ensuring compatibility is essential because otherwise, the sound might not travel smoothly from one speaker to another.
Compatible speakers deliver similar acoustics, which means you will notice no difference between the sounds coming from the different components of your home theatre system.
The easiest way to ensure speaker compatibility is by purchasing components manufactured by the same brand, and preferably for the same series.
6. Speaker configuration ratio
The center channel speaker configuration ratio tells you how many speakers and subwoofers your home theatre system supports. Most home theatre systems have a 5.1 configuration, with the first number telling how many speakers there are in the system and the latter indicating the number of subwoofers.
When choosing your center channel speaker, make sure it is compatible with the configuration ratio of your system.
7. Cross-over frequency
The cross-over frequency determines how fast the signal is sent to the different speakers and reproduced as sound.
The components inside the speaker split the signal and redirect it to the tweeter, midrange drivers or woofers based on their frequency, and a low cross-over frequency could make this transition noticeable
That’s why it is important to invest in a center channel speaker with high cross-over frequency which makes the switch undetectable.
8. Frequency response
The frequency response determines the range of audio frequencies the speaker can reproduce accurately. Audio frequencies are measured in Hertz (Hz) and the range of audio frequencies humans can hear typically goes from 20 Hz to 20 kHz.
Most loudspeakers have a frequency range between 55 Hz and 19 kHz with sound intensity variations between 3 and 30 decibels (dB), from the lowest bass tones to the highest treble notes.
9. Speaker sensitivity
Knowing the sensitivity of the speaker is essential to have an idea of how loud it can play and how much power it needs to achieve the desired volume levels.
The speaker’s sensitivity is determined by the amount of sound pressure, measured in decibels (dB), the loudspeaker produces at a distance of a meter when the amplifier applies a power of one watt.
But the sensitivity of the speaker also determines the power (expressed in watts) you need. For instance, if a system uses 1 watt to output 80 dB, you will need 2 watts for 83 dB, because every additional 3 dB requires a double power. Following the same principle, for an output of 86 dB you will need 4 watts, and so on.
Choosing the best center channel speaker sensitivity
The sound quality of a home theatre system is guaranteed only if all the speakers in the system have similar sensitivity ratings. Pairing high-performance speakers with low-end ones will have an overall negative impact on the sound quality.
In broad terms, a speaker sensitivity below 84 dB is too low for maintaining sound quality.
If you want the greatest sound quality possible, look for a high performer center channel speaker with a sensitivity of 92 dB or above.
10. Other important features
In addition to all the above, there are a few other features you should check before investing in a center channel speaker.
- Dialog enhancement function: Some center channel speakers have a dialog enhancement function that emphasizes vocals for a clearer reproduction.
- Magnetic shielding: Prevents the magnets inside the speakers from interfering with any electronic equipment lying in the proximity.
- Size: The actual size of the speaker has a strong impact on the overall quality of the sound. It is recommended to buy the largest central channel speaker that fits into your space to achieve a robust overall sound quality.
- Aesthetics: Central channel speakers are typically positioned either under or above your TV or home theatre display, so choose a model that blends into your interior style.