Best Center Channel Speaker – Buyer’s Guide 2018

center-channel-speaker

Are you in the market for a sound system? Well, you’ll want to ensure that you’re getting the best that you budget can allow.

The Center Channel Speaker is the focal point of your surround system. It’s important that you get the best center channel speaker you can afford, as it will carry the majority of the power in your setup. Of course, you might opt to only have one speaker, in which case you’ll likely want to use a powerful center channel.

Whether you’ve got cash to burn or you’re trying to pinch some pennies, I’ll try and help you find the perfect fit for your home. Let’s have a look at some of the more popular options that are available in todays market.

The Options

Polk Audio 255C-RT In-wall / In-ceiling center channel speaker
Yamaha NS-C210BL Center Channel Speaker Black
Polk Audio CS10 Center Channel Speaker (Single, Black)
Theater Solutions C1 Bookshelf Center Channel Speaker Surround Sound Home Theater
Pioneer SP-C22 Andrew Jones Designed Center Channel Speaker
Polk Audio 255C-RT In-wall / In-ceiling center channel speaker
Yamaha NS-C210BL Center Channel Speaker Black
Polk Audio CS10 Center Channel Speaker (Single, Black)
Theater Solutions C1 Bookshelf Center Channel Speaker Surround Sound Home Theater
Pioneer SP-C22 Andrew Jones Designed Center Channel Speaker
$146.99
$89.93
$99.00
$39.99
$98.95
Polk Audio 255C-RT In-wall / In-ceiling center channel speaker
Polk Audio 255C-RT In-wall / In-ceiling center channel speaker
$146.99
Yamaha NS-C210BL Center Channel Speaker Black
Yamaha NS-C210BL Center Channel Speaker Black
$89.93
Polk Audio CS10 Center Channel Speaker (Single, Black)
Polk Audio CS10 Center Channel Speaker (Single, Black)
$99.00
Theater Solutions C1 Bookshelf Center Channel Speaker Surround Sound Home Theater
Theater Solutions C1 Bookshelf Center Channel Speaker Surround Sound Home Theater
$39.99
Pioneer SP-C22 Andrew Jones Designed Center Channel Speaker
Pioneer SP-C22 Andrew Jones Designed Center Channel Speaker
$98.95

Polk Audio 255-RT

Sale
Polk Audio 255C-RT In-wall / In-ceiling center channel speaker
  • Vanishing Series in-wall center channel speaker, built-in speakers feature our exclusive wafer-thin Sheer-Grille, a magnetically-secured grille that protrudes only 7mm from its surroundings, have the centerpiece of a world-class stealth home theater
  • In-Wall:Mount clearnace required for mounting Dogs (add to each side of cutout)3.375 inch (8.57 cm).Dual band pass bass ports are highly efficient in small enclosures, and smoothly funnels the angled woofer's low frequencies down around the driver array
  • Compatible with Polk Audio RTi speakers, recommended Amplifier power per channel 10 to 150 watts.Grille Dimensions 9.31 H x 14.81 W (inches). Clearnace Required for Mounting Dogs (add to each side of cutout) 3.375 inches.
  • Easy one-cut, drop-in installation puts built-in audio within reach, with Perfect Fit templates, a precision flange; achieve secure, vibration-free efficiency with a simple turn of the patented Rotating Cam system
  • Dimension(inches):7.625 h x 13.125 w. Total Frequency Response is 30 Hz to 27,000 Hz

Mounting Template Click Here

Installation Instructions Click Here

Now if you know me, you’ll know I love my in wall speakers. So, I had to include a great in wall center channel speaker before all else, as it’s just my personal preference. From a performance perspective, there isn’t a great deal of difference between an in wall and a standing, but I just like my speakers completely out of the way.

Though they usually specialize in a wide variety of smaller speakers, this center channel is the perfect main for your in wall speaker set up for a few reasons. Firstly, although some say the grills on Polk products are pretty low quality, they’re made this way specifically. They’re designed to be thin, which enables a nice sound to carry out of the speakers without any interference. This can be a problem with speakers that have big, bulky grills attached to the front.

Another thing that I like about this center channel speaker is the quality of sound you’ll get from it. Whilst it doesn’t go quite as low frequency as what a regular subwoofer would, it does produce the deeper sounds extremely well with clarity and little distortion. This is one of the most important things for me, as I do like bass-centric music, so a speaker that deals with lower frequencies well like this one is extremely attractive.

Overall, this is the best in wall center channel speaker on the market right now. Although it isn’t cheap, it’s worth every penny if you’re looking for a good quality sound flowing throughout your house.

Pros

1) I’ll never stop buying Polk speakers, because they’re the most reliable brand on the market at the moment. Their customer service is top notch, which is essential to me as I’m eternally paranoid that something will break in my speaker set up.

2) It’s a particularly easy speaker to set up. This is good if this is your first in wall project, as you might be able to do it on your own if you have some time and want save some money.

3) The quality of the sound is pretty spot on. One of my friends even installed one of these center channel speakers in his ceiling, and he swears it sounds fantastic!

Cons

1) The build quality doesn’t really match some of the other Polk products. Polk Audio grills are notoriously their worst aspect as people say that they’re flimsy, and I tend to agree. Depending on what you’re looking for, the quality of this speaker, in terms of material, isn’t as good as it could be.

2) Although it might be a positive to some, this is an extremely large center channel speaker (it’s slightly larger than what it is listed at, too). This might not make it suitable for some people, especially if you have a smaller home and don’t necessarily need a big powerful speaker.

The Polk Audio 255-RT is my pick of the in wall center channel speakers available, without a doubt.
Alex says , Full Time Audio Geek

 

Yamaha NS-C210BL

Yamaha NS-C210BL Center Channel Speaker Black
  • Designed to reproduce the full, dynamic sound of HD sources
  • 7/8" balanced dome tweeter
  • Slim design matches flat-panel TVs
  • Woofers use light aluminum cones for extra-fast response
  • 2-way bass-reflex center speaker

If you’re after a good, basic center channel speaker then there aren’t many better than this one from Yamaha. Whilst it isn’t particularly complex, it’s a nice simple center channel that won’t bankrupt your bank balance.

The NS-C210BL has a particularly slim build. This is perfect if you’re trying to save space in your lounge – often, center channel speakers are big and bulky, taking up a sizeable portion of your lounge. This isn’t the case with the Yamaha, which fits snugly below your television set.

The Yamaha uses ultra light aluminium cones for extra ‘fast response’. Now, unless you’re an audiophile then the likelihood is that you’re not really sure what this means. Don’t worry – a lot of audiophiles don’t know what it means either! Generally, a fast responding speaker is a good thing as it allows the cones to produce volume in quick time, giving you a better sound.

Overall, if you’re on a budget then this would be a good pick for you. Yamaha are obviously one of the more reputable brands on the market, so taking advantage of this speaker would be a good purchase in my opinion.

Pros

1) It’s undeniably cheap, especially when you consider it’s build quality and the materials used to make it.

2) It’s small. Not everyone is concerned about the size of their center channel, as it’s almost accepted that they’ll be relatively bulky. But, if you wanted a smaller one, then this would be a good pick.

3) For the size, and the price, the sounds that you’ll get from this center channel are surprisingly crisp. I doubt you’d find a better sound quality within it’s price range.

Cons

1) I can’t lie and say that this is the best quality speaker around; it isn’t. For a better quality speaker, you’ll need to significantly increase your budget allowance.

2) For some reason, the whole front grill of the speakers is irremovable. This is a massive pain if you wanted to pain the front of your speakers – which although I consider to be a cardinal sin, some people would like the option.

I had to include a budget option, and this is it. Undoubtedly one of the better choices if you’re trying to get a good system at a small price.
Alex says , Full Time Audio Geek

Polk Audio CS10

Polk Audio CS10 Center Channel Speaker (Single, Black)
  • 1-Inch (25mm) Fabric/Polymer Composite Dynamic Balance Dome Tweeter with powerful Neodymium magnet structure delivers clear and detailed high frequency response for realistic reproduction of vocals and instruments.
  • Two 5-1/4 in. Bi-Laminate Composite Dynamic Balance Drivers are lightweight and stiff with good damping for high efficiency, excellent bass and lower distortion.
  • Non-resonant all-MDF enclosure construction with 3/4 in. thick baffles ensures cleaner, clearer, more lifelike sound quality.
  • Unique Reversible-design cabinets can be turned upside down to aim "up" when placed under a video monitor.
  • Five-Way Binding Post Connectors for more secure hook-up options.

User Manual Click Here

Another speaker review, another Polk product. No, I’m not biased – they’ve just totally cornered the market and are producing some of the best products around (by some distance, too). Not everyone wants an in wall center channel speaker (even though that’s my personal preference). If you don’t mind the speaker taking up a little room in your lounge, then you can still get yourself a bargain.

The CS10 is the younger brother of the CS20, another good option. But I included to CS10 over it’s bigger brother solely on the reason of price – it’s currently available at a bargain price, in my opinion. it’s common knowledge that the center channel speaker will do the majority of the work in your home system, so it only make sense to get a good quality one.

Looking at the features of the CS10, the quality of the sound is excellent – you’ll probably think that it’s much more expensive than it actually is. Although you don’t really expect the center channel to carry much of the lower frequency sounds, this one does with relative ease.

It has two 5 1/4 drivers, which help massive to reduce the distortion levels. Ever had a cheap sound system play low quality sounds? Well, there’s a reason for that. This speaker also has high damping – this means that essentially, it absorbs the buzz that’s generated when you’re playing loud sounds, which is turn reduces the vibration that you’re likely to experience. This gives you a higher quality sound.

A great option for anyone looking for a cheaper speaker that does everything that it’s supposed to.

Pros

1) The quality of sound is extremely good when you consider that this is one of the cheaper options available on the market.

2) The likelihood is that you’ll be able to pair this one up with the majority of different side speakers that are on the market.

3) Another great thing about this speaker is that if you wanted, it works as well from a horizontal standpoint as it does when it’s vertical. This means that if you wanted to place is below your TV integrated into the stand, you could do this relatively easily.

Cons

1) The main negative that I can see with this center channel speaker is really the size. It’s considerably bigger than the majority of it’s competitors at 20 inches in length. Not for those looking for something cosy they can sneak into their TV stand.

2) This is personal opinion, but I’m not really fond of the retro appearance. I like modern looking speakers, and this gives off a vibe that little effort went into the design of the speaker.

Another solid choice if you want a speaker that’ll support the rest of your sound system with ease.
Alex says , Full Time Audio Geek

 

Theatre Solutions C1

Theater Solutions C1 Bookshelf Center Channel Speaker Surround Sound Home Theater
  • Theater Solutions C1 home theater 3-way center channel bookshelf speaker, recommended power is 10-200 watts, efficiency is 91dB, frequency response is 70Hz-22 kHz, 8ohm
  • 3-way design and functionality, bi-laminate composite, balanced shielded woofers, ferro fluid cooled, titanium coated, balanced, shielded tweeter, 3KHz, 18dB per octave crossover frequency
  • Dual rear port vents, spring loaded raw wire connections, non-resonant MDF enclosure with black wood grain finish, detachable black fabric grill, speaker size is (H x W x D) 6.5" × 18" × 7.5"
  • Designed and engineered in the USA, this speaker requires a home audio receiver or amplifier to power it
  • Use for surround sound, center channel, home theater, multiple room system, industrial sound, bookshelf, this listing and price is for 1 indoor center speaker

User Manual Click Here

I really like Theatre Solutions products, and I have done for a good while now. They’re another old and trusted brand, and I decided to include another option for those on a tight budget.

Unfortunately, I don’t think this speaker is the best option for a center channel (this is just my opinion). For a little extra in price, you’ll notice that the quality increases drastically in comparison to this one. But, it’s not all bad.

It deals with high range frequencies extremely well and produces some great sounds (it’s unfortunately not as good with the mid range frequencies). It’s also pretty good with low frequency sounds too. It has dual rear port vents, which some people actually prefer to a single port.

At the end of the day, I can’t be too critical of this speaker because it costs significantly less than the others that I’ve listed. But, I guess I’m just used to listening to better quality sounds than this one.

Pros

1) This is really the very cheapest that you’ll find a quality center channel. If that’s what you want, then this is the best option for you.

2) For it’s price, it’s actually finished really nicely and looks like it’s much higher quality than it actually is.

Cons

1) For me, I know I said it’s relatively good quality; which it is, for the price. But I’d prefer to save up and spend a little extra on something of a higher quality (if it was me).

2) At high volumes, the sound really isn’t up to par. If you played this speaker against another center channel, you’d undoubtedly notice the difference – you will definitely be able to hear distortion in this center channel speaker.

Not the best choice in my opinion, but if you’re looking for the very very cheapest option, this is the one for you.
Alex says , Full Time Audio Geek

 

Pioneer SP-C22

Pioneer SP-C22 Andrew Jones Designed Center Channel Speaker
  • Twin 4-in Woofers and Soft Dome Tweeter
  • Built-in 6 Element Sophisticated Crossover
  • Frequency Range: 55 Hz-20 kHz
  • Magnetically Shielded
  • Two rear side wire connections; requires audio amplifier

User Manual Click Here

Looking at the C22, this is another smart option for anyone looking for a powerful center speaker that fits well into any system.

The C21 speaker is a natural evolution of the SP-C21. Pioneer actually listened to their forums, where users said that the C21 was too large – so they made some changes with the C22. The width of this speaker is only 18 inches, which make it a good option for those who are looking to save space in their lounge.

Probably the best thing about the Pioneer SP-C22 is the six element crossover that it features. This particularly helps the tweeter and woofer to combine and blend the audio between the two, so you don’t notice the difference when higher frequencies are played through the speakers. It’s clarity make it an ideal choice if you’re building yourself a home theater.

Overall, this is a great speaker if you want something than can carry the entire audio from your sound system.

Pros

1) Small size doesn’t mean a lack of sound quality. In fact, these speakers go toe to toe with some of the bigger and bulkier center channels too.

2) Pioneer are one of the oldest names in the audio industry, so you can be sure that you’re going to get a quality product.

3) Aesthetically, it’s pretty nice to look at for a center channel.

Cons

1) For a few dollars more, you can significantly up the quality of your sound system. I’d rate this one as above average, but not the very best.

2) The speaker deals well with the higher frequencies, but certainly not as well with lower frequencies (the woofer doesn’t match the tweeter for build quality).

You can always play it safe with Pioneer products, and this center channel is a great example of that.
Alex says , Full Time Audio Geek

 

Polk Audio S35

Sale
Polk Audio Signature S35 American HiFi Home Theater Slim Center Speaker
  • 4"-Tall slim profile fits spaces that other center channels do not; Available Orientations : Vertical, Horizontal
  • (1) 1" high-resolution terylene tweeter for crystal clear high frequency response that perfectly reproduces the latest high resolution Audio files
  • (6) 3" low distortion mica-reinforced polypropylene cones for clean, clear bass, better linearity, and increased dynamic mid-range
  • Exclusive Polk dual power port technology for greater, more impactful bass. Front Array Driver Complement : (1) 1 Inch(2.54 cm) d (Round) - Tweeter. (6) 3 Inch (7.62 cm) d (Round) - Midrange
  • Compatible as left, center or right Channel speaker (L/C/R)

User Manual Click Here

Installation Instructions Click Here

Another option from Polk is the S35. A good option for those with a slightly higher budget and looking for something that has that extra little bit of quality when compared to the budget options on the list.

The S35 made it onto my list because the sounds that come out of it are very clear and crisp, with relatively little distortion. This is likely because of the mica reinforced polypropylene cones that are made specifically to help increase the sound clarity for both mid range and lower frequencies. The lower frequencies from this centre channel are excellent.

This is undoubtedly an upgrade on the majority of other Polk Speakers, though you’d easily be able to match it with their S Series. If you’re looking for a new high quality speaker that can fit easily into your home, then I’d advise considering the S35.

If you’d like a comprehensive video review, have a look below;

Check the video review!

Pros

1) The speaker packs a considerable bang for your buck. Considering it’s only 4 inches in height, you’re getting a lot of audio quality in a small package.

2) It works pretty consistently well at both higher ranged frequencies as it does with lower range, too.

3) If you want a speaker that you can position directly under your TV, then this is a good choice. Its easy to fix it underneath your TV onto a good stand.

Cons

1) The price could be considered a ‘con’, though I do think that this center channel commands a higher price point that some of it’s competitors. The Terylene tweeter works well for those who liked to play their sounds loud and clear.

2) It won’t work that well in a larger room. It works perfectly well in a lounge, but if you’re looking for something to fill the sound in a large basement, then you need to up the size of your speakers by quite a bit.

The S35 is a step up in comparison to the middle range of center channels.
Alex says , Full Time Audio Geek

 

Klipsch RP450

Sale
Klipsch Reference RP-450CA Premiere Dolby Atmos Center Channel Speaker, Black
  • The Country Of Origin Is China
  • The Reference Premiere RP-450CA center channel speaker delivers clear dialog and a pronounced soundstage for an optimized Dolby Atmos sound
  • 1-Inch Linear Travel Suspension Titanium Tweeter.Quad 5.25-Inch Spun Copper Cerametallic Cone Woofers
  • 90x90 Hybrid Tractrix Horn. All New Tractrix Port
  • Walnut Wood Veneer or Black Wood Veneer. Strong, Flexible Removable Grille

User Manual Click Here

Klipsh produce some of the highest quality speakers that run at a premium price point, and the RP450 in particular is only for those looking for an optimum sounding system.

Let’s have a look at this center channel from a technical perspective. Like most Klipsch speakers they use Linear Suspension Travel tweeters. This helps to reduce the distortion with higher frequencies, in turn improving the sound quality in the speakers in general. To work with this, the cerametallic woofers help to create heavy bass sounds.

Their signature orange speakers have long been regarded as one of the most solid options that you can go for, but you really want to opt for the full kit if you’re going to decide to go with Klipsch.

Pros

1) The Klipsch RP450 is of the very highest quality, and you want to up your budget substantially (I’m talking multiple thousands) this is the best you’ll find.

2) Appearance wise, this center channel is pretty flawless. It looks expensive and of the highest quality because, well, it is.

3) From a performance standpoint, they’re great. From the Linear Travel Suspension tweeter to the cerametallic woofers, no expense has been spared in terms of quality with this set of speakers.

Cons

1) If expense is something that’s a concern for you, look elsewhere. To get the very best from this center channel, you’ll likely need to get the full sound system, which can be particularly expensive.

If you want the very best center channel speaker, then this is a good option.
Alex says , Full Time Audio Geek

Things to Consider

CNet released this article criticising center channel speakers a while ago, and I can’t help but think elements of it are slightly unfair. It seems to be a misinformed article that I don’t think it entirly relevant when considering modern speakers. They say that a center channel will always sound worse than a left and right speaker, though this certainly isn’t true; if you get the right center channel speaker for the job. I’m honestly a fan of getting a good speaker set, which includes a good set of front speakers and maybe even a subwoofer too.

Conclusion

Overall, it’s pretty clear to see that your budget will ultimately dictate the quality of sound that you’re going to get from your speaker system. There’s a direct correlation between the price of your speakers and their quality.

Fortunately with this guide, I hope I’ve given you a couple of options that actually beat this correlation. Usually anything from Polk Audio, you’re going to get a decent quality of sound for a relatively good price. If you have a little more cash to invest in a sound system, then Klipsch are a good option, too.

Ultimately, you want to spend a little more on your center channel speakers as they’ll be carrying the sound of the rest of your system. This doesn’t mean that the rest of your system doesn’t matter, but you’ll want to try and get the best center that your budget can afford. Then, build the rest of your system focussed around them.

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Alex Rushworth
 

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