Finding high-quality speakers to enjoy music and other entertainment shouldn’t be a never-ending search. Here are our five best picks for dependable center channel speakers.
The big game, your favorite movie, that recorded concert from yesteryear: these all sound so much better in surround sound. However, a booming, powerful surround sound system can sometimes cost some serious money. If you go the cheap route though, you may end up with tinny speakers that sound terrible and break easily.
A good surround sound system is often an investment, but it’s one you will have for years to come. You and your family can sit down together and watch movies on weekends, catching up on precious time you’d otherwise miss because life moves too fast. You can invite your buddies over to watch sports, offering the best seats in the house besides being at the event itself.
One crucial part of a surround sound system is center channel speakers. As the name implies, these are at the center of your surround sound setup. These can go beneath your TV if necessary, as they are often small. If you have a projector screen instead of a TV, the center channel speakers are positioned at the back of the screen.
Considering price, value, durability, and sound quality, here are our five picks for best center channel speakers on the market today.
- Klipsch RP-250C Center Channel Speaker –Best Overall Pick
- Polk Audio Signature S35 American HiFi Home Theater Slim Center Speaker
- Klipsch RC-64 II Center Channel Speaker – Best Upgrade Pick
- Klipsch Reference RP-450CA Premiere Dolby Atmos Center Channel Speaker
- Polk Audio CS10 Center Channel Speaker –Best Budget Pick
There are plenty of benefits to adding a center channel speaker to your home theater. These reduce excess noise you might hear if you have traditional speakers on the right and left side of the entertainment center. In particular, these erase the phantom center, which distorts the direction in which you hear sounds and can detract from the viewing and listening experience as a whole.
Now that you know you need center channel speakers to enhance your surround sound system, how do you pick the best one? You want a good value for your money, and you want to be sure that you’ll have these speakers for years to come. Check out our list of the best center channel speakers to help as you shop.
Klipsch RP-250C Center Channel Speaker
Polk Audio Signature S35 American HiFi Home Theater Slim Center Speaker
Klipsch RC-64 II Center Channel Speaker
Klipsch Reference RP-450CA Premiere Dolby Atmos Center Channel Speaker
Polk Audio CS10 Center Channel Speaker
What to Look for in Center Channel Speakers
- Price: Speakers, as we mentioned, are generally a costly investment. However, make sure you don’t overpay. Don’t underpay, either. Generally, avoid inexpensive speakers because these may be made of cheap parts that don’t hold up over time. However, we’ve found a few great speakers that even those on a budget can afford.
- Value: You should be getting a good value for your money. Your speaker should come with many settings and features so you can get the right sound in a variety of settings.
- Durability: You’ve put a lot of time and effort into getting your home theater just right. Once you install your surround sound system, you want to be able to kick back, relax, and enjoy the entertainment. With central channel speakers, you can do just that for years to come.
- Sound quality: Nothing is worse than muddy sound quality, especially on a home entertainment system. With central channel speakers, you can reduce the chances of phantom center and other unwanted noises ruining your viewing experience.
5 Best Center Channel Speakers for Your Home Theater
1. Klipsch RP-250C Center Channel Speaker – Best Overall Pick
The Klipsch brand started in 1946, the year that founder and namesake Paul W. Klipsch made his own impressive speaker called the Klipschorn. In the years since, the company has grown to massive proportions to become the major speaker manufacturer it is today.
We call the Klipsch RP-250C Center Channel Speaker the best overall speaker because of its myriad of wonderful features. Dolby Atmos capability built right into the speaker means that listening to music and watching movies is almost an all-encompassing experience.
Then there’s the look of this speaker. The Reference Premiere or RP Series is a noticeable step up from Klipsch’s Reference II Series. Its ebony or cherry-plated frame is the perfect complement to its copper Cerametallic cone woofers, each of which measure 5.25 inches. The grilles are malleable so they’ll never snap and break. The improved baffle cuts high frequency diffraction with its hidden magnets.
The RP-250C also includes a more sizeable Tractrix horn that now measures 90×90. That’s a big upgrade from previous models’ 60×90 horn. The circular horn throat and square horn mouth produce incredible sound that has to be heard to be believed.
There are more features yet that make this Klipsch center channel speaker a winner. The grille can be taken off. A brushed polymer veneer baffle finish adorns the MDF cabinet. A linear travel suspension titanium tweeter produces higher-pitched sounds so you never miss a second of the action.
Customers agree that the Klipsch RP-250C is a great overall pick, with many lauding its clean sound and high volume capabilities. One reviewer notes how, with the addition of the RP-250C to their surround sound setup, they could hear just about every sound in a movie they watched, even the smaller, less important ones.
2. Polk Audio Signature S35 American HiFi Home Theater Slim Center Speaker
If your entertainment center is already full of equipment, you can still squeeze in a center speaker like the Polk Audio Signature S35 American HiFi. Designed to be streamlined, it measures only four inches high.
Despite its diminutive size, the Signature S35 is a powerhouse. It boasts up to six mica-reinforced polypropylene cones. These contribute to its improved dynamic mid-range, linearity, and better bass tones. Each of these cones is just three inches, fitting in with the tiny features of this speaker.
Hear more of your favorite movies, TV shows, and music with the Terylene dome tweeter. Measuring just one inch, this tweeter is responsible for the higher frequencies you may have been missing. Your entertainment will sound much more complete when you can hear both high and low frequencies.
What about those low tones? Included in this Polk Audio speaker is Power Port technology for increased bass up to three decibels. The Power Port allows air to move through to your living room or entertainment room for clearer, more unobstructed sound. It also reduces distortion and turbulence.
If you’ve been using right and left speakers the whole time and don’t necessarily want to change much of your setup, the Signature S35 can connect via the front, right, or left speaker. It includes four-way keyhole slots so you can decide on a configuration that works best for your surround sound system.
With its tough cabinet frame, you can put your DVD player or even your TV on top of the Signature S35 without any damage. The frame is as appealing as it is durable with its Black Washed Walnut finish.
Other notable features are custom mid-range drivers and the Dynamic Balance acoustic array. The drivers, made of butyl rubber and polypropylene cones, are just part of what make that enviable crisp sound. Dynamic Balance technology also leads to hours of great listening.
It should come as no surprise that Polk Audio manufactures such a quality product. Formed in 1972, Matt Polk and company came together as music lovers. They wanted better speakers than what existed on the market at the time, and the rest, as they say, is history. Over the years, Polk Audio has become known for its stunning speakers, which often feature cascade crossover and wide dispersion array for unbeatable sound.
The reviews for the Signature S35 are overwhelmingly positive. Customers mention its compatibility with other speakers and its awesome sound as this speaker’s major selling points.
3. Klipsch RC-64 II Center Channel Speaker – Best Upgrade Pick
Another slim center speaker is the RC-64 II Center Channel Speaker, also by Klipsch. We’ve already discussed the Klipsch legacy, which is just part of why we awarded this speaker the title of best upgrade pick.
The Reference II Series includes two speakers, but the RC-64 II is the more extraordinary of the two. It borrows elements from the Palladium Series, one of Klipsch’s best-selling line of speakers, such as its linear travel suspension-trickle-down Titanium tweeter. If you prefer a more intimate listening experience, you’ll have one each time you use the RC-64 II.
The Cerametallic woofer cones will keep distortion and other unwanted noise at a minimum. You’ll get better dampening thanks to the aluminum in these cones, which is treated to be more lightweight.
Above, we discussed the unique Tractrix horn, and this is back in the RC-64 II. With this speaker, the horn produces sharper imaging, less distortion, and greater sound output.
The RC-64 II also looks remarkable. Boxy yet skinny, both a black wood veneer or medium cherry finish are available to match any entertainment center. Both are appealing in their own way.
There are more useful features still you’ll find with this Klipsch center channel speaker. The tilt rod, for example, allows you to adjust the configuration of the speaker with ease. Your TV and other devices won’t cause interference with magnetically shielded drivers. These same drivers also lift bass tones to a surprising degree. If you already have the RF-7 II floor stander, the RC-64 II is a perfect fit.
Speaking of perfect fits, many customers call the RC-64 II just that. Some say the sound is “in your face.” Others recommend using it in conjunction with Klipsch speakers for the richest sound this side of the local movie theater.
4. Klipsch Reference RP-450CA Premiere Dolby Atmos Center Channel Speaker
Yet another center channel speaker in the Klipsch RP Series is the RP-450CA with Premiere Dolby Atmos. From the same company that once boldly sported a shirt that says bullsh*it on it (which is a funny story, and happened because founder Paul W. Klipsch was annoyed by the speaker ads he’d see in magazines, particularly one that declared a speaker brand had made “another major breakthrough”), this speaker also has an attitude.
Think of the RP-450CA as a bigger version of the RP-250C. It has twice the Cerametallic woofers, each of which measures nearly six inches. If you loved the sound you got out of the RP-250C, the RP-450CA has twice the capability. That means cleaner, clearer sound, thicker bass, heavier low tones, and unmistakable high tones.
Many of the features are the same as the RP-250C, including Palladium Series-inspired linear travel suspension-trickle-down technology titanium tweeters, Tractrix horns, a cabinet finished with a wood veneer, an included tilt rod, magnetically shielded drivers, Dolby Atmos technology, and compatibility with the RF-7 II floor stander.
If you want even bigger, more lifelike sounds from the comfort of your own home, this Klipsch center channel speaker is the way to go. Plenty of customers have chosen the RP-450CA for their own surround sound systems. Many reviewers have found that for the price, this center channel speaker provides better accuracy, quality, and sound. It’s even highly rated for its cool-looking frame.
5. Polk Audio CS10 Center Channel Speaker – Best Budget Pick
If you’re looking for sound quality on a budget, look no further than Polk Audio. As we’ve mentioned, Baltimore, Maryland-based Matt Polk was determined, with his team of friends, to create a speaker that has superior sound. However, you don’t always have to spend a fortune to find that sound, at least not with the CS10 Center Channel Speaker, which is our best budget pick.
This speaker includes a crossover system sure to make your friends green with envy. You’ll notice sound frequencies are better-defined thanks to Mylar bypass capacitors. If you’re a fan of bass, you’ll love the port venting found in the CS10. Air can move throughout the speakers to provide a strong tone every time.
With five-way binding posts plated in gold, the CS10 looks as good as it sounds. The volume will never start to sound dull, even when turned up or down, due to silk dome tweeters that offer great frequency range.
Part of what makes the CS10 such a great bargain is its Klippel motor optimization, which includes the kind of laser measurement technology you’d typically only find in higher-end models. This technology allows for better overall volume.
We talked before about Dynamic Balance in Polk Audio speakers, and you can find this in the CS10, too. The sounds in movies and other entertainment will be closer and more authentic. There’ll also be less distortion.
Want to try a few different configurations? You can. Included five-way binding post connectors let you install and reinstall your CS10 until your heart’s content. The reversible-design cabinets, which can be adjusted up or down, also help you achieve the perfect entertainment center setup.
Included baffles and MDF enclosures also contribute to the amazing sound quality. Bi-Laminate Composite Balance Drivers cut distortion, boost bass, and provide dampening. Two of these are included with the speakers, and they measure a little more than five inches each.
Neodymium magnets within the Composite Dynamic Balance Dome Tweeter augment the sound of music beautifully, especially instruments and vocals. This tweeter is made of polymer and fabric and measures just an inch. You’ll be surprised by its capability for that size.
Of course, we must mention the appearance of the Polk Audio CS10. You can choose from a wood grain or cherry veneer finish. There’s also a black top plate treated with a piano-finish gloss. Pewter accents decorate this speaker, which will add some class to your home entertainment system.
So what do the reviews say? Many agree the CS10 is an upgrade to other, older Polk Audio speakers. Polk listened to their customers and sought to make the CS10 the best speaker for its low price.
Tips for Getting the Best Sound from Your Speakers
- Use a tilt rod to adjust tweeter height. Both the Klipsch RC-64 II and the Reference RP-450CA Premiere Dolby Atmos Center Channel Speaker include a tilt rod so you can adjust the tweeters. These should be at ear height for best sound from the right, left, and center speakers.
- Watch wall placement. Is your center channel speaker too close to a wall? Depending on the brand, this can be a good or bad thing. For some brands, the bass will get almost trapped against the wall and sound muddled. For other brands, this close wall placement actually brings out the best bass tones.
- Move the furniture. With a surround sound system, the sound travels outwards. However, big obstacles, such as a couch, can prevent sound from traveling to its full potential. Depending on your speaker configuration, you might want to rearrange your furniture so it doesn’t obstruct speaker range.
Sources & Further Reading
- Speaker firm Klipsch rocking again after losing its beat, Indianapolis Business Journal
- CES: 6 strange gadgets that just might work, The San Diego Union-Tribune
- Klipsch, Capitol Records Produce Heritage Wireless Speakers After 70 Years of Music, CEPro
- Polk Audio
- Best laser level
- Best briefcases for lawyers