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Best Overall: Pioneer SP-C22 at Amazon
"It has two four-inch surface woofers, one-inch high-efficiency soft dome tweeter and six element crossovers."
Runner-Up, Best Overall: Kilpsch RP-500C at Amazon
"This awesome, center channel speaker comes equipped with a pair of 5.25-inch spun copper woofers for hair-bending bass, and a 1-inch titanium tweeter for crystal-clear high-end resonance."
Best Design: Yamaha NS-C210BL at Amazon
"A center channel speaker that fits horizontally on any bookshelf, thanks to its unique design."
Best Sound: JBL Arena 125C at Amazon
"Has a one-inch soft dome tweeter with high-definition imaging (HDI) that offers wave guiding technology for exceptionally detailed sound."
Most Compact: Definitive Technology ProCenter 1000 at Amazon
"This speaker incorporates the same various technologies as more expensive and larger...products."
Best Budget: Micca MB42-C at Amazon
"The two four-inch woven carbon fiber woofers help minimize midrange distortion, which allows for clear dialogue and voices to come through."
Best Splurge: MartinLogan Motion 30 at Amazon
"Features a folded motion tweeter that delivers almost eight times the surface area of a one-inch dome tweeter."
Best Value: Polk Audio T30 Center Channel Speaker at Amazon
"The incorporation of Dynamic Balance technology means crystal-clear dialogue and room-filling theater sound."
The Pioneer SP-C22 Andrew Jones-designed center channel speaker produces a sound you’ll quickly fall in love with. Measuring 18.12 x 8.45 x 7.12 inches, the SP-C22 is designed to look both modern and conventional. It has two four-inch surface woofers, one-inch high-efficiency soft dome tweeter and six element crossovers. The latter assists with blending the audio between the woofer and the tweeter for greater range of different frequencies. The curved shape of the wooden cabinet casing also aids the SP-C22 in standing wave reduction that pairs with all other auditory features to result in one high-quality sound system. With 50 percent of a movie’s soundtrack coming from a center speaker, the SP-C22 allows car crashes to sound a little crunchier and explosions to sound a little louder, which adds a level of authenticity that’s hard to pass up.
If you're looking for reference level performance in a discrete package, you can't go wrong with the Klipsch RP-500C. This long standing manufacturer of high-quality, robust speakers and headphones has dialed up the performance of it's aging 250C model without compromising it's unassuming form factor. The 500C still measure 6.8x18.5x9.5 inches (HWD) and weighs in around 18 pounds. This awesome, center channel speaker comes equipped with a pair of 5.25-inch spun copper woofers for hair-bending bass, and a 1-inch titanium tweeter for crystal-clear high-end resonance. Available in either a rich ebony or warm walnut finish, the 500C makes a spectacular statement piece for any media setup. If you're not keen on having the 500C's large woofers staring back at you, it also comes equipped with a removable metallic grille. As with all Klipsch speakers, you also get a 5-year warranty that protects you from any fault of the manufacturer, making this speaker a true investment for any audiophile.
Measuring 5 x 13 x 4 inches, the Yamaha NS-C210BL is a center channel speaker that fits horizontally on any bookshelf, thanks to its unique design. The design is both elegant and slim, but still sports a 7/8-inch balanced dome tweeter, two-way bass-reflect center speaker and light aluminum cone-based woofers for an extra-fast audio response. The slim design is the result of Yamaha not wanting to take attention away from flat-panel TVs, so the sound is heard but not seen. Ultimately, the NS-C210BL is specifically attentive to reproducing the fuller, dynamic sound of high-definition sources, including Blu-ray discs.
The JBL Arena 125C has a one-inch soft dome tweeter with high-definition imaging (HDI) that offers wave guiding technology for exceptionally detailed sound across a room. The two 5.5-inch poly cellulose mid-woofers add a fantastic bass-heavy sound that takes gaming, music, movies, shows and regular television programming to another level with a response ranging from 90 to 40,000Hz. Additionally, the computer-optimized hardware works to position the drivers for the best overall sound performance resonating from the JBL’s modern-looking hardware.
The ProCenter 1000 is supported by two 4.5-inch cast basket drivers, two 4.5-inch pressure-driven low-frequency radiators, as well as a one-inch pure aluminum dome tweeter, which creates a punch in the sound that you’d only expect to find in a larger speaker. Measuring 10.5 x 5 x 5 inches, the ProCenter 1000 is traditionally compact compared to alternative center speaker options, but performs even better. Fortunately, the size won’t fool you as this speaker incorporates the same various technologies as more expensive and larger Definitive Technology products. Case in point: The two added bass radiators on either side of the case help push out a bass sound that will have you thinking the ProCenter 1000 is hiding some mystical technology inside its compact form factor.
Finding a budget priced center channel speaker with outstanding audio quality isn’t always easy, but the Micca MB42-C nails the combination. Backed by a well-known reputation, the two four-inch woven carbon fiber woofers help minimize midrange distortion, which allows for clear dialogue and voices to come through, plus outstanding musical sound. The high-performance .75-inch silk dome tweeter adds a smooth treble that combines with the woofers for great sound quality and impactful bass. Capable of handling an impedance of four ohms and up to 100 watts, there’s a sound experience here that punches well above its budget-friendly price tag. The speaker has a utilitarian-looking black design, but adds rounded corners and a classically styled cloth cover for a look that never fades. The overall size is 9.5 x 5.8 x 6.5 inches.
The MartinLogan Motion 30 features a folded motion tweeter that delivers almost eight times the surface area of a one-inch dome tweeter, so the result is a dynamic sound that’s close to perfect. The folded motion assists the tweeter by pushing the air out while adding lightning fast response time for a high-quality sound that’s hard to reproduce on less expensive competitors. Add in the 6.5-inch rear-facing bass drivers and a 5.5-inch cone mid-range woofer for high-quality bass and you'll have a frequency response between 65 to 25,000Hz (with peak power nearing 200 watts per channel). There’s no question the resulting sound is incredible, but it would be remiss to ignore the high-gloss design of the speaker box (it has a finish that will blend in with any room decor.) It measures 16.5 x 10.5 x 6.9 inches.
Strikingly affordable, the Polk Audio T30 center channel speaker is an excellent option that won’t break the bank. Sporting one-inch silk dome tweeters and dual 5.25-inch Dynamic Balance drivers, the T30 delivers excellent sound quality. The incorporation of Dynamic Balance technology means crystal-clear dialogue and room-filling theater sound. A performance-tuned rear-firing bass port also works to increase the bass output for heart-pumping sound. Pairing well with left and right channel speakers, it's suggested to position the speaker right below a television. Setup is easy as the speaker works with most home theater receivers or stereos.
Support for Dolby and DTS sound adds to the audio experience especially during action sequences or sports events. Music comes alive even at high volume levels where distortion is almost non-existent. The minimalist look of the Polk reduces the distraction speakers can pose in any room. The quality design of the speaker blends a deep gray with black grille for a unique look. The furniture-grade manufacturing works to reduce resonance and distortion adding richness to the overall sound.
Our reviewers spent 120 hours testing a top-rated center channel speaker. To get the most comprehensive results, they set it up at home and listened to music for hours on end. We asked our testers to consider the most important features when using this speaker, from its design to its sound quality. We've outlined the key points here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.
Sound quality - A center speaker’s most essential feature is its overall sound quality — a beautiful speaker is worth nothing if it sounds awful. Be sure to select a model that offers a broad frequency range and can adequately reproduce vocals.
Brand cohesiveness - It’s essential to consider the brand of your left and right front speakers when selecting a center speaker for your setup. Different brands and models have different sound signatures. If possible, purchase a center speaker of the same brand and model range of your existing stereo speakers.
Design - While style isn’t everything, an ugly design under your television can be quite an eyesore. Additionally, think about the size of your new center speaker and make sure it physically fits where you plan to put it.
Great sound quality
Good overall value
This speaker was a hit with one of our testers because of its great sound quality — especially for the price: “It's very crisp,” he said, “and the volume goes pretty loud as well. Swapping this to my center speaker made a lot of difference in the sound quality and overall experience of my setup. The vocals are much clearer and don’t get overpowered by the sound effects and background music.” Our reviewers also thought that setting it up was quick and easy. In terms of what our testers liked the least, one pointed to its large size.