Best Center Channels for Home Theater Systems

Speakers influence the sound quality of your home theater system. Separate channels are necessary to provide the right blend of sound. Each speaker is dedicated to one part of the audio so that each separate element of the video's sound is clear and crisp.

The 4 kinds of speakers for a basic sound system are:

  1. Front left and right speakers for the musical score and sound effects
  2. Subwoofer for deep bass tones
  3. Surround speakers for background sounds like footsteps, rain and traffic
  4. Center channel speakers for delivering most of the dialogue and part of the score

The center channel makes sure that you hear the dialogue clearly. It drives the home theater system so that the special effects do not drown out the vocal sounds.

Most home theater systems sold as a set may have incompatible center channel speakers. This can result in the sound being uneven and, at times, unintelligible. The gunshots may make you jump in your seat but the dialogue may leave you straining forward in your seat.

Audiophiles recommend building a home theater system from the ground up. It is relatively harder to look for equipment that matches a set. The set is intentionally configured so that it will be hard to replace separate pieces without going to the same manufacturer or paying a larger price.

If you look hard enough you can find a center channel speaker to match an existing sound system or build a system from scratch. The same basic principles of compatibility apply.

  • Size and position. The ideal position for the center channel speaker is underneath or on top of the TV. Since it delivers the dialogue, it makes sense for the sound to come from where the actors are. You should also consider where you would often be seated when using the home theater system. The speaker must be aimed at your head so that you will hear the sounds clearly.

    The position of the center channel speaker dictates what size it should be. If the only space available is a small one underneath the TV, try to look for a powerful center channel speaker that fits. On the other hand, if you have a wall-mounted TV, you can get a larger center channel speaker that may have more power than a small one.

  • Frequency response curve. This is one of the specifications to check for a good center channel speaker. It states how accurate the speaker is when reproducing audio. The ideal center channel speaker's frequency response curve is relatively straight. There should be no sudden changes in the curve. It should also be able to handle the standard frequency range for the human voice, which is 500 Hz to 8 kHz.
  • Impedance rating. This rating describes how the speaker handles the electricity or power channeled to it. If the speaker cannot process the power, it will produce weaker sounds. The ideal impedance rating is 6 to 8 Ohms.
  • Power ratings. Make sure the receiver (the device sending audio signals to the speakers) can handle the power for the center channel speakers. The power rating for the center channel must only be a fourth of the receiver's. This leaves another 1/4th of the receiver's power for the subwoofer and the rest for the other speakers.
  • High sensitivity. Sensitive center channel speakers will be able to process nuances in the voice and part of the soundtrack. Using less sensitive center speakers may put a strain on the system. The ideal rating is more than 90 Db (decibels).
  • Voice matching. This is another matter of compatibility. The center channel speaker must be voice-matched to the front left and right speakers. If you fail to do this, the speakers will not be able to produce the correct mix of sounds, and can result in either poor sound effects or poor dialogue sound.
  • Voice shielding. Televisions can be affected adversely by being near to speakers. Make sure the speakers are video-shielded so they don't damage other equipment.
  • Price. This should be the last consideration when choosing the best center channel speaker. Good sound equipment is largely more expensive than the standard equipment. If you find a good speaker that is out of your budget range, try checking the same manufacturer for cheaper alternatives. You can also look for the same speaker at other stores to get a better deal.



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