January 18, 2023

Center Channel Speaker Buying Guide

Article written by POLK STAFF


Everything you need to know.

What is a center channel speaker?

A center channel speaker is meant to reproduce the center channel in a surround sound setup, where left and right channels are supported by bookshelf or floor-standing speakers. (In surround sound bar systems, the center channel is built into the driver array.)

Most spoken dialogue and music vocals are mixed to the center of the sound stage, so it makes sense to have a dedicated speaker for those elements, right? That’s where the center channel speaker comes in—it’s optimized for that specific purpose and offers the added benefit of adjusting center channel volume to ensure consistent sound levels.

Can you use any speaker as a center channel?

You can use any full-range speaker as a center channel. If you’re building a home theater system, we recommend a horizontal cabinet, as this speaker will likely be positioned above or below a screen, or on a horizontal surface like a TV stand. (Don’t get a vertical speaker and lay it on its side; if the speaker isn’t designed for horizonal orientation, the sound will be unbalanced.)

How important is a center channel speaker?

In a surround sound system, a center channel speaker isn’t just important, it’s essential. In theater sound, the center channel delivers the main dialogue. In music, it’s a focal point of the mix, where vocals live. At Polk, we think if you’re going to build a surround sound system, do it right and include a center channel speaker so you can experience movies, games, and music in enveloping sound, exactly as they were meant to be heard.

How to choose a center channel speaker?

Choosing a center channel speaker starts with your space and budget considerations. Then, it’s about finding a speaker that reproduces clear, detailed sound in the speech range. Your center speaker should be well-matched with the front left and right speakers for seamless sound. Some center channel speakers have extra drivers that produce more full-range sound or widen the listening sweet spot. If you’re looking for a top-of-the-line center channel speaker, check out our Legend L400, which features our Pinnacle Ring Radiator Tweeters for ultra-crisp highs and a super wide sweet spot. Or, if space is a consideration, our Reserve R350 premium slim center channel speaker and Reserve R300 premium center channel speaker provide two coverage and cabinet profile choices.

Why buy a Polk center channel speaker?

We stand by our time-tested mission to create the best speakers at the best price, and we’ve remained true to that passion since 1972. We’re continually innovating new products simply because we’re crazy about great sound. So, why buy a Polk center channel speaker? Why not?

Explore more stories

Image without a name

Polk at 50: A Conversation With Matthew Polk

December 20, 2022

Image without a name

Center Channel Speakers Take Center Stage

March 20, 2018

Image without a name

The Legend Series — The Best Speakers We’ve Ever Made

November 15, 2019