A center channel speaker is a key component in your home theater system for dialogue. Since it takes on such an important role, not picking the right one can really devastate your speaker system. You should also consider the size since it should fit under your TV. Is it possible to get a low profile and exceptional sound in one package? Let’s find out.
Reviews of the Top Low-Profile Center Channel Speakers
Polk Audio CS10
The Polk Audio CS10 is a uniquely designed center channel speaker with all the right components for the best sound quality. You have a dynamic balance tweeter, a Neodymium magnet structure, and 2 dynamic composite drivers that handle all the low tones.
Clear and non-resonant sound quality is made possible with a durable MDF enclosure with 5-way binding post connectors. The best low-profile center channel speaker has a sloped design that makes it easier to place under your TV, and the reversible cabinet can be turned to aim audio content up for more direct sound relays.
The Klipsch RP-504C looks like a beast, as it is larger in length with more drivers than most center speakers, but it is a surprisingly low-profile model at only 6.8 inches in height. It’s the perfect solution for those with large TVs that are mounted a little lower.
The RP-504C is a little pricier, but our audio engineers say the cost is justified because it has all the technologies to ensure the best sound performance. The unit has Klipsch’s proprietary Tractrix Horn technology, signature copper spun cerametallic woofers, linear travel suspension tweeters, and a very high-end finish.
Whenever our sonic experts bring a more expensive product into the list, they must offset it with a budget option to appeal to all consumers. The Micca MB42-C can deliver balanced sound for a budget price.
Inside the cabinet sits a balanced woven carbon fiber woofer, that has excellent bass response and a high-performance silk dome tweeter for treble clarity. The MB42-C has a ported enclosure, which allows for more expansive sound.
The neutral design of this low-profile center channel complements your home theater system with an elegant wood finish.
Klipsch units in general possess excellent speaker features, and this dedicated center channel is no different. It also features the signature spun copper woofers and Tractrix Horn Technology.
What you won’t get is sound distortion. The Klipsch-R52C will blow all your previous speakers out of the water. Its role is to support other speakers in your sound system by providing improved treble and bass quality.
The MDF cabinet is reinforced to squash any vibrations for precise sonic accuracy. The speaker blends effortlessly in with your home interiors thanks to the modern cabinet style.
Simple and inconspicuous are the two most fitting words to describe the Sony SSCS8. It won’t bring much attention to your audio equipment, but it will certainly gain all your focus once it powers one with impressive voice and sound clarity.
The SSCS8 is a 3-speaker bass reflex system with a foamed mica-cellular reinforced woofer for big bass. It also has a tweeter to provide good balance to the heavy lows plus a high-dispersion super tweeter.
The crossover networks are mounted directly to the cabinet to not only provide the most subtle vocal nuances, but also minimize distortion.
JBL Studio 520CBK
The JBL Studio 520CBK is another great embodiment of top-quality features in a low-profile center channel speaker. You will find 2 low-frequency transducers, a high-frequency compression driver, and a high-frequency horn.
The unique rear-facing bass port allows for a more expansive and extended bass response. The MDF enclosure angles the drivers slightly so the sound gets projected directly to your listening spot to reduce any audio loss.
The JBL Studio 520CBK works well with surround speakers, bookshelf speakers, and any other component you have in your system that needs an extra boost.
Yamaha is a long-trusted brand that has been around for decades. Therefore, you’re sure to bring movie theater-quality sound home with the NS-C210BL. It isn’t just any speaker, it’s a dedicated center channel with a precise sound image that fits well into your home audio hub.
The 2-way bass reflex design will ensure the center speaker brings a frequency response that reaches low thanks to the aluminum cone woofers. The woofers are offset by balanced dome tweeters, which will maximize the sound effects in your content.
The low profile and top-performing Yamaha NS-C210BL center channel speaker has a slim design that will suit your flatscreen.
Lastly, we have the Pioneer SP-C22. Though last on this list, it still blew our experts away with the smooth sound it offers. A few things you can find within the center speaker include the craftsmanship and innovation from Andrew Jones, a sonic expert that can bring brighter sound to your home.
Like some of the other center speakers we have on the list, the Pioneer SP-C22 also has a curved design that is functional as well. The curvature can reduce standing sound waves for more audio clarity.
There are also twin woofers and one silk dome tweeter that work together to make sure the frequency response spans 55Hz to 20kHz.
Low-Profile Center Channel Speakers Buyer’s Guide
The best low-profile center channel speakers will possess some shared traits such as excellent sound relays, high maximum power output, and a wide frequency range. Our audiophiles have organized a useful list to better help you identify the right unit for your space.
Size and Design
If you have been one of our loyal readers, then you will know that size isn’t all that matters in speakers, which is why it’s entirely possible to find a unit that’s low profile and adds big sound. Since we’re talking about the best low-profile center channel speaker, what size is considered low profile?
Our team members say it’s around 7 inches in height at the most. You will still need some height in order to have clear high, low, and sub-bass frequencies. This is because in general, a larger driver can move more air around, which is what gives listeners the perception of louder sound. A bigger driver needs space, which is why you can’t really get amazing sound with a small center channel.
As for the design, we came across ones with reversible cabinets, center channels with curved cabinets, and ones that are very large in length and packed with drivers. A center speaker with a reversible cabinet will allow you to aim the drivers up, which may be more beneficial when working with your existing speakers.
Curved cabinets help dampen resonance and also make it easier to slip at least half of the unit under your TV. The size and design are largely dependent on your space and the style of your decor.
What drivers should the center speaker have to ensure excellent sound quality? Other than brand-unique technologies, the drivers within the center channel will vary from unit to unit.
Of course, having a three-way model with drivers taking care of the lows, highs, and mids is optimal, but since we’re talking about a center channel that plays a unique role in your system, the midrange is what’s most important.
This is because a center speaker’s main job is to highlight and emphasize human voices, which falls within the midrange section of the sound spectrum.
Proprietary technologies and brand-specific features such as Klipsch’s Tractrix Horn and a dynamic balance acoustic array are examples of what manufacturers will include to provide more value for your money than another center speaker.
Sensitivity and Impedance
The sensitivity is in direct correlation to the loudness of your center channel speaker, and the impedance is the resistance your unit has to the electrical current. The higher the rating is for the sensitivity, which is measured in decibels (dB) , the better. On the other hand, the lower the impedance rating is, the more efficient your center speaker will be.
Our expert team members recommend a 90dB sensitivity as very good, while most regular speakers may offer 85 to 88dB. The ideal sensitivity rating is above 100dB.
As for the impedance, the lower the better, so you will see 2, sometimes 3, 4, 6, and 8 ohms as the most common. It really depends on your amplifier power and your front speakers, but 2 to 4 ohms is what is recommended by our team.
The power also has to do with the loudness of your center channel speakers, but it’s also how much power the unit will take. The power rating is depicted by two figures, the RMS and the peak power.
The RMS is what our experts say to look out for since it’s the parameters within which you can play your speakers for long hours without risking any damage.
The peak power is meant for short bursts and not for the long term, which is why it tends to be higher than the RMS.
The center channel speakers are meant to be an addition and smaller support component to an entire system. The compatibility refers to the connections, but also the sound and aesthetic compatibility with the rest of your system.
Some of the above models have been tuned and matched to speakers of the same line or brand, which means it’s better to streamline your system. Mixing and matching brands can work, but it isn’t the best if you want to optimize performance.
Of course, you also have to make sure that you can connect your low-profile center channel speakers to the rest of your system. You can do this by looking at the connection ports on the back of all your devices to make sure they match.
Aesthetically, you can’t go wrong with speakers from the same line. They will all have a similar or the same finish and look seamless. It’s okay if you have low-profile center channel speakers of a different brand if they look nicely integrated into the system. Look for simple and monochrome designs to make sure nothing stands out – unless that’s what you want.
You will most likely not find a waterproof center speaker, but you can find ones that are equally durable with tough materials. Look for thick baffes that not only provide strength, but also dampens resonance and vibrations.
MDF cabinets are made of the best materials and our experts recommend MDF because it creates a strong housing that is stable and does the best to boost sound signals.
How to Set Up a Center Channel Speaker
Whether you want to place the speaker on a TV stand or mount it below your TV on the wall, you need to learn how to set up your center channel speakers flawlessly. Like the soundbar, our sound team suggests placing it either above or below your TV.
Luckily, center channels are usually a plug-and-play design, which means all it takes is connecting it to the amplifier (if necessary), and then to the rest of your system. Many units feature banana plugs, while others use 12 to 16 AWG bare wires.
Is a center channel speaker necessary?
A center channel speaker is necessary if you want enhanced speech, a more balanced system, and elevated sound quality. You will see a difference in the clarity of voice onscreen as well as a more consolidated audio delivery to your listening spot.
Can you use a soundbar as a center channel speaker?
Yes, you can use a soundbar as a center channel speaker, but it’s not the best option because it is not created to be used as such. It won’t be dedicated as it has three channels on its own that function as center, left, and right speakers. You will be left with muddy sound.
Can you use any speaker as a center channel speaker?
Yes, you can technically use any speaker as a center channel speaker, but ideally one with a horizontal design. Not many speakers are created this way, so it can be difficult. Regular speakers may not have the technologies within to function as a successful center speaker as well.
Our Top Pick For a Low-Profile Center Channel Speaker:
Polk Audio CS10
The best low-profile center channel speaker title goes to the Polk Audio CS10. The speaker has an excellent frequency response with a high maximum output power to do well in most rooms. The drivers are housed in a reversible MDF cabinet with top-quality cones to bring more realistic sound with improved clarity to your listening environment.