Not every home system will benefit from a soundbar as center speaker. You could end up experiencing below-average audio and cause damage to your system if you don’t know the how-tos. To give you more detail, our team is here to lay bare the pros and cons of using a soundbar as a center speaker to make sure your experience is the best it can be.
Can a Soundbar be Used as a Center Speaker?
The biggest question is whether or not you can use a soundbar as center speaker, and the short answer is yes. However, our team still suggests a proper center speaker for the best surround sound experience. It’s just a matter of having the right connection with the rest of your audio system.
If the line level connections on your soundbar matches the left and right speakers, receiver, amplifier or any other equipment, then you can use the soundbar as a center speaker. If not properly integrated, your entire home theater system could suffer and the other speakers around the room as well.
While it’s not the most viable option, using soundbars as center speakers can be done, but let’s look at how soundbars work and why they are not the best idea for a center speaker.
Functions of a Soundbar
Soundbars are more than just a speaker, even though our team knows it looks like one. Both a center speaker and a soundbar are designed to be placed at the front of the room in the middle of your whole setup, but what’s underneath is very different.
A soundbar is responsible for high-fidelity audio and is the key to expansive surround sound around you. The drivers embedded inside the soundbar are placed in such a way that makes it unsuitable as center equipment.
Depending on how many channels your soundbar has, the most basic ones are the left and right and maybe a dedicated center channel. Each channel is responsible for different aspects, with the center channel usually set up for enhancing dialogue.
Not only are there different channels in a soundbar instead of tweeters, woofers and mids in a speaker and subwoofer, our experts say the drivers are also tilted. The angled driver uses the walls in your home to enhance signals to create the best surround sound experience.
Using a Soundbar as a Center Channel Speaker
Now that you are more familiar with the role a soundbar plays, our team will now explain how to use a soundbar as a center channel speaker in your sound system, and why it’s not the best idea.
First, to hook up your soundbars as center speakers, connect all the necessary equipment to the soundbar, which is referred to as a single channel connection. On the other hand, you can make use of the left, right and center channels separately by connecting receiver signals to each one, which is called a three-channel connection.
Disadvantages of Using a Soundbar as a Center Channel Speaker
Our team has been suggesting throughout the article not to use a soundbar as center channel speakers in your sound setup, and doing so will cause you to run into a few issues. For example, low-quality sound will be something you notice right away, regardless of a passive or active soundbar, with an active one being with an amp built-in.
If you go with the one channel hookup, all the work will be placed on the center channel meant for dialogue. This can overload it and lead to a worse audio experience and decrease the surround sound audio effect.
The three channel hookup can only be done if you have a soundbar that comes with 3 channels  or more. When connected with this method, more issues can arise. First, the left and right drivers will be out of phase with the rest of the separate speakers. What this leaves you with is an unbalanced sound level in the form of random amplified areas and dead spots.
A three-channel hookup is a problem if you are looking to enjoy expansive sound waves and a wide soundstage. Because instead of using the walls to their advantage, sound waves created from your home theater system will cancel each other out, causing interference.
Amplification stacking is also another problem you may face from using sound bars as center channel speakers in your sound system.
For active soundbars, they come amplified with an amp built-in. A passive soundbar is the opposite; it is a type that will need external amplification as they do not come with an amp.
If the device you connect to already has an amp, then the signal sent to your soundbar won’t be compatible, which could really damage your setup. An amplified signal will overload the soundbar, which is only designed to handle a certain amount of power.
The same goes with a passive sound bar. If you do not set it up with an audio setup that is compatible in terms of power, amp and receiver, your entire setup could be compromised and break due to this.
Subpar Sound Quality
A soundbar is used to work in tandem with the rest of your sound system. They can enhance the performance of your left and right speakers and even satellite speakers and subwoofers, but not function as a center channel speaker.
The embedded technology and drivers are positioned and created in a way that will not disperse sound in your home theater and deliver surround sound the way a full system with left and right speakers would. If you don’t hook it up correctly, your soundbar could cause unbalanced amplification and dead spots.
Our experts warn against setting up a soundbar with your surround sound system if you don’t understand system compatibility. This fact pertains to not only when you use a soundbar as a center channel speaker, but also whenever you connect other speakers to your system. A setup where one component is incompatible, the whole setup could fail.
This means you won’t only get a poor sound effect, but it can also damage some parts of your system or the whole setup. The amp, receiver, and connection compatibility to the rest of your room setup can be hard to grasp, so our team suggests purchasing a dedicated center speaker instead of using soundbars.
Alternatives to Try
Our team is staunchly against a soundbar as a center channel, but that leaves you with the question of how to obtain surround sound effectively without the soundbar. If you want to put your soundbar to good use, try using it individually with another TV instead of integrating it into your existing surround sound setup.
The TV in question should not have other speakers. The purpose of this is to use your soundbar as the entire audio system to enhance the sound quality. You can achieve surround sound even with just one soundbar in front of you, but that means you will need at least a model that comes with 5 channels. By using the soundbar with the TV, you can make your content sound better without compromising the rest of the hookup.
The bottom line is to always use dedicated center speakers designed for their specific purpose and not soundbars if you have equipment already set up. Soundbars are designed to be sleek and compact, making them a stylish addition to the front of the room. Since they are small, they can complement other equipment like your receiver and make the room look tidy.
If the appearance is what you are focused on, then our team suggests browsing a little longer online. There are plenty of speakers out there that can help your setup sound better, create balanced and expansive surround sound, and look amazing.
Can you use a sound bar as a center speaker?
Yes, you can use a soundbar as a center speaker. To do this, you will need to hook up the soundbar to the rest of your system in either a single or three channel format. However, it’s not recommended to use your soundbar as a center channel speaker because it causes signal cancellation, give you poorer sound than before and can directly damage the rest of your system due to compatibility issues.
Is a sound bar the same as a center speaker?
No, a sound bar is not the same as a center speaker. Speakers have tweeters, mids and woofers, while a soundbar has left, right and center channels. They do not perform the same functions and the direction of the drivers in soundbars used as center speakers will cause the center channel to be overloaded, which will give you unbalanced sounds.
While it’s possible to use soundbars as center speakers, it is highly suggested against by our team. You can end up either damaging your system or separate components. If you want a center channel, the first thing you should do is consider a proper speaker, and not a soundbar.
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