Table of Contents
- Best Low-Profile Center Channel Speakers – Comparison Table
- 6 Best Low-Profile Center Channel Speakers in 2020
- 1. Best Low-Profile Center Channel Under $60 – Micca MB42-C
- 2. Best Low-Profile Center Channel Under $100 – Polk Audio T30
- 3. Best Low-Profile Center Channel Under $150 – Sony SSCS8
- 4. The Most Compact – Yamaha NS-C210BL
- 5. Best for Low Placement – Pioneer SP-C22
- 6. Best Under $250 – Klipsch R-52C
If you’re trying to find a slim, compact, and great-performing center channel speaker, you’ve come to the right place. Our article on 6 best low-profile center channel speakers in 2020 is here to answer all the questions you may have about center channels, their role in home theater and surround sound systems, and characteristics that make a good center channel speaker. We have also made a nice selection of the best slim and compact center channels, so you don’t have to look elsewhere for suggestions. Everything you need to know is right here – you just have to lay back and read.
In a 5.1 system speaker system, the number five describes the number of speakers around you and the number one describes the number of subwoofers. The subwoofer is responsible for all the low frequencies in the mix. Front left and right speakers are responsible for most of the music reproductions and for sound effects. Surround speakers (surround left and right) are similar to the front left and right and have to reproduce the same things but they are not as critical as the front left and right. They simply don’t handle that much sound as the front speakers.
The center channel is responsible for most of the dialogs but also for music and special effects. Unlike the front and surround speakers, the center channel is usually horizontal and has woofers and tweeters lined up along the horizontal axis. The idea behind this kind of driver arrangement is to widen the soundstage and make the sound field bigger. Some people may argue that the center channel is the most important speaker for movie and TV watching. After all, what’s the point of watching a movie if you don’t hear the dialogs.
Choosing the right center channel speaker can have a major effect on your overall movie/TV watching experience. Matching it with the rest of your system is a difficult job and requires serious planning and analysis. That’s exactly why we are here. If you need your center channel to be slim and compact in order to fit under your TV, we have a nice selection of low-profile center channel speakers.
Best Low-Profile Center Channel Speakers – Comparison Table
|Low-Profile Center Channel Speakers||Rating||Price||Review|
|Micca MB42-C||4.6||Check Amazon|
|Polk Audio T30||4.6||Check Amazon|
|Sony SSCS8||4.7||Check Amazon|
|Yamaha NS-C210BL||4.6||Check Amazon|
|Pioneer SP-C22||4.6||Check Amazon|
|Klipsch R-52C||4.8||Check Amazon|
After long research and dozens of tested center channel speakers, we managed to narrow down the list to the following speakers. This is our selection of 6 best low-profile center channel speakers in 2020.
6 Best Low-Profile Center Channel Speakers in 2020
1. Best Low-Profile Center Channel Under $60 – Micca MB42-C
Micca is known for its affordable and great-performing home theater speakers, in-wall speakers, amps, and DACs. MB42-C center channel is an excellent example of Micca’s philosophy. For the price, MB42-C delivers much more than you would expect. The recommended match for MB42-C is a pair of Micca’s bookshelf speakers (MB42 and MB42X)
Things we like
Micca MB42-C features a simple, boxy, but still stylish appearance. It’s quite small and, thanks to its black finish, it can blend into different interiors. The cabinet is made of MDF. It’s 5.3in tall, 15in wide, and 7.1in deep. It weighs 5lbs. The cabinet comes with a simple removable fabric grille.
The cabinet houses dual woven carbon fiber woofers and one .75in silk dome tweeter. The drivers are aligned horizontally. On the back, you will see one bass-reflex port and 5-way binding posts.
MB42-C’s frequency response is 60Hz to 20kHz. The advertised power handling is 100W and the sensitivity is rated at 86dB (@ 1W/1m).
MB42-C has mostly neutral and quite accurate sound signature. The bass is tight and punchy, the mids and, especially the vocals, are perfectly clear, and the treble is fairly smooth and consistent.
As mentioned, MB42-C offers a perfect tonal match for MB42 Micca’s bookshelf speakers.
Things we don’t like
Even with two MB42 bookshelf speakers, you won’t get the bass a good action movie deserves. Adding a nice (but not too powerful) subwoofer is highly recommended.
2. Best Low-Profile Center Channel Under $100 – Polk Audio T30
Polk Audio is a famous American speaker manufacturer. Their product range includes home theater systems, soundbars, wi-fi and Bluetooth speakers, architectural speakers, etc. Their products are usually budget-friendly and offer great performance for the price. Especially, their home theater speakers. T30 is a pretty great choice if your budget limit is set at $100.
T30 center channel is a perfect match for T15 bookshelf speakers or T50 floorstanding speakers.
Things we like
T30 is a simple, boxy speaker with a nice and visually appealing black vinyl finish. On the front side, there’s a nice black fabric grille. T30 is slightly larger than the previous Micca speaker, but still quite compact (compared to the average center-channel speaker). T30 is 19in wide, 6.5in tall, 8.5in deep. It weighs 11.5lb.
The cabinet is made of wood and feels solid. It houses two 5.25in dynamic balance mid/woofers and one 1in tweeter. The tweeter is placed between the woofers and it’s slightly off-axis. On the rear end of the cabinet, there’s a bass-reflex port and gold-plated 5-way binding posts.
Installing the speaker and connecting it to a receiver is a breeze. T30 is compatible with numerous receivers. Its peak power input is 100W and the impedance is 6Ω. The frequency response is 38Hz-24kHz and the efficiency is 90dB.
T30 has a mid-centric sound signature. The emphasis is on vocal clarity, but the overall sonic performance is also quite enjoyable. The bass is punchy, textured, and well-controlled. The treble is very consistent and balanced.
Things we don’t like
The bass won’t blow you away. It’s not crazy deep, which is perfectly understandable (considering the size). If you want the best possible experience, you should combine T30 with some nice subwoofer. Polk recommends its 10in subwoofer – PSW10.
T30 doesn’t support wall mounting.
3. Best Low-Profile Center Channel Under $150 – Sony SSCS8
It would be a surprise not to see at least one Sony product on any list related to audio equipment. After all, Sony is one of the leading players in the audio industry. Their SSCS8 center channel speaker is a great choice if you can’t spend more than $150. Like the previous two, this is a compact 2-way speaker offering great performance at a fairly affordable price.
Things we like
Sony SSCS8 is a compact and boxy speaker with a nice matte black finish. The cabinet is made of MDF and feels very solid. The speaker blends into different interiors seamlessly and it doesn’t take up too much space. SSCS8 is 17in wide, 5.75in tall, and 8.75 deep. It’s quite hefty – it weighs more than 25lbs.
The speaker houses dual 4in foamed mica woofers and one 1in polyester tweeter. The manufacturer used its proprietary wide-dispersion super tweeter, which is supposed to improve and extend the treble response. On the rear panel, you have 5-way binding posts and a bass-reflex port.
The speaker’s impedance is rated at 6Ω and the sensitivity is 86dB (@2.83V/1m). Frequency response spans from 55Hz to 25kHz (extended treble). The maximum power input is 145W so finding the right AV receiver will be easy and won’t cost you much.
Sonic performance is pretty impressive. Especially the midrange and vocal reproduction. Treble response is extended and fairly consistent. There’s a small amount of brightness in the sound but it can hardly be considered distracting. The bass is controlled and punchy.
Things we don’t like
The speaker doesn’t have mounting holes so you can’t mount it on a wall – it can only be placed on a TV stand, below your TV.
The bass is punchy and tight but it lacks some real oomph. If you want it to shake your floor, you will have to add a subwoofer. The recommended LFE channel is Sony’s 10in subwoofer SACS9.
4. The Most Compact – Yamaha NS-C210BL
If you are looking for a super-compact and great-performing center channel, you should try Yamaha’s NS-C210BL. It’s one of the smallest center channels we’ve seen and it’s one of the best in its class. Like all the previous center channels, this is a two-way speaker with horizontally aligned woofers and tweeter.
Things we like
NS-C210BL, like all the previous speakers, is a horizontal, boxy speaker with a small footprint. The cabinet is made of MDF and has a black veneer finish. The drivers are protected with a black fabric grille. NS-C210BL is 13.4in wide, 4.1in tall, 5.2in deep. It weighs less than 4.5 pounds.
The cabinet houses two 3.2in aluminum cone woofers and one .9in balanced dome tweeter. On the back, you have a tiny bass reflex port in the middle and gold-plated 5-way binding posts on the right end. The speaker also has mounting holes so you can mount it on a wall if you want to.
When it comes to specs and performance, NS-C210BL is slightly behind three previously reviewed speakers, especially when it comes to bass response. The frequency response spans from 65Hz to 45kHz. The max power input is 120W (40W RMS). The impedance is 6Ω and the sensitivity is 86dB (@2.83V/1m).
The biggest highlight when it comes to NS-C210BL’s sound reproduction is the midrange and vocal clarity. The treble response is very extended but it’s also slightly brighter than normal. The bass is somewhat weak and unimpressive.
Things we don’t like
Unlike many other center channel speakers, NS-C210BL doesn’t have removable grilles. So, if you are one of those people who like to take the grille off and see those beautiful drivers, you won’t be happy.
As expected, due to the size of the cabinet and size of the drivers, NS-C210BL has some noticeable limitations when it comes to bass response. If you want deeper and more impactful bass, you should try using a subwoofer. The manufacturer recommends NS-SW210 (6.5in sub).
5. Best for Low Placement – Pioneer SP-C22
Pioneer SP-C22 center channel was introduced some 8 years ago but it’s still one of the most popular low-profile center channel speakers. Due to its upward-angled cabinet, this speaker is a perfect choice for low placement (below your ear level).
The best match for SP-C22 is a pair of Pioneer SP-BS22 bookshelf speakers or a pair of Pioneer SP-FS52 floorstanding speakers.
Things we like
SP-C22 is a slim, compact, and stylish speaker. It has a solid MDF cabinet with a grayish veneer finish. The cabinet is curved and angled upward which allows you to place it below your ear level and direct it toward your listening position. Depending on your setup and your TV stand, this can be a useful feature. On the front side, there’s a removable fabric grille with a small Pioneer logo at the bottom. SP-C22 is 18.1in wide, 7.1in tall, 8.4in deep. It weighs less than 14lbs.
The speaker houses dual 4in woofers with structured surface cones. Between the woofers, there’s one 1in soft dome tweeter. On the back, there are two bass reflex ports (on the left and right ends) and gold-plated binding posts in the middle.
The installation is simple. You just have to place it on a TV stand and connect it to your receiver. It can be driven by almost any receiver since the max power input is 90W.
SP-C22 has 88dB sensitivity (@2.3V/1m). The crossover is set at 3kHZ. The speaker goes down to 55kHz and up to 20kHz.
Sound performance is better than the price implies. SP-C22 definitely doesn’t sound cheap. The bass is not very deep or rumbling but it’s accurate and punchy. The mids and vocals are perfectly balanced with the bass. The whole midrange reproduction is very detailed and the vocals are crystal-clear. The treble is smooth and well-controlled.
Things we don’t like
The speaker doesn’t have mounting holes – it’s not mountable.
If you prefer deeper bass, and you probably do, you should combine this speaker with some nice, medium-sized subwoofer (10in sub for example). Pioneer recommends using SW-10 powered subwoofer.
6. Best Under $250 – Klipsch R-52C
Klipsch R-52C could easily be one of the best low-profile center channel speakers when it comes to dialog clarity. Its bass reproduction is quite unimpressive and pairing the speaker with a nice pair of bookshelf speakers and a subwoofer is definitely recommended.
The perfect match for R-52C is a pair of R-41M bookshelf speakers.
Things we like
R-52C is slightly larger than all the previous center channel speakers but it’s still fairly compact. The speaker is 18.8in wide, 7.3in tall, 7.6in deep. It weighs 13.5lbs. The speaker has a strong and durable MDF cabinet with a nice black finish. On the front, you have a magnetic, easily removable black grille.
R-52C houses three drivers – two 5.25in spun-copper woofers and Klipsch’s famous 1in tractrix horn aluminum dome tweeter. On the back, there are 5-way binding posts for connecting the speaker to the receiver. There are no bass reflex ports – the cabinet is sealed and that’s supposed to reduce the vibrations, improve the accuracy, and deliver more natural sound output.
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The installation is pretty simple. However, you will need a slightly more powerful receiver since R-52C can handle 400W (100W RMS). The speaker’s frequency response spans from 89Hz to 21kHz. The sensitivity is 95db (@2.83V/1m) and the impedance is 8Ω.
R-52C is a great-sounding speaker. The manufacturer obviously wanted the emphasize the sound clarity, accuracy, and balance without trying to boost any frequency range. The bass is present and punchy, but not extremely deep or textured. The mids are the greatest thing about R-52C. The midrange reproduction is absolutely flawless and astonishingly detailed. The dialogs are perfectly clear and articulate. The highs are somewhat brighter but not fatiguing or painful.
Things we don’t like
R-52C doesn’t support wall mounting (there are no mounting holes on the back). You can use some wall mounting brackets if you really want it on a wall, but the manufacturer obviously doesn’t want you to mount it.
Bass reproduction is not R-52C’s strong suit. It’s present, tight, and accurate, but you won’t get that floor-shaking rumble. If you are looking for something like that, adding a 10 or 12in subwoofer, is highly recommended. The most appropriate match for R-52C is R100-SW or R-112SW.
This was our selection of 6 best low-profile center channel speakers in 2020. Hopefully, it helped you find the best center channel speaker for your setup. If you want to find out more about center channel speakers, we recommend you to go through our FAQs. If you have additional questions or need advice, feel free to leave a comment.
Q: Can any speaker be used as a center channel?
A: Technically, yes. You can, for example, use some regular bookshelf speaker as a center channel. You can even use the exact same type of speaker you’re using for your front left or front right channels. However, there’re some important advantages of a dedicated center channel speaker.
First of all, placing a tall bookshelf speaker below your TV can be a tricky task and, in some cases, it’s practically impossible to place it without blocking the TV. Center channel speakers are wide and slim, which makes the placement much easier. More importantly, a dedicated center channel speaker widens the soundstage, which has a very positive effect on the overall experience. Also, center channel speakers are usually tuned to produce the dialogs clearer than other speakers and, since that is their main purpose, it’s definitely smarter to use a dedicated center channel than just any speaker.
Q: What makes a good center channel speaker?
A: A good center channel speaker is the one that meets both – your budget and your needs. When it comes to your needs, there’re two main things to consider – the size of the center channel and, more importantly, the performance of the center channel. You’ll be choosing the size based on the available space under and around your TV. In some cases, you’ll need a very slim and compact center channel and you can find some great suggestions on our list of 6 best low-profile center channel speakers.
The most important thing when it comes to performance is matching the center channel with the front speakers (front left and front right). Preferably, you will buy the center channel and the other two front speakers from the same manufacturer. Ideally, front speakers and center channel speakers should be from the same speaker line. If you decide to go for a different center channel, you will have to experiment a lot and try to find the right match. That can be a very difficult and frustrating task. You may think this is an exaggeration, but you can really hear the difference when the center channel and front speakers don’t match.
Q: How do I choose a center channel speaker?
A: As explained in the previous answer, there are always three factors – budget, size, and performance (matching the center speaker with the front speakers). Ideally, all the speakers in your home theater system will be from the same manufacturer and the same speaker line. That way, you will certainly get a great speaker match. However, we often have limited budgets or limited space. If that’s your case, you will have to research, experiment, test, and eventually, you may find the right combo. However, you will often have to make compromises – sometimes, you will have to sacrifice the sound in order to meet the budget limits or to exceed your budget limit (and maybe some space) to get the right kind of performance.
Q: How high should a center channel speaker be?
A: Ideally, the center channel speaker will be placed right in front of your central sitting position, below your TV. The speaker should be in line with your ears (when sitting).
Q: Can a soundbar be used as a center speaker?
A: Technically, if the available connections on the soundbar match the connections on your AV receiver, it is possible to use it as a center channel speaker. However, that’s not recommended since soundbars are often designed as independent speakers that are supposed to replace your center and two front speakers. They also have their own sound-processing engines and amplification which could cause some serious problems. There’re some workarounds (like using line-out converters) that would allow you to use an active soundbar as a center channel but it’s still not recommended.
Wireless surround sound systems, unlike the traditional wired systems, come with a soundbar that replaces all three front channels (center, left, and right). In these cases, soundbars almost by default, act as center channel speakers.
Q: What is the best low-profile center channel speaker for the money?
A: We can’t give you a definite answer to this question but you can find some great options on our list of 6 best low-profile center channel speakers. Your choice will depend on your budget, available space, but also on the speakers you already have.
Hello, my name is James Longman.
I’m a writer and editor at AudioReputation. I disassembled my first portable AM/FM radio when I was only 8. At the age of 11, I burned the circuit board on my old boombox cassette player. I’m not going to explain how but it was reckless and stupid.
Since then, I have become much more careful around radios, boomboxes, and other audio devices (at least, I like to think so) but I have never lost the passion for audio equipment. Throughout 20 years of my professional career, I’ve been working for various audio equipment manufacturers and even started building speakers on my own in my little workshop.
I love the work we do here at AudioReputation. Testing, comparing, and evaluating all kinds of audio devices (speakers, soundbars, headphones, home theater systems, etc.) is something I truly enjoy. I try to be unbiased and give you my honest opinion on every piece of equipment I test. Still, you should take my reviews with a pinch of salt and always be just a little bit skeptical. The fact that I liked some speaker or soundbar doesn’t mean that you are going to love it. If you have the opportunity, you should test it/hear it before buying it.