Is a center channel speaker necessary? (Here Are the Facts)

Are you new to the world of surround sound systems? Many people have a common question regarding the surround system: "Is a central channel speaker necessary for a complete surround experience?". If you are also struggling with that, then I am here to help you.

I will go through a complete overview of whether you need a center channel speaker or not. And if you do, then why would you even need it. So, let's get going with it without wasting further time.


What is a center channel, and how does it work?

Before we dive into the necessity of a center channel, let's first know what it is and how it works. This way, you will understand the explanation I am about to give later on much better.

Simply put, a central channel speaker is the one that you keep in the center. Usually, a center speaker produces all the core sounds from any audio file with no stereo orientation. I mean that these sounds aren't designed to come from a specific direction, like right or left.

It sounds like dialogues from movies or lead vocals from a song generally come from the central speaker. Now, this is assuming that there is surround sound engineering done on the audio file itself. Otherwise, you will hear all kinds of sounds coming from the center speaker.

In most cases, a center channel speaker will carry 70 percent of the sounds from any audio you use. They don't put out any bass or lower frequencies. Usually, you will get the mid-range frequencies from the center channel speaker.

Because of this reason, many people put the center speaker and the subwoofer in the same spot. This way, they get all the core sounds along with the bass.

Center Channel Speakers Comparison:  Polk T30 vs CS10 and Polk S30 vs S35,

Is a center channel speaker necessary? Why do we need It?

The clear answer to this question is, yes, a center channel speaker is necessary for your surround system. While you can still use your system without a center channel speaker, you will not get the proper experience. Here's why –

A proper surround sound system usually comes with a 5.1 channel setup. This means you will have five speakers and 1 subwoofer. Amongst the 5 speakers 2 stay in the front from left and right side, 2 stays on the back left, and right side and the last one is the center channel speaker. When you don't have a center channel speaker, you will have an incomplete setup.

As you already got to know above, center speakers contain the core sounds from any audio file. These aren't oriented towards any specific side, but they are solely focused on the center. This thing gets very clear with an easy example.

Let's say you are watching a movie. Now, when you are watching it, the tv screen is directly in front of you. So, naturally, the dialogues from the actors should come from the screen direction. This is where the center speaker does its work. Because of the center speaker, you hear all the dialogues coming right from the screen, which feels natural.

Imagine if the dialogues were to come from left or right or from the back. Would that feel natural to you? Of course not, right? So, this is one of the major reasons why you need a center speaker on your surround system.

Other than these core benefits, there are some other reasons to have center speakers in your setup. Here are the top three reasons –

  • Freedom of volume adjustment

With a center channel speaker, you get the freedom to volume adjustment. What I mean by this is that you can change the volume of the center speaker without affecting the volume of the other speakers. This is a beneficial feature to have in your sound system.

For example, when you have a party in your home, you can lower the center speaker because most of the dialogues or lyrics of a song come out of the center speaker.

So, when you lower the center speaker, you don't get dialogues that can interrupt people while they are having a conversation. At the same time, you still get music running from the other speakers because most speakers are responsible for instruments.

  • Makes it fulfilling 

Without a center speaker, you may get sounds, but it won't be fulfilling. The center speaker produces the sounds that work as the base for the audio. And the rest of the speakers add in the flavors to make it surround sound.

When you take out the core, you will feel a void in the sound quality. So, it's essential to have the center speaker to get the proper sounds of your system. This may not affect too much in music, but when you watch movies, you will indeed feel the need for a center speaker.

  • The sounds are much clearer.

A center speaker usually comes with a balanced and natural sound quality. Most of the details of audio can be found in the sounds coming out of a center speaker. So, when you have a center channel speaker you can get all the details and richness of the sounds.

Aside from these, you get a balance in the sound with a center speaker. Also, the soundstage becomes much wider with the whole setup. And because of the center speaker, you won't miss out on the important parts of any audio.

Related: Best Center Channel Speakers Reviews and Buyer’s Guide


All in all, if you are wondering if a center channel speaker is necessary or not, then I would say it is. However, it's not compulsory to have a center channel speaker; you can still use your other speakers for the audio.

Having said that, if you have a surround sound system and want the best sound experience, then a center speaker is very important. Also, make sure to choose the right spot to keep your speaker to get the most out of it. And if you watch movies then there is no alternative to getting a center channel speaker.

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