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Center Channel Speaker vs. Soundbar for Home Theater

Choosing the right audio equipment for your home theater’s sound system comes with many decisions. If you are contemplating between a center channel speaker and a Soundbar, there are a few main areas that you should compare.

A center channel speaker will be connected with an amp/receiver (with left and right channel speakers) as a single component in your sound system. On the other hand, using a high-quality center channel speaker will provide a higher audio quality but will cost more than a Soundbar (with multiple channels built-in).

Also read: Can You Use a Soundbar as a Center Speaker?

Center Channel Speaker vs. Soundbar

Still, there are many reasons that you might opt for a center channel speaker over a Soundbar or vice versa depending on the rest of your home theater setup.

Ultimately, this comes down to what works best for your budget, sound preferences, installation and setup capabilities, and other factors based on personal preferences. Keep reading to take a closer look at which might be the right option for you.

Center Channel Speaker vs. Soundbar Comparison

While a center channel speaker and a Soundbar most often sit in the same location in your home theater setup, the two pieces of sound equipment have quite a few components that set them apart.

For the purpose of comparison between a center channel speaker and a Soundbar, we will take a closer look at how a passive Soundbar compares considering it has the most similar type of connection.

To compare a center channel speaker and a Soundbar, consider the following categories:

Audio Quality

When setting up your sound system, the quality of audio that you experience is more likely than not going to be in the forefront of your mind.

Now, if you are new to the world of audio and sound equipment, then you might be naive to what even exists in this realm. Still, with diligent research, you will find that there are many options to achieve the perfect sound quality in your unique home theater or media room.

In terms of the quality of audio that a center channel speaker can provide, this will be highly dependent on the quality of the speaker that you choose to incorporate as well as the other components in your overall sound system.

Still, a center channel speaker is receiving the audio signals meant for a singular speaker (the center speaker), you can expect that this audio will be clear and often better quality than what you would hear from a Soundbar.

With a Soundbar, there are multiple channels that are being sent to multiple speakers within the same device. Now, there are many high-quality Soundbars available that are capable of providing high-quality audio.

However, in terms of the quality of sound specifically coming from mid-range frequencies (like that of dialogue in your favorite movies), you will likely achieve better overall sound quality when using a center channel speaker in addition to the other speakers in a sound system.

If you are opting for a Soundbar and want to ensure that it has high-quality audio, you can typically find reviews of the specific devices that you are looking for.

To get you started on your search, though, be sure to look at how many channels of audio are included as well as if a subwoofer is included or not. This will be found in the description numerically.

For example, a 5.1 Soundbar has 5 channels of audio (most likely two left, two right, and a center channel) and 1 subwoofer indicated by the numeric value of the Soundbar description.

If you want to achieve higher-quality audio with your Soundbar, be sure to choose no less than 3 channels and opt for a Soundbar with a subwoofer.

Price

Of course, as you build your sound system within your home, you will have to keep the price point of each component in-check to ensure that you do not go over your budget.

Now, while we all wish that money was no object, this is often not the case for many of us, so it is important to consider the various factors that go into price points for our speaker components.

When considering the price of a center channel speaker versus a Soundbar, there are a few key points to take a look at.

You can compare the cost of an individual center channel speaker and Soundbar, but you also need to consider the quality of the piece of equipment that you are comparing as well as the additional components that you will have to buy to incorporate these into your sound system setup.

With these factors in mind, Soundbars are often less expensive than using a high-quality center channel speaker. Not only are Soundbars themselves often less expensive in the up-front cost, but you will need fewer components in your sound system to be able to use them effectively.

With a center channel speaker, you will need to consider that you have to buy the appropriate cables, receivers, and additional equipment to establish the right connections.

More so, you will also need to consider that when you buy a center channel speaker, you are not done making purchases for your sound system.

Where a Soundbar will have multiple channels and be relatively a “one and done” type of purchase, using a center channel speaker means that you will also need to incorporate a left and right channel speaker (plus a subwoofer and any other speakers needed).

Still, in choosing whether a center channel speaker or a Soundbar makes the most sense for your budget, it is important to consider both your short-term and long-term goals for your home theater.

If you can get by with slowly incorporating more speakers into your system and would prefer to buy a left, center, and right channel speaker and then add more later, this option can certainly work.

However, if you would like to be able to stop making purchases (at least for a while) in terms of audio equipment for your home theater, then a Soundbar might be a better option for you.

Again, it is important to consider your specific budget and the vision that you have for a high-quality sound experience within your home.

Surround Sound System Setup

Surround Sound System Setup

When comparing a center channel speaker and a Soundbar, you need to consider the number of channels of audio that you would like to incorporate into your entire sound system.

While a Soundbar is, in a sense, a “complete” sound system with various channels of audio, a center channel speaker is a singular component that is required to be incorporated into a more robust sound system setup.

With that in mind, you will see a variation in price and audio quality that come from the option you choose to go with. Since those have been discussed above, it is important to consider a few additional factors that can help you to decide which is right for you.

With a center channel speaker, you will need to connect this with a left and right channel for a full front speaker setup. Most often, home theater surround sound systems will then add additional left and right channel speakers but place them on the sides or rear along with a high-quality subwoofer.

In this setup, you will need to have high-quality cables to establish a connection between the various speakers, amp, and receiver that will transmit the audio throughout your room.

And, while an active Soundbar has a built-in amp that will not require you to establish a connection with an additional power source, a passive Soundbar will need to be connected to your amp.

In either of these setup options, you can choose how you would like to place the piece of equipment in conjunction with the other parts of your sound system.

Still, using a center channel speaker will be much more involved than using a Soundbar that often functions by itself (or independent from the other components of your sound system).

Ease of Use/Installation

Most audiophiles would swear by using a center channel speaker versus a Soundbar because of the specifications, changes, and capability of better personalization that can be made with a speaker in connection to an amp/receiver than can be made with a Soundbar.

Still, most of the time, these audiophiles also know what they are doing (or where to look for answers) when it comes to setting up speakers and sound system components.

In terms of how easy to use/install a center channel speaker versus a Soundbar, a center channel speaker will require a more heavily involved setup including establishing the appropriate connections to a power source (amp) and receiver.

In addition to this, you will also need to make sure that the other speakers in your sound system are set up to work with the center channel speaker.

With a Soundbar, installation is often much less involved in terms of incorporating it into your sound system. The most complex part of installing a Soundbar, for many people, is hiding any wires that it comes with or establishing a connection with your TV. Still, these steps are not overly complicated and are pretty simple in comparison to starting a sound system from scratch.

Even more, the placement of these speakers can be compared, too. While both a center channel speaker and a Soundbar are typically placed in the front and center of your home theater, a Soundbar is often placed independently whereas using a center channel speaker means you will have to install the other channel speakers in the appropriate placement, too.

With this, you can consider the aesthetic appeal that you are going for with a center channel speaker or a Soundbar. Either option can work- especially if you choose high-quality equipment- but you simply have to choose the option that works best for you.