What Center Channel are you using in your Home Theater?

Hi all you Home Theater enthusiasts out there. I am looking for your help and experience!

I am using an all GoldenEar set up in my HT, with Triton Ones for my front L & R

their XXL center channel

with their in-wall for sides and rears, and even have 4 Atmos speakers in my ceiling, with an additional center channel above my XXL in the ceiling.

The reason I have put a 2nd CC in the ceiling is that I just do not hear the dialogue very clearly from my XXL on the floor.

Look, I have heard many times that one has to have the same matching speakers for the front BUT I really watch a lot of movies and believe that I were to get a really clear center, I would be ahead of the game as the dialogue would be clearer, and I could then hear the voices better than what I have now.

I am an "older" gentlemen, (now those 2 words really bother me, but I may as well be as honest as I can with all of you), so what I want is to hear the dialogue as well as possible. As my HT is dark, I am really not as concerned if the speakers do not match as no one will "see" them, we only "hear" them.

What would you suggest that I get? In your opinion, what are the best center channels out there now?



I am upgrading my front L & R to the GoldenEar Triton Reference shortly, so now is the time to get a new CC if possible.
I am using a Classé 5300 to push my front 3 channels + my rears.
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My experience suggest that it's very important to match the center channel to the fronts. I went from the Monitor Audio PLC150, to a Gold C350, to a PLC350. I have Monitor Audio PL500s as my fronts and it just didn't sound good with the PLC150 and C350 when watching television or a movie. There is complete integration with the PLC350 and PL500s.
Have you tried adjusting the modes and crossover in your pre?  You need a mode that emphasizes dialogue.  I think you will have more problems if you have an unmatched center.  It's not matched for the looks but for timbre and music flow across the whole front.
If you're upgrading to the Triton Reference L/R,  then I'd suggest upgrading to the matching center channel as well. Good luck! 👍
Are you getting the B&Ws?  I'd wait until you choose your L/R speakers first.  But if clarity is paramount and you don't care about matching...

A used Aerial CC3 would be a good option.  Too bad there was one here just recently.  A couple other options:


As mentioned above, make sure you have settings properly set if you haven't already. 

There are many reasons why your current center may not sound clear and they have nothing to do with the actual speaker. Sorry if I shouldn't take your comment literally, but no center speaker will sound clear just sitting "on the floor." Positioning for the center and adjustments in the processor can greatly affect how it sounds.

Sorry again, but it makes no common sense to use a center that's not timbre matched to the L&R. The only result will be degradation.
My HT guy was over to make sure that the B&W 800s would fit in my space. I am only about 14.5' wide, so we cut out some paper the size of the base and tried to place it in the front of the screen, and there was just no room to turn the speakers towards the centre chair without the speaker being in the way of the light from the camera, and the speakers will be sitting right next to each of the side walls.

The B&W are just too big for my room, and I am really upset, but have to move on, so I guess my next step iwas to order the newer Triton References.
Sorry, didn't read your whole post before.  Do you have the center speaker angled so that the tweeter is firing toward your ears?  Assuming you do, I suspect there's something wrong with the ribbon tweeter in your XXL (or somewhere further up the chain, but that seems less likely).  The reviews I've read of that speaker are very positive and praise it specifically for its clarity, so I highly doubt another center speaker will solve the problem.  And if the L/R speakers sound clear to you without the center then it's not your hearing either.  Best of luck in figuring this out. 
Make sure you manually set and match levels 75db weighting type c with an spl meter and use a stand, say a sound anchors sdacc and xover points.to 80hz and make sure you set the distance correctly
Any suggestions: I am looking for a center channel that match with my Focal Sopra No. 1s, but don’t want to shell out for the Sopra center. Would the Aria be the best bet or are they voiced too differently to blend? My system is primarily 2-channel but I also have home theater set up. 
In my case I had to build a speaker box to match my 4 towers in a 5.1.4 Atmos set up. The factory is gone but I can still source parts and get repairs and get new parts. I am very old and my experience goes back to the late 60s. I am a stereo 2 channel guy to begin with but evolved into the surround sound beginning with quadraphonic. I have experimented with 2 seperate stereo systems in the beginning just because of economics. After years of mixing and matching I now am using all speakers the same. It sounds so much more connected and creates a seamless illusion. All the same drivers and same crossovers.http://https//www.dolby.com/us/en/technologies/dolby-atmos/dolby-atmos-home-theater-installation-guidelines.pdf 
 This should help significantly
Just wanted to add that I noticed a huge improvement when I completely destroyed my entertainment center and got my center channel the exact same height as the 4 towers, the tweeter and midrange at the same height. Wife came home and had a fit and 3 weeks later she got over it. Placement as well as timbre matching is the way to go.
In a perfect world, we would all run five or seven identical speakers for all floor channels, heck even suspending some for overhead channels. However, the world isn't perfect, and I'll go against the grain here and say that I don't think timbre matching is very important for a center channel. I know that's the prevailing wisdom, but my experience has taught me different. 

To me, the absolute best setups I've owned and heard are where all speakers are of very high quality. The differences between these speakers, even one brand or design criteria to the next is significantly smaller than the audible differences between the bottom shelf, big box store offerings. Add to that that most HT setups run some form of advanced room correction and the differences get even smaller. For instance (because lets face it, we're talking mostly about tweeters here), I have mixed diamond (802 D2) and ribbon (ML Focus) tweeters, and currently mix beryllium (Focal Sopra 2) and ribbon tweeters. Both setups sound far superior to all ribbon (ML 60XT + Focus), all aluminum (B&W CM9 S2 + CMC2 S2), or other mixings thereof where the speakers were not as high quality, especially after Anthem room correction.

Your center speaker IS your main speaker in a HT setup, and as such will be almost single handedly handling all of the dialogue and on screen effects. The mains and surrounds are there mainly to fill out orchestral scores and off screen effects. You system though will sound pretty much like your center channel and subs.
As another guy who struggles to hear dialogue (in movies, parties, etc.)...

I have gone through similar problems with dialogue clarity.  My experience is that the actual center channel speaker makes a HUGE difference in enjoyment of TV, movies, etc.  I have found minimal positive effect to adjusting center channel EQ curves, some beneficial effect to just raising center channel volume, and a large beneficial effect to getting a center channel built for dialogue.  To various degrees, I have been unimpressed with various center channels from B&W (entry level), Aerial CC3b (sounded like a blanket over the speaker, very disappointed given glowing reviews), Focal Chorus (nice for music, bad for dialogue), Martin Logan Motion 30 (could not understand males despite a "shouting" quality). 

These speakers have been run by a variety of high-end amps, preamps, processors, speaker wires, and +/- room correction, but it seems that the actual center channel speaker is the overwhelming piece of the puzzle.

I have Salk HT-3 mains, and talked with Jim Salk about my problems.  He built me the HT-3 equivalent center and it solved everything.  Great dialogue at low and high volumes.  Consider giving him a call to build a speaker, suggest an existing speaker from his lineup, or just give you some good advice.  Who cares if the center "matches" the rest of the system if you cannot understand what is being said.

My 2 cents
Hi D Forrester
Well, I love your idea, and solution to our problem.

I live in Canada, Toronto

How can I get Jim Salk to build me  the same CC as you? Remembering, I have the Golden Ear system in my HT, and have their new Triton Ref as my mains, and am using their biggest XXL CC.

What is the cost?

I have GE rig also with T1"s.  I haven't upgraded to the T refs, yet.  I'm curious about your HT dimensions and what processor you're using.  Also, how and where do you have your speakers placed?  What room treatments have you tried?
Well, hello, and good to hear that you are a GE lover too!

My room is 14.5' x 23'

Have put in a raised 2nd row just under the projector at the end of my room with a 128" screen

I have a Marantz 8802A with 2 amps, a 5-channel Classé + a 7-Channel Emotiva

I have my front L & R just in front and a little in from the side walls, my centre on the floor, with 4 atmos speakers in the ceiling, and 2 sides + 2 rears that are all built into the walls. I have 4 subs, 2 behind a false front wall, in the corners, and the other 2 subs in the rear corners of the room. I have installed a 12th inwall speaker as a 2nd centre channel just above my other CC. At this time, I do not like my centres, as I do have a challenge in hearing the dialogue clearly.

No room treatment!

Is the center speaker located on the floor angled upward so it points toward your head?

Intelligibility comes from tonal balance and early reflections. 

Are you using room correction? 

What kind of flooring do you have? 


Also, ahem, I use my own center channel, the design is free of charge:


I encourage every Audiophile to build at least 1 pair of DIY speakers in their hobby lifespan. 


It's my understanding that the closer to the corners you have your speakers, the more increase in bass you'll have and muddy the sound of your room.  You didn't mention your ceiling height, but I'm guessing you have your front LRC positioned the way you do because of the size of the screen.

What I would try before replacing my center, is repositioning your front speakers and subs disregarding how they affect your picture to see if you can get the sound right first.  Try using just the single XXL center and get it off of the floor to ear height or up a little and pointing toward ear height.  Move the subs out of the corners.  Also, I bet those T Refs will sound a lot better a little farther out and away from the side walls, too.  If the clarity improves, you might want to get an acoustically transparent screen and/or replace the false wall.

Depending on how well the T Refs do, I'll bet Sandy will come out with a matching center like he did with most of the Triton series.

My HT setup is in my living/family room/kitchen and the acoustics are pretty bad.  I'm hoping to get a better room for it soon.   
Guys, thanks for the emails, and suggestions.

I was going to get a used B & W HTM 1D to use as a new CC but the seller had the older L & R 800 speakers but they where just too big for my room so I ordered the Triton Ref and will try to get a stand for my XXL speaker to see if there will be any difference in clarity.

Stand bye!

As for my flooring, my room is compteley broad-loomed.
So, is your center speaker now sitting flat on the floor?

Martin Logan Illusion. My best ever!
Guys, I just purchased a speaker stand for my centre channel so it is now about 19" above the floor, almost at my ear level. We shall see if I will be able to hear any better after I see a few movies in the next week.

Joe, so you love your Illusion. Are the rest of your speakers all Martin Logan?

Having this center speaker "almost" at ear level is not sufficient.  Having your ears even slightly above the tweeter will result in a big loss in perceived detail from the listening chair.  It is most important that the tweeter be at the same level as or aimed directly at your ears with this speaker.  In fact, if you read John Atkinson's review of the Triton Reference you'll notice he actually propped the speakers up from behind to get the tweeters pointing more inline with his ears to achieve good treble balance.  Feeling like a broken record here so I'm done.  Best of luck. 

I too am a GE enthusiast!! have the Triton Ones and the XXL center, and Triton7's as surrounds. recently switched to the GE's from Maggies 1.7i's. needed a change after 25+years with maggies. glad I swithced to the GE's 
Sorry for late response about Salk center channel option. 
Anyway, here is mine

Seems it was around $2K to build and ship.  He is a custom builder --- he will build it with the port in front, in back, or sealed, and whatever finish you want.  He has less expensive options that probably are just as good, especially if you are mostly after dialogue.  Just give him a call and describe your situation.  Salksound.com

Martin Logan 50xt
Over the years I have changed out the center channel more times than sense just trying to get that clarity in dialogue that is essential to home theater.
I bought this 3 years ago and the changes have ceased!
I believe the "folded motion" tweeter is the key
None of my other speakers are Martin Logan
I have not bought into the all speakers from same manufacturer, have tried that twice and still was not happy.

Just my thoughts and experience
eternalcamper: I have not heard anyone yet speak of the phantom center channel that one gets when the mains are properly situated.  My ML Motion 20's produce such a clear phantom center I have to get up sometimes any be certain I have the processing turned off.  However, that being said, have you tried using the manual speaker setup and increase the level of your center along with the repositioning.  Your Marantz will allow you manually tweak the crossover (usually @ 80hz for surround processing) as well as the level.  I believe, if memory serves, you can increase the levels to as much as a +9db  (I too am an 'older' guy, lol).  I am in the voice matching camp.  My center is the ML Motion 8 and does quite well with a +2db setting compared to the flat setting on the mains.
The problem with a phantom center is that it usually only sounds good to the person sitting in the sweet spot.
Another GE guy here and having the same problem (with a non matching center). I'm thinking about getting the small GE center. I think mostly my problem is old ears and a lifetime of loud drummers and trumpet players. I also switched from Maggies for a system the does double duty. For sure, if I ever get back to pure 2 channel, the Triton's will get kicked to the curb.
A Top-notch channel speaker has a premium quality tweeter that produces high frequencies so that you can hear a clear sound at high volume. It has sophisticated woofers that replicate the sound and produce it clearly and more dynamically. The center channel speaker should have a clear cut crisp sound quality that provides clear audio quality and high quality.

Here is The List of Top 10 Best Center Channel Speakers For Your Home Theatre

1. Polk Audio Blackstone TL1
2. Polk Audio T30
3. Pioneer SP-C22
4. Cerwin-Vega SL-45C
5. KEF Q650c
6. Yamaha NS-C210BL
7. Polk Audio CS10
8. Definitive Technology Procenter 1000
9. Polk Audio CS1
10. Pioneer Elite SP-EC73
Big Klipsch RC64 or RP440 series..whatever you can find.The big Persona Paradigm centers look like they could carry some dialogue.Bryston AC or Tc Series Centers look good as well.
I have a mixed 2 channel / home theater system.  When watching TV, I often don't turn on the two monoblocks or my preamp that my 2 front speakers are connected to, so the only thing coming from the front is my Klipsch RC-7.  Dialogue is very clear and dynamic.

I used to be a "Klipsch guy", but have moved away from Klipsch, other than that I still have some Klipsch speakers for surround speakers.  The RC-7 though is one of the few things in my system that I never give any thought to upgrading.
A 2nd center channel on the ceiling and the primary center channel on the floor seems very absurd! Stop complicating things, lose the 2nd center for a minute and get a good stand for the main center channel sitting on the floor. There are good stands with angle spacers that should help you aim it directly at your ear level.

If the above mentioned change is insufficient on its own, boost the center channel level by 3dB or more when you’re watching movies (after you've run your receiver's calibration). Have you tried this before?

You don’t mention what receiver you have. But, as an alternative to boosting center channel levels, receivers like the Yamaha Aventage series have features like dialogue level boost (0 through 3), dialogue lift, etc (VERY USEFUL IMO) on the digital end that you can play with. See if you can get your hands on a Yamaha RX-A3080 if you don’t have one. It has enough features to overwhelm a noob, But, these features are soooo useful once you figure out how to work it.