What's your favorite center channel speakers - on a budget?

lifereinspired

Novice Member
Hi,

TL;DR: Can't physically get to hear speakers in person and need advice for a good budget center channel. Want to choose something that will offer a matching sonic signature to some decent but affordable bookshelf speakers.

I've seen several center channel speaker with very good reviews in the range of $75-$120 (USD - obviously it will be slightly different in EU). The primary ones I'm looking at trying are the:
  • Yamaha C210
  • Polk CS1
  • Polk T30 (I'm having a lot of difficulty finding any comparison of these two)
  • Sony SSCS8

To be clear, I'm also completely open to other center channel speakers, within that same price range - these were just the ones I found most in reviews, lists, etc.

I also found that some reviewers like the Pioneer SP-C22 Andrew Jones Home Audio Center Channel Speaker but I had read several posts here on the forums specifically about that center speaker describing it as muddy for voices/dialogue and the quality control was diverse, to put it kindly. Since dialogue is the primary thing we're having issues with and something I really hope to improve, I was rather scared off of that one (well, and it's hard to find in stock right now, which didn't improve things). I also thought a great deal about the Polk CS10 but after scouring for any comparison info between the CS1 (Series II) and the CS10, I finally found a post from Polk directly stating that the components of both of these are identical and it's only the size of the cabinet/housing that's different. TBH, we need the smaller size if they are similar, so the CS1 seemingly makes sense. The price wasn't wildly different.

I'm also curious what you think of the bookshelf speaker options that would complement any of these for down the road (something like the Polk TSi 100 or the Monitor 40, (if a good enough sale came along), Sony's SSCS5 speakers, and I guess Yamaha has their NSB 210 set but they don't seem as well rated as the others. If any of these are better than others, it might affect our center channel decision. Obviously, we're not stuck on just these specifically but I understand they should have a similar sonic signature to their center channel counterparts, which I believe is desirable, but I'm totally open to similarly priced options from other companies. I've also read it's possible to put together a good system with completely mixed speakers.

Again, any others speakers we should be looking at would be super helpful to learn. I'd also love to hear whether it's worth trying both the CS1 and the T30 or if one if just flat superior to the other so that it won't matter. Actually, the Polk Monitor series center speaker cabinet shape is perfect for us because we have to set out speaker slightly below ear level and the angle would have that directed right at us. Still hard to know what to choose though since the T30 has equally great reviews and a lot of them.

Extra info and background:
We just upgraded our Onkyo TXNR626 Receiver to a Denon AVRX3600 (thanks to this forum for a good deal on that - and finding it available!). We're still trying to get the sound tweaked and setup properly (that's for a separate post) but what we've found our current speakers are now showing their limitations. They are even beginning to distort - which is odd because the sound is lower to our ears than our previous unit would give (I'm sure we just don't have the X3600's settings tweaked yet but I'm worried it's pushing the speakers too much esp across the front (L/R/C). I'm too embarrassed to tell you what they are but they're budget, the best rated in that price range, what we could afford at the time and have provided much better than TV sound for the last 6-7 years.

This is why we've decided to splurge and give ourselves one extra gift for Christmas: to start upgrading our speakers by getting a new center speaker. Our budget, however, is not that large.

I'm really relying on the info, thoughts, knowledge, or experience that anyone here could share. We both have serious health issues that put us in the highest risk category for CV19 so going out to someplace and simply listening for ourselves isn't going to work. If there is a obvious difference in the CS1 and the T30, I'd love to hear about it.

Lastly, I've seem many posts on these and other forums stating that the ideal setup across the front is three of the same speakers. This got me wondering, are center speakers specifically tuned for dialogue or has anyone actually just opted to get three center channel speakers and use them across the front of the room? I'm intrigued to hear if that's feasible, realistic, genius, or totally bonkers. Some people talked like it was good and even suggested that a vertical center speaker would be great. That's not out of the realm of possibility for us moving forward, if that matters.

Our primary use is TV shows, movies, YouTube, etc. We do listen to music but not enough to make it the primary focus of the HT/speaker setup.

Just a little info about our place. We live in a smallish apartment with a fairly open primary living space. It's an open room about 12'x26' and the kitchen is a 9'x12' space off of that in a sort of L shape, if that info matters. I only mention it because it's more open space than small room with close walls. We're currently running a straight 7.1 channel system with front height speakers but I'm completely open to changing that setup if another layout would improve the sound (like switching to an Atmos setup rather than the Front Height speakers). I'm hoping if we upgrade our front speakers down the road or maybe sooner, we could use the current speakers for the remainder of the 9 channels that our new receiver can handle.

Sorry this is so long. I tried to cover the synopsis up front and more info after that I thought might be helpful. I tried to break up the wall of text as best I could. Thanks SO much for any help!
 

Gasp3621

Distinguished Member
Hi,

TL;DR: Can't physically get to hear speakers in person and need advice for a good budget center channel. Want to choose something that will offer a matching sonic signature to some decent but affordable bookshelf speakers.

I've seen several center channel speaker with very good reviews in the range of $75-$120 (USD - obviously it will be slightly different in EU). The primary ones I'm looking at trying are the:
  • Yamaha C210
  • Polk CS1
  • Polk T30 (I'm having a lot of difficulty finding any comparison of these two)
  • Sony SSCS8

To be clear, I'm also completely open to other center channel speakers, within that same price range - these were just the ones I found most in reviews, lists, etc.

I also found that some reviewers like the Pioneer SP-C22 Andrew Jones Home Audio Center Channel Speaker but I had read several posts here on the forums specifically about that center speaker describing it as muddy for voices/dialogue and the quality control was diverse, to put it kindly. Since dialogue is the primary thing we're having issues with and something I really hope to improve, I was rather scared off of that one (well, and it's hard to find in stock right now, which didn't improve things). I also thought a great deal about the Polk CS10 but after scouring for any comparison info between the CS1 (Series II) and the CS10, I finally found a post from Polk directly stating that the components of both of these are identical and it's only the size of the cabinet/housing that's different. TBH, we need the smaller size if they are similar, so the CS1 seemingly makes sense. The price wasn't wildly different.

I'm also curious what you think of the bookshelf speaker options that would complement any of these for down the road (something like the Polk TSi 100 or the Monitor 40, (if a good enough sale came along), Sony's SSCS5 speakers, and I guess Yamaha has their NSB 210 set but they don't seem as well rated as the others. If any of these are better than others, it might affect our center channel decision. Obviously, we're not stuck on just these specifically but I understand they should have a similar sonic signature to their center channel counterparts, which I believe is desirable, but I'm totally open to similarly priced options from other companies. I've also read it's possible to put together a good system with completely mixed speakers.

Again, any others speakers we should be looking at would be super helpful to learn. I'd also love to hear whether it's worth trying both the CS1 and the T30 or if one if just flat superior to the other so that it won't matter. Actually, the Polk Monitor series center speaker cabinet shape is perfect for us because we have to set out speaker slightly below ear level and the angle would have that directed right at us. Still hard to know what to choose though since the T30 has equally great reviews and a lot of them.

Extra info and background:
We just upgraded our Onkyo TXNR626 Receiver to a Denon AVRX3600 (thanks to this forum for a good deal on that - and finding it available!). We're still trying to get the sound tweaked and setup properly (that's for a separate post) but what we've found our current speakers are now showing their limitations. They are even beginning to distort - which is odd because the sound is lower to our ears than our previous unit would give (I'm sure we just don't have the X3600's settings tweaked yet but I'm worried it's pushing the speakers too much esp across the front (L/R/C). I'm too embarrassed to tell you what they are but they're budget, the best rated in that price range, what we could afford at the time and have provided much better than TV sound for the last 6-7 years.

This is why we've decided to splurge and give ourselves one extra gift for Christmas: to start upgrading our speakers by getting a new center speaker. Our budget, however, is not that large.

I'm really relying on the info, thoughts, knowledge, or experience that anyone here could share. We both have serious health issues that put us in the highest risk category for CV19 so going out to someplace and simply listening for ourselves isn't going to work. If there is a obvious difference in the CS1 and the T30, I'd love to hear about it.

Lastly, I've seem many posts on these and other forums stating that the ideal setup across the front is three of the same speakers. This got me wondering, are center speakers specifically tuned for dialogue or has anyone actually just opted to get three center channel speakers and use them across the front of the room? I'm intrigued to hear if that's feasible, realistic, genius, or totally bonkers. Some people talked like it was good and even suggested that a vertical center speaker would be great. That's not out of the realm of possibility for us moving forward, if that matters.

Our primary use is TV shows, movies, YouTube, etc. We do listen to music but not enough to make it the primary focus of the HT/speaker setup.

Just a little info about our place. We live in a smallish apartment with a fairly open primary living space. It's an open room about 12'x26' and the kitchen is a 9'x12' space off of that in a sort of L shape, if that info matters. I only mention it because it's more open space than small room with close walls. We're currently running a straight 7.1 channel system with front height speakers but I'm completely open to changing that setup if another layout would improve the sound (like switching to an Atmos setup rather than the Front Height speakers). I'm hoping if we upgrade our front speakers down the road or maybe sooner, we could use the current speakers for the remainder of the 9 channels that our new receiver can handle.

Sorry this is so long. I tried to cover the synopsis up front and more info after that I thought might be helpful. I tried to break up the wall of text as best I could. Thanks SO much for any help!

What speakers you have now? Buying such expensive receiver and then using cheapest possible speakers doesn´t make any sense! Save up until you can afford something like Polk CSi A6 and RTi A3 or CSi A4 with RTi A1 if somehow limited with space.

Amazon product
Amazon product
 

noiseboy72

Distinguished Member
Do you actually need a centre speaker? If your Left and Right speakers are no more than about 2.5m apart you probably don't and running just 2 speakers instead of 3 will give your system more dynamic headroom as well.

The Phantom centre setting might just be your friend here...
 

lifereinspired

Novice Member
Just wanted to follow up on my post. First of all, thanks so much for all of the advice and info. I really appreciate it.

Ultimately, we took much of what you said to heart. The problem was - budget. However, we were pointed to the sale on the Infinity Reference series. We ended up picking up the RC252 for the center speaker and a pair of the R152 for our front speakers. Both of these are so far beyond what we have now and are so much better than I ever thought we could find in our price range. It's more than we had planned on now but we decided to just take it from other things we were planning to get for Christmas. We're using the system so much right now since we're home so much more. I wish we could have gotten the larger versions in some ways (the RC263/R162) but it was simply an issue of space constraints in our apartment.

Thanks again! I can't wait for these to arrive - hopefully later this week. :D
 

lifereinspired

Novice Member
What speakers you have now? Buying such expensive receiver and then using cheapest possible speakers doesn´t make any sense! Save up until you can afford something like Polk CSi A6 and RTi A3 or CSi A4 with RTi A1 if somehow limited with space.

Amazon product
Amazon product
You're right. What I hadn't anticipated is that the new receiver would somehow make our current speaker sound WORSE! But they do. I think it could be the additional power? I'm not sure. Anyway, we got this receiver because it was the least expensive option that had many of the features that were recommended to us - living in an apartment (ie Audyssey LFC and Dymanic Volume/EQ). It's only Denon/Marantz that seem to have the LFC and only in their heigher end offerings. So that's why we ended up with this. But you're right, running that AVR with crummy speakers isn't great. We ended up getting pointed to the Infinity Reference series on sale and grabbed the RC 252 and R152 for our center and front L/R. I know they will be miles ahead of anything else we were looking at. I'm super excited about it!

Thanks again. You really hit the nail on the head stating that we really needed better speaker with this amp. I'm just glad that we found a sale that brought such great speakers into our budget. :)
 

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