Soundbar vs Center Speaker – Are They Interchangeable?

Choosing the right audio equipment for your home theater system comes with many decisions. When it comes to enhancing your home entertainment system, two popular choices emerge as potential game-changers: soundbars and center speakers.

Both aim to improve your audio experience, but they do so in distinct ways. A center channel speaker is a single component of your audio system, and you need to connect it to an amplifier or receiver. On the other hand, a soundbar is a self-contained speaker system without the requirement for additional components.

In this comprehensive comparison, we’ll delve into the differences, advantages, and limitations of a soundbar vs center speaker so you can make an informed decision on which is the better fit for your home theater setup.

Quick Comparison Between a Soundbar and a Center Speaker

In a nutshell, a soundbar is a compact, self-contained speaker system that is designed to enhance the audio output of your TV. While a center speaker is part of a larger audio setup that is dedicated to delivering clear and powerful dialogue and central audio information,

Soundbars come with built-in amplification and multiple drivers, making them a space-saving and user-friendly audio upgrade. On the other hand, the center speakers are a component of a traditional surround sound system, ensuring clear and balanced dialogues and central audio elements, especially in larger spaces. While both have their merits, your choice should depend on your specific needs, room size, and preferences.

Soundbar vs Center Speaker Comparison Chart

To help you quickly assess the main differences between soundbars and center speakers, here’s a comparison chart.

AspectSoundbarCenter Speaker
DesignSleek, compact, and modernBulkier, often part of a set
Audio QualityEnhanced audio for TVCentral, clear dialogue
SetupStandalone, simple to installPart of a larger system
PlacementWall-mounted or placed belowOften placed above or below the TV
Room SizeIdeal for smaller spacesSuitable for larger rooms
Surround SoundVirtual surround, but not as immersive as traditional surround setupsPart of a full surround system
CostAffordable entry options are availablePart of a larger investment

Center Channel Speaker vs. Soundbar: A Detailed Comparison

While the soundbar and center channel speakers mostly sit in the same location in your home entertainment setup, both have quite a few components that set them apart. We’ve compared the center-channel speakers and soundbars in the following categories: Read carefully to make your final decision more informed and accurate.


Soundbar vs Center Speaker design

Soundbars are popular for their sleek and modern design. They are self-contained, long, elongated, bar-like speakers that can be wall-mounted or placed below your television. Their minimalist design complements modern living spaces.

If you value aesthetics and aim for an uncluttered home theater setup, a soundbar is the perfect option. Soundbars come in various finishes and sizes, allowing you to choose one that matches your TV and room decor.

Some soundbars even feature a wireless or detachable subwoofer for added flexibility in placement and design. Overall, a soundbar can seamlessly integrate into your living room or home theater.

Center speakers, on the other hand, as a part of a traditional surround sound setup, prioritize function over form. They are often rectangular or box-shaped and are intended to be placed above or below your TV.

As a result, they are not as visually appealing as soundbars and are sometimes difficult to integrate into your room’s decor due to their bulkier design. However, some manufacturers offer sleeker center speakers, but you need more creative placement solutions to maintain the visual appeal of your entertainment space.

Audio Quality

Soundbars are designed to enhance the audio quality of your television. They contain a combination of multiple drivers, including tweeters and subwoofers, within a single enclosure to provide a more robust and well-rounded audio experience.

Soundbars can produce clear dialogue, detailed sound effects, and a decent bass response, making them a great upgrade over integrated TV speakers. Many modern soundbars also include advanced immersive technologies such as virtual surround sound. However, this virtual surround sound may not match the depth and immersiveness of a full-fledged surround sound system.

Center channel speakers, on the other hand, are specifically designed to provide clear and powerful dialogue and central audio information. In a surround sound setup, they ensure well-balanced central audio elements and conversations in movies. If you prioritize dialogue clarity in your home theater experience, the center speaker is an ideal choice.

Tough center speakers deliver more focused dialogue audio, but they may not offer the same level of bass response or audio immersion as soundbars with built-in subwoofers.

Ease of Use/Installation

Soundbars are known for their user-friendly nature. They are standalone units with built-in amplification and, in many cases, wireless connectivity options. Setting up a soundbar involves connecting it to your TV via optical, HDMI, or Bluetooth, depending on the model. So, you can easily set up your soundbar without any technical knowledge.

Moreover, soundbars often come with remote controls or smartphone apps, allowing you to easily and quickly operate and use your soundbar.

In contrast, center speakers, as a part of a complete surround sound system, require a more involved setup. This setup usually involves connecting the center speaker to an AV receiver, which can then be connected to various audio sources and other speakers in your setup.

This process may require more technical knowledge and patience, as you need to ensure proper wiring and configuration.

Surround Sound System Setup

Soundbars are designed to be a convenient alternative to a full surround sound system. While they offer a virtual surround sound experience, it’s important to note that this experience does not match the depth and immersion provided by a traditional surround sound setup.

Setting up a soundbar is straightforward. It typically involves connecting the soundbar to your TV via HDMI, optical, or Bluetooth, depending on the model. Some soundbars come with wireless subwoofers, and others offer additional speakers that can be placed around the room to create a more immersive audio experience.

However, these extra components may require a bit more effort to set up and calibrate properly. For users seeking simplified audio enhancement without the complexities of a full surround sound system, soundbars provide a user-friendly solution.

Center speakers are a vital part of a traditional surround sound system, which typically includes multiple speakers, an AV receiver, and often a subwoofer. The setup process can be more involved, especially for those new to the world of home theater.

In larger rooms, additional speakers are placed around the room to create a truly immersive surround-sound experience. While the setup process can be more complex, it allows for a superior and more realistic surround sound experience that fully immerses you in the audio of movies, games, and music.


Soundbars come with built-in amplification, and the power of a soundbar is generally sufficient for enhancing the audio quality of your television. They are capable of producing clear and dynamic sound, making them suitable for most home entertainment setups.

Center speakers, on the other hand, when part of a full surround sound system, rely on an external AV receiver for their power. This allows for greater flexibility and the potential for more powerful audio output.

The amplification provided by AV receivers can handle larger and more demanding rooms, providing a significant boost in power and audio quality compared to soundbars.


Soundbars come at a wide range of prices, making them accessible to a broad audience. You can find budget-friendly options that offer a noticeable improvement over your TV’s built-in speakers. On the higher end, premium soundbars can offer advanced features and superior audio quality, but they tend to be more expensive.

In contrast, the cost of center speakers can vary widely depending on the brand, model, and overall quality. However, center speakers are usually part of a more significant investment in a full surround sound system.

This includes purchasing multiple speakers, an AV receiver, and potentially a subwoofer. A complete surround sound system can be more expensive, but it provides a truly immersive audio experience.

Pros and Cons of Soundbars


  • Sleek and modern design, visually appealing.
  • User-friendly setup, often plug-and-play.
  • Affordable entry-level options.
  • Suitable for smaller to medium-sized rooms
  • Ideal for those looking to enhance TV audio without a full surround sound setup


  • Limited audio immersion compared to a full surround sound system.
  • May not provide the same audio power and depth.
  • Less effective in larger rooms.

Pros and Cons of Center Speakers


  • Specialized in delivering clear dialogue and central audio elements.
  • Part of a full, immersive surround-sound experience.
  • Offers superior audio power and depth, making it ideal for larger rooms.
  • Ideal for audiophiles and home theater enthusiasts.


  • Bulkier and less visually appealing.
  • Requires a more complex setup with multiple components.
  • Can be a more significant financial investment.
  • May not be practical for those seeking a simple audio upgrade.

Can we turn a soundbar into a center-channel speaker?

Can we turn a soundbar into a center-channel speaker

While it’s technically possible to use a soundbar as a center channel speaker, it’s not the ideal or most common use case for soundbars. Center channel speakers are designed with a specific focus on reproducing clear dialogue and central audio elements, and they are optimized for this purpose within a full surround sound system.

Soundbars, on the other hand, are created to enhance overall audio quality for your television but may not excel at the specific requirements of a center channel speaker. To use a soundbar as a center channel, you’d typically need to configure it within a more extensive audio setup, involving an AV receiver and possibly additional speakers, to ensure proper integration and balance.

Disadvantages of using a soundbar as a center channel:

The primary disadvantages of using a soundbar as a center channel speaker are:

  • Limited Optimization: Soundbars are not optimized specifically for center channel duties. They may not provide the same level of dialogue clarity and balance that a dedicated center channel speaker can deliver within a surround sound setup. This can lead to less satisfying audio performance, especially in terms of dialogue intelligibility.
  • Design and Aesthetics: Soundbars are designed for aesthetics and simplicity, which may not align with the visual preferences of those seeking a traditional home theater setup. Center channel speakers, on the other hand, are often part of a larger, bulkier system that may not fit seamlessly into modern living spaces.
  • Limited Customization: Soundbars may have limited options for fine-tuning audio settings to cater specifically to center channel audio reproduction. Center-channel speakers in a surround sound system often offer more customization and control over audio balance and performance.


In the showdown between the soundbar vs center channel speaker, the choice ultimately depends on your specific needs and priorities. If you’re seeking a sleek, user-friendly, and space-saving solution to enhance your TV’s audio quality, a soundbar is a practical choice.

However, for those who prioritize immersive and powerful audio, especially in larger home theater setups, a center-channel speaker within a complete surround sound system is the go-to option.

While they may require a more complex setup and a higher financial investment, the payoff in audio quality and immersion makes them the preferred choice for serious home theater enthusiasts.

Soundbar vs Center Speaker comparison table

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is a soundbar the same as a center-channel speaker?

No, a soundbar is not the same as a center-channel speaker. A soundbar is a long, thin speaker that sits in front of or below your TV. It typically has multiple speakers inside, which are designed to create a surround sound effect. A center channel speaker, on the other hand, is a single speaker that is placed in the center of your TV. It is designed to deliver clear dialogue and other central audio information.

Can We Use a Soundbar as a Center Channel Speaker?

You can use a soundbar as a center channel speaker, but it is not ideal. A soundbar is not designed to deliver the same level of sound quality as a dedicated center-channel speaker. If you are serious about your home theater experience, it is best to invest in a dedicated center channel speaker.

Is the center speaker necessary?

A center speaker is not necessary, but it can improve your home theater experience. A center speaker helps to ensure that dialogue is clear and easy to understand. It can also help create a more immersive sound experience.

Can I use any speaker as a center speaker?

You can use any speaker as a center speaker, but it is best to use a speaker that is designed for that purpose. A center-channel speaker should be a full-range speaker, which means that it can reproduce a wide range of frequencies. It should also be placed in the center of your TV so that it is equidistant from your left and right ears.

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