Center Channel Recommendation

Wondering if any of you with home theaters can recommend a center channel speaker. The previous owner of my home included entry-level JBL surround speakers. I recently sold them. I purchased Focal Sopra No. 1s for the main speakers, which I run through the BHK 250 for two-channel audio listening. For movies I use the HT bypass into an Onkyo multichannel amp.
I don’t want to spend $3500 for the matching Focal Sopra center speaker. Any thoughts on centers under $2k? Many thanks.

I don’t know if it’s practical for you but I use a phantom center channel by summing 1/2 of the center signal into the left channel and 1/2 into the right. I still get a rock solid center channel and I’ve had plenty of people very confused looking for the center channel. It’s not for every system since your amps and speakers need to be able to handle the extra signal with aplomb, but the HK 250 and the Sopra shouldn’t have a problem. I found that even with stereo signals just getting the (unused) physical center channel speaker out from between the left and right speakers made the whole system sound better. Then you also don’t have to deal with speakers behind a screen, two speakers (one above the screen and one below) or the problems of having a center speaker at a different height than the left and right…

I did it in the analog domain by modifying one of the 6 channel inputs to my preamp to do the summing, but many video players / home theater receivers can do it in the digital domain.

This speaker is more important than you imagine. I have vocals as well and my dealer pushed and pushed me to get the matching one and boy am I glad he did


Do you have the Sopra center?

Thanks, Ted! I’ll tske a look to see if my amp can handle this. An interesting option.

For solid state, the Legacy Audio “Silversceen HD” is a fantastic center channel speaker. My 5.1 channel HT is now 100% tube based with high efficiency speakers on all channels. With my prior system, which was NAD based, I decided on the Legacy after much research and I was not disappointed.

I’d like to highlight what dew1551 said. For video, the center speaker is the most critical: you should have at least as good of a center speaker as anywhere else. In video (and some surround music) the center speaker gets the most use, the most power and sets the tone (pun intended) for everything else. It greatly affects the sound stage height and I (for one) don’t like the discontinuity of the center tweeters not being at the exact same height as the left and right tweeters: if not matched in height then as things move across the screen left to right they also go down and back up (or up and back down if your tweeter is above the screen.) If not matched in tone once again you’ll probably hear the difference when watching video as something moves from side to side.

On the other hand all of this is moot if your primary focus is stereo music and the video doesn’t matter as much to you.

I have the Scala 2 utopia set up. Right left and center. I was mostly buying them for the 2 channel performance and the center is pretty pricey. My dealer pointed out that with multichannel theater the center is very important. 80% of the info comes from that speaker and the balance and character of the dialog is very important to movies. I finally bought the matching center and drove it with a ps audio m700 amp and wow what a difference in my Atmos setup for movies.

If your dealer can provide single speakers, I’d recommend a third Sopra No. 1. Nothing matches better, than the same speaker.

My first home theater consisted of NHT speakers. Two L/R towers, and an upright Super Zero for center. It sounded great, until I bought the ‘matching’ NHT center speaker. It’s horizontal layout killed the sound stage and the sound quality. I went back to the SZ. I’ve used matching centers, as a result, ever since.

Wow. That’s a beautiful set up! Do I see 3 subs? Are two of them RELS? Curious to know about your sub situation. Cheers.

I have a large screen 110” and a console that were purchased before all of the upgrading started. I am fairly committed to a standard horizontal center at this point. I’m primarily a 2-channel audio person, but, of course, I want the home theater to sound great, too. It’s just a matter of resource allocation as with everything, especially this seductive hobby.

By subtraction, I’m realizing how critical the center speaker is to the surround sound listening experience. I sold my consumer grade JBLs, which came with the house, as I mentioned previously. The SQ was far from good but the dialogue was intelligible and the sound effects impactful. Now, with just the two Sopras I have been forced to listen in stereo mode and it’s hard to follow the dialogue, especially with some movies.

I’ve read about timbre matching and it’s sounds logical that I would want to get the Sopra center. Just hadn’t allocated $4k to a center :slight_smile:

Maybe something from another Focal line? A more affordable center?

Aria CC900

Chorus CC700

Maybe even a Focal pro center?

Twin6 Be

Good luck

I’ve thought about the other Focals (Chorus, Aria). When I was demoing speakers prior to purchasing the Sopras, I was fairly impressed by the Arias, especially at their price point. Once I heard the Sopras, it was impossible to go back.
The driver materials are different with each Focal line. I’ve even wondered if another brand would match better than the lower Focals with the Sopras.
I hadn’t even thought about the pro line. That’s intriguing, especially the Beryllium tweeter which is what the Sopras use.
A question: I noticed that the pro monitor has a balanced speaker connection, how would I connect this to my surround amp which has standard speaker posts?

You can use RCA to XLR adapters. They can be active converter boxes, or cables. One of these should work.

XLR Adapter

Another good thing about that Focal pro center, it’s already amplified, with build in amps for each driver. Plus, it has contour level adjustments. That should help with matching to your mains.

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I could not be happier with a L/C/R Focal Aria. Their Aria center is quite excellent to my ears.

The best centers to my ears are the largest Paradigm center channel speakers (different lines and versions). When positioned below a display/screen, they seem to have an uncanny ability to fool my mind that the center is behind the image.

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