If you want to improve your home theater setup, you may wonder can you use a soundbar as a center speaker. The answer is yes! A soundbar can be used as a center speaker and can even significantly upgrade over a traditional center speaker. Here’s what you need to know about using a soundbar as a center speaker.
- 1 How Soundbars Accomplish High-Quality Audio
- 2 Why a Soundbar Won’t Sound Good as a Center Channel
- 3 Active Soundbars: Amplifying the Problem
- 4 Why Connecting an Active Soundbar to a Receiver is a Bad Idea
- 5 When to Use a Soundbar as a Center Speaker
- 6 Alternatives to Try
- 7 FAQs
- 8 Conclusion
How Soundbars Accomplish High-Quality Audio
There is a common misconception that soundbars are just another speaker. Its appearance and placement indeed suggest this. However, soundbars use a few audio tricks to amplify sound and simulate the immersive experience of a surround sound system.
The various speakers in a soundbar are placed in such a way that it can’t be used as a center speaker. This creates a surround sound effect. Like your basic audio system, use soundbar as center channel for left and right speakers.
To make the surround sound effect, the left and right speakers are tilted toward the sides of the soundbar. This uses the walls in the room to make the perfect home theater system sound we all enjoy.
The left and right speakers bounce off the walls to make it sound like the TV is on your left and right.
Why a Soundbar Won’t Sound Good as a Center Channel
Soundbars are not individual speakers. A soundbar uses multiple speakers for multi-channel sound projection.
There are two ways to connect a soundbar to your stereo system. It has three speaker channels, or four if you add a subwoofer. To use it as a real center, you would have to connect all three channels of the soundbar to the center channel of your stereo.
Alternatively, you can use the three-channel hookup a left, right, and center signal into the soundbar. Both of these approaches have significant disadvantages.
The tilted right and left speakers boost your center signal around the room for the full center approach, muddying effects and speech.
The left and right speakers mix your center sound with the left and right speaker channels. This makes the conversation and sound effects less clear.
The three-channel technique uses audio speakers out of phase with the surround sound system, creating quieter regions in the room.
You will also notice interference as the sound waves keep canceling each other. This interference creates space patches with sound cancellation and enhanced signal.
Thus, hooking up your soundbar to your sound system is not a good idea. If you connect your soundbar’s bookshelf speakers as a single channel, you will amplify the center speakers to the left and right of your space, reducing surround sound.
If you offer the soundbar three channels, you risk sound interference, making some regions louder and others quieter. You will be sacrificing sound quality with either audio setup with little reason.
Though this is not recommended, we have an article explaining exactly how to connect your soundbar as the center channel speaker. These instructions will vary depending on your receiver and soundbar.
Active Soundbars: Amplifying the Problem
Compounding the problem is the issue of signal strength. When your TV plays music, it sends out what is called a line-level signal. This signal is very low voltage to save your television the power of emitting speaker-level sound.
Connecting a gadget that sends amplified audio signals to a soundbar can cause major feedback problems and even damage the parts.
If you connected your line-level signal straight to a speaker, you would only hear a weak buzzing sound, if you heard anything at all. This is because the wattage isn’t high enough to move the speakers in a noticeable way. You would need to connect the speaker to an amplifier if you wanted to hear more sound.
Most soundbars solve this by having a built-in amplifier. An amplifier raises the line-level signal to move your speakers and give you theater-quality sound. This is why they have a power adapter or need to be plugged into a wall outlet.
An active surround sound system works similarly. Like the soundbar, the surround sound system boosts the line-level signal coming from the TV. This powers the speakers hooked to your receiver, which we’ve written about before.
The surround sound system’s boosted sound can cause complications when connected to the soundbar.
A speaker amplifies the sound internally is known as an active speaker and requires an external power source to function.
This is in contrast to passive speakers, which require external amplification like the ones in your surround system. Passive speakers are the most common and are typically less expensive.
Why Connecting an Active Soundbar to a Receiver is a Bad Idea
Like speakers, soundbars come in active and passive varieties. As previously stated, most are active soundbars, providing their amplification.
If you connected this soundbar directly to a surround sound receiver, the receiver would first enhance the line-level signal, then the soundbar would boost the sound. To get around this, you can use a line-out converter.
This is way more power than your soundbar is designed to handle and can permanently damage the speakers. If you want to hook up your receiver to a soundbar, you need to make sure it’s a passive speaker.
Still, you will run into the sound quality problems of sound cancellation or sound dilution noted above. Just because you can hook up your soundbar to your center channel does not mean you should.
When to Use a Soundbar as a Center Speaker
A soundbar can be used as a center speaker in a home theater setup. But there are times when it makes more sense to use a soundbar as a center speaker than a separate center speaker.
Here are some instances when a soundbar can be used as a center speaker:
- Space Constraints: If your room is small, it might not make sense to use a separate center speaker. In this case, a soundbar can be a great option because it’s small and can be mounted on the wall or put on a shelf.
- Budget Constraints: A soundbar can be more affordable than a separate center speaker. If you are on a tight budget, investing in a good soundbar as a central speaker can be a smart choice.
- Simple Setup: Setting up a home theater system with separate speakers can be difficult and take a long time. A soundbar, on the other hand, is easy to set up and requires minimal wiring.
- Compatibility: If you have a soundbar and want to enhance your theater system, using it as a central speaker can save money. Just ensure your soundbar is compatible with your surround sound system.
- Quality of Sound: Not all soundbars are created equal. With a specialized center channel speaker, a high-end soundbar can make sound as good as a separate center speaker.
Alternatives to Try
Our team is staunchly against a soundbar as a center channel, but that leaves you with the question of how to obtain surround sound effectively without the soundbar.
If you want to put your soundbar to good use, try using it individually with another TV instead of integrating it into your surround sound setup.
The TV in question should not have other speakers. This purpose is to use your soundbar as the entire audio system to enhance the best sound quality. Especially if you’re aiming for high-fidelity sound.
You can achieve surround sound even with just one sound bar in front of you, which means you will need at least a model with five channels. Using the soundbar with the TV can make your content sound better without compromising the rest of the hookup.
The bottom line is always to use dedicated center speakers designed for their specific purpose and not soundbars if you already have equipment.
They are sleek and compact, making them a stylish addition to the front of the room. Since they are small, they can complement other equipment like your receiver and make the room look tidy.
Our team suggests browsing a little longer online if the appearance is focused on. Plenty of speakers can help your setup sound better, create balanced and expansive surround sound, and look fantastic.
Can you use a soundbar as center speaker?
Yes, you can use it as a center speaker. The soundbar must be connected to your system in a single or three-channel arrangement.
Using your soundbar center channel speaker might cause signal cancellation, poor quality, and system damage owing to compatibility difficulties.
Is a soundbar the same as a standard center speaker?
No, it is not the same as a proper center speaker. Speakers have tweeters, mids, and woofers, while a soundbar has left, right, and center channels.
Angled speakers in soundbars utilized as center speakers overpower the center channel, resulting in imbalanced sounds.
Can I use a bookshelf speaker to act as my center channel?
Placement is the biggest problem with using a bookshelf speaker for a center. They are also taller than their width, so placing them on their sides won’t solve the problem. To make up the volume of a bookshelf speaker’s internal volume, a center channel speaker will have a width greater than its height.
Are you going to need a center speaker?
Because it plays about 70% of dialogue from television and movies, a center channel speaker is an essential component of a home theater. Without one, you’re missing vital parts of what’s being shown to you.
Are there two central channel speakers?
Two-center channel speakers are not recommended or capable of improving audio quality. Distorted timing, comb filtering, or other sound distortion/confusion causes can damage two center channel speakers.
A soundbar can be a center speaker in your entire home system. Some TV makers make TVs with soundbars just for this reason, and this can make it much easier to choose a home audio system.
If you don’t have a specialized center speaker, you can use a soundbar instead. It will sound better than regular speakers or a regular set of surround sound.
Hooke Audio hopes this article was helpful for you, we hope you enjoy your experience with the guide, and more importantly, we hope it helped you in some way or another. If you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to ask them below.