To start your 3 speaker home theater, you’re going to need a matching stereo pair of speakers for the left and right front channels. A pair of compact affordable “bookshelf” speakers like the Axiom M2 v3’s or M3 v3s would be an excellent purchase and jumping off point. Those two speakers will handle lots of movie score music and sound effects, as well as serving as highly musical and neutral speakers for any type of music playback.
Next, you’ll need a center channel speaker: the center channel carries most of a DVD movie’s spoken dialogue and is essential so you can hear the actors’ dialogue and independently raise or lower the center channel volume if you have trouble hearing any movie dialogue. Center channel speakers are often fairly wide and not very tall, partly because the shape enables easy installation on a shelf below or above the TV, but there is no reason you can’t make the center channel speaker identical to the left and right front speakers. Doing that will assure you of virtually matched tonal quality across the front “soundstage.”
There you have it – the 3 speaker home theater– left, center, and right channels. Now you can gradually add the remaining two surround speakers as your budget allows eventually completing the system with the subwoofer, the larger self-contained amplified speaker for deep bass tones and movie sound effects. Read my handy tips on how to get a seamless soundstage for your 3 speaker home theater setup.