In many media rooms and basic home theater setups, a soundbar is used in place of an expensive and installation-heavy surround sound speaker system.
A soundbar is a great way to get better audio from your TV without having to spend much. You don’t have to depend on TV speakers for audio as they have become smaller with TVs getting thinner.
But for an immersive experience, you need to nail the placement. So where should you place your soundbar?
The best soundbar placement is horizontally below the TV with the soundbar’s speakers at ear level in a sitting position. With an upward-firing soundbar (for 3D sound), no signals should be blocked after placement.
There are also other options for soundbar placements such as;
- Placing the soundbar above the TV
- Hiding the soundbar in the cabinet
- Placing the soundbar behind the TV
- Vertical placement at the sides of the TV
We are going to look at each of these options in more detail with the perks and drawbacks of each option.
1. Soundbar below TV
Depending on the type of soundbar that you have, placing the soundbar below the TV is the best option you can go for. This can be done by placing the soundbar on top of a cabinet but for a wall-mounted TV with no cabinet, wall-mount your soundbar too.
This will ensure that the highly directional mids and highs directly reach your listening position.
No sound obstacles should stand between you and the soundbar. Obstacles can reduce sound quality due to absorption, reflection, and refraction of some of the sound waves and can even block the soundbar remote sensors.
However, there are exceptions to this as not all soundbars or rooms, for that matter, are designed the same. But the general rule for soundbar placement is ensuring that it is front-facing and directed to the ears.
You should also consider your setup and wiring when planning your placement.
- The soundbar should not interfere with TV visibility. Consider the height of the soundbar before shopping.
- This soundbar should also not block the TV remote sensor.
- The soundbar should be placed at the front of the stand, table, or cabinet.
- If your cabinet, table, or stand is made of glass, place a vibration absorbent under the soundbar such flat rubber surface.
2. Soundbar above the TV
In some cases, placing your soundbar above the TV may be better. This can be more pleasing and even prevent you from blocking the TV sensors if they are placed in a cabinet.
But for this option, the soundbar will need to be mounted to the wall. However, not all soundbars are wall-mountable.
Also, ensure that the soundbar’s drivers (mid-range woofer and tweeters) are angled towards your sitting position.
Just like the case for a soundbar below the TV, the soundbar should be front-facing.
This is not something I would recommend anyone does, but if it fits your taste and style of your entertainment room, why not?
3. Soundbar behind the TV
This is another not-so-great soundbar placement option (avoid it at all costs).
Placing your soundbar behind the TV will by all means obstruct the sound waves lowering the sound quality. Any obstacles (including a TV) in front of the soundbar will drastically do a disservice to your experience.
Most people may do this due to limited space but should not be done. However, if you can find a way to put the soundbar behind the TV without obstructing the sound waves from the soundbar, go for it and let us know in the comment section below.
4. Vertical soundbar placement at the sides of the TV
For vertical soundbar placement, you need vertical soundbars or a soundbar that can be split into two vertical speakers such as the Samsung’s HW-E550.
Most of these soundbars will also have a sub-woofer for a 2.1-channel setup and are usually connected wirelessly via Wi-Fi.
The vertical soundbar can be placed on the cabinet if there is enough space or mounted for a cleaner look.
5. Soundbar inside your cabinet
Hiding a soundbar inside a cabinet is a common soundbar placement mistake.
By placing the soundbar inside a cabinet, you obstruct the soundwaves and increase the air resistance that the cones need to overcome to playback sound.
Generally, all enclosed spaces are not an option when it comes to the placement of soundbars or other audio playback devices.
Soundbar subwoofer placement
If your soundbar comes with a subwoofer or you added one, you will need to make sure that they are both correctly placed for the best sound experience.
The soundbar will need to be placed in a front-facing position at ear level with no obstruction to the front and sides. On the other hand, the sub-woofer will need to be placed in the most convenient position and should be balanced with the soundbar.
The low frequencies (bass) from the sub should blend in with the sound from the soundbar (the sub should “disappear“).
In most cases, the subs are placed at the front of the room. I would recommend placing it away from the wall for the clearest and deepest bass and to avoid phase cancellation.
Test different positions starting from the position where the bass is closest to you until you find the placement where the bass sounds best based on your preference.
You could also use the crawling method to find the sweet spot by placing the subwoofer at your sitting position and crawling around the soundstage to find the spot where the sub sounds best. Once you have found the spot place the sub-woofer at or close to it.
The sub needs enough space for the higher-wavelength sound waves and should not be enclosed.
Surround sound soundbar placement
Some soundbars may have surround speakers and may support 3D codecs such as Dolby Atmos. This will mean having upward-firing speakers for that height element and usually satellite speakers for the surrounds.
All these speakers should sufficiently interact with your room.
If this is the case for you, I would recommend placing the soundbar on a cabinet a few inches away from the wall with no obstruction to the upward-firing speakers.
For a 5.1 surround setup, the 2 extra satellite speakers will need to be placed 90 degrees off your listening position to the left and the right just above ear level. You can use speaker stands for this placement.
For a 7.1 surround soundbar, the left and right speakers need to be pushed slightly to the front and the two rear surrounds placed at the back above ear level.
Not all surround sound soundbars, will use extra satellite speakers to create an immersive surround sound experience. Other soundbars can create a virtual surround sound by bouncing sound waves off the wall.
With this, you may need to tweak your sitting position by moving it either to the front or the back to find your sweet spot.
To Sum up
When looking for a soundbar, you should consider the placement of the soundbar and any additional components that may come with the soundbar.
The best soundbar placement option is below the TV about 4 inches from the bottom of the TV and front-facing at an ear level. This is the placement option you want to be using for your setup.