I love the immersive experience of a high-end home theater system. However, it involves many speakers, subwoofers, an amplifier, and plenty of wires. Moreover, a high-end home theater system is ridiculously expensive. That’s why I borrowed a soundbar from my friend to compare the installation and audio experience. I didn’t need to do any cable management, but the placement of the soundbar required a few trials and errors.
From my experience, placing the soundbar horizontally below the TV is the ideal position. This keeps signal interference to a minimum, even if you have a soundbar that has upward-firing speakers for surround sound. Make sure the soundbar sits at your ear level.
We may have nailed the optimal placement for the soundbar. However, in certain situations placing the soundbar in other positions may be beneficial for you. Let’s check out all of them.
Soundbar below the TV
Placing the soundbar below the TV is arguably the best placement you can have. It worked wonders for me. It’s best if you have a cabinet or some sort of structure below the TV that can hold the soundbar horizontally. Placing it below the TV at your ear level lets you listen to the directional mids and highs with negligible distortion.
It’s also important to not have any obstruction in between you and the soundbar. They will reflect, absorb or refract the soundwaves. Just removing the high coffee table in between my couch and the TV improved the sound. The soundbar was also right below the TV and didn’t block the IR sensor. Otherwise, you’ll have a hard time using the remote. However, this differs depending on room architecture and the design of the soundbar you own.
You also need to consider the material of the stand, table, or cabinet you use to support the soundbar. If it’s made of reflective material like glass, the sound waves would be thrown in all directions, create a lot of vibrations and you wouldn’t achieve the ideal performance. My cabinet has glossy laminate on top and to fix the issue, I had to place a thin and flat rubber piece under the soundbar.
Soundbar above the TV
In certain cases, placing the soundbar above your TV may be the ideal placement. This position brings certain advantages. For instance, the IR sensors on the TV aren’t blocked by the soundbar and I didn’t need to worry about obstructions between the TV and the couch.
However, to place the soundbar above your TV, you need to wall-mount it. If your Soundbar isn’t wall-mountable, you may need to recall those DIY skills and add a small floating shelf above the TV. If your TV is mounted too high above the wall, you shouldn’t consider this setup at all.
When you mount the soundbar above the TV, make sure that it sits on a gentle incline towards you. I had to do this to angle the tweeters and woofers on the soundbar towards me. The incline gives you a better audio experience since it creates a more optimized peripheral sound vision.
Soundbar behind the TV
You should avoid this position at all costs. When I placed the soundbar behind the TV, the TV itself became a great obstruction to the soundwaves and there’s a sharp decline in sound quality. I’d rather have a wired mess or go through the hellish cable management ordeal of my home theater system than placing a soundbar behind my TV.
You may consider this option if you have limited space. However, it’s not worth it. If you are being limited by space on your stand or cabinet, then consider buying a TV or monitor riser. It lifts your TV and creates plenty of room below it for the soundbar.
Soundbar inside the cabinet
This is a common soundbar placement mistake and I wasn’t spared either. It’s tempting to hide the soundbar inside your cabinet and achieve a more stealthy and minimal look. But you pay with degraded sound quality.
When you place your soundbar inside the cabinet, the soundwaves are obstructed on all sides and the sharp increase in air resistance due to a small confined space doesn’t help. That’s why you should always keep soundbars or any sort of speaker out of cabinets and small confined boxes.
Soundbar vertically placed at the side
You can’t just use any soundbar for vertical placement. The soundbar needs to be designed for that purpose. Unlike horizontal soundbars, these are very flexible and some of them can be detached to act as two vertical speakers. If you’re on a budget, you can try out the Samtronic 40W Detachable Soundbar. A slightly higher-priced vertical soundbar would be this 2.1 CH Sound Bar.
Most of these soundbars are designed with a 2.1 channel setup and sometimes come with a dedicated subwoofer. You can use them horizontally, or detach them into two vertical speakers to be placed on either side of the TV.
Placement for Surround Sound Soundbars
Surround sound soundbars that support advanced 3D audio technology like Dolby Atmos usually have upward-firing speakers and dedicated satellite speakers. You need to make sure that they interact with your room to give you that 3D surround sound effect.
The soundbar should sit below the TV at your ear level and the sound should reach you without any obstruction. The extra satellite speakers should be right above your ear level and placed at a right angle to your listening position on either side of the TV. You may need to use a stand to place them above your ear level.
After my experiments with the various placement positions, it’s best to place the soundbar below your TV at your ear level. Any other position is a compromise and may require extra DIY work or expenditure in the form of stands. I hope you’ll position your soundbar optimally to get the best audio experience.