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One of the most important aspects of setting up the audio of your home entertainment system is positioning your speakers and equipment. Sound waves travel in a very particular manner so it is always key to keep the acoustics and physics of sound in mind. That way, you’ll be getting the best possible sound quality. This is true not only of large speakers and subwoofers but for your TV soundbar as well.
So the question now becomes which way is better for audio quality: placing your soundbar lower on a shelf, or mounting it on the wall above your TV screen? This question requires a lot more to unpack than meets the eye. To figure out which method works best for you and your set up, let’s dive into all the details regarding soundbars and their design.
Your Soundbar’s Design Will Dictate Its Ideal Placement
Not all soundbars are identical. Not only are there different kinds related to amplification, but there are different kinds that dictate how the sound will actually travel throughout your room.
Most of this is decided by how the speakers or drivers of the soundbar are tilted or oriented. Some soundbars have upward facing speakers that are meant to be placed closer to eye or ear level. Other soundbars have a more balanced leveling and therefore can be placed in more spots without impeding the audio quality.
The first thing you have to keep in mind is what kind of soundbar you own or plan on buying. Soundbars that have specific placement instructions will usually give you reliable guidelines on where to place your soundbar and how far or close it should be from your sitting spot.
However, there is one general rule of thumb that does apply to most soundbars. It is usually a safe bet to place the soundbar below the TV as this is where your ear level is.
The Pros of Placing a Soundbar Below a TV
There are many reasons why most of the time it is ideal to place a soundbar below your television set. For one thing, there is the simple matter of convenience: it is faster and easier to place a soundbar on a shelf or cabinet than to mount it onto a wall. It also makes the wiring and cable management easier to handle.
However, there are more important reasons than just saving time on setting up your equipment. Most soundbars do not have what is known as upward-firing speakers. The speakers of most soundbars are tilted to deliver the audio at ear level. This means that ideally your head will be fairly level with the soundbar, much like how your TV screen will be fairly level with your eyes to avoid neck straining.
While there are of course some exceptions, the reason why this is usually the best method to use is because of how most rooms are structured. For example, many soundbars have their left and right speaker channels tilted to their respective directions. This allows the sound from these speakers to bounce off the walls to the right and the left, resulting in a sound delivery system that helps simulate a kind of surround sound phenomenon.
Placing a soundbar like this too close to the ceiling can muddy this effect and you will instead perceive the sound as coming from farther away as opposed to being nearby from both your left and your right.
Another reason why below the TV will probably be ideal is because of objects or your decoration blocking the paths of your sound. While this does depend on the particular makeup of your room, a soundbar too close to the ceiling could be interfered with by any paintings or other objects you have mounted up on your wall.
The Pros of Mounting Your Soundbar Above Your TV
Now let’s talk about those fewer instances when placing your soundbar atop your TV is ideal. This will largely depend on the orientation of your soundbar’s speakers and how your home entertainment center is structured.
If you happen to own a soundbar with upward-firing speakers then you will definitely want to consider mounting it on the wall above your TV. The reasoning behind this is that upward-firing speaker soundbars will bounce off the ceiling instead of off the walls. This creates a sort of enveloping and overhead soundstage.
These speakers ought to be wall mounted because upward-firing soundbars are usually not powerful enough to reach the ceiling adequately if they are placed below your TV at ear or eye level.
It is however also important to get the positioning of this kind of soundbar on your wall correctly. If it is too close to your ceiling then the sound waves will bounce off at an angle too small to properly reach your sitting spot. These soundbars also require you to make sure there is nothing that will block you from the audio and thus requires to have no large furniture or objects in the way.
Mounting soundbars above the TV can also be a very useful method for those with specific home theater rooms. While most people watch shows and movies in their living rooms, some people have home theater stations that have upward slanting floors and perhaps even theater chairs with adjustable backs, much like an actual movie theater. That means that you really have to take into account how you will position your soundbar if you will be watching content at a very specific angle. Most of the time a wall mounted soundbar above your screen or projection will be the ideal choice.
Upward titled soundbar speakers may also receive interference from the television itself. Usually when placing a soundbar below the TV, it is not positioned directly below the television set itself, but instead is placed a few inches in front of it. However even this placement won’t be ideal for upward soundbars and they generally lack the amplification to deliver sound to the ceiling from such a distance.
Closing Remarks on Soundbar Positioning
No matter what kind of soundbar you own or what kind of room you are using it in, soundbar placement is always one of the most important aspects of getting your audio game on point. Even having a soundbar rotated too much to one side can heavily distort the audio quality, and this is even more true when it comes to the question of having it above or below your TV.
While placing your soundbar below your TV is usually the safe bet, even then you still have to make sure that the makeup of your room and its furniture are not interfering with the delivery of the sound itself. Spending a few minutes rearranging your room slightly can pay off with huge dividends to the sound quality of your home entertainment system.
Even though most people don’t mount their soundbar on a wall, it could very well be the best option for you if you enjoy upward-firing delivery systems or have a certain kind of home theater that really requires that specific kind of positioning. You may also be the kind of person who finds wall mounted electronics to be much more visually pleasing and there’s nothing wrong with that either, as long as the audio doesn’t suffer as a result.
The end of the day, do not be afraid to spend a little bit of time experimenting. Like so many other people you may end up being pleasantly surprised with how much of a difference you will get from moving your soundbar into a new spot. Many audiophiles know that the quest for perfect audio is never-ending, but it is a journey that involves putting in a moderate amount of effort for some extreme long-term benefits. Never be afraid to test new possibilities out, and be sure to savor the fruits of your labor whenever possible!