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When it comes to the never ending quest for ideal audio quality, owning the right kind of equipment isn’t all there is to it. What can really help make your speakers shine is knowing how to place and position them in the most ideal spot in your home. Similarly to viewing angles with large screen television sets, your ears and speakers need to be in an ideal spot relative to each other, not unlike your eyes and TV screen. That’s why today we’re going to go over how you can maximize your subwoofer and soundbar audio quality by learning how to find the perfect spot for them.
There are many dos and don’ts to go over, but most of these tips are pretty easy to do and just as easy to remember.
The Importance of Subwoofer and Soundbar Placement
Because no room is identical to another, it is key to make sure that your audio equipment is placed in a way to take advantage of your living room or home theater’s unique structure. You don’t have to be a sound engineer or a physicist to take advantage of this. We all know that sound and acoustics travel in complex ways. This means that even differences we perceive as small in placement can have impacts that are larger than we might realize at first.
Besides, no one wants to spend a good amount of cash on high quality equipment, audio-based or otherwise, and not have them bring out their full potential. That’s why it is important to take advantage of your room’s particular dynamics so the audio will be able to come alive as much as possible.
Guidelines for Optimal Soundbar Placement
Let’s begin with the easiest tips. The most popular place for a soundbar is almost always the most optimal spot: right in front of and below your television.
Soundbars are almost always designed with a slim and rectangular shape so that the audio will be capable of traveling in an optimal way across your room. This is true for both stereo and surround sound settings.
Soundbars are meant to be a replacement for your TV’s stock speakers. They have higher quality mid and high treble frequencies and take advantage of a room’s acoustics. That is why the vast majority of time they should be placed or mounted close to your television set.
If your soundbar can be wall-mounted then feel free to mount it above your TV screen as opposed to having it rest on a desk or cabinet below the screen. Some users have experienced improved fidelity and acoustics with this method, and depending on the nature of your room, you may prefer this method yourself. This of course will be much easier to do if your soundbar has wireless connectivity, so take advantage of that feature and test this position out if you have it.
How Subwoofers Work with Soundbars
There’s a good reason why subwoofers work best when combined with a soundbar. Since a soundbar concentrates on delivering good treble quality, subwoofers are designed for giving you good bass. Because treble and bass work differently in an acoustic sense, subwoofer placement as a result is also quite different from soundbar placement.
However, figuring out how to place your subwoofer really depends on how many you have, as well as the size of your room.
Guidelines for Optimal Placement of One Subwoofer
If you are watching TV or movies in a smaller room then odds are you only have one subwoofer. This means you need to be even more strategic and mindful of how and where you place this speaker.
One might assume that owners of one subwoofer should place it in the center of the room to create a “balanced” sound, but this is actually false. Because your soundbar is centered relative to your TV screen, placing your subwoofer in the center of the room will actually drown out your soundbar. In other words, the bass will overwhelm the higher frequencies which will make it difficult to detect sounds such as voices or most musical instruments.
Here’s a quick and easy science lesson to explain this phenomenon: bass frequencies don’t travel as far as treble frequencies, even when things like volume are taken into account. This is why noises like nails on a chalkboard can be so irritating to our ears and brains, even if they are not particularly noisy or loud.
Keeping this in mind, it is actually better to place the subwoofer closer to us to compensate for this difference in acoustics. Some people choose to customize their sounds by having the subwoofer a little louder than the soundbar, but you may not have this option if you do not want to disturb neighbors.
Now, how close your subwoofer should be placed will also depend on the subwoofer’s size. A smaller one can be placed closer to you while a larger one can be placed closer to your wall. Closer to the wall is actually ideal as the thumping and vibrating bass frequencies will bounce off your wall and help deliver the sound more efficiently. Based on the shape and set-up of furniture of your room, feel free to reorient your chair or couch to take advantage of this delivery method if necessary.
It’s also important to place the subwoofer not too far away from your soundbar as want to keep a balanced output if possible.
If you have a wireless and wall-mountable subwoofer then you have many more options available to you. A well-placed desk or cabinet can make all the difference.
Keep in mind that subwoofers should never be placed inside of a cabinet. Many people ask this question but the fact of the matter is that this will heavily impede on the bouncing effect of the bass waves as previously discussed. Air and sound both need room to breathe, so to speak.
Guidelines for Optimal Placement of Two Subwoofers
If you own two subwoofers then you will have a slightly easier time setting up your room simply due to having the benefit of symmetry on your side. A lot of the same guidelines from the previous section still apply: no placement inside cabinets, no placement in the room’s center, and take advantage of wireless and wall-mountable functionality if available.
Some people are fans of the idea of placing subwoofers in the corners of your room. While it is true that the corners can be an ideal spot to allow the bass to travel more efficiently throughout your room, sometimes this can lead to too much efficiency.
What I mean by that is that the bass can sometimes travel so well that it becomes too boomy and drowns out the rest of the sound. If you opt for corner placement, experiment with having them a foot or so out of the corner so that it doesn’t become too prominent.
The corner placement of two subwoofers is more common and more useful for larger rooms. If you are viewing content in a smaller room then you will want to place them closer to your TV and soundbar. Otherwise the bass of the subwoofers can become too powerful. In smaller rooms, even a difference of moving the subwoofer five or six inches can cause big differences in how much bass you are perceiving.
Be sure to also keep in mind just how close you are sitting away from a wall. It’s a general rule of thumb that the close you are to a wall, the more intense the subwoofer will seem due to the acoustic vibrations moving throughout the room.
If the bass feels too powerful and if your chair is right next to a wall, then move the subwoofers a little farther away from their closest wall. The same is true if the bass is too weak – if you are not sitting right up next to a wall and the bass is a little thin, move the subwoofers closer to the wall on their side of the room.
While it may seem like a bit of a process, finding the ideal spot for subwoofers and soundbars is really quite simple and only demands a small amount of your time. As long as the general rules of thumb are always kept in mind, it should take you only a few minutes to discover the ideal spot for subwoofers in relation to your sitting spot and your room’s structure.
Hopefully you’ve learned about the value of optimal soundbar and subwoofer placement, and more importantly experienced the optimal sound quality for yourself. Let this simple yet valuable knowledge be used to improve your TV and movie watching for the rest of your life. Thank you for reading and enjoy your new and improved world of audio fidelity!