A soundbar is a solution for anyone who wants a better sound from home theater setup, without immediately having to fill up the entire room with speakers. The first practical drawback that many people encounter is that they are unable to use the soundbar with the TV. Whether it is due to lack of space or a partner who does not like to look at such a device, the fact remains that the layout of your TV corner has to be adapted to it. With this article, we will help you make a choice regarding the size and placement of your soundbar.
Size and placement for a Soundbar: Sound bars in brief
We probably don’t need to waste a lot of words explaining a soundbar. In short, a soundbar is an elongated speaker with a number of built-in drivers. These drivers differ from each other, so that a wide range of frequencies and tones can be produced. Also, the drivers are often placed in different directions, trying to mimic the characteristics of surround sound as closely as possible. This then works through reflections in space.
When you have made the choice to go for a soundbar, you will come across many shapes and sizes, from small and flat to enormous giants that are able to drown out an average symphony orchestra. The small and compact variant may easily be concealed in a TV cabinet, but you should not expect earth-shattering sound quality. At the larger sound bars, others may think you’re overcompensating for something.
Size and placement for a Soundbar: Balance in formats
Of course, there’s no set ratio to stick to when choosing a soundbar for your TV (or vice versa) ). You can put your bedroom TV on top of a beast of a soundbar. Most people prefer a soundbar that is fairly close to the television in terms of width. For smaller TVs, you can use a soundbar where you can put a TV on. Such a flat soundbar gets different names from different manufacturers, such as a SoundStand or SoundPlate. By the way, this type of sound bars has been disappearing from the market a bit in the past few years.
One kind of unspoken rule is that the width of the soundbar is between 5 (13 centimeters) and 15 (38 centimeters) lower. picture diagonal of the TV, depending on the size of the TV. If you have a 50-inch TV, you can easily put a soundbar with a width of 45 inches (113 centimeters) in front of it. With a 75-inch TV it is already a completely different story, because you will rarely encounter sound bars wider than 60 inches (150 centimeters).
A larger cabinet is not necessarily equal to better sound, but you may assume that more different types of speakers achieve a much wider range. Basses in particular are low in the more compact models, simply because there is no room in the small housing for decent woofers. The sound will sound flat and squeezed, and for a model where this happens less, you will soon have to pay hundreds of euros.
A trend that makes sound bars more expensive and bigger is the arrival of Dolby Atmos. This standard has been developed to provide a 360 degree sound with sound objects moving around you. Now that standard is mainly developed for at least 11 speakers in the room, so the effect at sound bars will certainly be less. Yet many top models today have support for Dolby Atmos. This means that they accept the Atmos signal, can reproduce a more spacious sound and often also come with additional drivers that point upwards and / or to the sides. These extra drivers try to provide the Atmos effect by means of reflections on walls and ceilings. And of course, those extra drivers require extra space and make the soundbar a lot bigger.
With or without subwoofer
Not only the size of the soundbar itself can play a role. From a certain price range you get “extras” with your soundbar that take your listening experience to a higher level, but also take up extra space. For example, more expensive systems often include a separate subwoofer. For that box that produces low tones, you will also have to make a place next to the TV. The placement of the subwoofer is at least as important as that of the soundbar. This has to do with the fact that our brain can place bass tones better than high tones. For example, if you place the subwoofer behind you, you will hear voices from the subwoofer behind you. The perfect place for a subwoofer differs per person, so you will have to experiment a little bit with it.
For a year or two, some manufacturers have also been trying to build sound bars that no longer require a separate subwoofer. With a number of models, the manufacturer has succeeded quite well, but the drivers used usually have a slightly lower power. You do have the advantage that you have fewer devices. Of course, you can only decide for yourself if such an all-in-one soundbar is something for you. For an impression of this type of sound bars, you can read this review of the Samsung HW-S60T .
And more expensive systems do not only come with a sound bar. Also, two speakers are increasingly included that must be placed in the back of the room and with which a better surround effect can be reproduced. Although these speakers are often wireless (although power is required), it is still a part that must be taken into account when installing.
It does not fit!
Most soundbar manufacturers put these in promo images and videos for or under a television screen, or hang the soundbar on the wall under the TV. That is not without reason. Many people are quickly slumped in front of the TV, which means that the sound is actually best in that position. So if you have the space to place / hang the soundbar in front of or under the TV, this is also the place we recommend. Placing or hanging above the TV is therefore possible, but is more of a last option. In a multi-speaker setup, the soundbar usually focuses on foreground sounds, such as conversations. It might be a bit strange to hear the voices coming from above the television.
For those who prefer not to have a large TV cabinet, hanging up the TV and / or soundbar is the best solution, but that is where the wall and surrounding furniture. A wall bracket should be attached and a cable duct added to properly plug out plugs and cables from connected devices. Many premium sound bars come with their own suspension system, but keep in mind that this often requires extra payment.
With a TV cabinet, you are even more bound to physical spaces. Either you are forced to settle for a smaller soundbar that fits on or in your furniture, or you have to buy a larger TV cabinet that also has to fit into the decor of the room. The amount of space the soundbar gets is also important for the sound production. If a soundbar is placed in a (partially) closed box, the sound will sound muffled and tinny because it will remain trapped in that box. More expensive models often also have drivers that point to the top and side, which means that this functionality is almost completely lost when the device is placed in a cabinet. In these cases you will always have to place the soundbar on top of the furniture, or buy a special cabinet that offers space for the sound.
A complaint that we have heard more often lately is that a soundbar that is on a furniture is the bottom part of the television screen and often also blocks the infrared eye. That is the result of television manufacturers in their quest for a completely borderless design, putting the TV low on its feet or mounting it on the back. At the same time, the average soundbar is getting bigger to give space to larger speakers. This is to support high-end audio standards such as Dolby Atmos and DTS: X. The combination of TV and soundbar is less and less taken into account. Sound bars are also increasingly being designed that only fit the televisions of the same manufacturer, and manufacturers that only make sound bars are also less aware of what those sound bars will look like when they are placed near a TV.
There are a number of solutions to be found. The most elegant solution is to hang the TV above the TV cabinet, leaving enough space for the soundbar and at the same time the TV can be operated without problems. A simple solution to the infrared eye problem is to use an infrared extender, but that means an extra cable that needs to be eliminated. However, it is not a solution for cutting off the image due to the height of the soundbar, if you are bothered by it. If hanging the TV is not an option, you could still make an increase on which you place the TV, but that is especially something for the handy people among us.
Conclusion of size and placement for a Soundbar
There are a number of things that you have to take into account when purchasing a soundbar. In addition, the side note is that even the most powerful sound bars cannot be a complete replacement for a true surround sound system. Although a premium soundbar has many speakers that emit in different directions, you will never be completely surrounded by the sound as is the case with a setup with several separate speakers.
While selecting size and placement for a Soundbar it is important to keep in mind that in getting rid of audio systems in a room is going to spend time and attention anyway. Whether you go for a large or a compact soundbar, it is a device that takes up space, space that has to be thought about. With the more extensive audio equipment (subwoofer and extra wireless speakers for example) that you get as a ‘gift’ with the more expensive models, you have a number of considerations.
Also read our tips for buying a soundbar when you want to purchase. Then it is best to measure the available space for a soundbar in your setup, and go to an electronics store with that data. You can of course measure this with a tape measure, but there are more and more providers of augmented reality apps that allow you to digitally project TVs and sound bars in your room on your mobile device.