Soundbar placement: A sound bar is a solution for anyone who wants a better sound from a home cinema setup, without having to immediately fill the entire room with speakers. The first practical drawback that many people encounter is that they have to be able to get rid of the soundbar near the TV. Whether it is due to a lack of space or a partner who does not like to look at such a device, the fact remains that the design of your TV corner must be adapted to it. With this article we help you to make a choice regarding the size and placement of your soundbar.
Soundbars in a nutshell
We probably don’t have 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. The drivers are also often placed in different directions, trying to mimic the characteristics of surround sound as closely as possible. This then works by means of reflections in space.
Choosing a soundbar has its advantages and disadvantages, which you can read in detail in our article about the advantages and disadvantages of a soundbar. When you have made the choice to go for a soundbar, you will come across many shapes and sizes, from small and flat to huge monsters that are able to drown out an average symphony orchestra. The small and compact version may be easy to hide in a TV cabinet, but you should not expect earth-shattering sound quality. With the larger soundbars, others may think you are overcompensating for something.
Soundbar placement: Balance in formats
Of course, there is no fixed ratio that you have to adhere to when you are looking for 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 reasonably close to the television in terms of width. For smaller TVs, you can use a soundbar on which you can place a TV. Such a flat soundbar is given different names from different manufacturers, such as a SoundStand or SoundPlate. This type of soundbars has been disappearing a bit from the market in the last few years.
One kind of unspoken rule is that the width of the soundbar is between 5 (13 centimeters) and 15 (38 centimeters) inches lower than the screen diagonal of the TV, depending on the size of the TV. If you have a 50-inch TV, you can easily put a soundbar in front of it with a width of 45 inches (113 centimeters). With a 75-inch TV, it becomes a completely different story, because you will rarely encounter soundbars that are wider than 60 inches (150 centimeters).
A larger cabinet does not necessarily equate to a better sound, but you can assume that more different types of speakers will achieve a much greater range. The bass tones in particular are of little value in the more compact models, simply because there is no room for decent woofers in the small housing. The sound then sounds flat and pinched, and for a model where this happens less often you have to pay hundreds of euros.
A trend that makes soundbars more expensive and bigger is the arrival of Dolby Atmos. This standard has been developed to give a 360 degree sound where sound objects move around you. Now that standard has mainly been developed for at least 11 speakers in the room, so the effect with soundbars will certainly be less. However, 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 extra drivers that are directed upwards and/or the sides. Those extra drivers try to provide the Atmos effect by means of reflections on walls and ceilings. And for those extra drivers, extra space is of course required and the soundbar becomes 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, with more expensive systems, a separate subwoofer is often supplied. You will also have to free up a spot next to the TV for that box that produces low tones. 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 low tones better than high tones. For example, if you place the subwoofer behind you, you will also hear voices coming from the subwoofer behind you. The perfect place for a subwoofer differs per person, so you will have to experiment with that a bit.
For the past two years, some manufacturers have also been trying to build soundbars that no longer require a separate subwoofer. With a number of models, the manufacturer has succeeded in doing so, 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 whether such an all-in-one soundbar is something for you. For an impression of this type of soundbars, you can read this review of the Samsung HW-S60T go through.
And more expensive systems don’t just come with a soundbar. Increasingly, two speakers are also included that must be placed at the back of the room and with which a better surround effect can be displayed. Although these speakers are often wireless (requires power), it is still a part that must be taken into account when placing.
It does not fit!
Most soundbar manufacturers place them in promotional images and videos in front of or under a television screen, or hang the soundbar on the wall under the TV. That is not without reason. Many people quickly slump in front of the TV, which means that the sound is actually the best in that position. So if you have the space to place/hang the soundbar in front of or under the TV, that is also the place we recommend. It is therefore possible to place or hang it above the TV, but it 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 especially coming from above the television.
For those who prefer not to have a large TV furniture, hanging a TV and/or soundbar is the best solution, but the wall and the surrounding furniture must be adapted to this. A wall bracket must be attached and a cable duct must be added to hide the plugs and cables of connected devices in a decent way. Many premium soundbars come with their own suspension system, but keep in mind that you often have to pay extra for this.
With a TV furniture you are even more bound to physical spaces. You are either forced to settle for a smaller soundbar that fits on or in your furniture, or you have to buy a larger TV furniture that also has to fit into the decor of the room. The amount of space that the soundbar gets is also important for the sound production. If a soundbar is placed in a (partially) closed cabinet, the sound will sound muffled and tinny because it remains trapped in that cabinet. 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 placed on a piece of furniture blocks the lower part of the television screen and often also blocks the infrared eye. This is the result of television manufacturers who, in their search for a completely borderless design, place the TV low on its legs or mount it at the back. At the same time, the average soundbar is becoming more and more robust in order to be able to give space to larger speakers. This is to ensure high-end audio standards such as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X to be able to support. The combination of TV and soundbar is less and less taken into account. Soundbars are also increasingly being designed that only fit the televisions of the same manufacturer, and manufacturers that only make soundbars pay less attention to how those soundbars will look when they are next to a TV.
There are a number of solutions that can be devised. The most elegant solution is to hang the TV above the TV cabinet, leaving enough space for the soundbar and at the same time allowing the TV to be operated without any problems. A simple solution to the infrared eye problem is to use an infrared extender, but that means an extra cable that has to be hidden. However, it is not a solution for cutting off the image due to the height of the soundbar, if this bothers you. If hanging the TV is not an option, you could always make an elevation yourself on which to place the TV, but that is mainly something for the handy people among us.
Soundbar placement – Conclusion
So in terms of size and placement, there are a number of things that you have to take into account when purchasing a soundbar. In addition, it should be noted that even the most powerful soundbars cannot be a complete replacement for a real surround sound system. Although a premium soundbar has many speakers that broadcast in different directions, you are never completely surrounded by the sound, as is the case with a setup with several separate speakers.
In any case, getting rid of audio systems in a room takes time and attention. Whether you go for a large or a compact soundbar, it is a device that takes up space, space that needs to be thought about. With the more extensive audio equipment (subwoofer and extra wireless speakers, for example) that you receive as a ‘gift’ with the more expensive models, you have a number of additional considerations.
Also read our tips for purchasing a soundbar when you want to make a purchase. Then it is best to measure the available space for a soundbar in your setup, and take that data to an electronics store. You can of course measure that with a tape measure, but there are more and more suppliers of augmented realityapps that let you digitally project TVs and soundbars into your room on your mobile device.