Large flat-screen TVs are all about size, picture quality, and thin designs.
It doesn’t leave much physical space for speakers and that usually results in a mediocre audio experience, even if you’ve spent a small fortune on your TV.
A soundbar can definitely improve audio quality but if you don’t position it correctly it could even make your TV sound worse.
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Can A Soundbar Be Placed To The Side Of A TV?
You should avoid placing a soundbar to the side of your TV because the audio will sound weird and out of sync with what you are watching.
When you are watching TV (or anything that makes noise) your brain expects any audio coming from the thing you are looking at to originate from that same place.
When you’re watching a car drifting around a corner on your TV but the sound of screeching tires is coming from somewhere off to the side – it just sounds strange.
And it sounds even weirder when watching and listening to people speak.
It’s like a computer with a speaker broken on one side; it just doesn’t sound right.
Music may not sound so bad, but dialogue or action sequences on your TV are where you’re going to get a weird disconnect between what you are hearing and watching if your soundbar is positioned off to the side.
A Bluetooth soundbar could technically be placed anywhere since there’s no need for wires and connection distance or interference is the only concern.
Placing a soundbar to the side, however, would eliminate its optimal sound performance and potentially create an acoustical echo or it would sound strange coming from the wrong angle.
But whatever placement you choose, you will probably get used to how it sounds, eventually.
To maximize sound quality and acoustics, a front-firing soundbar should go immediately below the TV and be situated at about ear level.
It’s also possible to position an upward-firing soundbar (like the good Dolby Atmos ones) above your TV and this will bounce sound off of the ceiling.
Some people like to use both for a more immersive sound experience.
What’s The Best Placement For A Soundbar?
For the best results, a soundbar needs to be placed either immediately below or above the TV.
A TV mount is usually best to get your soundbar into this position.
If the soundbar is front-firing (which most are), it should be placed at ear-level and there should be a clear path between the soundbar and your ears.
Anything blocking the path between you and the soundbar will impact sound quality, especially the treble frequencies which are most easily blocked.
The vast majority of soundbars are forward or front-firing and should be placed below your TV, ideally at ear level.
Upward-firing speakers can be placed above your TV and when positioned correctly, the sound will bounce off the ceiling and create an even more immersive experience.
Ear level is considered optimal for a front-firing soundbar and it doesn’t matter how it’s installed.
Whether it’s situated on a TV stand or mounted on the TV or a wall, it will be just as effective as long as it’s about ear-level and there’s nothing between you and the soundbar to deflect the sound.
There are also soundbars (like some Yamaha ones) that generate their own surround sound effect.
And it’s even more important that these types of bars be free from obstruction because they generate the surround sound effect by bouncing sound off the walls of the room to mimic rear and side speakers.
Getting your sound system set up the way you like can take a bit of trial and error.
If using a forward-firing soundbar you could also have a separate subwoofer and rear surround speakers, which you’ll have to move around your room to find the position that creates the best sound.
When considering the best placement for a soundbar you must also consider the wiring.
As far as aesthetics, cords are a visual problem for wall-mounted soundbars unless you have a design to offset hanging cords or have something to block them.
Most soundbars come equipped with cords and ports for HDMI audio, AUX, RGB, or digital optical.
The digital optical is generally the thinnest and least visible of the cords.
But you also have to consider the power cable as well.
Can You Place A Soundbar On The Floor?
For a down-firing soundbar, placing it on the floor is possible, as the floor may help disperse the audio up and around the room.
Again, this could take a bit of testing and furniture relocating to get it to sound right.
However, placing a front-firing soundbar on the floor would probably never be a good idea because it would aim the audio at your feet and not provide the best experience.
The problem, as is often with soundbars, is how the soundbar connects to the TV.
If it’s a Bluetooth Soundbar, the only real concern is lag from distance or interference.
There’s little more unbelievable than watching an actor’s lips move with even a brief delay from the audio output.
Unfortunately, that’s a frequent problem with Bluetooth soundbars, so careful placement is essential.
TV audio isn’t like music.
Signals have to be converted several times, with audio separated from video, converted into the appropriate format, then returned to the output speaker.
This creates delay and delay can be exacerbated by Bluetooth.
So while placing a soundbar on the floor or off to the side might be an appealing aesthetic choice for you, it’s not always optimal, especially since such a placement would generally require Bluetooth or an unsightly extension cord.
You Might Also Like: Will A Soundbar Work On A TV With No Sound? (And How To Set It Up)
What If I Can’t Fit A Soundbar Above Or Below My TV?
If you don’t have a few inches of space above or below your TV to mount a soundbar your only option may be to use a different type of setup.
If you have some space to the sides of your TV, then another alternative may be to place a small set of self-powered speakers to the sides.
Just check that you have compatible connections on your TV before you make any purchases.
Some speaker sets may only have analog input and your TV may not have analog out.
You can also use in-wall and in-ceiling speakers, which are speakers that are literally built into your wall and ceiling.
These types of speakers really blend into a room and look great but maybe outside of your budget.
Can I Put A Soundbar Inside My TV Cabinet?
You can put a soundbar inside your TV cabinet but enclosing it will alter the audio and make it sound boomier, especially at higher volumes.
The audio will sound even worse if your bar has upward-firing or side-firing drivers.
However, if you have a forward-firing soundbar, with no obstructive cabinet doors and a separate subwoofer, it may still sound a little boomy, but won’t be as bad.
Even if your TV cabinet is not completely closed at the front and it doesn’t distort the sound too bad, the cabinet doors might start rattling when you turn the sound or bass up higher.
If inside a cabinet is the only place for your soundbar, you could try using a separate subwoofer and placing a few isolation pads beneath your bar to lift it up off the floor of the unit.
This will help to reduce the rattling and rumbling sounds.
If possible, also remove the doors from your cabinet.
Can You Put A Soundbar Behind You?
You could put a soundbar behind you but it would be the worst possible placement for it.
It’s okay to have a couple of rear surround speakers or a sub placed behind you for that surround sound effect, but having the main sound from the TV coming from behind you – when the TV is in front – would be a very unnatural experience.
Placing a soundbar behind something or directly behind you seriously reduces the quality of the sound because of the distortion it creates.
Human beings are used to facing what they are listening to, and soundbars are not surround sound in the sense that placing it behind you would still have a surround sound effect that could mitigate its placement.
Soundbars that are marketed as surround sound don’t create true surround sound.
What happens is the speakers are placed in ways that maximize echo effects by firing sound at walls, floors, and ceilings to create a resonance that feels like surround sound.
Placing a soundbar behind you, especially one with speakers designed to create surround sound effects would have reduced optimal quality and sound strange with background sounds in the front and foreground sounds coming from behind.
Can I Put A Soundbar Behind My TV?
It is not advisable to put a soundbar behind your TV because it is most effective when there is nothing between the soundbar’s speakers and your ears to obstruct the sound waves.
Placing the soundbar behind your TV is going to be like putting up a wall between you and the sound coming from your TV.
This will immediately distort and reduce sound quality as it will send sound waves bouncing all over the room before they have a chance to reach your ears.
How To Place A Soundbar And Use Bluetooth
If placing a soundbar to the side or behind you is still sounds like a good idea, you need to search for a soundbar that has the latest Bluetooth software, namely 5.0 or above.
Not only should it have the best Bluetooth capability, but your TV should also as well.
Placing a soundbar to the side, behind you, or otherwise away from the TV necessitates Bluetooth usage
Because of the aforementioned reasons, Bluetooth capability should be the focal point when placing a soundbar away from the TV.
The better the Bluetooth, the smaller the chances of audio delays, skipping, or just lag in general.
Soundbars are never going to be as good as pure surround sound systems, however, they are above and beyond the standard, built-in speakers that come with even the most premium Smart TV sets.
They’re versatile and can be placed anywhere, so long as you understand the limitations and potential faults that mounting a soundbar too far from the TV can create.
Personally, I’d rather have poorer sound quality coming from my TV and sounding natural than higher quality sound coming from an unnatural angle and sounding weird.