What’s one of the most frequently asked questions online and in electronics stores? Can you mount a soundbar above a TV?
It may seem like a pointless question to some but I feel that it warrants a proper explanation. Believe it or not, not all soundbars need to be placed under or in front of the TV. There are more designs out there and other room factors that can influence the placement.
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Two Soundbar Designs You Need to Know About
Not all soundbars are the same. And I’m not just talking about the number of channels. Some soundbars have regular front-firing speakers while others have upward-firing speakers.
Each type is more suitable for a particular placement. And each reacts to room acoustic factors differently.
Regular Soundbars and Placement Options
These are the ones that don’t project sound in an upward direction. Why does the design matter?
For one, it matters because you need to find the right balance between how you perceive the sound and how you’re seeing the picture.
It’s recommended that the TV set should be at eye level. It’s because in the past, rear-projection TVs didn’t appear as bright if they were not at eye level. Today’s flat-screen TVs are much brighter but eye-level placement is still useful to prevent neck strain and such.
At the same time, the old hifi rule of thumb is that the tweeter of a speaker should also be firing at ear level.
This can be hard to do when using a regular soundbar, but only at first glance. You may think that it’s not feasible to have both the TV and soundbar projecting at the same height because the soundbar would be in the way of the screen.
However, you can easily tilt a soundbar so that the tweeter is firing at your ears. Even without that, you can easily make do with projecting sound below ear level. When a TV is mounted, it can also be tilted down to aim at eye level.
Sound travels in waves and not in a straight line like light (although even light has some wave-like properties), so even if a speaker is placed below the ear, parts of the sound waves will still travel to ear level. This is especially true for the bigger mid- and low-frequency waves. And it’s why the age-old guideline calls for aiming the tweeters at the ear, which means that the woofers (especially if there are several of them) would be way below ear level.
However, there are other concerns. The soundbar can easily block the remote control receiver. In situations like these, above TV-mounting options are often considered. Which is not a bad idea, especially if you can aim the soundbar downward close to ear level.
Upward-Firing Soundbars and Placement Options
Upward-firing soundbars are a different class of beasts. They rely on being able to bounce sound waves off the ceiling to create a more immersive soundstage. Most upward-firing soundbars use Dolby Atmos technology.
As you may know, this technology adds height channels to soundbars.
So, can you place such soundbars above your TV? In theory, an upward-firing soundbar would be a better fit for mounting above a TV. Mounting the soundbar underneath would increase the distance necessary for the sound waves to hit the ceiling. Therefore, this placement could limit the potential of such soundbars.
However, it is only the overhead sound that will suffer. And, depending on your room size and ceiling height, it may not be that noticeable.
If you’re looking for a new soundbar, here are a few of my recommended models.
Where Does Your TV Sit?
Is your TV wall-mounted or is it on a stand? The placement of your TV will often dictate where your soundbar should sit. If you have a wall-mounted TV then mounting the soundbar above it may not always be a good idea.
You want an upward-firing soundbar to take full advantage of the ceiling, but you don’t want it too close either.
If the TV is on a stand then an above TV mount may be more convenient. It may bring the soundbar slightly above ear level, but with a quality soundbar, there shouldn’t be any drop in audio quality. Not to mention that you can always tilt it downward.
Other Things to Consider
Take into account for a moment the cables. It’s much easier to conceal wiring if you place the soundbar under/in front of the TV. You can run the cable through a concealment channel.
Of course, many opt for Bluetooth soundbars which eliminates the need for cable management.
Another thing to consider is the difficulty of installation. If you just lay the soundbar flat in front of the TV, you don’t have to worry about locking it in place. You can bring it forward or backward.
The same can’t be said about a wall-mounting alternative. This could require you to drill holes in your wall. It will also require you to do ample testing to first find the perfect spot.
Often this will be a two-person job and it will take time. So, before considering a top-mounted soundbar, ask yourself if you want to jump through hoops for this. Remember, not all soundbars benefit from an above TV placement.
Understand that each room may have its own unique acoustics. Expect to experiment with different placement options before settling on something for the long haul.
Last but not least, always check for the placement recommendation in the manual. Not all soundbar designs are intuitive.
People buy a soundbar for one of two reasons. Either you need to enhance the audio quality beyond what the TV speakers can give you, or you want to drop the multi-speaker configuration and go for a cleaner and neater look in your living room.
Either way, soundbars are more and more popular these days. Whether you put your soundbar, like most people, under the TV, or above it, will come down to various factors including the type of soundbar, the location of the TV, room size, and so on.
With the tips and concepts presented in this article, you should have more than enough information to make the right decision for convenience and audio quality.