Why you need a soundbar and where to put it
Now that you’ve got a great TV enabled with Dolby Vision® (if you’re still looking for the best TV to buy, check out our guide), you have a picture that comes alive. You can watch films and series the way the creators intended, with mind-popping colour. But there’s a way to further transform your entertainment at home; a soundbar.
Consumers value the sleek, slim form of modern TV flat screens. They deliver amazing images and look cool, too. However, due to their thin panels there is only a small space left over for speakers. As a result, many sets can’t deliver the small details and big sound that make for a cinematic experience. While some flat screens have made room for more powerful speakers, including many that can deliver Dolby Atmos®, soundbars are a great solution for many consumers.
Dolby Atmos is a pioneering spatial audio technology. This means that sound is no longer limited to coming out of a specific speaker. With Dolby Atmos, soundbars can place sounds all around you. A helicopter can hover overhead. A race car can roar past you and then weave in front of you. A mosquito can drive you crazy buzzing around your head. Dolby Atmos is entertainment you can feel. For a creator, it opens up a whole new world of possibilities. For film lovers, it means being inside the story. Best of all, a soundbar can be a good way to bring Dolby Atmos home.
We’ll explore which soundbar setup might be right for you later in this piece. But first, let’s cover the basics.
Getting basic placement right
Soundbars come in a variety of configurations, from a single, integrated unit, to ones with separate subwoofers, to those with additional speakers for surround channels. Regardless of which one you choose, there is one key to placing your soundbar: place the main unit with the TV. You can mount it on the wall below or above the set or place it on your media centre under the screen. Ideally, the soundbar should be roughly at ear level for a seated viewer. This placement ensures music, sound effects, and dialogue sound like they are coming from the TV. If you place it off-centre or too high or low, the sound will seem like its coming from somewhere other than the action on the screen.
A compact, all-in-one soundbar is a great choice for a small room and fills the space with upgraded sound without taking up a lot of room. Even a compact soundbar can deliver sound that moves you if you choose one with Dolby Atmos. While Dolby Atmos at a cinema is still the best way to fully experience this multidimensional soundscape, virtualised Dolby Atmos is available from soundbars with no extra speakers. Read up to find out more about how to connect your Dolby Atmos-enabled soundbar to your TV.
Placing soundbars with extra speakers
Many soundbars come with satellite speakers (usually 2 or 4) that are used to provide Dolby Surround Sound. This delivers a more cinematic experience and gives extra depth to sound effects and music. If you have the space, they’re a great way to bring even more detail to your experience. Some soundbars come with speakers with extra, upward-firing speakers for Dolby Atmos. Regardless of whether your satellites have extra speakers for Dolby Atmos, you’ll want to position them for the best effect.
You can learn more about how to set up your surround sound speaker system here.
Not all soundbars enabled with Dolby Atmos and using satellite speakers will have upward-firing speakers. Some deliver a spatial sound environment designed around you using virtualised Dolby Atmos. For some rooms this is a better choice than upward-firing speakers.
Upward-firing speakers, which may be located on just the soundbar or on the soundbar and on satellite speakers, project sound upward to reflect off the ceiling and down onto the viewing area. This provides undeniably clear sound designed with depth. If you’re a real cinephile and have the space, it’s as close to a cinema as you can get using a soundbar. Upward-firing speakers work best in a room with a flat ceiling between 7.5 feet and 12 feet (between about 2.5 metres and 3.5 metres) above the speakers. The ceiling should be of an acoustically reflective material, such as wallboard, plaster, hardwood, or any rigid, non-sound-absorbing material. So if you have a soaring, two-storey ceiling in your living room, or a low ceiling finished with acoustic tiles in your basement viewing room, a soundbar providing virtualised Dolby Atmos will likely be a better choice.
If your soundbar has a separate subwoofer, you can place that just about anywhere around your seating area, as low bass notes are not directional. Wherever you place it, you’ll get that extra punch for entertainment you can feel.
Soundbars give you choice
One of the best things about soundbars is — especially when paired with a TV with Dolby Vision — they let you go from hearing and seeing to feeling. Soundbars are also a great way to bring Dolby Atmos home. There are soundbars to fit every room size, set, and budget. Many streaming providers, including Netflix, Apple TV+, Disney+, and Amazon Prime Video offer films and series in Dolby Atmos, providing you with consistently delivered titles for endless entertainment.
If you want to know more, let us help you set up your own personalised cinema with our interactive guide.