Sometimes a soundbar won’t fit where it is supposed to. If you've ended up with short TV and a thicker soundbar, you might be tempted to place the soundbar behind the TV. You can do this, but it is not ideal.
Putting a soundbar behind the TV will interfere with reduce the sound quality by obstructing the sound waves. Soundbars are designed to be positioned just under your TV, and there shouldn't be anything directly in front of the soundbar.
There are actually a few options on where you can put your soundbar if you're strapped for space. Some positions will be better than others. Some arrangements, such as wall mounting, will require a little more work. Usually, there's a way to guarantee the best viewing and listening experience, even if it means you have to get a little creative.
It really depends on what we are talking about when we say “behind.” If we mean positioning the soundbar to project into the back of the TV, then you should never put a soundbar behind the TV. If we mean simply offsetting the soundbar a small distance back but otherwise leaving it unobstructed, you might be able to get away with it.
The biggest issue with positioning your soundbar anywhere other than its intended location is acoustics. Sound travels in waves that spread out from soundbar to your ear.
The easier those waves can move, the quicker and more fully the sound is transmitted. If there are solid objects blocking the sound’s path, the waves will be crashing up against a solid object before they ever have a chance to get to you.
For this reason, you want to make sure you put your soundbar somewhere that lets the sound can travel directly to your ears. If you don’t, you could be dealing with muffled sound. This will make dialogue hard to distinguish and will diminish the impact of movie or TV show soundtracks.
If you already knew all that about sound, putting a soundbar behind a TV sounds like an obvious no-no. In fact, if you are not already dealing with this problem, you are likely wondering why someone might even think about doing it in the first place.
One reason might be the size of your console relative to your TV stand. A smaller console may mean wider-based TV stands leave no room for a soundbar. If your console is an irregular shape, say for a corner, there may be extra room in the back that makes your TV unstable but can balance your soundbar.
First, you put your soundbar at risk of falling. That is bad. Second, unless your soundbar is a 2 channel soundbar, your TV stand will likely be blocking the center channel of audio. In 3.1 and 5.1 systems, the center channel is primarily devoted to dialogue. Usually, you want to be able to hear what people are saying.
If you have a TV console, the best setup using a soundbar would be to have the TV stand toward the rear with the soundbar placed on the console at the front. This should only be done if the console leaves room for the TV stand and the soundbar to each fully be supported by the console.
If anything hangs on the edge or is stacked on top of each other, you should use a different setup. You might need a different soundbar, in which case you can reference our list of the 11 Best Soundbars for Apartments or Smaller Rooms.
If the console can hold your soundbar, it may be a good idea to use a TV wall mount rather than a TV stand. In this case, use the console for your sound bar and mount your TV a couple feet above it. With this setup, a good vertical position for the TV is usually between eye level when seated and when standing.
If you don’t have a console, then mounting both the TV and soundbar is definitely the way to go. Again, you will want your TV mounted between seated and standing eye level. The idea is to eliminate the need to tilt your head when watching either seated or standing. You should adjust this to your viewing habits
With the TV mounted, use a flat mount to mount the soundbar a few inches below the TV. This is the best position for a room in which people may be moving in and out or they may be seated in different areas of the room.
If you have a limited seating area, such as a single couch or clustered chairs, you may want to consider installing the soundbar above your TV, especially if your TV is large. This is also the best solution if you have a TV stand and a console too small for anything else. This would technically also be behind the TV.
In these cases, you will want a tilted mount like the ECHOGEAR Tilting TV Wall Mount (on Amazon). Install the mount high enough above the TV so that there is an unobstructed path from the soundbar to the listening area. Attach the soundbar to the mount and tilt it to face the listening area. You will want the soundbar to be as low as possible without being obstructed by the TV.
The higher your soundbar is, the higher your volume will have to be. Higher soundbars may also not distribute sound as evenly throughout the room. Moving the TV closer to the wall can help reduce the height you need to mount the soundbar. If you're interested in more details, we have an article comparing above and below mounted soundbars you can reference.
The key to positioning your soundbar is letting how you use your home theater space dictate how you set it up. As with any home improvement project, you should assess what you have already and how you can best use that to make your everyday habits more enjoyable.