Improving the flat sound of our ultra-thin TVs isn’t very difficult if we choose to purchase external equipment that helps us extend its power, punch, and fidelity. This is the case with increasingly popular sound bars, integrated audio devices that are compact and with everything you need to start enjoying from the first minute.

The ones that offer the best performance in terms of bass and midrange reproduction are those that come with a subwoofer included in the kit, as they extend the response in the low frequencies and provide more sound pressure to the whole.

So, we do some research, we buy a model that we like and that is reasonably priced and once we get home and unpack, the question arises: where should I place the subwoofer to get the best sound quality? The answer is not as immediate as it seems, because if you are looking to get the most out of your new equipment, you cannot place it in a corner of the room where there is “room.” And forget about it.

Indeed, if the location of the subwoofer of a traditional home cinema system consisting of a receiver plus speakers or a home cinema kit is complex, in the case of sound bars we also have additional problems that are difficult to resolve given their nature. compact bar with all pilots inside.

The problem with directional sound

Soundbars are often unable to properly reproduce frequencies below 150-200Hz on their own. Due to the small size of the built-in speakers, they need the help of a subwoofer which has to take care of reproducing a much wider frequency band than usual, compared to its use. in larger systems based on separate loudspeakers.

The problem is that above about 100Hz the sound starts to be directional. This means that we will be able to distinguish where these frequencies are coming from, so if we place the subwoofer away from the bar, we will notice a lag and loss of realism, since the mids and highs will seem to come from one place (the bar ) and the bass of another (the subwoofer).

The most immediate solution seems simple: place the subwoofer as close to the bar as possible, which is not always possible given the different arrangements of furniture, rugs, tables and other decorative elements in the room.

If there is no room to place the subwoofer very close to the bar, the result will be a sound that is not very impressive and with a certain strange touch which will impoverish the final result and reduce the credibility of the soundtrack and more powerful special effects.

How far should we not go? Well, in my case, I tried several different soundbars in different subwoofer positions and with less than 1.5 meters of difference you usually get good results that at least go unnoticed. If your cabinet does not allow this separation and for example you need to place the subwoofer in a far corner of the room, on the opposite wall or the like, maybe a soundbar with an external subwoofer is not. the best choice.

Avoid bad stereo image

As a direct consequence of the previous point, we have the problem of the generally poor stereo image of small soundbars with a large subwoofer. As this one has to deal with the bass of the left and right channels at frequencies above 150-200 Hz, even if we place it right next to the bar at a reasonable distance, it can give us the impression that all the fixed bass The frequencies of the two channels come from it, losing the stereo image especially in musical reproduction.

For example, when watching a movie, all low frequency effects will appear to be coming from the same channel (left or right), subtracting the spectacular and the realism. This may be more noticeable in heavy bass music, but it will depend on the size of the bar and how you manage your channels internally.

Nevertheless, we can try to minimize it by placing the subwoofer as close to the center as possible, just below the bar or in very rare cases the manufacturer gives us the possibility of acquiring an additional second subwoofer which helps us to obtain more realistic stereo. spatial response. .

Placing the subwoofer in a corner will certainly give you more bass, but it will also be more uncontrolled.

To excite or not to excite, that is the question

Another common drawback that should not be carefully considered the placement of the subwoofer is the possibility of increasing the resonance modes of the room. If your problem is the low frequencies with booming and exaggerated sound that scrambles everything, you probably need to weigh that point.

Depending on where you place the subwoofer, you may or may not excite standing waves inherent in the dimensions of the room, producing increases in sound power at certain frequencies. This problem generally appears mainly between 30 and 100 Hz, frequencies in which one can also have resonances with elements of the decoration or of the building structure such as furniture, walls, ceilings, beams and foundations, etc. .

Placing the subwoofer in a corner will no doubt give you more bass, but it will also be more uncontrolled and can create what are called “bass balls” or areas of the room with a build-up of low frequencies with a power level. much higher than that. remain sounds.

At first it may seem that the bass has improved, that this way we have more power and punch, but in the long run we will most likely get bored with a sound that is louder than desired and that will blur everything, subtract the realism of the soundstage. .

It may be that in some specific movie cases we like this bass “boost” effect, like in titles without a lot of special effects, with a lot of dialogue or even frequent music in the soundtrack. But if you want to watch action tapes, sci-fi, superhero movies, etc. and you are looking for maximum fidelity, this uncontrolled passive amplification will not be your best ally.

For this reason, we must try to avoid placing the subwoofer just in the corners of the room, because in this case we are going to excite all the resonance modes of the room, and if we are going to place it in the front of the room. room, in the same transmission line as the TV, it is better to place it about 40-50cm from the side walls and separate it a little from the front wall, especially if it is bass-reflex type and has the air out to the rear.

Every class is different: ear test

Finally, note that although the sound bar must be placed in a specific place, under the television and as close as possible to it, the subwoofer offers us a little more freedom provided we respect the previous points.

If you want to have the best result, the ideal is not to limit yourself to unpacking it and putting it in the first space you have available, but it is practical to try to move the subwoofer to different points in the room that meet the specifications described above and that let’s play some videos with movies, series and music that we know well to assess which place is the most suitable.

In auditions, we should try to find the point where the bass is as controlled as possible but without losing impact or strength. If the subwoofer has phase control, you can also play around with it to finish adjusting the “soft listening point”.

And we can also do the famous “chair test”. Basically, it’s about placing the subwoofer on the seat where we are going to sit and listen to the test films, positioning ourselves at the possible points where the subwoofer would be located until we find the “soft listening point” .

There may be furniture right there and it is impossible to place the subwoofer. In this case, we have to look for the next soft clew. If there is an obstacle but we can position it a bit out of the way, say a few centimeters, in this case we can play with the phase control of the subwoofer (if you have one) to finish to adjust the position.