Many believe that you don’t have to put much thought into placing a soundbar, well that’s definitely not the case for a Dolby Atmos soundbar.
Dolby Atmos soundbars add a completely new dimension when it comes to sound, and by extension, the placement will have to be adjusted for the best sound experience.
Due to the upfiring drivers located on the soundbar, it’s important that it’s adjusted and placed in a manner where the sound waves are reflected off the ceiling, not the walls. To do this, the soundbar must be placed higher than a non Dolby Atmos soundbar.
What Is Dolby Atmos?
But why does surround sound need Dolby Atmos? Well, it’s because Dolby Atmos adds a new dimension to surround sound, and that is “height channels”.
Dolby Atmos adds 3D sound where each object on screen is generated as a 3D object within your surround sound environment.
Whilst every other surround sound format such as Dolby Digital is based on channels, Dolby Atmos is based on objects, and the processor calculates where the sound belongs in 3D space.
Now, most Dolby Atmos setups will use ceiling speakers for the height channels to project sound down onto the viewer, this is the best implementation of this system, but soundbars do not use ceiling speakers, so how does Dolby Atmos work on them?
Soundbars use what we call upfiring drivers, and the purpose of upfiring drivers is to reflect sound from the ceiling to recreate the 3D Dolby Atmos environment.
Where Should I Place My Dolby Atmos Soundbar?
The ceiling surface is extremely important for Dolby Atmos, this is where the soundbar reflects the sound off. So , the soundbar should ideally be close to the ceiling, slightly higher than ear level.
The soundbar should be no lower than ear level, and mounting the soundbar is the best way to ensure you get the best control over where the soundbar is located.
It’s best to ensure that the soundbar isn’t directly underneath the TV or slightly behind the display when mounting the soundbar as this can negatively affect the upfiring drivers.
Alternatively, if your TV is already wall mounted, but you don’t want to wall mount the soundbar as well, then a TV cabinet that is slightly higher than ear level can provide a similar level of acoustic performance.
Soundbar Above Or Below TV For Dolby Atmos
Performance wise, placing the soundbar above the TV is unorthodox, this is because it’ll result in the soundbar being higher than ear level which will diminish the listening experience in some capacity.
However, placing the soundbar above the TV could result in a better Dolby Atmos listening experience due to it being closer to the ceiling.
Just ensure that you don’t place the soundbar too close to the ceiling, and give it some space to breathe as having it too close can ruin the 3D Atmos experience.
For a more balanced experience, placing the soundbar underneath the TV shouldn’t diminish the Atmos performance, it’s more important that the soundbar is at or slightly higher than ear level.
With tiered seating setups, it may be tempting to place the soundbar above the TV for a more equal listening environment, but most Dolby Atmos soundbars are pretty flexible meaning the sweet spot is far larger than it was before.
This means you as the user don’t have to spend hours on end trying to find the perfect positioning for the soundbar, just as long as it’s around ear level, and everything should work fine.
Also Read: Soundbar Above Or Below TV
Additional Placement Tips For Getting The Most Out Of Dolby Atmos Soundbars
Other than ensuring that your soundbar is placed at the correct height, you also need to ensure that your ceiling material is compatible with your Dolby Atmos soundbar.
Some materials absorb sound instead of reflecting it, so for the best sound performance, avoid placing your Dolby Atmos soundbar where the ceiling will absorb too much sound.
The best ceiling material for Dolby Atmos speakers are wallboard, plaster, or hardwood. The good news is most buildings will use these types of materials for the ceiling.
Another tip is to avoid placing your soundbar in a room where the ceiling isn’t flat. For the best sound performance, the ceiling must be flat for upfiring Atmos speakers.
Similarly, if your soundbar has side firing speakers, always ensure that the side firing speakers have a clear route to the walls, and are not inhibited by anything like a cabinet.
In conclusion, the optimal placement for Dolby Atmos soundbars are around ear level, or slightly higher, and it’s important to ensure that the Atmos speakers aren’t inhibited in any sort of way.
This includes ensuring that no object is blocking the speakers, and there’s a clear straight path to the ceiling for the sound to reflect to the viewer.
It’s also important to place your soundbar in an environment that is compatible with Dolby Atmos, this includes ensuring that the ceiling is actually acoustically reflective, and flat enough to ensure for the best listening experience.