If you want the best cinematic experience, you have to place your surround sound speakers in the correct position. This includes the center channel speaker. Because of this, people often ask ‘should I put my center speaker above or below the TV screen?
What is the best option for ensuring proper sound dialogue, sound balance, providing a wide soundstage, and overall cinematic quality?
Normally, having the center speaker directly below the TV will be the best spot. If for some reason you can’t put it below the TV, the next best place is directly above the TV. In both cases, you should ensure that you place the speaker at about ear level.
In terms of positioning, the most important factor is to keep the center speaker within close range to the TV.
If you put the center too far away (above or below), overtime the soundstage will be diminished and you’ll lose the illusion that the dialogue is coming from the TV.
Vertical Center Speaker Positioning
Many people use this term “vertical positioning” to refer to putting a center channel speaker either below or above the TV screen. As we have mentioned, positioning the speaker below the screen is the ideal option and above is the second best option.
Below we talk about some of the reasons why you would want to do one or the other.
Reasons I Should Put My Center Channel Speaker Below the TV Screen
1. Excellent Listening or Watching Experience
Putting your center speaker below the TV screen is the most common and best option since it guarantees a superior audio performance.
At this position, the speaker rests at approximately your ear level and eye level. We will explain the importance of having the speaker at ear level later on.
As far as having the speaker at eye level is concerned, this means everyone in the room can have a direct line of sight of the device. This is the best way to minimize the amplified sound from being absorbed by other objects and people.
2. Easy Wiring
Wireless center speakers are rather popular on the market. But wired speakers are still widely used.
If your center speaker is wired, you will save a lot by putting it below the TV screen. Remember that the necessary connectors are available nearby if the speaker is beneath the TV, making the wiring much easier.
Moreover, this option makes it easier to conceal the wires. For example, you can run the cable via a concealment channel without any issues.
3. Eye-Catching Appeal
The manufacturers understand that placing the speakers below the TV screen guarantees you much better quality than any other option.
Moreover, the majority of users want to enjoy their music or movie in a well laid out ambience.
When you put your center speakers below your TV screen, you naturally increase improve aesthetic appeal with better balance.
4. Listening Position Flexibility/Soundstage
One of the main functions of center speakers is to create a spot where you can shift your listening positions with ease.
When the speaker is properly positioned, the vocals will still appear to originate from one central point when you change your listening position.
When you put the speaker below the TV screen, you get not only a flexible listening experience but also an increase in the sound stage and optimize the sound localization.
5. Ease of Installation
A center speaker can provide these benefits since it is designed to be mobile. You can shift its position with ease to increase flexibility.
In other words, the last thing that you would like to do is mount the speaker against a wall or mount a stand where you can place it.
The process is difficult and requires you to do a lot of testing to put the speaker in the most strategic place.
By putting the central speaker below the screen, you save a lot of time and effort but still get better quality sound.
Reasons I should Put the Center Speaker Above the TV Screen
Firstly, if you decide to mount the center-channel speaker above your TV, use mounting brackets that allow you to direct the speakers downwards towards your listening position and not straight ahead.
If you have difficulty mounting your speaker above your TV, for example if you cant find a stud, check out our article on how to mount a TV when TV mount studs are too far apart. This will give you some ideas on how to mount your speaker as well.
Here are some reasons why you may want to place your center speaker above the TV:
1. Upward-Firing Center Channel Speaker
Upward-firing speakers, as the name suggests, are designed to fire sounds towards the ceiling. The sound waves bounce downwards towards the listener, giving the impression that the speakers are ceiling-mounted.
Due to this unique design, if you have a center, upward-firing speaker, you need to put it above the TV. These speakers are not common, but they exists. Placing it below the TV may obstruct the sound waves and prevent them from hitting the ceiling and you will not get the desired effect.
Remember to get the best effect, you should set the speaker to reflect sound off the ceiling. This way, you will be able to reap the benefits of the room’s acoustics and eventually get a significant amount of soundstage, which is why many people are using center speakers anyway.
If you have an ordinary center speaker and put it below the TV screen, you can use an upward-firing soundbar to get a more balanced sound.
2. High Home Theater Seats
If your home theater seats are too high or are using a TV stand, placing your center speakers below the TV screen may not make acoustic or aesthetic sense.
Due to your listening position, you could better quality sound by positioning the speaker in a higher so that it is roughly at your ear level.
3. Safety of the Speaker
You may also place the speaker below your TV if the TV stand is too small to accommodate all of them.
You also do the same if you have kids or pets in the house that can damage the speaker if you put it below the screen.
Also, if the speaker is blocking remote sensors, you could choose this alternative. Even though the decision could make you spend a lot of time and money mounting the speaker, it may be best considering the circumstances.
To avoid sacrificing the sound quality, follow the recommended tips, such as test different positions before choosing one.
Why You Should Mount Your Center Speaker At Ear Level?
It is very important that you mount your center channel speakers at ear level for two reasons:
1. Directional High Frequencies: General, as frequencies increase, most speakers become more directional in their output. As such, having the speaker at ear level will achieve the best results.
2. Drive Unit Angles and Sound Direction: In a surround sound system, you will have different types of speakers and different drivers. You will find that their interaction change at different angles. In fact, a center channel speaker will also have two drivers. Most offer two-way center designs, laid out in a horizontal woofer-tweeter-woofer setup. Now, if the speaker’s high-frequency driver isn’t radiating sound toward your ears, the sound quality will diminish.
The purpose of using a center speaker in a home theater system, as we have seen, is to deliver audio dialogues, ensure sound balance, provide a wide soundstage, and allow you to shift your listening position with ease.
You can do this without sacrificing sound quality. But you must position the speaker right to reap these benefits. If you are using upward-firing speakers or have low-lying seats, put the speaker above the TV screen.
However, whenever possible, place your center channel speaker below the TV screen for the best results.