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, and 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 of 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 the 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 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 the 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 ambiance.
When you put your center speakers below your TV screen, you naturally increase and 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 optimized 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.
Now, some channel speakers tend to be heavy, so if you are mounting them on a wall, you need to follow special procedures on how to mound heavy speakers on the wall.
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 can’t 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 toward 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 exist. 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 which 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 sound quality, follow the recommended tips, such as testing 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.
Is A Centre Channel Speaker Necessary?
The center channel speaker is very essential. It does most of the work in a surround sound setup, which makes it the most important speaker.
Most of the action and dialogue in a movie happens at the center of your screen, this implies that the center channel is the one reproducing it.
How Far Should Centre Speakers Be From TV?
The distance between the stereo speakers should match the distance that you are sitting from the television. Here is an easy example, if you are sitting 6 feet from the television, then each stereo speaker needs to be 3 feet away from the television.
The center speaker should be positioned to match the center of your screen.
Can You Put A TV On Top Of A Centre Speaker?
It is not advised to place your TV on top of a center speaker as this raises concerns regarding interference. Unless the center speaker is magnetically protected from signal interference, it would be better to build a platform to place your television on.
Can You Mount A Centre Speaker?
If you decide to mount the center-channel speaker above, instead of below, your TV, look into a mounting bracket that lets you tilt the speaker so that its sound directs down toward your listening position.
Center Channel Speaker Mount Tilt
Center Channel Speaker Mount Tilt is a technology that allows you to tilt your speaker device up or down to improve sound quality.
This can be helpful for people who have poor eyesight or people who are deaf or hard of hearing. The Center channel speaker mount above the TV helps with balance and comfort when using a speaker device.
The benefits of center channel speaker mount tilt are endless. Here are six of the most common reasons you might want to use it:
- Improve Hearing: Center speaker shelf above the TV can help improve the sound quality of your speaker devices by allowing them to be tilted toward the listener. This not only makes it easier for people to hear what is being said, but it also results in improved balance and comfort.
- Improve Balance When Using a Speaker Device That Is Not Equal in Weight: If you are using a speaker device that is not equal in weight, this tilt can help improve the balance of the device and make it more comfortable for you to use. This is especially important if you have problems with balance when using other types of speakers, like portable audio players or headphones.
- Greater Interaction: It is impossible to listen to one speaker simultaneously; you need two of them present for sound to work optimally. One of the best things about tilt is that it allows you to utilize an available third-speaker device so that other people can bring their ebb and flow into your event. Using this kind of technology, you open up your event with even more personal meaning and style.
- Comfier experience: Using a center channel speaker mount tilt is a great way to add personalization and sentimental value to any initiative or committee and events, large or small. Some places that would benefit from this are wedding venues, receptions, parties, seminars, and live production events. This allows more listeners in closer proximity allowing increased engagement at an affordable cost because they want more than just an event. They want personal relationships to connect along with an engagement.
- Greater All Audiences Accessibility: Center channel speaker mount tilt is a simple way to cater avenue and structure your events based on what will allow the widest street recognition and attendance by most causes, venues, and general interest groups concerning say, comestible films, fashion, or music projects for example. Throughout the event, some listeners might have special equipment or prefer to listen on speakers vs. earbuds sometimes, and standard devices do not work well
- Ease of Use: There is no complicated adjustment from here. With center channel speaker mount tilt, you gain an interactive degree of independence during the setup and final control at the end of your event.
- Design: Once you know what is suited for your purposes, the center speaker mount below TV can help improve the design of a room. Eliminate any unnecessary equipment like furniture or curtain poles to assume the immediate center-most placement of your audio system. This way, you will be able to accommodate all listener needs for maximum value and unbeatable quality for minimum overheads.
No Room for Center Channel Speaker? Here’s the Solution
Center channel speakers are important for dialog audio in a home theater system. They need to be placed directly in the center for this audio dialog to sound balanced.
Normally, the center channel speaker is placed on a center console below the TV. Check out our guide to surround sound to learn more.
However, what if you can’t place the center speaker in the actual center? For example what if there is no center console or there is a fireplace?
Below are some alternatives to placing a center channel speaker in the center of your home theater system.
1. Use the Phantom Center
The ‘phantom center is where the sound appears to be coming from in a properly set up 2.0 (or 2.1) stereo system. In this case, there is no dedicated center speaker, but if the home theater is set up properly, it will sound as if the dialog is coming from the center.
There is no special processing needed to achieve this, your surround sound setup just needs to be done properly. You just need to ensure that your main speakers are positioned properly, at an equal distance from your TV.
In fact, many people have better results running a 4.1 system with a phantom center instead of a 5.1 system with a center channel speaker. In fact, if your left and right speakers are closer to each other than you are from the screen, it is better to not use a dedicated center speaker.
2. Use A Stand
You can get a stand that sits in front of the TV but slightly below it so that you don’t block the view.
3. Use The TV Speakers As Center Channel
Some TVs allow you to use the inbuilt speakers as a center channel while you use a surround sound system. This way, you split the center channel between two speakers and put them to the left and right of the TV.
4. Use A Projector
If you are having issues with the TV and space, why not use a projector? A projector offers an acoustically invisible screen. Then you can just use an in-wall center behind the screen.
5. Run The Speaker In The Wall
You can also create a niche in the wall and place the speaker inside it below or above the TV.
6. Can You Place A Center Speaker On Top Of The Receiver?
If the center speaker is placed on top of the receiver, it can overheat and cause poor audio quality or instability.
This can cause issues for both the center channel speaker and the receiver. As an example, overheating is a common cause of the red light of death or protection mode in Denon receivers.
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.
Norvan Martin is the founder of BoomSpeaker.com. He is a professional Electronics Engineer and is passionate about home theater systems and AV electronics. BoomSpeaker was created as an online hub to share his knowledge and experiences as it relates to home theaters and home audio electronics.