So you just bought a subwoofer and you’re wondering where to place it in your home theater. You want to keep the box out of sight while pumping excellent bass. You figure the best place to put it is behind the TV.
So, is it OK to put your subwoofer behind your TV? The short answer is, it may not be a major problem, but we do not recommend it, especially if it is a front-firing subwoofer or a CRT TV. This is because doing so might cause unnecessary sound reflection and poor bass quality. However, if you are working with a down-firing subwoofer or if you have enough space behind the TV, placing the sub behind the TV may be ok.
Nevertheless, if you have no better place to put the sub, you can follow some basic principles that we will discuss here to avoid the drawbacks and meet your entertainment needs.
Why Is It Not Recommended to Put a Subwoofer Behind Your TV?
Many people place their subwoofer behind their TV and it doesn’t seem to cause any issues, so many people will tell you doing so is OK.
However, serious audiophiles will tell you, this one of the worst positions to place subwoofers.
If you place your subwoofer behind your TV, you will likely get poor quality bass output. This is particularly true if the distance between the TV and the subwoofer is too small.
If you have to place the sub behind the TV, you need to get the exact distance that best suits your needs by making trial and error your friend.
To properly understand why putting a subwoofer behind a TV is often not the best solution, consider the following cons of placing your subwoofer behind your TV:
1. Room Acoustics and Interference
Many people will make the point that bass sound waves are omnidirectional so it shouldn’t matter where you place your subwoofer. By this they mean bass waves radiate in all directions.
It is true, bass waves are omnidirectional, but the quality of bass you will get from a sub depends on what happens when the sound leaves the sub.
In other words, room acoustics plays a big part in the overall quality of bass in the room. Because of this, the placement of your sub has should be different depending on the acoustic of your home theater room.
So, how do TV’s affect room acoustics?
Remember, some TV screens are quite large. Now let’s say you put a small-sized subwoofer behind a very large TV. In this case, the TV’s surface would reflect much of the bass sound.
When the reflected sound wave bouncing off your TV combines with the source sound waves coming from your TV, the result is acoustic interference.
In other words, the position of the TV interferes with the interaction of sound waves from the sub and soundwaves reflected from the TV surface.
2. Unnecessary Vibrations
One of the main reasons we often recommend that people place their subwoofer behind their couch is for people who like to feel the vibrations from sound effects.
When there is a huge explosion or thunder in a movie, some people want to feel the vibrational effect. This is why we have bass shakers.
Placing the sub behind a TV will cause the TV to vibrate much as the coach would. This is especially true if you place the sub too close to the TV.
While the vibration may not be a major problem for you, it can be quite annoying for many people.,
3. Wall/Corner Acoustics and Echoes
If you place your TV a short distance from the corner of the room, it means the sub will be at the corner. In this case, you may end up with a lot of reflection. So, if you choose this arrangement, you could end up getting echo-like bass, which can make it hard to get the right dialogue in the audio.
4. Bass Reflection
Before trying to place your sub behind your TV, you should think about the possibility of the sound-waves bouncing off the TV and passing over your head.
Since the TV is in front, it is easier for the sound that has bounced to be sent to the roof or over your head.
Whenever this happens, the overall sound quality of your system may not be that great. If you want to get more bass out of your subwoofer, this is not the way to do it!
5. CRT TVs (Older TVs)
Remember, subwoofers are really speakers that produce low-frequency sounds and so they have magnets within them.
If you are using an older style CRT TV (large back TV), then the magnetic field created by the subwoofer may have an adverse effect on the TV. This could be in the form of a rainbow-colored effect on the screen or something similar.
However, if your subwoofer is magnetically shielded then you shouldn’t have a problem with this. Most modern subwoofers are magnetically shielded. If the sub is not shielded, you’ll have to place it far away from the TV to avoid this weird effect.
Of course, this should be a problem with modern TV’s like LCD/Plasma/DLP. This only affects CTY TVs.
Good Reasons To Place My Subwoofer Behind My TV
So now that we have covered all the cons of placing your subwoofer behind your TV, what about the pros of placing your subwoofer behind your TV?
1. Aestehtics and Cable Managment
The most likely reason people chose to place their subwoofer behind their TV is for aesthetic purposes. By this we mean they want to keep the sub and its cables out of sight. However, a location chosen by convenience is seldom, if ever, the best location possible.
As far as we are concerned, subwoofers add a unique aesthetic appeal to home theatre systems. So, if you put your subwoofer behind your TV, you would have reduced the aesthetic value of your sound system. Of course,e that’s just us.
In addition, many people also prefer this type of placement since it allows them to manage their cables with ease, and this also helps to improve the appearance of the room.
It is important to consider when you don’t want to see power cables running across the room. With this placement, you have enough space behind the TV where you can tuck them and reduce the dangerous and unappealing cluster of power cables.
Of course, this is not important if you have a wireless subwoofer.
2. Soundstage and Stage Imaging
Soundstaging is an important factor for many audiophiles. In layman’s terms, it refers to how well each speaker is able to reproduce its sound in detail where and how they should. For example, left speakers dominate the left of the room and right speakers dominate the right, and so on.
Placing your subwoofer behind your TV normally means placing it in the middle of the room.
This is normally equal distance from the L/R main speakers and so this does help with soundstage and sound imaging. However, you could get the same effect if the sub is placed below the TV.
Consider also that if there are acoustic problems in the room, placing the sub on the center like this will amplify those problems equally through the room.
Placing the sub to the side will reduce the degree to which the pressure created in the room amplifies those acoustic defects.
The fact is, playing your sub in the middle of the room really means placing it in the middle of two parallel walls which can cause a lot of constructive and destructive soundwave interference
How Can I Place a Subwoofer Behind My TV
If you decide to put your subwoofer behind your TV, there are some general rules of thumb to follow.
As a general rule, if you want the best sound quality, you should place your sub with the loudspeaker facing out to the listening room, and nothing is obstructing the flow of the soundwaves. You should also ensure that the port is away from the wall.
Nonetheless, let’s face it there are times when we can be limited by different factors, including space and wires, as to where to put your subs.
Many people find themselves in similar situations and are forced to put their subs behind their TVs.
You have free reign over where to put your sub, all we can do is give you the best tips that will help you get the best out of the device. If you have to place your subwoofer behind your TV, ensure you do the following:
1. Avoid Walls or Corners
Despite the limitations that you may face, you should ensure nothing hinders the omnidirectional bass waves.
As we have said, you can achieve this by placing the sub away from walls and corners. The distance should be between 6″ and 12″, but more is usually better.
However, you can put a sealed subwoofer in a corner.
If you are using a ported sub, do not place the port towards the wall. Many people will suggest that you can plug up the hole with softballs, socks, or anything else to reduce the reverberation, but we do not recommend blocking the port. Even though this is a commonly used method, it reduces the bass’ quality.
2. Avoid Placing The Sub Under Furniture
When people face space limitations and want to reduce the demerits of putting their sub behind their TVs, they place them under tables. Some people chose to place their sub under a couch.
This move often causes gaps in the acoustic signature of the room, given that the dense mass of the furniture can absorb the waves.
So, putting subs under different pieces of furniture to avoid using behind your TV may not help. It can defeat the purpose of using a sub. But it is better than putting the sub in an enclosed cabinet.
3. Avoid Placing The Subwoofer Inside a Closed Cabinet
From experience, this is often the worst option. It can void the entire point of spending your money on the equipment.
Cabinets prevent bass waves from bouncing around, so putting your subwoofer insider one can cause it to be dull and muted.
4. Ensure The Subwoofer Is In Phase With The Front Sperakewre
The fact is, probably even more important than subwoofer placement is ensuring that your subwoofer is in phase with the main speakers. We have a detailed guide on how to set your subwoofer’s phase.
If you must place your subwoofer behind your TV, try and get it to blend in with the front speakers as possible.
5. Adjust Settings For Maximum Sound Quality
So we have said when you put your subwoofer behind your TV, you may not get the best sound quality. Now you might be asking whether you can improve the quality by adjusting any settings.
You won’t lose anything when you play around with the setting to see if you can get more from the sound system despite its unfavorable position.
Many A/V receivers have efficient room correction settings that can automatically detect subwoofer placement issues and speaker distance and help you get the best quality.
For example, you can use crossover settings to refine when audio switches to subwoofer output from speaker output.
We hope you now understand how placing a subwoofer behind your TV can affect the overall sound quality.
However, if you have no better option, you can put it there, just be sure you avoid walls, corners, and other pieces of furniture to improve your experience.
Also, keep in mind that the correct location for the sub largely depends on your room. You need to test multiple locations preferably using an SPL meter to find the most optimal placement.