Bookshelf speakers are popular for home audio systems due to their compact size and versatile placement options. There are also several questions associated with all of the placement options. Placing the bookshelf speaker on its side is one of the most common questions.
The speaker can have better sound dispersion and flexibility when laid on its side, but it can also negatively impact sound quality.
If you’re in the same situation, can bookshelf speakers be placed on their side?
Technically it is possible to place a bookshelf speaker on its side. However, the most important thing is keeping the drivers aligned with your ears to ensure good sound projection. And as most bookshelf speakers are designed to be positioned vertically, so when you turn bookshelf speakers on their sides, you lose precise driver alignment. It is why placing a bookshelf speaker on its side may produce poor sound quality.
It is also possible to ensure that your speakers still point towards your ears using different techniques, including standing or adjusting the speakers’ orientation.
In addition to the placement of the speaker driver, there are a few other factors to consider when placing your speaker on the side.
This article will discuss factors to consider when placing bookshelf speakers on their sides, the pros and cons, and tips for optimizing your speaker setup.
So without any further ado, let’s start the article.
Factors to Consider When Placing Bookshelf Speakers on Their Side
Place a bookshelf speaker on its sides; there are multiple factors to consider that can affect the sound quality of your bookshelf speaker. Here are some of the essentials factors to consider:
The design of the speaker is the most crucial point in deciding whether or not to put the speaker on their side.
Not all speakers will likely deliver optimal quality when laid on their sides; only specific speakers designed to place on their sides work well.
Some speakers are specifically designed to be placed horizontally, with drivers and crossovers optimized for that orientation. In such cases, placing them on their side ensures that the sound is dispersed correctly, providing a wider soundstage and balanced audio performance.
These speakers feature driver arrays on their side, so the sound waves bounce off by striking the will, producing a more immersive sound.
The regular bookshelf speakers with front-firing drivers are not suitable to be laid on their side because they produce diffused sound when placed on the sides.
The speaker’s orientation has a significant influence on their sound quality. Check from the manufacturer’s specification whether your speaker is designed to be placed horizontally or vertically.
The speaker’s cones that generate sound (driver) must be positioned correctly so that the sound waves generated by the driver must come directly to the listeners to hear the unmistakable sound. If the driver isn’t set correctly, the sound waves become distorted by bouncing off the walls.
Speaker’s orientations are of two types direct and indirect. Direct speakers have drivers facing straight toward the listeners, while indirect speakers have drivers facing away. Direct speakers are the most common speakers delivering precise and accurate sound.
Vertical dispersion refers to how well the speakers distribute sound vertically, or in the up-and-down direction, as opposed to horizontally, which refers to the left-to-right direction.
Many bookshelf speakers are designed with a specific vertical dispersion pattern in mind, and placing them on their side may affect this dispersion pattern.
Some speakers may have a narrower vertical dispersion, which can result in a loss of detail in the midrange or high frequencies when placed horizontally.
If you are planning to place your speaker on its side, you need to consider speaker dispersion characteristics. Dispersion pattern(horizontal or vertical), room acoustics & layout, and listening positions are the few key characteristics you need to consider.
Room Acoustics & Layout
One of the important factors that impact the sound performance is the room’s acoustics and layout. Factors such as room size, shape, wall materials, and furnishings can affect the overall sound quality.
When you place the subwoofer in a position not meant horizontally, it can affect the interaction with room boundaries, which may result in changes in bass response and soundstage.
To prevent that, simply experiment with different positions until you figure out the best one.
Listening Position & Angles
How the speaker is positioned and what angle it counts is another key factor in optimizing the placement of bookshelf speakers on their side.
The distance and angles between the listener and speaker must be equivalent to equilateral side triangles. The speaker must be placed at ear level to the listeners to have immersive sound effects.
The distance from the speakers, height, and angle of the listening position can impact the stereo imaging, soundstage, and tonal balance.
What you need to do is the same as you do with room acoustic & layout. Yes, you have to experiment with the different positions and angles to find the sweat-sounding spot.
Stability and Safety Concerns
The bookshelf speaker must be on a stable and sturdy surface. Using a lighter support that cannot handle the speaker’s weight could be risky. Always use a heavy and durable surface to support the speaker so that it may not fall due to vibrations and sound quality is unaffected.
Considering all these factors, you can better imagine placing your bookshelf speaker on its sound without compromising the sound quality.
Laying Bookshelf Speakers on Their Side – Pros & Cons
Placing a bookshelf speaker on its side is a considerable option having many potential advantages, but there are some disadvantages to this as well. Knowing the pros and cons, you will better decide whether to place the bookshelf on its side.
The advantages of laying bookshelf speaker on its sides include:
- Wider dispersion:
The woofer and tweeter are positioned uprightly by laying the speaker on its side, producing an improved, broader dispersion and balanced sound.
- More flexible placement options:
Bookshelf speakers can be placed in various ways; you can place them vertically or horizontally. By placing the speaker in different ways, you can find the possible ways that take minimum space and then find suitable options for a smaller room. Putting them on the sides reduces the vibration, improving the sound quality with minimum distortion and clear sound.
- Better integration with home theater systems:
Bookshelf speakers can be better integrated into a home theater system. A bookshelf speaker on its side blends better with the other components of the home audio system that are positioned vertically and produce a better sound.
Here are some of the disadvantages of laying a bookshelf speaker on its side that you must know:
- Potential sound quality issues:
Placing the bookshelf speaker on its side affects the sound quality. The cone that produces the sound (driver) and frequency response is altered when the speaker is laid on its side. It causes the production of uneven and distorted sound.
- Aesthetic concerns:
The horizontally laying bookshelf speaker does not appear attractive if incorporated into a bulky audio system.
- Potential damage to speakers:
Bookshelf speakers are generally designed to be positioned upside down; laying them down can cause damage to the speakers by compromising stability. If bookshelf speakers are placed on uneven surfaces, they are more susceptible to tipping over.
When Can You Place a Bookshelf Speaker on its Side?
Bookshelf speakers are to be set up in different positions. Some bookshelf speakers are crafted to be placed vertically, while others function best when positioned horizontally. There are certain conditions when you can place a bookshelf speaker on its side; let’s look into them:
Bookshelf speakers built with a woofer at the bottom and a tweeter at the top are generally meant to be placed vertically. Placing these speakers on their sound does not generate balanced sound, and the speakers’ performance also gets affected.
In addition, some bookshelf speakers can be placed vertically or horizontally in both directions with flexible placement options. These speakers work well in all orientations with optimum functionality.
You can also place a bookshelf speaker on its side when there is minimal space to position the speaker in a vertical direction; in that situation, you need to lay down your speaker on its side.
Another essential thing to note here is that some speakers are only designed to put on their sides a driver built-in horizontal direction. If you are dealing with such speakers, you can put them on their sides.
Remember to check the user manual that placing a bookshelf on the side you are dealing with is safer.
While bookshelf speakers are traditionally designed to be placed upright, placing speakers on their sides could be a viable option.
This alternative positioning may have some considerations, such as potential changes in audio dispersion and aesthetic appeal. However, it can offer advantages, such as space-saving solutions and improved audio performance in specific environments.
The decision to place bookshelf speakers on their side should be based on the specific circumstances and preferences of the listener. Experiment with different positions and angles to achieve the best audio experience.