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You might be tempted to position your speakers how they are not originally intended to be placed in an effort to more effectively fit your floor space. For example, you may want to lay tower speakers on their sides, but should you?
Tower speakers should not be placed on their sides for two reasons. Firstly, if the tweeter is placed above the woofer, and the tower speaker is turned sideways, a lobing effect is created that distorts the audio experience. Secondly, the placement will often then be lowered from ear level to the floor.
Now, this might not be entirely avoidable for you, so if this is the case, then be sure to follow proper precautions.
But, if you are just attempting to fit your speakers in a tighter space, then consider the negative long-term effects that saving a few inches of floor/air space will have on the quality of sound in your room. Let’s take a closer look.
Why Should You Not Lay Tower Speakers on Their Sides?
Maybe you were browsing through different home theater surround sound speaker setup layouts when you noticed a strange pattern- the tower speakers were laying on their side to form an aesthetically pleasing horizontal line.
Perhaps this matched the overall visual design of the room. However, while this might be visually appealing to some, impressive audio quality is what you are really investing in, right?
Turning tower speakers on their sides distorts the position of the various drivers inside of the speaker unit. This can create distorted audio in the way that the audio streamed through various channels were intended to blend together cohesively. The height of a tower speaker is also important.
Of course, there are many arguments for why you should or should not do this, but, ultimately, laying a tower speaker on its side is coming into question in the first place because this is not how this piece of sound equipment was originally designed to be used.
And, while innovation can be incredibly helpful in discovering new ways of doing things, this might not be the best way to become innovative.
It Disrupts the Flow of the Audio Signal
Not surprisingly, the best way to place your tower speaker is how it was originally designed to be placed: upright and at least 2 inches away from the wall. The upright position uses the laws of physics to directly reflect the various audio waves coming from multiple channels in the tower.
When positioned sideways, it is as if these audio waves are sent in the wrong direction. Sure, they will still come out of the drivers and be sent out into the free air in the open room, but they will not mesh cohesively with the other frequencies as they would have if your tower speaker were positioned upright.
It Negatively Impacts the Multiple-Channel Cohesion
Considering the purpose of the various drivers in your tower speakers can have a huge impact on the overall understanding of why the tower speakers should not be laid on their sides.
Since tower speakers have multiple channels of audio coming out of them (many of which have visible drivers on the exterior), it is evident that these each serve a unique purpose.
For example, the tweeter and the woofer are aimed at emitting significantly different frequencies. This results in a higher and lower sound effect coming from each driver within the tower speaker.
When the tower speaker is facing vertically, these speakers work together to create a lasting sound effect that results in clear and high-quality audio.
When placed on its side, however, a tower speaker is no longer capable of providing the same type of cohesive blend. Along with that, many times people will lay the tower speaker on its side directly on the floor instead of even trying to find a shelf or something to rest it on. This can be a problem for a couple of reasons.
It Creates a Lobing Effect
First, placing the tower speaker horizontally on the floor results in a displacement of where the drivers would have otherwise been intended to go.
Instead of having the various audio channels coming at you streamlined from a (specifically designed) order from top to bottom, the audio waves will instead come in all at once and on a similar level- one that is not ear level at that.
This results in an effect called lobing which is incredibly uncomfortable to listen to.
In essence, this makes the audio distorted, so whether you are listening to your favorite actor or actress’s punch line in a classic joke, or you are trying to catch the various instruments in an orchestral performance, you will not be able to do so with the same tenacity when your tower speaker is on the floor.
Unintentional Sound Absorption is More Likely
Finally, laying tower speakers on their sides generally means placing them directly on the floor.
And, since flooring can be carpeted or have a rug placed down (even if not directly underneath the speaker but in the same room as it), this sound absorption can also disrupt the intended flow of the audio waves.
Typically, when the tower speakers are upright, the audio waves are sent out at various heights throughout the entirety of the room.
The furniture and other obstructions might cause the waves to change direction, but they are still aimed outwards in various heights- uniquely to hit your ears at the perfect time for the sound to blend well together.
However, if the sound waves do not have a chance to reach you because they have been absorbed by the carpet or a rug that is between you and the speaker (even if it is not directly underneath the tower speaker), this will obviously impact your experience with the audio in a very negative way.
Where Should Tower Speakers be Placed?
Just because tower speakers should not be placed on their sides does not mean that you have to give up hope entirely to a great placement for your tower speakers in your home theater sound setup. Truly, tower speaker placement is not overly complicated.
Tower speakers should be placed in the front of the room in alignment with the other speakers, although you should be sure to avoid placing these speakers in the corners. Remove the tower speakers from the wall at least 2 inches to avoid distorted audio.
Since people choose to invest in tower speakers for a wide variety of reasons, you might think that it is tough to give a one-size-fits-all approach to tower speaker placement.
However, this ideal placement scenario is one that should work regardless of the purpose that you chose to install tower speakers in your sound system setup.
Want to know why? A lot of this has to do with how tower speakers are designed to work in a sound system in the first place.
Many tower speakers have multiple channels/drivers that aim to play cohesively and provide you with an acoustically pleasing experience. With this, the placement should be relatively similar whether you are streaming your favorite movie with friends or jamming out to the latest release from your favorite band.
Either way, the tower speaker can pair well with many other speakers in your sound system, and they are pretty easy to place upright to be able to enjoy the best version of audio that they produce.
Of course, making sure that the settings and specifications with your tower speakers and the rest of the speakers in your sound system mesh well together can be yet another step in this setup process. However, do not fret. This is something that you should be able to do by using your user’s manual or consulting the speaker manufacturer (or YouTube) for guidance.
With a lot of great information out there, all you have to remember is to do what is best for the placement of your tower speakers within your home and depending on the other speakers you choose to incorporate in your sound system.
Just be sure not to lay your tower speakers on their sides if you want them to perform at an optimal level. Then, you should be good to go.
Also read: Do Floorstanding Speakers Need a Subwoofer?