Can You Place Your Bookshelf Speakers on Their Side?


bookshelf speaker sideways

If you are like me, then your bookshelf speakers are one of the most important pieces of equipment in your home. However, due to space or aesthetic requirements, it’s often not possible to stand them upright.

Can You Lay Bookshelf Speakers On Their Sides?

Yes, bookshelf speakers can usually be laid onto their sides. You’ll want to make sure that the back of the speaker doesn’t touch anything (especially furniture), which would cause vibrations and noisiness. For this reason, it’s wise to give them some space on either side so they can breathe. However, if you need help getting rid of excess bass from a full-sized bookshelf speaker, laying it flat will increase your bass response.

You need to be careful about how and where you place them though, so it’s not as simple as just turning on them on their side and leaving them as they are.

If you have hardwood floors, I recommend that you lay the speakers flat and use silicone to maintain a water-tight seal. Most people will put furniture right up against speaker backsides when they go for this route.

On carpeting, my guess is that laying the speakers on their sides should be fine if you place them on top of something like cardboard so weight does not drag down on its ledge or edges. Otherwise, if your speakers are made of wood, it can cause the front lip to warp.

Another important factor to consider is the speakers’ impedances. If the impedance of your bookshelf speaker and your amp is matched, this can work. For good listening to speech frequencies and recordings with high detail in both treble and midrange sounds (i.e., live performance), a lower impedance speaker is preferred, while for good listening to bass frequencies—such as a lot of rock music—a higher impedance speaker is better.

Is it optimal to place bookshelf speakers on their sides?

Not really. The problem is that when a bookshelf speaker is placed on its side, the tweeter will point at the floor instead of away from it where the sound will be more adequately reflected. The slight boost in volume won’t make up for the loss in high-frequency clarity.

So while it would work, I wouldn’t recommend it. If you’re having trouble with your sound quality (lack of highs/too much bass) or if you need to orient a bookshelf or a flat surface against a wall (which typically blocks vibrations), then by all means lay down some speakers and enjoy your music. But don’t do so thinking that laying them helps in any way other than for design purposes or to be space conscious.

Can Bookshelf Speakers Be Used As Front Speakers?

Many audiophiles will tell you that a designated center speaker is crucial for providing the height and depth of sound needed to create an immersive listening experience. So, unfortunately, a bookshelf speaker should not be used as a front speaker because it does not have the fundamental components required.

For instance, due to the lower frequency output inherent in bookshelf speakers, they more than likely would lack the necessary deep bass that is crucial in creating an immersive listening experience (unless you own a subwoofer).

Due to this limitation of the response characteristic of bookshelf speakers, many audio gear manufacturers design their loudspeakers with higher-end acoustic properties in order to better accommodate the full gamut of audible frequencies – even if that means compromising absolute accuracy or sensitivity from 12-14Hz.

If your bookshelf speakers are oriented more toward the floor than the ceiling, they may be able to handle some of that front-speaker duty. The low frequencies won’t work well, but you’ll get usable midrange and bass data from them. Of course, this is at best a temporary solution if you’re going for an accurate sound system in your home theater. Your bookshelf speakers should always serve as rear-surround channels or satellite speakers and not as main ones.

When looking for speakers in general that are best suited for the front position on your wall, look for ones with more top-end presence (treble range) rather than tweeters (high-pitch range). It will generally be less garbled at higher volumes and clearer when the dialogue appears on screen without being overpowered by other sounds happening around it like music or background noise.

Does It Matter Where I Place My Bookshelf Speakers?

It matters a lot.

The sound will be projected in a directional pattern, depending on the placement of the speakers. If they’re both aimed at you and pointing in opposite directions, then you’ll hear very little ambient noise–just what’s coming out of your speakers.

If one speaker is off to the side, any ambient noise that gets picked up by this speaker is added to what you’re hearing on the other speaker. As your brain processes all this incoming evidence (sound from each speaker), it will construct its own version of what “room” it’s sitting in-or at least how large the room is relative to where it thinks your speakers are located!

Speaker placement is a way of mixing sound at different frequencies, with one or more drivers pointing left and right to create stereo imaging or two cones projecting up to deal with overhead (height) sounds. Speaker placement usually considers four factors:

1) The difference in distance between speaker and listener; 

2) Listener position in relation to the speakers as it affects phase ; 

3) Intent for the reverberant field; 

4) Distance between both speakers. What these four factors should be combined depends on what type of listening environment the user needs- how “easy” they want sound reproduction to be without any major obstruction from walls, furniture, etc.

Subwoofer placement is also super important, you can read more here.

Conclusion

To sum it up, your bookshelf speakers can be laid on their side, but it’s not optimal. Some things to consider are the spacing between the speaker and its environment, and what sort of surface they are on. While you won’t get the best performance, the difference will be negligible in most cases.

My advice is to just simply test it! See what works for you and if you can even notice a difference.

I hope this article helped cleared out some of your concerns on whether you can use your Bookshelf speaker on its side.

Shawn Shepherd

Hi, I'm the owner of the Hifi Guide and have been an audio lover enthusiast for over 16 years. I have a Bachelor's degree in Sound Engineering and I work on producing content for the Hifi Guide in my spare time. My love for audio stemmed from my Dad who was an audio technician, and now I share my knowledge here on this website!

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