How Should a Subwoofer be Placed?

Subwoofers are meant to deliver bone thumbing low note sound experience and there is no other better option than this if you love the entertainment on offer. If you are planning to setup a home theater system at your property, then the first thing you should have is a subwoofer. While having two subwoofers is ideal, even one can do the job for you. For those of you who are aware of the acoustics and sound dynamics, positioning a subwoofer will not be a problem; but, not many are aware of the same. Fixing a problem that we have zero knowledge of is extremely complicated; hence, check out our discussion here to know how effectively you could place the subwoofer for ultimate performance. Remember that there is no single solution for the placement of subwoofer.

 

Subwoofer and Some Basics

Subwoofers are A/V equipment made to deliver high quality and better sounding bass. They are cheaper than many top floor standing speakers, which do more or less a similar job. The dedicated built-in power source reduces the strain caused on your multi-channel amplifier. By positioning the subwoofer properly, you can also reduce the strain caused on other speakers you have. Furthermore, it enhances the overall sound quality and performance.

Positioning of a subwoofer will vary based on the type of flooring, dimensions of your room, ceiling and many more factors. Sound performance might vary even if you position the subwoofer as per the guidelines here due to the above factors but the variation you might experience will only be minor. An educated trial and error method will help you find the sweet spot for your subwoofer.

 

Placement is Key

Some of you who have a subwoofer might think that positioning doesn’t matter, but that is not the case. Positioning the sub the way it should be will let you see the difference for yourself. The sound quality you experience inside your home is not based solely on the audio system you have installed, but your room also plays a major role, especially in the case of bass. Walls have a major effect on the quality of sound delivered by a subwoofer. The reason being, omnidirectional bass waves which bounce off these walls and if placement is not right then you’ll not get the best outcome.

 

The bass waves that get reflected off the walls have two different outcomes – standing waves and bass nulls. Bass nulls is the one where all the reflecting bass waves cancel one another resulting in a dead note. Standing waves on the other hand is an excessive bass energy which leads to a boomy bass effect wherein you’ll not be able to experience each and every single bass note, meaning there is no real definition in what you hear. You can either place the subwoofer as per your room acoustics or work against it. If you are not going to consider your room acoustics, you need to use correction software, EQs and so on, which again is not very effective. Let us examine more on how to work with your room acoustics and place the subwoofer.

 

Subwoofer Positioning – General

In most cases, you might have heard about placing the subwoofer closer to the wall or in a corner of your room and they say this would give you more bass, but that doesn’t mean you get the best bass performance. When you buy a home theater system, you generally get a low powered subwoofer which delivers low bass performance, which does not make a huge difference even if you place them in one corner. Placing a separate subwoofer in one corner might be the best option for most of you due to space constraints, but it won’t do any good to the sound performance you want to achieve. You’d only get crappy bass, which is not worth it.

 

Subwoofers that have powerful amps and built-in drivers should be placed in an optimum position for superior performance. High powered subwoofers have to be placed at least 8 to 12 inches away from the wall. These subwoofers also deliver superior performance when positioned in the front half of your room around the listening area. In order to eliminate time delays, phase cancellations, etc., make sure to place them as close as possible to the front channel loudspeakers. Here are some tips on effective subwoofer placement:

  • Cord or cordless – The type of subwoofer you have will have an impact on where it can or cannot be placed. If you have a wired subwoofer, then you need to make necessary arrangements to hide the wires with respect to the position you are going to place the subwoofer. We would highly recommend you to opt for a wireless subwoofer since this allows you to change the position as per your requirements and it also allows you to setup home theater wherever you go.
  • If you are going with a wired subwoofer, then we suggest you get SpeakOn connectors rather than use bare speaker wire. See more in this guide about audio cables.
  • Corners – In some cases, placing a subwoofer in one corner might be the right option but this happens rarely. Place your subwoofer in a corner and check the bass sound quality you experience. If your listening area is small, then placing the subwoofer in a corner should be a viable option. Ported subwoofers should be placed twice its diameter away from the wall in order to allow airflow.
  • Front half of the listening space – This is one of the most common recommendations given by A/V instrument manufacturers for better sound quality and performance. One common rule recommended is to place the subwoofer a third of the way from the wall, thereby eliminating dead notes and standing waves. By simply following this technique you can make your seating position the ideal bass performance hotspot.
  • Under the table or couch – This one might sound funny but actually it is certainly not a bad idea. The option should be perfect for those who have high frequency satellite speakers or else you’d be left with a hole in the sound performance.
  • Say not to cabinets – One of the common mistakes committed is this, wherein you’d end up placing your subwoofer in another cabinet just for aesthetics or any other unforeseen reasons, but this is the worst thing you could do to your subwoofer. Bass frequencies are non-directional and are generally low in the frequency spectrum; hence, they require space to travel and if you do not provide that, then you are simply killing the bass performance.
  • In-wall subwoofers – This particular type of installation is becoming more and more popular with many leading A/V installation companies opting for it. If you are ready to spend some bucks to get them installed, then do it right away, but for those who are living in a rented apartment this might not be the right choice. In-wall subwoofers need to be fixed only by a professional since it requires proper handling. Wall cabinets to hold these subwoofers, external amplifiers, crossovers and the labor involved in fitting it are all very expensive and you should only consider this if you are not worried about the budget. Custom in-wall subwoofer installers should be employed for this job.

 

It is quite common not being able to get the placement correct right away, so don’t worry. It might take even a couple of days trying out multiple placements to get it right. We hope this article offered you valuable insights on effective subwoofer placement.

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