Finding Proper Placement for Your Subwoofer

Music and movie lovers that have their own audio system installed at home know that a movie and music sound system is not complete without at least a subwoofer. Any owner of a music or home movie theater system should know where to place their home theater subwoofer in order to experience a complete or holistic music or movie experience at home.

Knowing which type of subwoofer to buy and the correct subwoofer size for the intended room where the music or movie system will be set up are not the only things to take note of, especially for the first timers who are planning to set up a sound system at home. It should be noted that the placement of the subwoofer is likewise important in creating that complete music and movie experience at home.

Where to Place a Home Theater Subwoofer

Knowing where to place a home theater subwoofer in a room makes a big difference in the audio output of the appliance and the listening experience of the owners. Placement of a subwoofer can make or break the sound system. What one hears from a sound source is affected by the room where the source has been placed. All the things that can be found in a room – the walls and the furniture, among others – can affect the quality of the sound one can hear. Bass tones or frequencies are known to be extra sensitive to room surfaces, so knowing where to place a home theater subwoofer is really essential.

To know the proper placement of a subwoofer, one should first know how a bass wave behaves. The bass waves are known to be omnidirectional – which means that bass waves have the tendency to bounce all over the place. Therefore, one thing that should be avoided by installing a subwoofer is parallel surface – just like the walls in a room.

When bass waves are released and they reflect off a parallel surface, like the walls in a music or movie room, bass waves often bounce back into one another – resulting in either bass nulls or standing waves. Standing waves often lead to “boomy” sound quality that falls short in audio tautness or definition.

Standing waves are bass energy excess and take place when a certain frequency is being reinforced by the same wavelengths or by the room factors that occur almost at the same place and time. The bass nulls, on the other hand, lead to a dead spot in the audio output. Bass nulls are the opposite of the standing waves and happen only when one reflecting wave cancels out another reflecting wave.

Placement of a Subwoofer

The first rule in knowing where to place a home theater subwoofer is that installing a subwoofer close to a wall or at a corner would give rise to many and often unwanted bass waves. A subwoofer works best when placed at least eight (8) to twelve (12) inches away from the walls of a music or movie room.

To achieve a maximum performance and output from one’s subwoofer, it is recommended that the audio appliance is placed in front of the listening area or somewhere near the sound system’s front channel loudspeakers to help in preventing phase cancellation and delays in timing.

Another placement suggestion will be to follow the Rule of Thirds in installing a subwoofer at home. Starting the measurement from a wall of a music or movie room, place the subwoofer one-third of the distance into the room. If one chooses to put the subwoofer in a corner, make sure to keep a distance of at least six (6) to eight (8) inches away from it.

One well known technique for finding the perfect spot is called the subwoofer crawl, all you have to do is place your subwoofer where you would most want it, then play a song with a repeating bass line. listen for the quality of the bass at each available subwoofer location in the room. Keep your head at/near knee level while listening (this is where the term ‘subwoofer crawl’ comes from).
now just keep your sub at the spot that provided the most accurate and balanced sounding bass.

A subwoofer can also be placed on a table or a couch. This, however, is not recommended when one has small satellite speakers dependent on the subwoofer for over 120Hz frequencies. Also, avoid at all cost placing the subwoofer inside a cabinet because it negates the purpose of a subwoofer. One should remember that the bass waves are omnidirectional and they need space to travel.

Placing the subwoofer inside a cabinet would result in the bass waves being crammed inside a small and constricted space. Lastly, it has become a trend to place the subwoofers inside the walls – not all subwoofer brands allow such placement. Only an in-wall subwoofer can be used and the installment has to be done by a professional.

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