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August 9, 2011

Home Theater Subwoofer Placement: A How-To and Poll

Filed under: AV Tip of the Month,Home Theater — Tags: — Alan @ 5:17 pm

Home theater subwoofer placementMost of us understand that the subwoofer in a home theater system takes over the job of producing much of the deep bass energy from the other speakers in the system. “Deep bass energy” is defined as the deepest bass from 100 Hz down to almost subterranean frequencies of 20 Hz or lower.

But to be able to hear and thrill to those powerful bass frequencies depends a lot on the home theater subwoofer placement in the room. This occurs because the subwoofer interacts with the actual dimensions of any given room, creating zones of very powerful bass contrasted with areas where you’ll hear little or no bass. You may have noticed this if you walk around the room while deep bass is playing.

The trick to adding the “wow” factor back into your home theater system is careful placement of the subwoofer so that it “couples” to the room in a manner that generates reasonably smooth powerful bass in regions where your couch and chairs are located. That location may be quite different in different rooms, depending on the room dimensions.

How many of you have actually done the tests to determine the best place in your room for the subwoofer to perform optimally? I suspect you had the best of intentions, but given that subwoofers tend to be large, heavy and awkward to move about, I bet there are lots of us who just plunked the sub down at the front of the room and hoped for the best, never bothering to do the “subwoofer crawl”. You can read how to do this here.

Just for fun, let’s try a poll on A) how many of you never bothered to properly set up your subwoofer, or B) you should have done it years ago, but once you did, you were amazed at the improvement, or C) you’ll be doing it this weekend.

Home Theater Subwoofer Placement Poll

I've never bothered to set it up properly
I should have done it years ago - once I did I was amazed at the difference!
I've called the gang - we're doing it this weekend!

For starters, you could try putting your subwoofer into a corner. It might work well, but as often as not it just produces too much “boomy” bass. Placing the subwoofer next to a wall is important, because the wall in effect amplifies the deep bass output (the worst place for a sub would be in the middle of a room). After that, do the subwoofer crawl to find the exact location for home theater subwoofer placement in your room for ultimate home theater excitement.

Need advice on where to start your home theater subwoofer placement experiment?  Contact us.


Alan Lofft was, for 13 years, Editor in Chief of Sound & Vision, Canada’s largest and most respected audio/video magazine. He edited Sound & Vision (Canada) until 1996, when he moved from Toronto to New York to become Senior Editor at Audio magazine.
Lofft has been writing about hi-fi and video professionally for over 20 years, ever since his first syndicated newspaper column, “Sound Advice”, began appearing weekly in The Toronto Star, Canada’s largest-circulation daily newspaper. In the late 1970s, he became a contributing editor, columnist, and equipment reviewer at AudioScene Canada, the leading national consumer electronics magazine at the time. Find out more about Alan in his bio.

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