Subwoofer Controls: What Do All Those Knobs Do, Anyway?

Subwoofer Controls:  What Do All Those Knobs Do, Anyway?

Today, we're going to talk a little bit about the controls and the functions that are available on the back of our subwoofers. These days, most of the actual setup and the adjustments that you're going to be doing can be done within the menus of your home theater receiver or processor.

There are some cases, however, where you're going to be using a conventional stereo amplifier to drive the subwoofers, so there are some adjustments that you need to set. The first adjustment, and probably the most obvious, is the volume level, which sets how loud the subwoofer is going to sound for a given input signal.

Now, we recommend that, if you're using a home theater receiver or processor, to set the volume as a starting point at the midway point. And then from there, you can make the more fine adjustments using the Setup menu in your Receiver. There is also a control on the back of the subwoofers that allows you to set a crossover frequency.

In some cases, it's just a two-position switch that allows you to set 80 or a 150 Hertz. And in other cases, it's going to have multiple settings, from 40 Hertz all the way up to 150 Hertz. Again, if you're using a home theater processor, you want to put the Crossover in the highest frequency setting which is the 150 Hertz, and then you're actually going to set the crossover point inside the processor or receiver.

If you're using a stereo amplifier and you don't have bass management available to you, you're going to now set that crossover point for whatever makes sense with the speakers that you're using. Typically, a bookshelf speaker, an 80 Hertz setting works well.

And if you have the option and you're using larger tower speakers, something like the 40 or 60 Hertz setting may work better. But it's something you have to try and see which blends the best. There's another setting called Phase, which is in degrees. There's a 0-degree setting and a 180-degree setting.

This is the setting that confuses people because if you just flip the switch with music playing, immediately you're not going to hear very much of a change at all. This switch really defines how the subwoofer is going to interact with your main front speakers. And to set it up is fairly simple.

First, play some music that's got some good bass and mid-bass content in it, and then listen to the music playing with the switch in one position, and then switch it to the other position and listen again. And what you're looking for is a setting that gives you fuller and slightly louder bass.

And that's usually the correct setting.

Finally, we have an input on our subwoofers that's labeled Trigger. And there's an In and an Out available. The Trigger simply allows you to turn the subwoofer amplifier on and off remotely from your home theater receiver or processor so that when you turn the power on and off with your system remote control to the receiver, you'll actually be switching the amplifier in the subwoofer on and off.

This is a 12-volt trigger which is fairly standard in the industry, and it simply uses an 8-inch phono plug. So you're going to bring that signal from your processor or receiver and plug it into the trigger in on your subwoofer amplifier. Now when you turn the electronics and the rest of your system on and off, it's going to switch that your subwoofer amplifier on and off.

You'll know that that's happening because normally the light on the back of the subwoofer will be green. If it's in the standby mode, because you shut off the electronics from your receiver, it's going to now turn red, so that you know that it's in the Off position.

Have you had any surprises switching between sub inputs? What has worked for you? Let us know in the comments below.

Andrew Welker

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