Subwoofer Tips For Clear, Deep Bass Sound: Placement and Set Up Guides

Continuing our series on home theater system tips and tricks that you can use, and many of them are free, we're going to talk today about subwoofers, a very, very important part of any home theater system. Because those big low-frequency effects and explosions and things, I mean, they really wouldn't be what they are without a good subwoofer in the system.

That's Tip #1. If you have a multichannel home theater system and you don't currently have a subwoofer, think about adding one. It really will handle the very, very bottom octaves better than pretty much any...even the largest floor-standing speaker on the market. So if you don't have one, add one.

If you're going to add a subwoofer or you currently have a subwoofer, is it suited to your room size? Is it suited to the rest of the speakers, particularly your main front left and right speakers? And what I mean by that is that an underpowered subwoofer for a very, very large room, or meted with very, very large floor-standing speakers, it's not going to perform the way that you want.

If you've got a pair of floor-standing speakers with dual 8-inch woofers, and you've got an amplifier that's 500 watts per channel, you shouldn't have a little 8-inch subwoofer with 100 watts in it. It's just not going to complement the rest of the system. A good rule of thumb is that whatever your amplifier power is upfront on the front left and right speakers, you should have in that same ballpark in your subwoofer's built-in amplifier.

And as for room size, it's going to vary depending on different manufacturers of subwoofers and what the output is capable. So call them, ask them, give them your room dimensions. We're happy to take calls at any time, and pretty much any good manufacturer customer service is happy to answer that question and recommend a suitable subwoofer for you.

But what if you already have a subwoofer? Lots of people are confused by subwoofers because they have inputs, they have, many times, lots and lots of controls, but there's a few basic things that you can check. Number one, if you're using a subwoofer output on a home theater receiver or processor, make sure that the subwoofer settings are suitable for your main speakers.

What do I mean by that? Well, even if you've used the automatic setup to tune the system, go in and manually check to see what the levels are set at. You don't want your main speakers at 0 or +1 dB on the trim setting and then the subwoofer at -6 or +8.

In that case, you can adjust the manual level control on the subwoofer to try and get those levels around the 0 dB trim. That's what you want. Otherwise, there can be cases where you're overdriving or underdriving the input signal to the subwoofer. The next thing is that if you're using the bass management, the filters and the roll-off settings in a home theater receiver or processor, which is typical when you use a sub output, make sure that if you're subwoofer has what's called an LFE input, an RCA jack that's labeled LFE, use that.

If it has a single jack or a jack labeled mono, use that. And then finally, if there's a frequency control, or a turnover control, as it's sometimes called, or crossover control, make sure that you have it set to the highest frequency. For more information on this, check out my article What Subwoofer Input Should You Use?

You don't want to have a filter built into the subwoofer electronics interfering with the one that the subwoofer output from the receiver and then adding up in sometimes very strange ways. So if you're using the sub out on a home theater receiver or processor, make sure that your frequency control is set to the highest position.

Now, placement. People tend to put subwoofers in the corner where they're out of the way. But if the performance of your bass seems too boomy or too thumpy, and it's overpowering everything else, try pulling the subwoofer out from the corner.

Even if it can just go half a foot to a foot, you might be amazed at how that will change the bass response that you hear at your listening position. The opposite of that is that if you don't have enough weight, enough thump, enough bass weight in the room, try pushing the subwoofer a little bit further into the corner, or if it's not anywhere near a corner, move it a little bit closer to a corner.

That's going to load up the room better at low frequencies and can give you more output, and it costs nothing to do that.

Those are just a few simple things, whether you have a subwoofer or you're looking for one, you can check out and try on your own. Read my related post Subwoofer Set Up: Where to Begin for more tips. You'll probably find in some cases, there's going to be people out there going, "Ah, I don't have it in the right input," or, "I never thought what to do with that frequency control."

So try those tips out. Let us know in the comments below what you found. And if you have any of your own subwoofer tips, you know, share them with the rest of our audience.

Andrew Welker

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