Proper subwoofer placement

Week of October 16, 2005

Q: What is the best location to place a subwoofer? I have been told
ideal placement of a in a corner with walls extending 6 feet. If this
placed the woofer behind a large TV in a wood cabinet with the center
channel speaker, would there be any ill effects, i.e., vibration,
etc. I understand the subwoofer would have to be shielded.

-Ron Erken, Wichita, KS.

A: The only way to tell if your subwoofer will interact with your
cabinet and center channel speaker is to try it! Your placement may
not be optimal though. The following information will help you
achieve a proper subwoofer balance in your system.

There are differing opinions on optimal subwoofer placement. The
optimum position will depend on the size and shape of the room,
furniture and its placement, the capabilities of the subwoofer itself,
as well the way you set the crossover and volume controls.

Your goal in placing your subwoofer is for your system to sound smooth
from the lowest bass to the highest treble. Bass frequencies are non-
directional; this means that when the subwoofer is properly placed and
set, if you close your eyes you should not be able to tell where it is
placed. The bass should just fill the room and integrate perfectly
with your other speakers.

Where and how the subwoofer is placed will affect the bass output.
Placing the subwoofer close to a wall will reinforce output and
increase the bass, pulling it out from the wall will diminish bass
response. Placing it in a corner will provide the highest bass output
but doing so may not always be necessary.

My personal preference is to place the subwoofer somewhere between the
front left and right speakers. For powered subwoofer, experiment with
distance from the wall while adjusting the crossover frequency and
volume controls until the system sound balanced. Some people max out
the volume control on the sub because they think maximum bass output
is best. This is not correct- it may make for dramatic special
effects, but is unsatisfying for music.

Many home users, and even some audio and home theater hobbyists find
getting exactly perfect subwoofer balance a daunting task. Poor
subwoofer integration is one of the major causes for poor-sounding
home sound systems. It flies in the face of home audio convention
these days (though many agree with me) but I think those with the room
for tower loudspeakers are better off getting a good pair of towers
rather than a subwoofer with smaller speakers. Just connect the
speakers, set your receiver’s subwoofer setting to “no subwoofer” and
you’re all set. The towers will achieve satisfying bass response and
your system will sound better by virtue of the bigger speakers,
particularly with music. By the way, I practice what I preach- in my
own system I have a large pair of floorstanding speakers and no
subwoofer.

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