When it comes to home theater, most owners really want to bring the bass, they want powerful, clean, and strong bass. This requires subwoofers, there is no way around it. You can have excellent main speakers, but if you really want the boom, you need a subwoofer, and – if possible – more than one.
The subwoofer is a critical element of your home theater. Interestingly, there isn’t nearly as much audio coming out of this speaker as you might think; if you were to mute all your speakers except for your subwoofer you might be surprised at how little comes out of that speaker, compared to all the others.
However, what does come from your subwoofer is so extremely important to your overall sound and enjoyment of your home theater. Without a great subwoofer, you can miss entire sections of the soundtrack, and even lose out on important parts of the movie’s story.
Subwoofer placement is a little bit more of an art than the rest of your speaker placement. While there are guidelines that we will discuss, there aren’t quite the same set-in-stone angles and recommendations as there are with the rest of your speakers.
One of the main reasons for this is because subwoofer frequencies are not directional, meaning you shouldn’t be able to detect where the bass is coming from in the room, the low frequencies should ‘seem’ to be everywhere.
Another reason that there is no single recommendation to use is that the performance of the subwoofer is tied to the size of the room (meaning the actual dimensions and air volume of the room), the room impacts the sound of the subwoofer dramatically.
In other words, the exact same subwoofer will perform quite differently in a room that is 10′ wide x 12′ long x 8′ tall compared to a room that is 16′ wide x 22′ long x 10′ high.
To add to this issue, where you are in a room also impacts what you hear from the subwoofer, this means that as you move around the room, the audible level of the subwoofer will seem to change, even if there has been no change in volume at the source.
At the most basic level, if you just want the most bass, go ahead and stick the subwoofer in the corner of your room. Putting the subwoofer there will ‘enhance’ the apparent sound level coming from the subwoofer, to some of the seating location in your room.
The downside here is that other seats will have far less bass – the performance of the subwoofer will not seem even throughout your room.
This is why corners are not the most ideal location for a subwoofer in your theater. Yes, you can create what sounds like an increase in bass level, but the performance is so uneven throughout your theater that the bass level from one row to another (and from the left seat to the right seat) can be drastically different.
When you take it out of the corner, that ‘enhancement’ will seem to diminish and the sound level will also seem to diminish. However, you will have a more even performance throughout your room.
So what you should do is put on some music, or a movie scene, that you know and love really well. Let that section repeat, and while it does, move the subwoofer away from the corner.
Move it towards the center of the room a foot, move it towards the seating position a foot, and so on. There is no exact answer to this, again due to the fact that the room dimensions have such an impact on performance.
At each position, sit in your seats and listen. Close your eyes and just listen. You should be able to hear an obvious audio difference as you move the subwoofer around in your room.
If you are open to trying it, there is a fun method called the Subwoofer Crawl.
The Subwoofer Crawl is pretty simple in concept, and is actually an effective method, for the average person in their home theater, for finding the best subwoofer location.
To perform a Subwoofer Crawl, what you do is place the subwoofer in your seating location, so you might have to move your seat to do this. The sub is temporarily placed in that seat’s place.
After the sub is in your seating location, go ahead and play your music or movie scene. The, drop down onto your knees and crawl around the walls, the entire perimeter, of your theater.
While you are crawling, listen to the bass level. You will hear that some parts of your crawl have strong bass, some have weak bass, and some have even bass. When you are at a location that has even bass, that is a location where you would put your subwoofer.
If you add another subwoofer, you then are dealing with placement of multiple subwoofers, which is a separate (although related) project in your theater.
Adding that second subwoofer will not remove any of your room’s standing waves, the nulls, or the peaks (those are based on the math of the room). However, adding a second subwoofer can create a more even level of bass throughout the room, which means more of your theater’s seats will experience the exact same level of bass performance.
So if you can, go ahead and get a second subwoofer. Multiple subwoofers will be discussed in another article, but as a general rule you can place that second subwoofer in the room opposite from where your first subwoofer is located.