The Art of Subwoofer PlacementApril 14, 2014
What’s the best location for my subwoofer? Like many things in life, subwoofer placement often involves compromise, and is typically driven by competing variables like décor and visual impact considerations, available floor space, foot traffic areas and of course optimal sound quality.
Just One Spot...
Sometimes there is literally ‘one spot’ for the subwoofer. Don’t dismay if this is the case – it’s very common for home theaters and audio systems to be located in a living/family room. Everything in the room is competing for available floor space, and décor and visual impact are often significant considerations too.
If you are limited to a single subwoofer location, to the extent possible try to find the best listening location in the room. You’ll notice as you move through the room that the bass response will vary significantly. This is due to the complex pattern of direct and reflected standing waves in the room.
Sometimes simply moving a few feet in any given direction can improve the bass from boomy and one-note to balanced and accurate. Once you find the ‘subwoofer sweet spot’ in the room – reserve that seat for yourself!
A Few Available Subwoofer Locations
Dedicated listening rooms and home theaters will generally have more flexibility with subwoofer placement, with 3-4 potential locations usually available.
Start Up Front
Subwoofer placement in the front of the room is the most common and usually results in the best blending with the main speakers and center channel and minimizes localization effects. Bass is omni-directional. When properly placed a subwoofer should not give away its location and you should feel like the bass is coming from all around you. If you are noticing localization, try placing the subwoofer on both sides of the front stage and listen for the best results.
Try A Corner
SVS recommends starting with corner placement. Corner placement excites all possible room modes, resulting in a denser standing wave pattern in the room. This reduces (but doesn’t eliminate) the potential to encounter nulls, which are acoustic cancellation points or ‘dead spots’ in the room.
If corner placement on the front stage sounds awesome - consider yourself lucky and kick back to enjoy some music and movies!
The 'Subwoofer Crawl'
If corner placement doesn’t result in optimal bass response, then SVS recommends the ‘subwoofer crawl’ technique. It may sound odd, but this really works and can help determine the best possible placement location if you have multiple options and want the best sound possible. This involves the following steps:
- Place the subwoofer at or near the main listening position. Get help moving the subwoofer if it’s a big/heavy model.
- Loop a familiar soundtrack with a repeating bass line.
- Evaluate the bass quality at each available subwoofer location in the room. Keep your head at/near knee level while listening (hence the term ‘subwoofer crawl’).
- Pick the location in the room which provides the most accurate and balanced sounding bass – and place the subwoofer there.