Where to Place your Subwoofer for Optimal Sound Performance
Simplifying Acoustics for Superior Subwoofer Sound
Creating an acoustic heaven with a home theater is about more than simply finding the right equipment. For high-end devices like home theaters that come complete with powered subwoofers, positioning is crucial. Get more immersed in music and movies with these basic tips on placing the bassiest of home theater components.
What Goes Into Subwoofer Positioning?
As most people know, subwoofers are responsible for the emission of low-frequency sounds. When these tones are transmitted from speaker cone surfaces into the air, they cause pressure ripples in the atmosphere that spread outward; these variances are subsequently perceived as sounds.
When sound pressure waves traveling through air encounter the boundaries of solid surfaces, like couches, shelves and walls, they’re partially absorbed by the solids. Their remnants are reflected back at angles equal to their initial angles of incidence. It’s crucial to take advantage of this phenomenon when placing powered subwoofers; fortunately, it’s usually not necessary to actually do the math.
Using a Room’s Shape as a Passive Amplifier
First off, never give sound waves a chance to dissipate or self-interfere so much that they become sloppy remnants of their former selves. For instance, placing a powered subwoofer in the dead middle of a room makes it sound weak and increases the effects of interference. Use reflection to make subwoofers seem more powerful, and guide their output towards the listener. Note that Down-Firing and Front-Firing subwoofers will have identical low frequency effects regardless of positioning.
Placing subwoofers in corners is a great way to allow sound waves to bounce off nearby surfaces and travel in unison before they get too far out of phase with one another and become a mess of conflicting tones. While sounds are eventually going to rebound from far-off walls and furniture in a fashion that can only result in destructive interference, starting them off in the natural amplifiers created by corners or alcoves can minimize such effects.
This principle is similar to how speaker cones function, and its effects are comparable. Placing a powered subwoofer in a corner or close to a wall tends to facilitate maximum sound pressure, but it also makes the sound more directional. As such, it’s important to arrange seating so that listeners are in the general path of the sound waves.
Creating Even Tone
Be careful, however, to remember that the walls in homes aren’t perfect acoustic resonators; rigid materials, like concrete and stone, deaden sounds as they absorb oscillations without flexing in response. In the process, they can create booming yet uninspired bass that lacks vigor and tonal differentiation. Before turning that den into a dream home theater, it may be necessary to complete that wall-finishing project.
Installing a single lonesome powered subwoofer in the corner of a room isn’t going to do the trick either. In most cases, it’s wise to place subwoofers in pairs of opposing corners to create a smoother bass profile throughout the space. While nulls are still going to occur where waves cancel each other out, the fact that more than one corner can serve as a relatively clean sound source makes it easier to overpower unwanted distortions and reflections without cranking the volume all the way up.
Zeroing in on the Ideal Setup
Finally, bear in mind that sound interference involves complex physics. For those who aren’t too interested in solving the wave equations associated with the propagation of sound in their home theater spaces, however, it usually suffices to experiment.
Before giving a home theater their stamp of approval, most audiophiles tweak things around. Once the subwoofers are mounted, it’s smart to listen to different sounds at various points throughout the room to determine where dead spots exist and how furniture and other objects play a role.