Subwoofers do a fantastic job of enhancing the sound quality of any Hi-Fi audio system by producing a punchy bass conventional speakers struggle to deliver due to their size. There are many factors involved in getting the best performance from your subwoofer, one of which is proper placement.
You can place a subwoofer on a shelf, provided it’s sturdy and dense enough. The low-end soundwaves the subwoofer produces are omnidirectional, so the bass will be audible. A subwoofer can reverberate and cause unwanted vibrations if your shelf is close to the wall or not sturdy and heavy enough.
This article will explain how subwoofer placement affects low-frequency sound output and quality. I’ll also tackle identifying the ideal spot for your subwoofer and other ways to optimize its performance.
How Placement Affects the Performance of a Subwoofer
Unlike conventional speakers, subwoofers require considerable thought when it comes to placement. The soundwaves produced by subwoofers are omnidirectional, making it even more challenging to find an ideal location for them.
Subwoofers deliver intense bass, which creates a significant amount of vibration. Low-end frequencies are the most susceptible to their surroundings, meaning the sounds they produce can easily vary depending on what surrounds them.
In an ideal world, the best place to put subwoofers is at a spot where their sound is unobstructed to prevent what is known as standing waves or bass nulls. But the reality is that most subwoofers are used in a room with a carpet or hardwood floor, walls, and furniture that can cause the sound waves to bounce in every direction.
Determining the best spot for your subwoofers is tricky. Moreover, the best sound output boils down to personal taste, but it still helps to know how various locations can affect their performance.
Placing Your Subwoofer on a Shelf
If you have a front-firing subwoofer, an excellent way to reduce vibration is to elevate it by placing it on a shelf. Reducing vibrations will significantly improve sound quality and keep other parts of the room like windows, for example, from rattling.
The shelf must be sturdy enough to support the subwoofer’s weight and absorb vibrations. Also, be sure to mount the subwoofer securely to prevent it from falling.
Placing Your Subwoofer on the Floor
The floor is a familiar spot for a subwoofer. However, it’s worth noting that this keeps them close to a very flat surface that will inevitably transmit more vibrations throughout the entire room.
Excessive vibrations that accompany powerful bass impact sound quality by drowning it out. The boominess of the bass can also muffle the details you would otherwise hear from your regular speakers without the intense vibrations.
Another disadvantage in placing subwoofers on the floor is that the vibrations can be transmitted to other rooms outside the house and even cause windows and objects to rattle. The rattling creates unwanted noise, further disrupting a good listening experience.
Placing Your Subwoofer in a Corner
Many people place their subwoofers in a corner, which generally intensifies the bass levels and decreases the chances of bass nulls. However, having more bass doesn’t necessarily translate to better sound quality.
Since placing a subwoofer in a corner places it close to a flat surface, the bass and accompanying vibrations tend to travel across the walls, aside from the floors. Corner placement leads to the same drawbacks as placing the subwoofers on the floor.
How to Find the Perfect Spot For Your Subwoofer
Given the subwoofer’s sensitivity to its surroundings, it may seem as if finding a good spot for it is next to impossible. You can go overboard by hiring a professional to interpret the data from an acoustic-measuring instrument to align your audio equipment properly. Still, there is a more pragmatic approach to getting the most out of your subwoofer.
The first step in finding a spot for your subwoofer is understanding the factors or limitations that dictate where your subwoofer should go.
Here are some factors to consider when looking for an ideal spot for your subwoofers:
- How much space do you have?
- Which areas of the room are less prone to foot traffic?
- How far from the outlet can the power cord go?
- How far can your cables from the amplifier go?
- How does the spot affect sound quality?
Doing the Sub Crawl To Find the Perfect Spot
If you have several potential locations for your subwoofer to choose from, there’s a technique called the “Sub Crawl” to help you find which spot is the best one.
You can do the Sub Crawl by following these easy steps after plugging in the subwoofer:
- Place your subwoofer where you typically sit when listening to music or watching a movie.
- Play a bass-heavy track.
- Crawl around the room and listen to where the subwoofer sounds the best.
- Use tape to mark the area where the subwoofer sounds good.
- Place the subwoofer as close as possible to the marked spot.
- Fine-tune your audio settings.
Of course, the Sub Crawl technique is best used before mounting your shelf to the wall.
Watch this video from Audioholics to see the step-by-step process of doing the subwoofer crawl.
The Sub Crawl is a good and practical way to find a good spot for your subwoofer. But in case your placement options are limited, there are other ways to optimize your subwoofer’s performance.
Other Ways To Optimize Subwoofer Performance
Not everyone has the flexibility to move their subwoofers around to get the most out of it. Or perhaps the room has too many flat surfaces that could cause unwanted sound reflections no matter where you place your subwoofer.
Fortunately, there are other ways to optimize your subwoofer’s performance, even if it’s on a shelf.
Try Sitting Somewhere Else
The simplest way to alter, and hopefully correct, subwoofer output is to try sitting in different locations throughout your listening room. If you’re unhappy with the bass output or sound quality of your subwoofer, it might just be a case of you sitting in a dead spot.
Improve Room Acoustics
One way to minimize sound reflections is by using energy-absorbing materials to cover reflective surfaces. Examples of non-reflective surfaces include heavy curtains for your windows and a cut-pile carpet for your floor.
Another option to improve room acoustics is installing bass traps, an energy-absorbing material that sits in the corner of your room.
The Auralex LENPUR LENRD (Amazon.com) is a fantastic bass trap that comes in a few beautiful colors; it can absorb low-end frequencies of up to 75 Hz, so you won’t lose any mid-range or treble.
Here’s a helpful video that gives guidance on determining where to place your bass traps.
Adjust Your Audio Settings
If your subwoofer sounds too boomy or muddy, adjusting your audio settings can go a long way in correcting this. You can use the equalizer to decrease the output of lower frequencies or change your subwoofer’s gain and frequency settings.
Room Correction Software
Many receivers (and some speakers) now come with built-in room correction software designed to optimize audio settings according to the speaker’s surroundings and the listener’s seating position.
Room correction software works by measuring how a room and its components affect the speaker’s sound to the listener’s position. After taking these measurements, the software adjusts the settings based on an ideal sound signature.
You can place a subwoofer anywhere, including a shelf. However, there is no such thing as a perfect spot for subwoofer placement.
Many nuances affect subwoofer performance, and a subwoofer’s sensitivity to room factors doesn’t make life any easier.
Room factors largely determine the best place for your subwoofers, but personal preferences will always play a bigger role. And in cases where your placement can’t seem to do the trick, it’s nice to know that there are other ways to get the most out of your subwoofer.