Subwoofers are great additions to your audiophile setup since they can add more flavor to your music by producing low-frequency sound waves. However, they’re different from speakers and can be tricky to set up. For example, you may wonder if they need to be placed in a specific direction.
Subwoofer orientation matters because each room is different in terms of acoustic features. Plus, subwoofers are designed in different ways and generate sound waves that travel in different directions. So, you need to experiment with directions to find the best subwoofer placement and orientation.
This article explores if subwoofer orientation matters and what you need to consider in finding the sweet spot for your subs to get the perfect bass.
Subwoofers vs. Speakers
Speaker placement may seem pretty straightforward; they have to directly face the listener so that the sound waves reach your ears without any obstacles. (It’s actually a bit more complicated to get the best possible sound.)
However, subwoofers are different in that they produce low-frequency sounds. These waves are omnidirectional and therefore wrap around the subwoofer. And because they’re low-frequency, your ears can’t identify the direction they’re coming from.
With those properties, you’d think the subwoofer’s direction doesn’t matter, but if you want a deeper bass, you need to pick an optimal direction.
Related article: Speaker Placement in a Small Room: The Complete Guide
Different Types of Subwoofers
Not all subwoofers are the same in terms of design and components. For example, some subwoofers are active while others are passive. Active subwoofers come with their own amplifier and speaker, while passive ones don’t have a power source and should be connected to the mains.
The type of subwoofer affects the placement and direction of the device because each driver type has its own nuances. Let’s consider the main types of subwoofers and how to pick the optimal spot for each one.
As you might guess from the name, front-firing subwoofers send the bass signals through the front side of their cabinets. This way, sound waves are sent directly into the air without running into any obstacles.
Front-firing subs are perfect for people who live in apartments because they’re less likely to disturb neighbors.
With these subwoofers, the number of other speakers and subs, your room furniture and design, and even floor material affect the final results. Moreover, because the sound waves don’t bump into any obstacles, the bass quality may suffer.
The reason is lack of boundary reinforcement, which is essential in helping sound waves bounce off a surface and get a boost in bass and volume.
That’s why it’s recommended to place a front-firing subwoofer facing a wall or even a couch to create this boundary reinforcement and get better results.
Since bass waves are short, you need to place the sub within inches from the hard surface. You could experiment with different distances and see which leads to better bass.
Down-firing subs direct the sound from the bottom. This way, the bass waves bounce off the floor, which acts as a boundary reinforcement.
This type of subwoofer may not be a good choice for people living in apartments because it can shake the floor and disturb neighbors.
Down-firing subs have an advantage over their front-firing cousins in that they use the floor as a wide and extensive resonating surface, leading to a richer and deeper bass.
That said, the floor material plays a significant role in the quality of the bass you’ll get. For example, if you have a carpeted floor, it’ll absorb most of the vibration, leading to better bass. However, it may absorb some of the soundwaves, affecting the overall quality.
That’s why it’s important to experiment with different surfaces to see which one works better for you.
There seems to be no specific choice when it comes to the direction of down-firing subs because the driver is facing the floor no matter how you place it.
Some audiophiles prefer to change the direction of the subwoofer and face the sound source upwards or to the sides. While it’s up to you to try different directions and find the sweet spot, it’s best to place your down-firing sub the way the manufacturer intended.
A sealed subwoofer is placed inside a sealed cabinet, allowing for a smaller form factor that easily integrates with the room design. It’s perfect for small rooms, making their placement and direction more straightforward.
Sound-wise, it can create more accurate bass, and since it’s sealed, you’ll get minimized vibration and higher-quality sound in some cases.
The sealed subwoofer doesn’t require a specific orientation because no air comes out of its vent, requiring a particular placement.
A ported subwoofer has ports or vents that drive air out of the subwoofer box. Since the sub can move large amounts of air, it can create a stronger bass, making it a perfect option for large rooms.
The vents on the body of these subwoofers mean that you can’t put them in any direction that you want. The port shouldn’t be facing a wall or any physical obstacle as it can block the airway and affect the bass quality.
If you must place it against a wall, make sure it’s at the proper distance from the wall to allow for free airflow. Experiment with different distances and check the bass quality to find the perfect position.
Related article: Can a Subwoofer Be Placed on a Shelf?
Tips for the Best Subwoofer Placement
As mentioned, the placement of subwoofers depends on your room setup and size, furniture, and even construction materials.
The only way to make sure you have the best subwoofer placement is through trial and error. And since sound and bass quality are subjective, you should determine the best subwoofer placement and direction yourself.
Watch this YouTube video for an interesting approach to finding the best spot for your subs:
Although you need to experiment, there are some general rules when finding the sweet spot for your subs:
- Avoid tight spaces. Don’t put the subwoofers inside a cabinet or under the table because it prevents the bass waves from moving around, leading to muddy and dull bass.
- Start with putting the subwoofer in front of the room. If you’re not satisfied with the bass, change its room. However, feel free to try different places to achieve your desired result. You could even place it behind the couch as long as you get the perfect bass and don’t mind aesthetics.
- Test the corners. Some people advise against putting subwoofers in the corners, while others strongly recommend it. There’s no right or wrong placement since subwoofers are highly flexible, and you should look for a spot that fills the room with bass without letting you localize the bass source.
- Check the distance. The distance between the wall and the subwoofer is ideally the same as the dimensions of the subwoofer. So, placing it nearer than that may not work.
- Modify the settings. If you can’t find the best direction or placement for your subs, it’s better to change their settings and look for the perfect spot again.
Subwoofers can transform your audio-listening experience by adding a “boomy” quality to your music. However, they’re not as straightforward as speakers in terms of placement and direction. That’s because bass signals are omnidirectional and can fill the room no matter where you direct them.
The design of the subwoofer can affect its orientation. For example, front-firing subs need to be directed at a hard surface to create boundary reinforcement and give better results. The best thing is trying different spots and directions until you get your desired bass quality.