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Subwoofer placement: Everything you need to know

Placing your subwoofer in the right position has a massive impact on the quality of your audio system. Unfortunately, most of us have to leave it in a place that’s practical and aesthetically pleasant, neglecting whether or not we’re making the most of our subwoofer.

That’s because subs are relatively bulky and need to be placed on the floor, which, if your home theater or audio system is in the living room, can cause quite a drama with your family or flatmates.

Luckily, subwoofers provide good audio quality wherever you put them, but if you want to achieve optimal sound, check out this guide on how and where to place your subwoofer in your room to create an immersive, energetic bass sound.

About the author

I entered the world of subwoofers when I started mixing and mastering music for a living. I’ve been studying and researching the best audio systems for years to ensure that whatever comes out of my music studio sounds perfect on all playback devices. My journey involved days spent trying to find the ideal spot for my speakers and subwoofers, as well as learning how to make the most of the audio gear and room I had available.

A few words on low frequencies

Contrary to higher frequencies, lower frequencies are omnidirectional, meaning they tend to move in all directions at once. This is why most people tend to neglect subwoofer placement: a subwoofer enhances lower frequencies, no matter where it’s placed in the room.

subwoofer placement guide
Image: Aliaksandr Barysenka

Still, the position of your subwoofer has an impact on how it interacts with its surroundings, and it’s up to you to find the sweet spot based on your room and personal taste.

The first thing you should do, regardless of whether you’re upgrading a listening room or home theater, is to play some heavy-bass music you’re familiar with and check if bass frequencies sound rich and enveloping.

Further reading: The best songs to test your speaker system

This step will allow you to understand how your subwoofer reproduces low frequencies, and given your familiarity with the piece, you should be able to make out if the bass frequencies are represented correctly.

Being lower frequencies omnidirectional, you shouldn’t be able to locate where your subwoofer is in the room without looking. If you are, try placing it somewhere else and see if the issue persists.

Subwoofer placement options

Depending on your dedication and passion for immersive, heavy-bass sounds, there are multiple options to find the best spot for your subwoofer.

Starting from the simplest one, I’ll describe the three most common techniques for subwoofer placement.

1. In front of you

It couldn’t be any easier, right? In most cases, placing your subwoofer in front of you, facing the centre of the room, is the best way to get good-quality audio reproduction because lower frequencies will blend with the mid/high frequencies coming from the central speakers, creating a pleasant soundstage.

Place the speaker a few inches away from the wall (around 10) to avoid sound waves reflection.

2. In the corner

Another popular option is to place the subwoofer in a corner: because of the way lower frequencies propagate, you’ll hear a louder and clearer sound coming from your sub if it’s placed in the room’s corner.

This might not give you the best performance if your listening area is too far from the subwoofer, but otherwise, I think placing the sub in a corner always delivers excellent sound quality.

3. Subwoofer crawl

If neither of the previous options satisfies your needs, you need to check out the “subwoofer crawl,” the ultimate trial-and-error technique to find the sweet spot for your subwoofer.

First, place your subwoofer near or at your usual listening location. Then play a song you know by heart that features a bass-heavy sound.

Next, move around the room to all places you’re considering for your subwoofer and listen to the sound. Make sure you keep your ear at the height your sub would normally be (hence the “crawl”). Find the spot where the lower frequencies sound the fullest and place your subwoofer there.

Although time-consuming, this is undoubtedly the best technique to make the most of your subwoofer and listening environment.

Using two subwoofers

There are situations when it might be necessary to have two subs; for instance, to reach optimal low-frequency response in more than one listening position or to enhance the density of a bass sound effect.

In these cases, I’d recommend placing the two subs on the front corners at the same distance from your listening position. In this way, you’ll get a transparent, all-encompassing bass response that’ll envelop the room.

Having two subs means you won’t have to worry too much about where they’re placed because two subwoofers even out lower frequencies much more proficiently than just one.

All in all, I believe most people will be satisfied with just one subwoofer. However, consider this option if your room is big or low frequencies are a crucial aspect of your audio-visual experience.

Final thoughts

And that’s all there is to it! My final recommendation is to always try different spots and not just place the subwoofer where there’s some free space.

You might be surprised by how much the soundstage changes when your subwoofer is in a position to deliver its very best performance.

When placing a sub, you should consider sound quality, practicality, and the aesthetic value it provides to your room. Take these three aspects into account and find the best spot to bring a high-quality and pleasant home theater or listening room to life.

Good luck!