You’ve just bought a brand new subwoofer and can’t wait to enjoy those spine-tingling bass effects in your home theater. You’ve read that placement is key to getting optimal sound from the subwoofer. But what about direction? Which way should you point the subwoofer to get the best result?
Since a subwoofer’s sound waves travel in all directions, there is no fixed direction in which it should face to get optimal sound quality. However, the most common practice is to have the driver face out towards the listening area, and if your subwoofer has a port, it should be kept away from the wall.
Does it matter which way does your subwoofer face?
Subwoofers are omnidirectional speakers, so you should be able to point it in any direction and still get great bass, right?
While this is true, many experts believe that how you position your subwoofer in your home theater room can significantly impact the overall sound quality in the listening area.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much of a consensus regarding which is the ideal direction and position for a subwoofer to be placed. One look at any forum discussion for audiophiles or home theater enthusiasts and you’ll find a range of differing opinions on the subject.
While some advocate pointing the subwoofer towards the listening area, others prefer to have it facing the wall to increase output, and they swear by their results!
What most will agree on is that the best place to position and point your subwoofer will depend largely on your individual circumstances. These include the size of your home theater room, your furniture, the type of subwoofer and other speakers in your room, the floor space, etc.
This is because subwoofers are particularly sensitive to room factors when compared to other types of speakers. Their omnidirectional sound waves tend to bounce off the walls and intersect with each other.
So depending on the dimensions of your room and the objects placed within it, there will be some places that have ‘peaks ‘- where the notes get boosted and boomy, and other places that have ‘nulls’ -where they become inaudible or muted.
How you experience the sound of the subwoofer will also differ based on where you are seated.
That’s why finding the right spot and pointing it in the best direction requires a lot of trial and error.
The best placement and direction of a subwoofer is when you ‘feel’ the bass around you and cannot pinpoint which direction it is coming from. You should feel like it’s coming from everywhere.
But before you can decide where to point it, you need to find the right spot to place it. So, how do you find the perfect placement?
Finding the right place for your subwoofer requires some experimentation. Here are a couple of suggestions you can try-
Some experts suggest using the ‘rule of thirds’ as a guide to placing your subwoofer. Place your subwoofer in front of your room beside the TV, keeping it in a position one-third of the distance from a wall. This should reduce the effect of peaks and nulls in your listening area.
Alternatively, you could place it anywhere in the front where you think it would be most suitable. Now go sit in your seating position, and play a bass track. Keep adjusting the position of the subwoofer until you think it sounds best.
The subwoofer ‘crawl’ uses a technique of reversing the positions of the subwoofer and audience to figure out the right position
To do this first, place the subwoofer on your sofa or seating position. Start playing something that has a lot of bass content. Next, crawl around the room (so you are at ear height) until you find the place where the bass sounds best.
The notes should sound consistent, balanced, and accurate. Mark out that position with some white tape. Find a couple of good spots this way and continue to mark them out.
Repeat this exercise from other listening positions as well. Find the best compromise- this will be the place you keep the subwoofer.
Here again, there is a difference of opinion on whether subwoofers should be placed near a corner. A corner can make the subwoofer sound louder, however, the subwoofer should not be placed too close to it as it can cause peaks and nulls. Also, the subwoofer should not be too far from your listening area.
For a beginner, it may be simpler to use the most common and intuitive method of having the subwoofer facing toward the listening area because it minimizes sound reflection. This is also the reason why ported subwoofers are placed away from the wall.
If you have a small room and are looking for boundary gain you can try aiming it towards the wall keeping it a few inches away and see how it sounds. Beware though, this might cause bass reflections which can create distortion.
If you have a downward-firing subwoofer, it doesn’t matter if it is facing the wall. Have the driver point towards the floor and the port should be in free airflow.
When it comes to subwoofers, many believe two are better than one. With two subwoofers, you can get more listening positions with optimal sound quality, with less potential for peaks and nulls. What’s more, with two subwoofers it becomes harder to localize where the sounds are coming from and the audio becomes more immersive. The bass is thus more evenly distributed through the listening area.
Here are a few options you can choose from to decide on how to position your subwoofers:
You can place them in diagonal corners of your room facing toward the listening area.
You can also place them facing each other at the mid-points of two opposing walls. Place one subwoofer on the midpoint of the left side wall and the other opposite it at the right side wall.
Alternatively, you can place one in the midpoint of the front wall, and the other on the mid-point of the back wall, facing each other and the listening area. This works well if your seating position is towards the middle of the room.
Other methods include placing the subwoofers in each corner of the front wall facing the listening area or between the left and right speakers and the center channel. This is good if your seating is towards the back.
However, it must be noted that since every room is different and the layout of the furniture is different, you’ll still need to do a bit of experimenting to see which angle gives the best sound.
A subwoofer is a great addition to any home theater, use it to its full potential and you will have a truly immersive, engaging cinematic experience. Remember to keep experimenting with its placement and point it in the direction it sounds best. The end result will be totally worth it.