Subwoofer Setup: How to Get Great Bass in 3 Steps

Subwoofers are like the magic beans of audio, expanding a playback system's dynamic range in a way that dramatically enhances the listening experience. There's an attitude among some audiophiles that subwoofers represent, if not the spawn of the devil (there are numerous such spawns in audio lore), a bad compromise at minimum. But the truth is that adding a modest but well-designed subwoofer to speakers, even compact bookshelf models, can result in better performance than what you'd get from full-range towers that cost considerably more.

Full-range speakers present a room-friendly option, particularly for dedicated two-channel systems, and can sound very good. But where you position the speakers for best performance—in particular to optimize imaging and soundstage depth—will almost never be in the location where they'll provide the most accurate bass. The main reason for this is room modes, which are resonances determined by a room's dimensions that can dramatically affect bass and do it in different ways depending on where the speakers—and the listeners—are positioned. Sound below the typical subwoofer crossover frequency of 60-100Hz is non- directional, however, so using a subwoofer (or two) positioned separately from the main speakers to reproduce that portion of the audio spectrum will allow you to correct for room modes using the steps I'll describe below.


Crossover Considerations
It may be tempting to drive big tower speakers full-range even when also using a subwoofer, but that combination rarely works out well. In most situations, the subwoofer should only be engaged below a certain crossover frequency, and you should also limit the response of the main speakers below that same frequency. This low frequency roll-off (performed by a so-called high-pass filter) lowers distortion in the main speakers by sparing them the need to produce bass that a subwoofer is better-equipped to handle. It also keeps the main speakers (which as noted above typically aren't located in the best place to produce uniform bass) from interfering with a care- fully positioned subwoofer where their responses overlap in the transition region.

While virtually all A/V receivers and preamp-processors have high- and low-pass filtering capability, most two-channel preamps and integrated amps don't. But some stereo-only components do provide that capability (this Parasound NewClassic 200 integrated amplifier, for instance), so if you plan on adding an optimized subwoofer setup to a two-channel system, you'll first need to do some product research.

An effective subwoofer implementation can include either one or two subs. More than two can offer further advantages, but the law of diminishing returns sets in quickly. For the record, none of these recommendations are new—some of the best work on the subject was done in the mid aughts at Harman Industries, and extensive discussions on the topic, along with exhaustive discussions on the setup of loudspeakers in general, can be found in Sound Reproduction: The Acoustics and Psychoacoustics of Loudspeakers and Rooms, Third Edition (Floyd E. Toole, Routledge, 2018).

Step One: The Subwoofer Crawl
Due to the way room modes vary in their distribution, proper placement of a single subwoofer will only optimize low bass for a single seat. While this won't matter much to an audiophile with his or her favored and unmovable listening chair, it can have significant repercussions for a multi-seat home theater.

The so-called "subwoofer crawl" is the most commonly recommended single-sub setup technique. To do the crawl, you first position the subwoofer at your listening location (elevated to ear height, not on the floor!). Next, while playing a slow low-frequency sweep tone available on many test CDs (and online at, move around the room listening for the smoothest response as the sweep moves up and down the scale. To do this correctly, you must position your ears at the height the subwoofer driver will be at when moved into its final position. That's why it's called the crawl! Remember to keep the room clear of family members while doing this to prevent them calling for a straitjacket and mental assessment.

Step Two: Manually Measure
While the crawl can work for basic subwoofer setup, use of a microphone and a software measurement program in place of your ears will provide even better results. Two of the best-known consumer-friendly options are Room EQ Wizard (a free download, though you'll also need to buy a calibrated microphone for around $100) and the OmniMic V2 Acoustic Measurement system from Parts Express ($300, includes a calibrated mic). The advantage to these options is that they'll provide more accurate results. Also, if you attach the mic to a mic stand extension and move it to each measurement location, you won't have to crawl around the room on your hands and knees like Fido.


The OmniMic V2 acoustic measurement system from Parts Express ($300) is an all-in-one hardware/ software kit for DIY speaker measurement.

Step Three: Room Correction
Although you should get good bass uniformity at your listening chair with a subwoofer at the location discovered during the crawl— either with or without software measurement support—it's unlikely to be perfect. Bass equalization using room correction systems such as Audyssey, Dirac Live, and Anthem Room Correction (ARC) that are built into A/V receivers or preamp/processors can further refine the result. Some subwoofers also provide their own built-in room correction or parametric EQ features. You may want to perform a final refinement, particularly when applying manual parametric EQ, by using software measurement tools to verify what's happening at the listening location. Bass peaks are easiest to equalize out, but dips can sometimes be audio black holes that are impossible to fix with any amount of frequency boost.

Two Subs Are Better Than One
A key takeaway from the book Sound Reproduction: The Acoustics and Psychoacoustics of Loudspeakers and Rooms referenced above is that at least two subs are needed to optimize bass response for more than one listening seat. Also, the point of using multiple subs is not to produce greater bass output, but to create more uniform bass response in the room.

The measurements described in Toole's book are applicable mainly to enclosed, acoustically symmetrical, rectangular rooms with flat ceilings. For the testing carried out at Harman, the main front speakers were positioned near the short wall and fired down the room's long dimension (the opposite arrangement—front speakers on the long wall—was found to be inferior), with the seating area located roughly in the center of the room. The optimum location for two subwoofers in such a room and seating arrangement was found to be on directly opposite walls (either side-to-side or front-and-back, at the mid-wall positions in both arrangements). In four-sub installations, both opposite-wall locations could be used, though the research also suggests that corner placement might work better in some rooms—assuming four corners are available.

Floyd E. Toole's book Sound Reproduction: The Acoustics and Psychoacosutics of Loudspeakers and Rooms is a must-have reference for anyone interested in the technical aspects of audio reproduction.

If you do use two or more subwoofers, it's not recommended that you set them up as a stereo pair—a popular audiophile choice. As noted above, bass, particularly below the typical subwoofer crossover frequency of 60-100Hz, is non-directional. Yes, it's true you'll often hear an instrument such as a bass drum or double bass appear to come from a specific location. But what you're actually hearing are the instrument's overtones, most of them well above the sub's crossover point. These overtones blend together with the non-directional low frequencies to provide the illusion of stereo bass. Furthermore, setting dual subs up as a stereo pair eliminates their ability to improve overall bass uniformity in the room. For that to work properly, each of the two (or more) subs must be set up to reproduce the same bass information.

Don't be surprised if perfection is elusive when attempting your own set of measurements to optimize subwoofer positioning. I certainly didn't achieve it, though the bass in my room ended up being more uniform from seat to seat than before, both with and without Audyssey room correction. And while Audyssey worked well for music listening, I sometimes preferred the added warmth that was present without it for movies. Further experimentation using Audyssey's MultEQ Editor app, which can be used to adjust the target curve, would help here, but MultEQ Editor isn't available for all components that feature Audyssey room correction.

Reading Sound Reproduction: The Acoustics and Psychoacoustics of Loudspeakers and Rooms, the book's charts make it clear that the complexity of small room acoustics is only slightly less than infinite and filled with variables that can't be fully accounted for in any practical sense. But one thing about bass is certain: In rooms where there's more than one listener, two (or four!) properly positioned subwoofers beat a single sub every time.

drny's picture

Very good article Tom. I run three 10" sealed subs (used two run two 12") in my family room set up (5.3.2). Similar to your room, it's open to the kitchen and then formal living room. It's 18'x 17' with 12' cathedral ceiling. The two 12" subs (ported) had great low bass extension, but due to their large size (due to being port design) the ideal placement was nixed by the wife. For my space, three 10" sealed subs at 60hz cross over was the perfect solution (I have large three way full range towers).

Brak Rules All's picture

I had an immediate flashback to the early days of SNL. I was expecting to see Dan Aykroyd pouring a glass of "great bass" out of a blender and feeding it to Laraine Newman. Oh well.

Olaf the Snowman's picture

Adding separate sub(s) to even the so-called 'full-range' speakers could be beneficial ....... Those subs allow for more optimal placement for both the midrange and treble as well as the bass frequencies :-) .......

hena's picture

Placement: The location of your subwoofer can have a significant impact on the quality of your bass. drive mad Experiment with different positions in your room to find the spot that sounds the best. A common approach is to place the subwoofer in the corner of the room, but this may not always be the best option for your specific space.

andree23's picture

The placement of your subwoofer is critical to achieving great bass. Ideally, the ovo game subwoofer should be placed in a corner of the room, as this location tends to amplify the bass. Alternatively, you can place the subwoofer near a wall or in a position that is equidistant from the walls in your room

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But the truth is that adding a modest but well-designed subwoofer to speakers, even compact bookshelf models, crawl space encapsulation pittsburgh pa can result in better performance than what you'd get from full-range towers that cost considerably more.

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I didn't have to crank the volume up to set up the subwoofer. You should attempt setting up the subwoofer for excellent bass that improves your overall listening experience ovo game

camerongiles's picture

Try with various locations in your space to obtain the optimum sound. The subwoofer is often placed in the corner of the room, but this is not always the greatest solution for your individual area.drift hunters

otisjame's picture

The first step in setting up a subwoofer is to find the best location for it in the room. Pizza Tower Ideally, the subwoofer should be placed in a corner or against a wall, as this will increase its output and help to minimize standing waves in the room.

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In most situations, the subwoofer should only be engaged below a certain crossover frequency, and you should also limit the response of the main speakers below that same frequency. best drywall contractor near me

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The easiest bass peaks to remove with equalization are dips like what demolition contractors wellington
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I think I read some time ago(in a book on acoustics or maybe psychoacoustics) that our brain actually fills in low frequencies when they are missing. This probably isn't quite as good as having a system with true deep base/ low-end sound cube 2048, but it likely does make up for some of the deficiency.

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You're correct that bass frequencies, particularly below the subwoofer crossover frequency, Infinite Fusion Calculator, are non-directional. The perception of bass coming from a specific location is often due to the instrument's overtones, which are typically higher frequencies.

theolauren's picture

Subwoofers are audio magic, expanding dynamic range and enhancing the listening experience. Adding a well-designed subwoofer to compact speakers can outperform expensive full-range towers. Room modes can be corrected by positioning a separate subwoofer. You can check it here!

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Adding a well-designed subwoofer to your playback system can greatly enhance the listening experience. Optimal subwoofer placement helps correct room modes and ensures accurate bass reproduction. Follow these three steps for excellent bass performance. visit us

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Adding a well-designed subwoofer enhances the listening experience by expanding dynamic range and improving performance, even with compact speakers. Room modes and positioning challenges affect bass accuracy in full-range speakers. Proper crossover settings and subwoofer placement optimize bass response. The "subwoofer crawl" technique and software measurement programs help achieve optimal results. Room correction systems and multiple subwoofers enhance bass uniformity. Bass below the crossover frequency is non-directional, so stereo pairing isn't necessary. Properly positioned subwoofers deliver better results in multi-seat setups.

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