That's a good question, though a weird one, since the person asking the question often don't have much choice in the matter. Most of us don't have the luxury of a dedicated listening room. Which means you have a very limited number of practical positions for your subwoofer. Sometimes just one. This guide was written to help our customers get the most out of their subwoofers. If you have a dedicated room, awesome! If you don't, let's figure out how to make the most of what we have. Our Inkognito subwoofer is ideal if you have limited space and/or placement options. If you don't own a Sigberg Audio subwoofer (yet), fear not. Most of the recommendations are general in nature, and will apply to subwoofers of any brand.

Also, when you've found the sweet spot for your subwoofer, make sure to read this article about how to set it up properly.

Subwoofer placement myths

There are many myths and "rules" about subwoofer placements. The problem is that every room and setup is unique. So the true answer is that there is no true or universal answer to this question. You need to experiment within the options available to you in your specific room.

You've invested a lot of money in a competent subwoofer. To get value for that money, you will need to invest some time in setting it up properly. Let's first debunk a few myths, then move on to setting up the subwoofer so it works the best in your room.

Myth #1: Don't place your subwoofer in a corner

Nobody puts Baby in a corner (bonus for catching the movie reference). You will find lots of articles and videos about why not to put your subwoofer in a corner. And you will find others that say you should. The main reason against is that it will excite room modes and give you uneven bass response. This is technically true, but it's also an argument FOR corner placement, as room modes means that the room is amplifying certain bass frequencies. Which translates to free bass (yey!). And as we live in the bright and shiny future full of fun technological advancements, most of us have amplifiers with advanced room calibration capabilities. These systems are almost magic, especially in the bass. They will help even out the frequency response, so that we can get both free bass and good sound.

Does it always work perfectly? Certainly not. Is corner placement worth trying if you have that option in your room? It most certainly is.

 Myth #2: Don't place your subwoofer towards the wall

Since we're building subwoofers that support an on-wall mounting with the driver facing the wall, you won't get a prize for guessing that we don't agree with this one. The arguments against this position is mostly the same as for the corner placements. Here's the interesting thing when placing the subwoofer driver close to the wall. Dips caused by room reflections are pushed higher up in the frequency range. If you're lucky, completely outside of the effective frequency range of the subwoofer. You also get some of the same gain or "free bass" as with the corner placement.  

Does the direction of the driver matter from a sound quality perspective ? No, as the frequencies reproduced by a subwoofer is non-directional, and spread equally in all directions. As a consequence, facing the driver towards the listening position is not necessary.

If you have a ported subwoofer (our current line-up are all sealed), the distance to the wall should be minimum 1-2x the port diameter.
In summary: Can placing your subwoofer close to a wall, even with the driver facing the wall work? In our experience, it can work very well indeed!

Myth #3: I don't play that loud, so I only need one subwoofer

You'd be forgiven for calling us biased when we recommend that you buy more than one subwoofer. One subwoofer will certainly work very well. But there are advantages of having more than one, beyond the ability to play louder. 
When you have more than one subwoofer located in different places of your room, this will help even out the frequency response. With our subwoofers, you have the added option of having one on the floor and one on the wall. This will further increase the likelyhood of an even frequency response.
Two subwoofers will need to work less to produce the same sound pressure, so you will also get lower distortion and higher sound quality.

Myth #4: Subwoofers are mainly for movies. You don't need a subwoofer at all for music, at least not if you have large main speakers

This is not technically a placement myth, but an important one. As our subwoofers are actually designed for music first, and movies second - we obviously disagree. I don't care how large your main speakers are, they will always benefit from a high quality subwoofer. It will not only improve the bass - As you relieve the main speakers of their most difficult task (reproducing low frequency bass notes), more power will become available to the rest of the frequency band. This results in increased dynamics and a cleaner sound. When you add a subwoofer, the sound of your main speakers will improve.

Placing your subwoofer

The subwoofer crawl

Finally we get to the point of the article! If you have a dedicated room, feel free to follow the age old advice of dumping the subwoofer in the chair or couch where you intend to listen. Then crawl around on the floor listening for the location with the most bass. Voila, you've found the spot where your subwoofer likely sounds the best. This method works, but you may end up with the subwoofer in an impractical position. Also, if you have several listening positions, it may not be the optimal location for all of them.

Go with what you have

Most have their subwoofer in a multi-purpose room, where they can't choose freely where to position it. Still, you have some options. If you have more than one option, test them all. Unless you have a down-firing subwoofer (like ours), you may also try rotating the subwoofer. It may sound better facing a different direction. If you have a Sigberg Audio subwoofer like the Inkognito, you of course also have the option of wall-mounting it. This may open up additional placement options that yield better sound.
Finally, if your subwoofer is connected to a surround receiver, the room calibration will help improve the sound. If you have measuring equipment like REW, you may also test adjusting the subwoofer distance in the surround receiver menu (assuming you have one). Adjust the distance up or down in 30cm increments up to a couple of meters in each direction, to see if this improves any of your dips and peaks.

Placing multiple subwoofers

Are you lucky enough to have multiple subwoofers? The same rules as above apply, with the added complexity of figuring out which combination of positions that sound the best. Measuring equipment will definitely come in handy in this situation. If the rest of the household agrees, you may also choose to stack the subwoofers on top of each other. If they are placed in a beneficial location like a corner, this may significantly improve their output. But, you miss out on the opportunity to even out the frequency response. 
In conclusion, there's no free lunch. The best results require experimentation, and most locations will have pros and cons. If you have measurement equipment this will make things easier. If you don't, go with what sounds best to you! And as always, it might be useful with a little help from a friend for second opinions (and help moving the sub around). 
June 13, 2020
Tags: subwoofer