When I bought my first home theater system, I was so green and never knew anything about bass and how it behaves in a room. Since I only knew of one subwoofer spot—at the front of my living room space—finding any other suitable spot was extremely difficult as I needed my speaker system to match with my décor and interior visual configurations.
When you’re looking for a home subwoofer system, one of the areas you usually emphasize on is experiencing that boomy bass. One factor that affects the sound output of your home theater subwoofer is the placement.
Therefore, when finding the perfect listening spot, you need to think of whether to place your subwoofer on the floor, high on the shelves, or behind the couch. But, as far as subwoofer placement is concerned, placing your sub on the floor is not the most convenient option.
Since elevating the sub is not a practical option either, this short guide will get deep into the depths of subwoofer placement to find some ways you can isolate your subwoofer from the floor without compromising its deep bass reproduction.
Should You Place a Subwoofer at Ear Level?
Well, the simple answer is NO and this is why.
Now, a home theater system comprises of the front, center, surround speakers plus a dedicated subwoofer. While the surround speakers handle much of the mid and high frequencies, the subwoofer on its side is tasked to handle the low-frequency of a sound.
Since high-frequency sounds are unidirectional (travel at a straight line), placing the surround speakers at ear level is the best option to avoid obstructing the sound waves. But, when it comes to your subwoofer, this is totally different. That’s because the low-frequencies handled by your subwoofer are omnidirectional meaning they travel in all directions. That’s why you don’t have to place your subwoofer at ear level.
Why the Subwoofer Shouldn’t Be on the Floor
Now, placing your subwoofer on an elevated location isn’t necessary. On the other hand, placing it on the floor isn’t recommended. Since you must be wondering which is which between the two, this post will first discuss why you’re not supposed to place your subwoofer on the floor before discussing some placement tips that will not interfere with your subwoofer’s performance.
One of the main reasons why you shouldn’t place your subwoofer on the floor is the vibrations it creates. You see, your subwoofer is the backbone of your entertainment system as it’s the one responsible for handling the low frequencies. Since it comprises of a powerful driver that requires substantial power to move at a higher rate, the resulting vibrations are enormous and can transfer a lot of vibrations causing the entire floor to tremble.
While this is what most folks prefer when watching movies or listening to music, it can cause negative effects on the soundproofing and acoustic cases.
When it comes to soundproofing, these vibrations can cause the sound to be transferred to other rooms either adjacent to or below you. So, no matter how much you try to deaden the vibrations, you’ll still encounter some frictions with your angry neighbors.
When it comes to an acoustic point of view, substantial vibrations can cause rattling which is usually evident if your subwoofer is standing on a laminated wooden floor.
Uneven Bass Distribution
Uneven distribution of bass in a room is one of the factors that are greatly influenced by how you position your subwoofer. You see, a subwoofer comprises of very powerful drivers that generate a lot of energy to reproduce those deep bass tones.
So, when the subwoofer is placed on the floor, it generates uneven pressure in the room causing peaks (maximum bass) on the lower portion of the room and nulls (less bass) at the upper portion of the room. With that, regardless of whether you have a powerful subwoofer or not, provided your sub is on the floor, you’ll never enjoy even bass distribution throughout the room.
Increased Peaks and Nulls
Another reason why you shouldn’t place your subwoofer on the floor is the issue to do with the room’s acoustics. Although low-frequencies are omnidirectional, they can easily be reflected by your room’s acoustics such as the walls.
Although this has everything to do with the walls, the situation usually intensifies when the subwoofer is on the floor rather than when it’s off the floor. The reflected sound waves usually interfere with the generated sound causing peaks (boomy bass) and nulls (inaudible bass) in different parts of the living room.
So, What’s the best Subwoofer Placement for Optimal Bass?
Now that you’re aware of the side effects of placing your subwoofer on the floor, let’s now get to another section where we’ll discuss some of the ways through which you can isolate your sub from the floor.
When we mention “isolate”, we don’t actually mean elevating your subwoofer halfway towards the ceiling. What we actually mean is decoupling the subwoofer slightly from the floor to minimize the vibrations that are transferred to the floor by your subwoofer when it’s reproducing those deep bass tones.
An Isolation Platform
An isolation platform is one product you can consider to isolate your subwoofer from the floor. Most platforms measure around 18” L x 22” W x 1.75” H and are capable of enduring heavy subwoofer weights of up to about 200 pounds.
Speaker Riser Foams
If the former doesn’t appeal to you, then you can consider using speaker riser foams. The best thing about these products is that they contain an anti-slip rubber base pad that helps to secure your subwoofer against falls. They also do a great job of isolating your sub from the floor to reduce vibrations and unwanted levels of audio resonance.
On a Table
Another DIY option you can consider is placing your subwoofer on top of a table. While this method is considered a surefire alternative of reducing vibrations, you need to ensure that the table is heavy enough to avoid rattling when the subwoofer is vibrating.
On a Shelf
The last option is to place the subwoofer on a shelf. This idea is great especially if you’re dealing with a front-firing type of subwoofer. You can also place it on a cabinet though you must ensure that it’s heavy enough to prevent the subwoofer from falling.
As you can see, placing your subwoofer on the floor comes with several key drawbacks some of which are serious if you’re living in an apartment, condo, or duplex. One of those is annoying your neighbors downstairs which can generally cause avoidable friction.
On the other hand, the floor is considered the safest place to put your subwoofer as it won’t fall off due to vibrations. Thankfully, with the use of subwoofer isolation stands, acoustic isolators, and speaker riser foams, you can easily decouple your subwoofer from the floor to dampen the vibrations.