Do you enjoy listening to the best of sounds? How many subwoofers are too many to have? With this guide, we will find out everything you need to know about subwoofers, including how they work and the limit to the number of subwoofers one can have in a space.
Subwoofers are great for picking up and enhancing the deepest, low-frequency sounds of any audio. The number of subwoofers to get for your space depends heavily on many factors, but for most people, two is more than enough to suit their needs.
Check out my recommended subwoofers for home theater.
For regular people, the temptation to write off the subwoofer as just another speaker may be present. However, audiophiles who appreciate excellent sound quality know that subwoofers are much more than basic speakers.
They also know that coaxing the best sound possible from your sound system involves getting the right speakers to do the job, which can be a bit complex to do, especially if it is your first time.
That said, let us get into the guide proper.
What Are Subwoofers?
Subwoofers are the parsley of sound – wrapping everything up nicely for an excellent presentation. It makes the difference between a rich audio listening experience and an ordinary one.
Typically the frequency of the sound wave determines what kind of pitch it produces. Higher frequencies produce higher-pitched sounds, and as expected, lower frequencies will do the reverse.
Standard speakers have a limited ability to reproduce sounds with low-frequency, and the result is a flat, uninspiring audio output. On the other hand, the sole job of a subwoofer is to produce the lower frequencies of sounds, called the bass and sub-bass; the woofer amplifies that.
In other words, while you can listen to the bass with standard speakers, a subwoofer allows you to feel the bass.
How Do Subwoofers Work?
Understanding the working mechanism behind a subwoofer can be confusing for newbies.
Subwoofers augment the sounds produced by regular speakers and, as such, cannot be used alone. They need to be connected to an audio receiver or preamplifier before they make sounds.
There are two types of subwoofers – active and passive.
Active subwoofers have a built-in amplifier and require their dedicated power supply to power the amplifiers, while passive subwoofers have a subwoofer driver powered by an external amplifier. They do not need their source of energy and use the one provided by the external amplifier.
Subwoofers use speaker drivers, known as woofers, of a specific diameter. The number and size of the woofer depend on variables like the lowest frequency targeted, the desired sound pressure level, the size, and the enclosure design.
Things to Consider When Getting a Subwoofer
- Type of enclosure
You will want to make sure that your subwoofer can handle your amplifier’s output power. The degree of power handling a subwoofer has depends on its RMS (average) power rating, not peak power rating. The higher the RMS is, the more bass is produced.
Sensitivity and power work together to ensure maximum sound output. It determines how much energy a subwoofer needs to produce a particular volume. A subwoofer with a high sensitivity rating requires less power to produce high volumes compared to one with a low sensitivity rating.
3. Type of Enclosure
The type of enclosure that contains the subwoofer plays a massive role in the kind of sound produces. Typically, there are two types – sealed and ported/bandpass enclosure.
A sealed enclosure gives the deepest, most accurate bass and is the best audio with all frequencies. On the other hand, ported or bandpass enclosures are louder and are better suited for music genres like house music and rap.
Usually, the bigger the size of the subwoofer, the richer the bass produced. If the subwoofer meets all the other requirements and space is not an issue, it is advisable to go for the biggest one you can find.
However, do not underestimate the power of getting multiple smaller subs. With the right power, enclosure, and placement, smaller subwoofers can be pretty powerful as well.
Benefits of Having More Than One Subwoofers
One large subwoofer is good, but even better is having multiple subwoofers, which can be very beneficial to your audio experience. A single subwoofer packs a powerful bass, but the evenly distributed, well-defined, and tight sounds produced by multiple subwoofers enhance your listening experience, particularly for a sound system that covers an ample space or in various rooms.
The most important benefits of having multiple subwoofers include:
- Greater listening area
- Better bass quality
- Better flexibility with placement
- Reduced resonance
1. Greater Listening Area
With a single sub, the sound is localized to only one spot, but with multiple subs, there is a wider listening area. Think of a single subwoofer as a standing fan that blows in only one direction and multiple subwoofers as a central airflow system that reaches everyone and everywhere; which would you prefer?
2. Better Bass Quality
Multiple subwoofers have more power and radiating area, which means they have less low-frequency distortion and better dynamics than a single subwoofer. The load is split between each subwoofer, meaning they work less to give a specific output and remain comfortably within linear operating range.
3. Better Flexibility With Placement
With a single subwoofer, you are hardpressed to find the perfect location for the best sound production. However, multiple subwoofers give you more room to experiment with the positioning.
A sensible approach is to place the subs in opposite but similar places in the room.
Apart from the quality of sound produced, the visual quality of the subwoofer to the decor of the room might also be necessary. Multiple smaller units of subs placed in strategic positions look more aesthetically balanced than a single bulky sub.
5. Reduced Resonance
Sound waves can reflect from room surfaces reading to resonance. Some frequencies will become louder due to constructive interference of the bouncing waves, while others can become lesser due to destructive interference.
Carefully placed multiple subs can reduce resonance and improve the bass quality.
How Many Subwoofers Is Too Many?
Multiple subwoofers do not add more bass to the audio; instead, they distribute them evenly around the room. As you add the third or fourth sub to the first one, you might begin to notice the sound improvements.
However, after the fourth one, the law of diminishing returns sets in, and you will hear little to no difference in the sound produced. Increasing your sub from one or two to three or four will give optimal performance, but anything after four is overkill.
Can subwoofers damage your house?
Subwoofers reproduce low-frequency sounds at three categories – upper bass (100-200Hz), mid-bass (31.5-80hz), and deep bass (10-25Hz).
Deep bass produces mechanical vibrations that may cause structural damage, but your subwoofer has to have a strong motor and powerful driver for that to happen.
Is it okay to leave the subwoofer on at all times?
If your subwoofer is set to auto-standby, you can leave it on for years without having to turn it off. However, if you are not using the sub for extended periods, you should probably turn it off.
Can a subwoofer catch fire?
Prolonged, clipped, distorted, or over-powered use of a subwoofer may cause it to overheat and possibly catch fire. There should be at least 1-inch space between the front of your sub and any other surface for open ventilation.
Jason is a home theater expert with over 10 years of experience in setting up home cinema rooms and systems. What started out as a hobby soon transformed him into an authority in the audio-visual field. He is passionate about providing readers with accurate and up-to-date information on the latest audiovisual technologies and their applications for home theaters. Read more about Jason.