At last, you have found the perfect subwoofer to add to your home theater’s surround sound system and wondering what the perfect placement for your sub is. Should you place a subwoofer behind you or in the back of a room?
You can place a subwoofer behind you or in the back of the room but this is likely not going to be the most optimal location. Ideally, the subwoofer should be placed at the front of the room pulled at least 6-inches away from the wall for the best low-frequency audio signal performance.
So, while you can choose to place a subwoofer anywhere that you would like, realistically, placement is one of the most critical factors to achieving the sound quality that you will be hoping to achieve with your subwoofer.
Let’s take a closer look.
Why Not Place a Subwoofer Behind You or in the Back of the Room?
There are many different components that can go into the setup of your home theater surround system.
Depending on the number of speakers you have, the physical design of your home theater room layout, and the room’s natural acoustics, you could readjust the setup of the speakers in your sound system for a while before finding the perfect placement.
To know why a sub should not ideally be placed behind the listening position in the back of the room, keep the following in mind:
When placing a subwoofer, its location should not be distinguishable from the other speakers. Ideally, this will mean placing it in the front of the room along with the other speakers and not behind you or in the back of the room.
Be sure to pull it away from the wall to allow room for the driver’s movement and optimal acoustic setup.
As you can see already, there are many different components that go into making the perfect positioning for your subwoofer.
Clearly, this is one of the most influential loudspeakers that can take your sound system to the next level within your home theater, car, or another location.
Since a subwoofer emits the low-frequency audio signals that are not captured by the other speakers in your sound system, it will naturally stand alone in the bass that it carries out.
This has significant importance in terms of placement. If you were to place your subwoofer in a location that it becomes distinguishable when you are watching a movie or listening to music, not only could this be a major distraction, but it could also disrupt the audio coming from the other speakers.
With this in mind, it is important to place the subwoofer in a location that is either in the corner (especially if you are able to use dual subwoofers and place one in each of the front corners in your room), or in the center of your speaker setup.
What you are looking for, here, is for the audio emitted by your subwoofer to blend in with the rest of the audio from your other speakers.
While the frequencies captured and emitted are obviously going to be lower, they should still not be entirely distinguishable in terms of “oh, yeah, I can tell that the subwoofer is sitting in the front left corner”.
Instead, you want to use the room’s natural acoustics and your well-thought-out placement abilities to ensure that the low-frequency emissions blend in and sound like they are coming from all directions (aka the basic concept of a surround sound speaker system).
Typically, this will occur when you use the best position for a subwoofer (in front of you). You will likely find that most audiophiles recommend for you to place the subwoofer on the floor, although you can use a stand if you find one that works best for your space.
Particularly, if your floors are carpeted, you might want to consider elevating your subwoofer so that the sound is not immediately absorbed by the carpeted flooring that it would otherwise be resting on.
Again, this goes back to making sure that you are “pointing” the subwoofer in the direction that you want its audio waves to be sent off.
If you imagine the waves as pieces of yarn stretched in the direction that the speaker is facing, then you can get a more clear idea of where these waves will bounce off of and how this will affect your ear’s perception of the sound played by your sub (and the other speakers).
Does it Matter Which Way a Subwoofer Faces?
Ok, so we know that the best position for your subwoofer is in the front of the room in conjunction with the other speakers in your sound system, removed from the edge of the wall by about 6-inches or more to allow room for the sub’s driver to move backward and forward (as well as to ensure that the audio is not emitted directly onto the wall).
But, what about the direction that the subwoofer faces?
The subwoofer should face with the speaker reaching into the open air and the enclosure facing towards the wall. The overall effectiveness of a subwoofer to achieve low-frequency bass tones is directly correlated to its placement and directional positioning.
In fact, since the subwoofer has such a refined range of low-frequency audio emissions, it is often said to be even more important to properly position this loudspeaker than it is to properly position almost any other speaker in your sound system.
You can imagine the subwoofer as the booming voice that is heard above the rest of the voices in a choir. It is simply not a piece of equipment that can be easily hidden or covered up-and for good reason.
After all, you are using a subwoofer to help the bass stand out, not remain hidden among the rest of the audio track.
With that said, you will want for your subwoofer to face outwards so that the audio signals it emits will have a chance to be sent forward throughout the room, to bounce off of the walls and furniture, and to mesh into the overall sound experience that is being cast by your home theater’s surround sound speakers.
What Happens if Your Subwoofer Faces Backward?
Maybe it has to do with the setup of the other equipment in your home theater room, or maybe it has to do more about protecting your equipment from other types of damage.
Whatever your reasoning might be, you might be in a situation where the seemingly best option is to face your subwoofer backward.
If the subwoofer is placed backward, the audio signals will essentially have to travel up the wall and around the room in this manner rather than being cast out into the free air and pointed directly towards your ears.
In this case, the low-frequency bass emissions will likely sound muffled, and the subwoofer will not be as effective.
If you have no choice but to face your subwoofer backward, you can likely expect that the overall sound quality to be diminished in comparison with a more effective placement. But, there are still options for you.
First, you can choose to remove the subwoofer from the wall and any furniture to avoid this obstruction of the sound waves emitted by your equipment.
Avoiding obstructions is ideal whenever you are typically placing your subwoofer, but it is even more essential if your sub is going to be placed backward towards the wall.
Next, you can raise your subwoofer off of any carpeted areas and remove soundproofing immediately next to your sub.
If your subwoofer is going to be facing backward, you are going to want to make use of the walls that your sub is consequently facing. You will need these to act as backboards to bounce and reflect the audio waves back to the rest of the room.
So, you will want to set up your room for success by clearing the space immediately at the front of the subwoofer from any absorptive qualities.
This includes carpeting, so if you are planning to place it backward on the floor, try to place something that is less sound-absorptive underneath the subwoofer to allow a bit more clear audio emission.
Ideally, this will not be an issue you have to worry about in the first place, and you can choose to use a more effective sound system speaker setup within your home theater (or another location).
But, if you have no choice, then you can at least make the most of your situation and try to create a space that optimizes the laws of physics and how they relate to the effective use of your sound equipment.
Thanks for reading! Check out my top picks for home theater subwoofers.