If you want to get the best possible sound from your sound system, you probably know you need a subwoofer. So you look around at reviews and find the perfect model for you. However, you realize that you may not be able to fit it upright, and you wonder if you can lay it on the side.
In some cases, it is okay to put a subwoofer on its side. Some subwoofers feature a passive radiator that needs to be on the bottom, and these models can’t be placed on their side. Regardless of the model, laying a subwoofer on its side can cause excess vibration and sound at higher volume levels.
Whether you just got your first subwoofer or your fifth, you need to put it in the correct position. But before you lay it on its side for the right spot, you need to consider if doing so is a good idea. That way, you can get the best sound quality without damaging your gear.
Where to Put a Subwoofer
Read my guide on this.
Before you decide if you want or need to put a subwoofer on its side, consider where you should place it in the room. You can put your subwoofer anywhere within the room, and wireless ones can be up to 60 feet from your speakers.
However, you won’t get the best sound quality when you put the subwoofer just anywhere. Ideally, you should keep it within four or five feet from your speakers. Whether the subwoofer is wireless or not, that will help you get the best sound quality.
Here are a few specific places where you may or may not want to put a subwoofer:
In some cases, a corner of your room is the perfect place for your subwoofer. Putting a subwoofer in the corner can help reinforce the bass. But depending on the room, it might give your bass too much reinforcement, and it can sound boomy.
When that happens, you won’t be able to distinguish the bass sounds and frequencies. If you listen to music with a lot of lower pitches, you won’t be able to enjoy the music as much. On the other hand, if your favorite music doesn’t use much bass, the corner may be your best option.
Center of the Wall
The next option for placing your subwoofer is in the center of one wall. Placing it in the center of a given wall means that it’s away from the corner, but it can still benefit from some reinforcement.
You don’t have to worry about the bass getting too loud when it’s out of a corner. But you also may not get the best sound along the center of a wall.
Rule of Thirds
If you have space in the middle of the room, follow the rule of thirds. The rule states that you can place it about a third of the way into your room from the closest wall. This rule is especially useful if you will use your subwoofer for a home theater.
But it can also help if you like to listen to music in your home office or another room. Just make sure that the subwoofer won’t fall over.
How to Put a Subwoofer on Its Side
Once you find the ideal place for your subwoofer, hopefully, you will be able to hook it up. However, you may find that it won’t work well in the optimal position. Perhaps your desk is in a tight space, and you need to put the subwoofer on its side to get it close to the speakers.
The placement in the room can affect the sound that you get from your subwoofer, but that’s not the only factor. You could have the best model in the world, but that won’t matter if you can’t get the right sound balance.
As you set up your subwoofer, think about if you should put it on its size and if that’s possible. You should also be careful when setting up your subwoofer so that it won’t break. Depending on your positioning, you may need to add extra protection.
Consider the Shape
Some subwoofers are perfect cubes, so it won’t matter if you put them on the side or stand them upright. In this case, you probably won’t need to put the subwoofer on its side unless there’s an awkward placement for the cables.
However, if your subwoofer isn’t a perfect cube, it might not fit where you want it to go. But if you turn it on the side, the device might work well. You want to make sure that your subwoofer will be stable and that you won’t damage it by stuffing it in a small space.
Consider the Size
Similarly to the shape, you may also want to consider the size. A smaller subwoofer is a better option for amplifying your desk speakers. The Polk Audio PSW111 (Amazon link) is an 8-inch cubic subwoofer, and it’s great for home theaters and other spaces.
But if you have a home studio, you may want a larger model to fill the room. The SVS SB-4000 Subwoofer (Amazon) is less of a cube, and it’s a bit bigger, so it’s better for larger spaces. Bigger isn’t always better, but it can help you decide if you should put a subwoofer on its side.
Consider the Design
The design of a subwoofer can also affect the best place for it and whether or not you should put it on the side. For example, a cubic subwoofer would be easier to adjust because the center would stay the same.
But with a rectangular subwoofer, the weight distribution would change when moving the subwoofer to its side. The speaker diaphragm and the bass reflex port should have some space on each side, so you don’t want to rest the subwoofer on top of those.
Even if you have enough space to put it up or on the side, consider how the position might affect the design and if that can change the sound you get.
Consider What Sound You Want
Odds are you want the best sound that you can get, and that’s probably why you’re interested in a subwoofer. But the “best sound” can be very subjective, so you need to decide what that means for you.
Perhaps you like to listen to music with a prominent bass line, so you need those frequencies to be clear. Or maybe you have a home theater system, and you want to hear all frequencies equally.
You should also consider if you want to hear more bass, or if you want to improve the quality of the bass. Placing your subwoofer near a corner will give you more bass, but it won’t help with how good it sounds. On the other hand, you may get better bass with your subwoofer away from the wall, but you may not be able to pick it out.
What to Do if You Can’t Place Your Subwoofer on Its Side
If you find that the size, shape, or design keeps you from safely putting your subwoofer on its side, you have a few options. For one, you can experiment with other places in the room to put your gear.
In some cases, you may find that it works perfectly in a space you wouldn’t have considered. You can find the best place by putting the subwoofer where you usually sit. Plug it in, then walk around the room until you find the spot with the sound you want.
That spot is the perfect place for your subwoofer.
If you can’t place your subwoofer on its side because of vibration concerns, you can use a blanket. Put the blanket under the device, and it will absorb some of the sound to keep it from getting too loud.
If worst comes to worst, you may have to get a different subwoofer. So before you choose a model, consider where you might put it and its dimensions. Read some reviews to decide if it has the qualities you want in a subwoofer.
As long as there aren’t any strange outlets on your subwoofer, you can make it work on its side. But you have to consider that it might not give you the best sound quality that way. Consider the sound and design before you set up and start using your subwoofer.
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.