You can have the best quality subwoofers on the market, but a bad subwoofer setup will lead to less than stellar performance. Make the most of your subwoofer quality and get some great bass for your music and movie watching by following a few easy rules for subwoofer setup and connection.
Before you start connecting, take a look at the back of your subwoofer. You’ll see RCA jacks labeled “Line-In”, “Low Level IN” or “LFE IN”. The back of your receiver should have a section of RCA jack outputs labeled “Pre-Out”, with one labeled specifically for a subwoofer (and can also be labeled SW Out or LFE Out.) You’ll need a subwoofer cable (otherwise known as a shielded RCA cable) to complete the connection. When you buy your cable, make sure you take into account the distance between the receiver and your subwoofer position. If you’ll be moving the subwoofer to other areas of your home, make sure the RCA cord is the appropriate length, accounting for doorways and furniture. Buying a too-short cord is a huge hassle!
Connect the subwoofer cable to your receiver’s Pre-Out Subwoofer jack on one end and your subwoofer’s Low Level In (or LFE IN) jack. Connect the subwoofer’s power plug into a surge-protected outlet and you’ll be on your way to incredible bass.
Subwoofers put out non-directional sound, which means that low-frequency wavelengths are longer than high frequency wavelengths found in other types of speakers. Because the wavelengths are longer in relation to the subwoofer size, they tend to radiate in all directions (which explains why you feel bass even when you can’t hear the other music.) However, this doesn’t mean you can place your subwoofer anywhere in your room and expect the same quality. Positioning matters.
Most home theater fans place subwoofers in the most visually appealing and out-of-the-way spots, like in the corner of the room. Instead of placing your subwoofers out of sight, place small speakers (8-inches tall or less) within three to four feet in front of your main speakers. Experiment with the best location by playing a movie or CD with a ton of bass and turning it way up—it’s the best way to really hear what’s going on with your subwoofers.
Another way to discover the best subwoofer position is to place the speaker in your listening position – where you’ll be sitting – and then walk around your home theater space listening for the location where your bass sounds loudest and clearest. You’ll notice the definition of bass will change as you move about your round, so let your ear be your guide.
Fine-tuning your bass is the final step in creating great subwoofer sound. First, make sure your subwoofer is in-phase, meaning the woofers are in synch with one another. Your subwoofer will have a controlled marked phase; play some deep bass music while moving the dial slowly between 0 and 180, and stop when it sounds the best.
Next, set the volume. Bass can be a subjective matter – some listeners want big bass sound all the time, while others want to hear bass during certain scenes or during certain songs. As with the subwoofer’s phase, setting the volume works best “by ear”. Sit in the middle of your home theater system setup and test different volume levels and see what works best for you. Stay away from Auto Setup features on your audio receivers – while they work well for surround sound, they can decrease subwoofer performance substantially.
Need more help setting up your subwoofers? Experts at Home Theater Solutions can help you set up your perfect home theater.