Are Subwoofers Supposed To Be Placed On The Floor?

Written by
Last update:

Should the Subwoofer Be Placed Up High Near Ear Level

Just about everything you see on the big screen is reproduced by a speaker of one kind or another. If something is supposed to be shown moving, a subwoofer reproduces the low frequency waves associated with that movement. If something's supposed to be big and tall, a subwoofer helps add to that sense of depth. That's why a subwoofer is almost always included in a home audio system.

And since the role of the subwoofer is very much dependent upon the surroundings you place it in, it makes sense that the viewing conditions play a role. Placing it at ear level near a living room sofa will probably give you the most pleasing experience. But how do you go about doing that? Do you need to always keep a subwoofer at the same place, or is there some flexibility?

The answer to that question depends on the size and nature of the room you have. Now, the room size figures in only to the extent that depending on its size, your subwoofer will move around a bit more or less. While a tiny studio apartment might need a subwoofer that you can physically drag to various corners of the room, a spacious family entertainment room won't. Other factors such as furniture and design style also make a difference, but appreciating a moving subwoofer is definitely a personal preference.

Why The Subwoofer Should Not Be Placed On The Floor

Putting a subwoofer on the floor isn’t necessarily “wrong” or “bad” by any means. However, sound tends to vibrate the floor, particularly in smaller areas. This can be a major disadvantage when opting for a floor mount because it can cause some pretty serious issues for both you and your neighbors.

One of these issues occurs when the speaker vibrates the floor, which is then picked up by your walls. Since your walls are not nearly as thick as the floor, the vibrations are amplified, and you hear the rumbling noise coming from your walls, which can be quite annoying.

Placing a subwoofer on the floor can also increase the likelihood of interference and distortion from your neighboring subs. If you have a sub in your car, you may be familiar with this issue. Sound waves are essentially high-frequency ripples through the air. When these waves bounce off of solid objects they can sometimes cancel out the sound. When it comes to custom car subs, this usually isn’t a huge issue. However, when placed in a small room or on the floor, it can really cause some noisy problems.

Vibrations

Subwoofers are used frequently in home theater systems to enhance low frequency output for better movie or music experiences. You may be wondering where you should place your subwoofer and if it's okay to place it on the floor.

Subwoofers are designed to produce deep, low frequency sounds, so you'll want your subwoofer placed on the floor to improve the quality of the sound that it produces. Too close to a wall, however, or placed close to the side and rear walls, can negatively impact the sound quality. Vibrations caused by the bass can reverberate in a feedback loop and negatively affect the quality of the sound as well as reduce the life span of the subwoofer and possibly cause damage to the subwoofer.

Also, you'll want to place it far away from the main speakers as your subwoofer will pick up low frequency sounds that can overpower the main speakers.

A good rule of thumb is to place your subwoofer at least as far away from the nearest wall as your main speakers are from the walls. So if you have your main speakers at least 3 feet from the nearest wall, place your subwoofer 3 feet from the wall as well. This will give you the maximum amount of room for placement flexibility as well as clear sound.

Room Response

And Floor Vs. Chair Seat

To figure all of this out one needs to understand a basic concept: a subwoofer is not like a main speaker. Although they are similar in size and transduce an audio signal to air pressure waves in the atmosphere, the way they handle the translation to pressure waves is completely different.

Room response must be taken into consideration while placing a subwoofer. There are two basic room responses in relation to where the sub is placed. If placing it on the floor, choosing which side of the chair the sub is placed on has the most effect on the room response.

The room response describes how the room changes the sound waves into air pressure waves, which are then heard by the person in the room as the actual sound. A large room or room with hard, flat surfaces will alter the sound wave, causing the sound to be deadened and the reverberation to be longer.

A speaker that is on the floor will reflect off the floor and miss the listener’s chair. The sound may also be absorbed by the floor and the bass will not be heard as well on the floor.

If the subwoofer is placed against a wall, it will augment the bass and sound in the room as the walls are hard surfaces that will absorb sound. Either position will work, but you just have to play with the placement a little bit to find the best one for your room.

Improving Room Acoustics

If your home theater is built by a professional, it usually has the proper room and acoustics for all of your multi-channel home theater speakers. But if you’re building your own home theater, an easy mistake to make is to create the speaker layout first and then design and build the room around them. That leads to some problems, especially in the bass range.

A subwoofer or transducer, is an important component of a speaker system. Also, built-in subwoofers and the bass extension options found on some home theater receivers are great ways to add solid bass to your system. But when you have multiple subwoofers in different parts of the room with a design that isn’t complete, you end up with confusion, as to what is supposed to play where. This may lead to poor-sounding bass in your system.

Given below are some guidelines that will help ensure that your home theater system has good bass.

Even Distribution of Bass in the Room

When placing a subwoofer in your audio or stereo system, you have two primary options: floor-stacking or bookshelf mounting. Carpet, furniture, and other factors can make floor-stacking impractical, but you can still get a great low-end sound by mounting your subwoofer to a bookshelf. Besides the technical issues, where you place the subwoofer can affect the bass content of the room. When music engineers and producers mix music for albums, they carefully control the bass content. If the bass is out of control, it can sound boomy and muddy, which can be unpleasant for any listener. High-quality bass, on the other hand, can sound clear, powerful, and impactful. That’s why having useful tips is important.

Best Options For Subwoofer Placement

Most subwoofers have strong bass, so you’ll need to pay attention to the subwoofer's dimensions and place it strategically. If the size and design of the subwoofer allow you to place it on a shelf, do that. The area near the speakers is also a good place to position the subwoofer. As long as these are strong enough to support the subwoofer unit, they act as an ideal bass amplifier.

Another option for most subwoofers is to place it in a corner of your living room, where the walls meet or in the corner of the room where it would be out of the way. When positioning the subwoofer, you’ll want to keep in mind factors such as size, ease of access to the power source, how much space is available, and your budget. With some care and study, you can easily choose just the right spot for your subwoofer.

Placing The Subwoofer On A Table

It’s my opinion that the best possible place to put a subwoofer should be close to or on the floor. Of all the factors to consider when placing your subwoofer, bass frequency is one of the most important.

A larger room means deeper bass and you place the subwoofer where the bass frequency is strongest. In the majority of rooms, that will be fairly close to the floor.

Many new subwoofers will have a label on the back of the box describing the optimal placement within the user’s room. However, if your subwoofer doesn’t have a label you can still follow the guidelines below.

In a free standing subwoofer, the best place for the subwoofer’s speaker is usually close to the wall. The bass sound waves will bounce off the wall and be reinforced. This means that if your subwoofer is near or on the floor you will achieve deeper bass and better sound.

In a box subwoofer, the best place for the subwoofer’s speaker is usually near the corner between the wall and your seating area. If you have a lot of space, like a living room, place your subwoofer in the corner of the room where the walls meet the ceiling.

Placing The Subwoofer On A Shelf Or In A Cabinet

Subwoofer placement can be quite the challenge. You need to place the subwoofer where it will receive good sound quality from the receiver/amplifier yet won’t be disturbed or damaged by the vibrations. Well, try setting that sub in an enclosed space and it’s ruined.

Deciding on the location for your subwoofer can effect sound quality. Placing your subwoofer on the floor, may help you avoid annoying vibrations and footsteps in the room, but it can also introduce vibration-related distortion that results in an overall less-clean sound. If you surround yourself with sound, you probably want to avoid this.

So, what’s a more appropriate place for a subwoofer? Below are the top recommended spots. We’ve placed these subwoofers on shelves and in cabinets to see if it really does make a difference and yes it does.

On a high shelf or in a cabinet: One way to avoid the rattle sound is to place the subwoofer on a high shelf or low cabinet. The high shelf or cabinet should be located close to your main listening position, directly in line with where you will be sitting. The sound from the speaker will bounce off the walls and do a little filtering before reaching your ears.

What I Would Recommend

Subwoofers are like the foundation to the complete sound system. It’s the bass that sounds low, heavy, and thumping. The woofer’s mission is to move a lot of air with only a little power.

But if you’re new to buying subwoofers, you might be wondering where the subwoofer should be placed in your setup. Should it be placed on the side table? Tucked behind the couch? Atop the fireplace or bookshelf? In the corner of your room?

The location of your subwoofer will significantly affect the sound quality. The bass from a subwoofer isn’t uniform. Specifically, there is a sound null close to the subwoofer, and that is an area in your listening room where there is no bass. And depending on where your subwoofer is placed, the null could be right in the middle of your couch, the place where the music sounds horribly wrong.

Most people choose to place the subwoofer on the floor. And that’s what I recommend! As far as location, horizontal orientation is always best.

The subwoofer should be centered beneath your front or rear speakers. This will avoid creating an uneven sound in the listening area.

Final Thoughts

For optimal results, the subwoofer needs to be positioned in close proximity to the listener, which means on the floor. Subwoofers are developed to deliver the low frequencies to the listener.

But they need to do it via room boundary, which is why you should place the subwoofers close to the rear wall and use the "first reflection" bass improving trick.

That way you recreate the natural environment for the listeners and musicians creating the music.

If budget is not an issue, you can use multiple subwoofers in different locations in the room (free standing and in corners).

The best place to place a subwoofer is in the corner and near the rear wall to optimize the bass response in the room. You can learn more about subwoofer placement here.

Share this post:

Not everyone who spends hundreds of dollars to buy a proven high quality subwoofer expects to mount it on a speaker mount on a wall or above the ground.

Many subwoofer owners are confident enough to place the subwoofer on the floor, thinking that it will offer a better bass than any wall or ceiling mounted counterpart. However, it is not the floor that makes the bass dis-located. It is the distance from the subwoofer to your listening position.

Here is a general guideline of how to place the subwoofer for the best possible results.