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A GUIDE TO SUBWOOFERS

For multiple subwoofers, check A Guide to Subwoofers (Part II): Standing Waves & Room Modes and A Guide
to Bass Management. For subwoofer problems, read DIY Subwoofers Building & Repairing thread.
Subwoofers are becoming more important to the home theater experience. They are designed for reproducing
the lowest audio frequencies around 120Hz and lower. Not only are these low frequencies heard, but also they
are felt.
Components of a Subwoofer Driver
The following diagram exhibits the cross-section of a subwoofer drive unit,
(http://www.ht-audio.com/pages/SpeakerBasics.html).

Subwoofers for home audio systems come in two basic types: powered (active) and unpowered (passive).
Active (Powered) Subwoofers
Powered subwoofers are by far the most popular, and generally the best option for most Home Theater
applications. An active subwoofer is generally much more flexible. However, they do not necessarily sound the
best. The simplest type of an active subwoofer would contain an amplifier, a crossover frequency control, a
phase control, and some type of input connections. Since it contains an internal power amplifier, it will also
need to be plugged into the wall power outlet.
The crossover frequency control allows you to set the range of frequencies that the subwoofer will reproduce
and the frequencies it will filter out. The phase switch allows you to better integrate the subwoofer with the rest
of the speakers in the system. It allows you to reverse the phase of the subwoofers audio signal. To set it
properly, youll probably have to listen to it in both positions (0 and 180) to see which position creates the
deepest bass in your home theater room. Finally, a powered subwoofer needs a line output from a receiver (or
preamplifier).
Passive (Unpowered) Subwoofers
Passive subwoofers are designed to be powered by an external amplifier. The amplifier may be a dedicated
amplifier (best option) or from the speaker terminals of the receiver. The important thing is that since a
subwoofer needs more power to reproduce low frequency sound, the amplifier must be sufficiently powerful. In
addition, if the subwoofer does not have a crossover frequency control, the signal to the subwoofer must be
filtered by the receiver before it gets to the subwoofer. If the subwoofer has a a crossover network to filter out

sound, it may also have output speaker terminals for the main or surround speakers.
For advantages and disadvantages bewteen active and passive subwoofers, check here.
Additional Subwoofer Characteristics
Auto on/off: This option allows the subwoofer to turn on when an input signal from the receiver or pre-amp is
detected. The subwoofer will turn off in a few seconds or minutes (depending on the manufacturer) after there is
no input.
Servo Feedback: Some advanced subwoofers may use a feedback signal from a device mounted on the
speakers cone. The servo control unit compares the subwoofers output to the input signal and attempts to
compensate for the drivers output errors in order to smooth out distortion level. Unfortunately, this feedback
circuit, no matter how quickly it works, cannot make the correction until after the error has occurred. As a
result, the correction is always arriving at the subwoofers output with the next signal. Therefore, the correction
is made on the wrong signal and it may compress the subwoofers transient response and remove its impact.
Down Firing: This type of subwoofer has the woofer installed in the bottom so that it fires toward the floor.
Down-Firing subwoofers look like a piece of furniture (do not need a grill) and may be more efficient. It is
important that these types of subwoofers are not placed in a corner too close to the walls as they may sound
boomy.
Front Firing: This type of subwoofer has the woofer installed on the side and fires its output signal parallel to
the floor. Front-Firing subwoofers need a grill to cover the woofer and look more like a speaker.
Sealed Enclosure: Originally this design was pioneered by companies like Acoustic Research. It consists of a
driver mounted on one side of a sealed box. The air tight enclosure completely isolates the back wave of the
driver from the front.
The sealed enclosure system is characterized by excellent transient response, excellent power handling at low
frequencies, easy to design and build, smaller box size, and lower sensitivity to misaligned parameters when
compared to port enclosure. However, sealed designs have a higher cutoff point and lower sensitivity than
ported systems.
Because of excellent transient response (i.e., no boomy sound), when designed and build properly, some
audiophiles prefer these type of subwoofers. There are others who completely dispute that sealed boxes have
better transient response. They claim that the perception of transient is really a function of perceived sound
quality and not the type of enclosure. According to these critics, what does improve transient response (or
perceived quality) is usually more headroom, more drivers, larger boxes (depending on the driver), better
efficiency, and very low distortion.
Ported Design: Some subwoofer enclosures may add an additional open port (sometimes called duct, vent, or
tunnel) which allows the passage of air in and out of the box. At low frequencies, the port contributes up to
+3dB to the output and makes the system more efficient and thus increases the bass response. A ported
enclosure system consists of a driver mounted on one side of a box that has an open port (duct, vent, tunnel).

The ported subwoofers are characterized by lower distortion and higher power handling in the operating range,
and lower cutoff frequency than a sealed enclosure system using the same driver. Distortion rapidly increases
below the cutoff frequency however as the driver unloads and loses damping. Due to this, ported enclosures
require a low frequency filter. The transient response of a ported enclosure is usually worse than a sealed
enclosure system using the same driver. Ported enclosure systems are much more sensitive to misaligned
parameters than sealed enclosure systems, which makes their construction more difficult.
Passive Radiator: Another type of subwoofer enclosure may add a passive radiator, instead of a port, to
increase the efficiency of the sub. Passive radiators are sometimes drivers with the voice coil and magnet
removed, or like a flat diaphragm. The radiator must usually be at least as large (or larger) than the driver in the
enclosure.

Advantages of the passive radiator include the absence of port noise, and some audiophiles claim the radiator
provides a better sounding bass than a ported enclosure. However, the cutoff (-3dB) frequency is slightly higher
than ported design using the same driver.
Other Disadvantages include difficulty in tuning passive radiator designs as they have much higher mass than
an equivalent port. In a port, the moving mass is comprised of the air in the port and the driver. The mass of the
passive radiator, however, is high because it is the mass of the usually larger moving radiator plus the active
driver. It is possible that when the powered subwoofer cone stops, the passive radiator's cone continues to move
for a short period of time and may cause the powered driver cone itself to move after the signal has stopped.
This so called "ping-pong" effect can cause distortion.
4th Order (Single Reflex) and 6th order (Dual Reflex) Bandpass Design: In a 4th Order Design the driver is
completely buried in the enclosure and is mounted in a sealed chamber. It fires into a second ported chamber
with the sound emanating from one or more ports.
These designs are very efficient within the operating bandwidth, with superior power handling, but generally
can be very difficult to design and build. Companies like KEF helped pioneer this design.

The 6th Order Design was engineered and patented by Bose with their original AM-5 Acoustimass home
speaker system.
This design is even more efficient than a single reflex bandpass, but with a compromise. Power handling within
its frequency bandwidth is excellent, enabling these enclosures to play very loud. Transient response, however,
is relatively poor, making them one of the most difficult enclosures to build and tune.
Size of the Driver: Subwoofers use the largest drivers (woofers) because they are responsible for moving the
most air to create the lowest frequencies. Dropping down an octave in response requires four times as much
output to maintain the same level. In general, the lower a speaker's resonance frequency, the lower the
frequency reproducible by the speaker at a given level of distortion. Resonance frequency (denoted by Fs) is
determined by a combination of the mass of the moving parts of the speaker (the cone, dust cap, voice coil, and
former) and the compliance (i.e., flexibility) of the cone suspension (surround and spiders). Under normal
conditions, we need a more powerful amplifier to drive a subwoofer. However, it is important to remember that
you always want enough amplifier power to prevent clipping, but your main goal should be only to play the
subwoofer at a level that blends with the rest of the system at any level.
The most popular sizes for subwoofers are 8", 10", 12", 15", or 18". Although an 18" subwoofer is capable of
producing the lowest frequency bass at the highest volumes, a large driver is not necessarily the best option for
optimum bass reproduction. Larger drivers are more difficult to control and tune. There are 10 subs on the
market now that move as much air as some of the old 15 units. This is because the cone has a very large peak
to peak excursion specification. It is important that the driver is designed correctly so that it stays in its linear
range when moving this far. These subwoofers generally need a high power digital amplifier to make a longthrow woofer produce good performance in a small box.
Recommended Minimum Power for Subwoofers:
8" 50 watts
10" 75 watts
12" 100 watts
15" 150 watts
18" 250 watts
Room Size: For a smaller room, you can use subwoofers with smaller drivers. However, for bigger rooms,
since there is more air volume for the subwoofer to pressurize, a 12" or 15" subwoofer is recommended. One of
the biggest problems in home theater rooms is caused by standing waves. These are created when the
wavelengths (or or wavelengths) of certain frequencies coincide with one or more room dimensions.
Standing waves cause certain frequencies to be reinforced and cancelled at different locations throughout the
room. The effect of standing waves is to have areas of the room where bass is very boomy and others where
there is no bass at all. An equalizer will do nothing to fix these problems. These problem frequencies are known
as room modes.
Ideally, two or more subwoofers may be a better option than a super large one, and since low-frequency sounds
are non-directional, a subwoofer can be placed anywhere in the room. Please refer to the subwoofer placement

section below.
Magnetic Shielding: Most modern speakers are magnetically shielded. Unshielded speakers can distort the
picture and shift the colors. If an unshielded speaker must be placed close to a TV because of room-size or
furniture considerations, it is recommended that you put two sheets of solid galvanized steel, cut to size,
between the speaker and the TV to block the harmful electro-magnetic fields. Please note that magnetic fields
are a major problem for CRT (tube) TVs. However, LCD and Plasma TVs are not affected by them.
Port Plugs: Port foam plugs allow customizing the subwoofer to suit your taste and room. They give the option
that favor either maximum SPL output, or lower frequency bass extension depending on source material and
preference. With port plug removed and the Port Mode switch set for "maximum output," output levels increase
to room shaking levels. When the port plugs are installed, and the Port Mode switch is set to "maximum
extension," the subwoofer is re-tuned for linear response to lower frequencies at a slightly reduced maximum
output.
With home theater systems, ports are left open. This tuning provides an increase in bass output which is more
ideal for movies where explosions and other action sounds need greater impact. For music applications, one or
more of the ports is/are blocked. This tunes the subwoofer for a flatter response with extended low frequency
response. It will produce lower frequencies and do so more accurately.
Speaker Impedance and Sensitivity
Read Impedance & Sensitivity of a Speaker.
SUBWOOFER INSTALLATION AND ADJUSTMENT
Connecting the Subwoofer
If your receiver has a Subwoofer or LFE Output, run a standard RCA cable (RG6 cable is preferred) from the
LFE Output on the receiver to the powered subwoofers LFE (Sub-In) input.
If your receiver does not have a Subwoofer or LFE Output, you can run two speaker wires from your receivers
main speaker outputs to the subwoofers speaker inputs. Set the front speakers to Large and subwoofer to NO.
If your receiver does not have a Subwoofer or LFE output, but has an extra Pre-Outs, you can use a set of stereo
RCA cables from the Pre-Outs of the receiver to the Left and Right Inputs on the powered subwoofer. In the
receiver's menu, set the speakers corresponding to the Pre-Outs to Large.
Subwoofer Adjustment
Everyone wants the kind of bass they can feel, but what many people get is either weak or boomy bass. In some
cases, they will have good bass at one seat location and little or no bass at other locations. Sometimes they try to
crank up the subwoofer level to compensate for these deficiencies. Usually that makes the bass even more
bloated and boomy. Sometimes it makes the amplifier clip or the subwoofer starts bottoming out.
A well-integrated subwoofer should not sound boomy. It should produce a deep and tight bass that blends with
the main speakers. You should not be able to tell that the bass sound is coming from the subwoofer. This is
particularly more important with music than movies.
Adjusting the Subwoofer Level
It is highly recommended that you use an SPL (Sound Pressure Level) meter to adjust the subwoofer level. If
you do not have an SPL meter, use the built-in calibration program of your receiver or trust your ears. Read the
Calibrating Your Audio with an SPL Meter thread.
Make sure you adjust the subwoofer channel level until you read the same number on the SPL meter (or hear

the same level) as the main speakers. Because the low frequency sounds are very much room dependent, you
should move around the listening area to get an average value.
For the most precise integration with your main speakers, go through test tones with an SPL meter. Setting the
level using test tones by ear may result in misconfiguration. When you use the pink noise from your receiver to
adjust the subwoofer level, you will not get accurate results. The main reason is that your calibration program or
the SPL meter (if you are using one) measure the peak frequency generated by the sub at that listening position
and all other frequencies are obscured. This is why it is best to use test tones and an SPL meter for a subwoofer
calibration.
Using a test tone disc, adjust the volume so that the SPL meter reads 75dB with a 50Hz tone at the listening
position. Do not play the test tones too loud as this may damage your speakers. Take measurements of four
different tones 1/3 octave above 50Hz and four different tones 1/3 octave below the 50Hz. Average together
each set of four measurements and adjust the subwoofers volume level to match the other speakers. Using the
receiver's test tones is less accurate as they are not in one-third octave increments. Check the Using Test Tones
thread.
Subwoofer Placement
Room acoustics and furniture have an enormous impact on the sound of speakers. A well placed subwoofers
bass integrates with the sound of the main speakers and produces a natural reproduction of music. A few
guidelines for subwoofer placement are listed below.
Corner placement: This is the advice that is given most often. Although corner placement will yield loud bass,
it may make the music sound boomy. You should place your subwoofer in a corner only if it is not capable of
producing deep bass. It is also important to note that corner placement will not always make the subwoofer
boom. In most cases, it depends highly on the geometry of the room. According to some experts, you should
always place a sub in a corner, and use equalization to deal with audible peaks of the subwoofer's frequency
response at that position.
You should not sit against the wall: Your movies and music will sound heavy and tiring when you are sitting
against a wall. If you must sit against the wall because of the rooms layout, turn down the volume of the
subwoofer to compensate.
Do not place the subwoofer in a symmetrical position in the room: Avoid putting a subwoofer in a location
that is the same distance from the walls. Subwoofers sound better if they are placed in a location where their
distances to the front, side, and rear walls are different.
Put the subwoofer close to the main speakers: Even though bass sounds are not directional, you will get a
better blending between the main speakers and the subwoofer if they are on the same side of the room.
Use
.
Two or more subwoofers are better than one: According to some experts, the way multiple subwoofers
interact with the room is the single biggest factor in being able to get great bass in every seat of your home
theater. Depending on your budget, you should use either two or four subwoofers. There is not much benefit
from using more than four. Multiple subwoofers can reinforce each others bass response and will yield a
smoother and more dynamic sound. If using multiple subwoofers, you must use identical subwoofers. Different
models, even from the same manufacturer, may cause uneven response.

When using two subs, they can be placed in the front corners of the room close to the main speakers or one can
be placed in the front and the other one in the rear. For even better bass and smoother frequency response
throughout your home theater, use four subwoofers. As a starting point, put the four subs at the midpoints of
each wall.

It is possible that you may still get some peak points, but they can be taken care of with a good parametric (not
graphic) equalizer. The problem with graphic equalizers is that most of them do not have better than 1/3 octave
resolution. Although they can be quite expensive, parametric equalizers can give you much better results.
Setting the Low Pass Crossover Frequency
It is helpful to read A Guide to Crossover Networks for a better understanding of how crossover filters work.
You need to set the crossover on the receivers menu and not the subwoofer. If your main front speakers are
full-size with good bass response, set the low pass filter to 80Hz. If your main speakers are small, bookshelf,
satellite, or in-wall, set the low pass filter in the 100 to 120Hz range. According to the Recording Academy
recommendations, selecting a frequency between 80 and 100Hz will produce the best results.
Run the test tone generator for intervals between 30Hz to 200HZ and listen to the output level or measure it
with an SPL meter. If different output levels are heard or read by the SPL meter for different frequencies, it is
quite normal as different frequencies interact differently with the room acoustics. Increase or decrease the lowpass frequency to achieve the smoothest response. Decrease the crossover frequency if there is too much output
around the crossover point, increase it if you notice a drop in the response.
In general, if the main speakers are large and capable of creating low frequency sound, it will be easier to match
them with a subwoofer as opposed to the smaller speakers that most people own. However, it is not always best
to set the crossover frequency at the lowest possible frequency to avoid the sonic signature of the subwoofer. If
the crossover is set as low as possible, the subwoofer cannot stimulate the main speaker drivers near their
resonance frequency, leaving only the main speakers as the dominant resonance contributor. If the crossover is
set slightly higher, the bass from the subwoofer and the main speakers can reinforce one another resulting in a
smoother and more pleasing bass.

Setting the Subwoofers Phase (Polarity)


When the woofer on the sub and the woofers of the front speakers move in and out in sync with each other, the
system is said to be in phase. When the speakers and the subwoofer are moving out of sync with each other, the
subwoofer and the front speakers bass overlap and cancel each other. In this case the system is said to be out of
phase, resulting in less bass.
Unfortunately, there may be another problem between the main speakers and the subwoofer. If the main
speakers are producing bass at the same time as the subwoofer, at some points the bass will reinforce each
other. At other points the bass will cancel each other. The solution is to allow only the subwoofer to reproduce
bass by setting the front speakers to small in the receivers setup menu. This can yield a smoother bass response
throughout the entire room.
To get the best bass response, you should set the phase (polarity) of the subwoofer(s) to deliver the highest
output at the listening position. This can be achieved with the help of a test signal at the crossover frequency
and an SPL meter. You should run this test several times by changing the polarity of the subwoofer and
measuring the bass response on the SPL meter. Select the phase option that results in the highest bass response.
If you dont have an SPL meter, you will have to trust your ears.
Fortunately, most subwoofers have a switch to change their polarity. If the subwoofer does not have a phase
switch, you can change the polarity of the main speakers by switching the positive with the negative speaker
wires (the black wire goes to the red terminal and the red wire to the black terminal). Some subwoofers have a
variable phase control. This control can be set continuously between 0 and 180 and allows for a more precise
phase control of the subwoofer.
When setting the subwoofer phase by ear, play some music (not a movie) that has a repetitive bass line. Switch
the polarity several times and choose whichever setting sounds faster or fuller. If you do not hear any
difference, leave the phase switch at 0" or normal.
If you are using two subwoofers, you have to position them properly and run the experiment mentioned above
by adjusting the phase of one subwoofer and observing the result on the SPL meter. You may possibly have to
set the phase of one of the subwoofers to 180.
Importance of Polarity (Phase)
The animation in the following shows two waves traveling in the same direction. The phase difference between
the two waves varies with time so that we see constructive interference when maximum points are aligned
(peak) and destructive interference when minimum and maximum points are aligned (null). This illustrates why
it is important to adjust the subwoofers phase control with respect to the main speakers so that we obtain
maximum output.

Animation courtesy of Dr. Dan Russell, Kettering University


How to Check the Polarity of Speakers: Take the grill off a speaker. Apply a wire from the (-) terminal on the
speaker to the (-) end of a AA battery. Then touch a wire from the (+) terminal on the speaker to the (+) end of
the battery and look at the cone of the speaker. The speaker cone should move forward. If the cone moves
backward, the speaker is wired out of phase. In some instances midrange drivers are intentionally wired out of
phase with their woofers.
Repeat Everything Several Times
All the speaker adjustments are inter-dependent. Once you change something like polarity, you may have to go
back and check the low-pass crossover frequency. Getting the optimum bass response from a subwoofer is a
tricky business. There are no easy solutions. Dont be afraid to experiment. If you hear differently than the SPL
meter, trust your ears and not the meter. After all, we are not bats or dogs! To read about the hearing range
differences between animals and humans, read the following: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hearing_range .
FREE TEST TONES
http://www.realtraps.com/test-cd.htm
http://www.cleansofts.com/softdownlo...Generator.html
http://www.nch.com.au/tonegen/index_b.html
MOVIES TO TEST SUBWOOFERS AND SPEAKERS
Check the following sites for a list of movies with good bass sound to test your subwoofer.
http://www.svsound.com/questions-faqs.cfm
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=755493
http://forum.hsuresearch.com/archive...php/t-653.html
http://www.stealthsettings.com/woofe...fer-sound-test
http://www.realmofexcursion.com/downloads.htm
http://www.demo-world.eu/trailers/hi...n-trailers.php
SUBWOOFER REVIEWS
http://www.hometheatermag.com/subwoofers/
http://www.hifi-directory.com/new/on...-reviews/14083

http://reviews.cnet.com/4566-11312_7-0.html?tag=pm
http://hometheater.about.com/od/loud...er_Reviews.htm
http://www.audioholics.com/reviews/speakers/subwoofers
http://www.hometheaterhifi.com/subwoofers.html
http://www.audiovideoreview.com.au/S...subwoofers.htm
http://www.ultimateavmag.com/subwoofers/
http://home.comcast.net/~frank_carter/Nousaine.htm
http://www.hometheatershack.com/foru...rer-model.html
http://www.tweakcityaudio.com/forum/showthread.php?t=11
http://www.calibex.com/Home-Audio--z...x2zB7z5---html
http://www.avtalk.co.uk/forum/index....t=0&rid=0&SQ=0
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION AND REFERENCES
http://hometheater.about.com/cs/loud...subwoofera.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subwoofer
http://www.bcae1.com/subwoofr.htm
http://www.polkaudio.com/homeaudio/p...al/subwoofers/
http://www.danmarx.org/audioinnovation/theories.html
http://www.aes.org/technical/documents/AESTD1001.pdf
http://www.bigpicturebigsound.com/article_560.shtml
http://www.ehow.com/how_2002139_trou....html?ref=fuel
http://www.ohmspeakers.com/speakerbasics.cfm
http://www.djsociety.org/Speaker_1.htm
http://www.grammy.com/PDFs/Recording...rs/5_1_Rec.pdf
http://www.ht-audio.com/pages/SpeakerBasics.html
http://www.diysubwoofers.org/
http://www.nolaspeakers.com/products/thunderbolt_b.php
http://www.audiopulse.com/know-how/s...ut-subwoofers/
http://www.soundstage.com/maxdb/maxdb200101.htm
http://www.tbisound.com/dsp_faqs.asp#myths
http://www.audioholics.com/tweaks/ge...udio-test-cd-2
http://www.hsuresearch.com/products/stf.pdf
http://ezinearticles.com/?How-to-Get...ater&id=114553
http://www.soundstage.com/entry11.htm
http://www.caraudiobook.com/car_audi...fer_system.htm
http://www.sunfire.com/pdf/Sunfire_S...Whitepaper.pdf

THE SCIENCE BEHIND SUBWOOFER PLACEMENT


BASIC FACTS ABOUT SOUND WAVES
Sound is a sine wave that travels through matter such as air, water, and steel. Sound does not travel in vacuum.
A sound wave will spread out after it leaves its source, decreasing its amplitude or loudness. The relationship
between speed, wavelength, and frequency is: Speed = Wavelength x Frequency.
The speed of sound in dry air is approximately 344 meters/second, 1127 feet/second, or 770 miles per hour, or
one mile in 5 seconds at room temperature of 20C (68F) and sea level. Sound travels faster in liquids and nonporous solids than it does in air, traveling about 4.4 times faster in water than in air. The speed of sound in air
varies with the temperature and humidity such that sound travels slower on cold days, but is nearly independent
of pressure. The speed of sound is dependent on air (or any other gas) and is not dependent on the amplitude,

frequency, or wavelength.
Longitudinal and Transverse Waves: Sound waves are an example of longitudinal motion and water waves
are an example of a combination of both longitudinal and transverse motions. Here is a demonstration of
longitudinal and transverse waves.

Longitudinal Waves

Transverse Waves

Water Waves
Animation courtesy of Dr. Dan Russell, Kettering University
Natural Frequency
A sound wave is created as a result of a vibrating object. Nearly all objects, when hit, struck, or somehow
disturbed, will vibrate. When each of these objects vibrate, they tend to vibrate at a particular frequency or a set
of frequencies. The frequency or frequencies at which an object tends to vibrate with when hit, struck, or
disturbed is known as the natural frequency of the object.
The natural frequency of an object depends on the properties of the material the object is made of (this affects
the speed of the wave) and the length of the object (this affects the wavelength). Since frequency = speed /
wavelength, a change in either speed or wavelength will result in a change of the natural frequency.
Resonance
Assume that two tuning forks are mounted on a box and assume the forks have the same natural frequency (e.g.,
256Hz). Suppose the first tuning fork is struck with a rubber mallet and it begins vibrating at its natural
frequency of 256Hz. These vibrations set its sound box and the air inside the sound box vibrating at the same
natural frequency of 256Hz. Surrounding air particles are set into vibrational motion at the same natural

frequency of 256Hz. This sets the second fork into vibration with the same natural frequency. This is an
example of resonance - when one object vibrating at its natural frequency forces the second object with the
same natural frequency into vibrational motion.

Source: Glenbrook South School, Glenview, Illinois


Formation of Standing Waves
Sound reflects back and forth between two parallel surfaces. At certain frequencies the incident and the
reflected sounds interfere to form standing waves in which those frequencies can be amplified, and what we
hear at those frequencies depends on where we and the speakers are located. Standing wave are non-traveling
vibrations (the sound waves themselves are not stationary and are continuously bouncing back and forth).
Let us consider the effect of a sound wave in a small room when it is reflected from the walls. A wave can be
thought of as an upward displaced pulse (peak) followed by a downward displaced pulse (trough).The waves
from the source and the reflected waves will cause destructive interference (positive cancels negative) in such a
manner that there are points of no displacement (standing still). Such point are called Nodes (N). There will also
be positions along the medium resulting from constructive interference that will vibrate back and forth between
a maximum upward displacement to a maximum downward displacement. These positions are called Antinodes (AN). You can examine the following standing wave animations:

Animation courtesy of Dr. Dan Russell, Kettering University

Source: Glenbrook South School, Glenview, Illinois


Here is an animation showing the standing wave patterns that are produced on a medium such as a string on a
musical instrument. This type of medium would be said to be fixed at both ends. Standing Waves For A
Musical Instrument.
Fundamental Frequency and Harmonics
Resonance is a common cause of sound production in musical instruments. As was mentioned before, when an
object is forced into resonance vibrations at one of its natural frequencies, it vibrates in a manner such that a
standing wave pattern is formed within the object. These patterns are only created within the object or
instrument at specific frequencies of vibration; these frequencies are known as harmonic frequencies. At any
other frequency, the resulting disturbance of the medium is irregular and non-periodic (non-repeating). These
standing wave patterns represent the lowest energy vibrational modes of the object. While there are countless
ways by which an object can vibrate (each associated with a specific frequency), objects favor only a few
modes or patterns of vibrating. The favored modes (patterns) of vibration are those which result in the highest
amplitude vibrations with the least input of energy. Objects are most easily forced into resonance vibrations
when disturbed at frequencies associated with these natural frequencies.
Consider a guitar string vibrating at its natural frequency or harmonic frequency. Because the ends of the string
are attached and fixed in place, the ends of the string are unable to move. These ends become points of no
displacement or nodes. In between these two nodes there must be at least one point of maximum displacement
or anti-node. The most fundamental harmonic for a guitar string is the harmonic associated with a standing
wave having only one anti-node positioned between the two nodes on the end of the string. This harmonic will
have the lowest frequency and the longest wavelength. This is called as the fundamental frequency or the first
harmonic of the instrument. Similarly, the instrument can produce harmonics at higher frequencies and are
called second (two times the frequency of the first), third (three times the frequency of the first), and so forth.
The following is the simulation of the four modes of a vibrating string.

Animation courtesy of Dr. Dan Russell, Kettering University


The frequency associated with each harmonic depends on the speed and the wavelength of the waves. The speed
is affected by the properties of the medium (tension of the string, thickness of the string, material composition
of the string, etc.). The wavelength of the harmonic is dependent upon the length of the string. Variations in
either factor will result in variations in the frequency at which the string will vibrate. When two sound waves
that are one octave apart (i.e., their frequencies have a ratio of 2:1) are combined, they will sound pleasant.
SUBWOOFERS AND THE EFFECT OF STANDING WAVES
Low frequency wavelengths are much longer (e.g., 56.5ft at 20Hz, 22.6ft at 50Hz, and 11.3ft at 100Hz) than
higher frequency wavelengths (e.g., 3.8ft at 300Hz, 1.1ft at 1,000Hz, and 1 inch at 13,000Hz). This is
important, especially below 150hz or so. Above 150hz, the waves are small enough that they are not affected by
the room size as much. They bounce around every which way. Standing waves only become a significant
problem at lower frequencies (below 100 Hz) because we normally set the crossover frequency around 85Hz.
Long wavelength bass frequencies travel back and forth bouncing off the walls.
In general, at most frequencies, the decay of sound waves is rapid, but when a sounds wavelength is precisely
twice the size of a room dimension (e.g., length), the waves from both directions reinforce each other at the wall
boundaries and cancel each other in the midpoint of these two boundaries, creating a resonant condition. Like
most other resonant conditions, standing waves produce a fundamental tone (the lowest-frequency resonance
the space will support) and a series of harmonics. If the fundamental frequency is 25Hz, there will be other,
progressively weaker ones at 50Hz, 75Hz, 100Hz, 125Hz and so on. Each of these harmonics causes a high
energy peak points in the room, with a null (low energy) midway between each adjacent pair of peak points.
Standing waves in a room are called room modes or room resonance modes. The crests (high points) of the
standing waves and the troughs (low points) between them represent what happens when a single subwoofer
generates the long wavelengths of bass. Those peaks and dips in bass energy do not change unless you change
the dimensions (length, width, and height) of the room and the frequency of the bass tones. Even if you did alter
these, you would be left with a whole new set of standing waves to deal with.
Type of Room Modes
The sound waves interact with the room boundaries (walls, floor, and ceiling) and create standing waves or
room modes. The standing waves are different between floor and ceiling, side walls, and end walls, unless any
of these dimensions are the same (the worst kind of room is a perfect cube). There are three basic types of
modes: axial, tangential, and oblique. Examples of these modes are shown in the following diagrams:

Source: Marktaw.com
It is important to remember that these diagrams are over simplification. Remember sound waves will zig-zag
around the room, and that sound sources are not directional like flashlights. A speaker is more like a bare
lightbulb, or a light bulb in a box. Because of this zigzag, room modes are actually a range of frequencies
centered around the number given in our calculations. In addition, tangential and oblique room modes are the
most difficult to visualize.
To gain some understanding of the room modes and standing waves, it will be very helpful to consider a onedimensional acoustic space like a long narrow pipe. If both ends of the pipe are closed, then it becomes similar
to a one-dimensional room. Unless otherwise stated, all diagrams are created by Big Daddy.

Now position a subwoofer at one end of the pipe and connect it to a frequency generator. At the other end of the
long pipe, put an SPL meter to measure the sound pressure. Start by feeding very low frequency signals to the
subwoofer, you will notice no reading on the SPL meter. However, as you increase the frequency of the sound
waves fed to the subwoofer, you will reach a point where the reading on the SPL meter jumps to a high point.
This is the first mode and is called the fundamental resonant frequency or the first harmonic frequency of the
one-dimensional room (pipe).
Continue raising the frequency of the signals and the meter drops back to normal for a while, but finally peaks
again. This next frequency is evidence of the second resonance mode and is called the second harmonic
frequency. The frequency of this second resonance will be exactly twice that of the first resonance. If we
increase the frequency of the signal some more, we will find the third resonance mode which will have exactly
three times the frequency of the first fundamental resonance mode. This harmonic series can continue as we
increase the frequency.
If we move the location of the speaker or the SPL meter, we will get a new set of harmonic frequencies.
However, if the subwoofer is moved to the middle of the pipe (low pressure zone), the odd numbered
resonances will not be stimulated and will disappear. If we move the subwoofer to a position one third from
either end of the pipe, only the third, sixth, ninth, and so on harmonics can be stimulated. If we move the
speaker to the one quarter point of the pipe from either end, we will find only the fourth, eighth, twelfth, and so
on harmonics.
In a closed pipe, which has been stimulated into its first resonance condition, we will find that the sound is very
loud at either end of the pipe and very quiet at the halfway point, the middle. These loud areas are called sound
pressure zones. If the subwoofer is placed in either of these pressure zones, it can pump up the resonant
condition. However, if it is not placed in a pressure zone, it cannot pump up the resonant mode.
The second harmonic of a closed pipe has three pressure zones, one at either end and one in the middle. If we
place the subwoofer in any three of these pressure zones, we will stimulate the second harmonic. However, if
we place the subwoofer in the middle pressure zone, we cannot stimulate the first resonance but we can still
stimulate the second one. Let us now plot the sound pressure as a function of distance, and remember that one
wave moves from left to right and the other moves from right to left and polarity changes each time we cross
a null.

Click this bar to view the full image.

Important Facts About Subwoofers, Listeners, and Standing Waves

Subwoofers are sound pressure generators. They will reinforce the room modes when they are located in
high pressure regions of the standing waves.
Ears respond to sound pressure. When our heads are located in the high pressure regions of the standing
waves, the room modes will be most audible.

If the subwoofer is placed in the null areas, the corresponding modes will disappear.
If you move your head to the null areas, you will not hear a lot of deep bass.
Room dimensions and subwoofer location create room modes.

There is another factor that limits the remaining options for speaker placement. The pressure zones are spread
out and not pinpoint-sized. For all practical purposes, the subwoofer should be located at least 25 percent away
from the end of the pipe to best avoid stimulating any of its first three harmonics. There is no location towards
the middle of the pipe that suits a subwoofer position, as the pressure zones there are overlapping.
Calculating the Resonance Modes of a Home Theater Room and Subwoofer Placement
Axial Modes are the strongest and the most important, and the easiest to compute. Tangential Modes are about
half as loud, and Oblique Modes are about a quarter as loud. They tend to be the least important, but if an
oblique room mode occurs near another mode, that frequency may still be a problem. It is best to calculate all
room modes to see where any overlap may be.
A room can be approximated by three intersecting pipes. These pipes would lie along the three room axes: front
to back, side to side, and floor to ceiling. For most rectangular home theater rooms, it may be sufficient to
calculate only the axial modes of the room.
Since a room can enforce a wave twice as long as it is, the first fundamental frequency can be calculated by
using the formula: Standing Wave Frequency = Speed of Sound / 2*Distance Between Boundaries. If we
multiply this frequency by 2, we will get the second harmonic frequency and so on. Usually it is necessary only
to look at the first three or four modes because the crossover frequency for most home theater rooms are set
around 80Hz-100Hz. Let us now calculate the axial modes for a 15ft W x 20ft L x 8ft H room.
Width
The first resonance frequency: 1130ftps / 2x15ft = 37.7Hz.
The second resonance frequency: 37.7 x 2 = 75.4HZ.
The third resonance frequency: 37.7 x 3 = 113.1HZ, ignore, because it is above the roll-off frequency of 85Hz.
The subwoofer has to be placed at least 25 percent away from the wall (15x0.25=3.75ft) because of the first
harmonic, but that is the point of minimum of the second harmonic. Therefore, the subwoofer can be placed
anywhere between 3.75ft (minimum of the second harmonic) and 7.5ft (minimum of the first harmonic) away
from either wall.
Length
The first resonance frequency: 1130ftps / 2x20ft = 28.3Hz.
The second resonance frequency: 28.3 x 2 = 56.6HZ.
The third resonance frequency: 28.3 x 3 = 84.9HZ.
Since all three harmonics are below the roll-off frequency of 85Hz, we should place the subwoofer in a position
that avoids the maximum and minimum of the three waves at least 25% (20 x0.25=5ft) from either end walls.
Height
The first resonance frequency: 1130ftps / 2x8ft = 70.6Hz.
The second resonance frequency: 70.6 x 2 = 141.2HZ, ignore, because it is above the roll-off frequency of
85Hz.
The third resonance frequency: 70.6 x 3 = 211.8HZ, ignore, because it is above the roll-off frequency of 85Hz.
The vertical position for a subwoofer is anywhere in the middle half of the room, keeping it at least 25% (two)
feet away from either the floor or ceiling.
So, a 15ft W x 20ft L x 8ft H room will have the smoothest bass if the subwoofer is located 2ft from the floor or
2ft from the ceiling (6ft from the floor), between 3.75ft and 7.5ft from the side walls, and five feet from the end
walls. This is done to avoid the coupling of the subwoofer to room modes.

Unfortunately, most people do not have an unlimited options with regard to the placement of a subwoofer in
their living room, so the benefit from one of these calculations is limited. However, if one is building a
dedicated home theater room, then one should pay more attention to these calculations.
Dr. Floyd Toole, formerly of National Research Council of Canada and currently a Vice President and
researcher at Harmon International has developed a simple Excel Program to calculate axial room modal
frequencies.
Here are other calculators: Calculator1, Calculator2, or Calculator3.
Also, see animations at the beginning of Post #2.
Location, Location, Location
The location of your subwoofer in the room creates the standing wave modes. And the modes are what
determine whether your listening position gets great bass or poor bass. If your chair or sofa happens to be
located in one of the troughs of the standing waves, you are not going to hear much deep bass. But if you get up
and walk a few feet back, or to the left, or to the right, chances are you will hit one of the peaks and the bass
will be very strong, perhaps too much of a good thing. An equalizer will solve some problems, primarily those
related to peaks. A null is an entirely different situation and no amount of boost can fill a room-induced null.
Think of it as a water drain. No amount of water can fill a drain.
The following analysis is based on the work of Dr. Floyd Toole. All diagrams are created by Big Daddy.
One Subwoofer
Let us consider the width modes. One subwoofer close to a wall is in the high pressure region of all the width
modes and energizes all of them.

What happens if the subwoofer is moved to the location of the first pressure minimum (green minimum)? That
particular mode is not energized and will disappear. What then happens if it is moved to the next null (magenta
minimum)? That mode will disappears, but the other one returns. Subwoofer location determines which of the
room resonances is activated, and which ones are not activated.
Optimum Position for One Subwoofer: If the subwoofer is placed in the wrong position in the room, we hear
room booms instead of music. Bad speaker positions are those that allow the speaker to stimulate room
resonance (modes). The best position for one subwoofer would be in the anti-mode region of all the room
resonances.

Position of the Listener


Similarly, the location of the listener determines which modes will be heard. Just like a subwoofer against a
wall energizes all room modes, a listener with his/her head against either wall hears all of the modes. There will
be probably be too much bass and very tiring.
If the listener is moved forward to a null position, no sound will be heard from that mode. Different positions
mean that different frequencies will be heard with very different loudness. This is true for subwoofers as well as
listeners.
Other Techniques for Placement of One Subwoofer: Subwoofer Crawl Placement
This is an effective technique for the placement of a subwoofer. Play a CD or a DVD that has lots of low bass
and move your subwoofer to the normal listening position. Go to the spot where you would like to place the
subwoofer. Now sit down in that place and listen to the recording. If it sounds reasonably good in that position,
go ahead and put your subwoofer there. If the bass does not sound good, try other available locations to find the
location that provides the best sounding bass. Remember that moving the subwoofer as little as 6"-12" can have
a noticeable impact on its performance. The following video by Axiom Audio demonstrates the subwoofer
crawl technique.
Using an SPL Meter and Test Tones: It is more accurate to use an SPL meter and low frequency test tones.
You can buy a digital or an analog SPL meter from Radio Shack for less that $50. If you do not know how to
use an SPL meter, read the thread on Calibrating Your Audio with an SPL Meter, Sticky Under Receiver
Discussion.
You can download free test tone generators from the following sites:
RealTraps - Test Tone CD
Test Tone Generator Free Download
Tone Generator Software - Create Audio Test Tones, Sweeps or Noise Waveforms
Similar to the listening subwoofer crawl technique mentioned above, start with the subwoofer located in the
listening position and set the meter where you want to put the subwoofer. Set the SPL meter to 75dB setting and
play the test tones from 20Hz to 120Hz in increments of 1/6 octave and write down the SPL levels. Move the
subwoofer and repeat the experiment. Use an Excel worksheet and plot the SPL readings versus frequencies for
different locations. Use these measurements to find the best possible placement. Of course this means having
the flattest response.

Problems Associated with One Subwoofer and Standing Waves


With some care in placement of a single subwoofer and the listening location, one listener can experience fairly
smooth and deep bass in a rectangular room. Unfortunately, other listeners seated elsewhere in the same room
will hear different bass response, which may be significantly irregular. Trying to reduce some of the largest
peaks (too much bass) at one or two frequencies is possible with careful placement and equalization for one
location and one listener. But attempting to apply equalization for multiple locations is usually ineffective.
There are far too many problems in a small home theater room that cannot be solved with one subwoofer. Using
two subwoofers is preferable as you will get a better bass performance and will have less of a problem with
standing waves, since the bass will originate from two locations.
MULTIPLE SUBWOOFERS
Considerable research has been done by Dr. Floyd Toole, Todd Welti, Sean Olive, Allan Devantier and others
into the behavior of deep bass in different rooms. The following suggestions are based on their work.
Two Subwoofers Against the Opposite Walls Across the Width of the Room
Two subwoofer against opposite walls will cancel the odd-numbered modes, leaving only one active mode. In
the diagram below, blue and green modes will be eliminated, leaving behind only the magenta mode.

Remember that the sound pressures on opposite sides of a null in a standing wave have opposite polarity. If one
side is decreasing, the other will be increasing. If we use one subwoofer in a room, this does not matter. A
single subwoofer against a wall will energize all the room modes. However, if we place another subwoofer with
the same polarity against the opposite wall, the first and third modes will have opposite polarities at the
subwoofer locations and the subwoofers will behave in a destructive manner, cancelling the odd-numbered
modes. This will leave only the second (magenta) mode across the width of the room.
Two Subwoofer Move to the Null Position of the Second (Magenta) Mode
If we move the subwoofers to the null locations for the second mode, they will still be in opposite polarity
regions for the odd-numbered (blue and green) modes, and as a result width modes are significantly reduced, if
not eliminated. What this means is that everyone across the width of the room will hear the same bass
sound.

What we have accomplished is the elimination of room modes by selecting different locations for the
subwoofers and the listeners. We can do this for length, height and other mode types. The distribution of the
room modes will look a lot less cluttered. We may still need to equalize in the sense of changing the frequency
response of the system for everyone in the room to hear smoother and more uniform bass.
Watch this video on the benefits of using Multiple Subwoofers by Axiom Audio.
Multiple Subwoofer Placement (Rules of Thumb)
In most circumstances two subwoofers will perform better than one. While you might assume this is for added
SPL, the greatest benefit will actually be smoother bass response. Two subwoofers are easier to place and result
in a flatter frequency response and creation of a much larger sweet spot for everyone in the room to hear
smoother and more consistent bass.
For maximum output, some experts suggest that you put a single subwoofer in a corner for maximum output
and place a second one in a less reflective area to smooth out the response. You can use the crawl around the
room technique as described above for determining the location of the second subwoofer, except in this case,
look for the minimum amount of bass output.
Dr. Toole suggests that in a rectangular room you should put one subwoofer close to the front wall in the
middle, and another subwoofer at the back of the room in the same relative position. THX recommends placing
them in the middle of the left and right walls. Dr. Toole also recommends some equalization to flatten the bass
response so that all the seats in the primary listening area hear solid and even bass.
For Better Results, Use Four Subwoofers

Four subwoofers were found to be most effective when two subwoofers are placed at the middle location of the
front and back and two subwoofers at the middle location of each sidewall, opposite each other. Placing one
subwoofer in each of the rooms four corners was also found to be similarly effective.

The 25% Subwoofer Positioning: This solution is suggested by Todd Welti at Harmon International: You
shrink the whole room by 25% and put the subwoofers at the corners of that virtual room. Of course you get
incredible performance, but that is not practical for most people. But if you use two or four subwoofers in the
corners or the wall midpoints, you can get pretty good performance.
http://www.acs.psu.edu/drussell/Demo...s/driving.html
Quote:
Example: If the room has a length of 5m, then the resonance frequencies of the first five room modes are:
34.3Hz , 68.6Hz, 102.9Hz, 137.2Hz, 171.5Hz .
Response of the One Dimensional Room as a function of Source Location
In the animations below, the red dot represents the source as it moves from the left wall (at x=0) towards the
right wall (at x=5). The sine curve in the animation represents the amplitude of the pressure wave as a

function of position in the room.


Driving the room at a resonance frequency
As the source moves along the length of the room, the resulting room response (as indicated by the amplitude
of the pressure standing wave pattern) is a maximum when the source is located at an antinode for that given
frequency. Notice that when the system is being driven at a resonance frequency the pressure amplitude is
always greatest at the walls of the room. Furthermore, the maximum pressure is twice (2) the source
amplitude, because the incident and reflected waves are in phase at the wall boundaries. When the source is
placed at a node for that frequency standing wave pattern, the maximum room response drops to zero at that
frequency. With a speaker located at a node, the room will be "dead" no matter how loud the speaker is.
Moving the speaker a small distance away from the node brings back the room's response
Mode 1 (34.3 Hz)

Mode 2 (68.6 Hz)

Mode 3 (102.9 Hz)

Animations courtesy of Dr. Dan Russell, Kettering University

Driving the Room at a Frequency which is Not a Resonance Frequency


Standing wave patterns only occur when the room is being driven at a resonance frequency. At any other
frequency, the pressure waves radiating outwards from the source reflect from the walls, but do not combine
to produce a standing wave. As a result, there are no nodes and antinodes, and the pressure can go to zero at a
wall. The maximum pressure never exceeds the source level (1) and the location of the pressure maximum
moves with the source.
Driving frequency = 51 Hz

Animations courtesy of Dr. Dan Russell, Kettering University


Even Number of Subwoofers Works Best
Two or four subwoofers deliver the greatest benefits in smoothing out irregular bass for multiple listening seats.
According to Todd Welti, an associate of Dr. Tooles, whose white paper, "Subwoofers: Optimum Number and
Locations," explored in detail multiple subwoofer performance: The conclusion I came to was that two

subwoofers give you about 90% of the performance that is possible, and that four take you about as far as you
can reasonably expect to go. Anything more than four is not going to get you much in the general sense -- and
these are general conclusions.
DIFFERENT OPTIONS FOR PLACEMENT OF MULTIPLE SUBWOOFERS
In a square or rectangular room, the center of the room is the worst location for the listening chair or for
the subwoofer. I am not an artist. The following diagrams only demonstrate the best positions for the
subwoofers. Ignore the position of the listening chair. That is just bad drawing.

Diagrams Created By Dig Daddy

Stacking Two Subwoofers Versus Placing Them in Different Locations


If you stack (co-locating) two subwoofers on top of each other and place them in a corner, you will get up to
6dB's of additional output. If you place the two subwoofers in different locations (e.g., the middle of the two
side walls or one in the middle of the front wall and the other one in the middle of the rear wall), you may not
get as much additional output, but two subwoofers on two sides of the room will eliminate many room modes
and create a more even and smoother bass across the room for all listening positions. The advantages of placing
two subwoofers in different locations far outweigh any additional output that you may gain from stacking them
on top of each other. Read THIS interesting post on stacking subwoofers. There is more information on stacking
HERE.

MULTIPLE SUBWOOFERS
Todd Welti at Harman International:
Quote:
You shrink the whole room by 25% and put the subwoofers at the corners of that virtual room. Of course you
get incredible performance, but that is not practical for most people. But if you use two or four subwoofers in
the corners or the wall midpoints, you can get pretty good performance.
Under this solution, low frequency support is compromised a bit in mid-wall placement, in favor of a flatter
overall frequency response.
Dr. Floyd Toole:
Quote:
That said, no matter how many subwoofers and how many listeners were talking about, equalization should
be the final step to make it sound right. A single subwoofer can entertain a single listener with equalization -good sound is possible. But once you have more than one listener, then you need multiple subwoofers.
Based on his experiments with subwoofer placement, Dr. Toole recommends that it is easier to place
subwoofers in corners and equalize out the room modes, than to try and avoid the modes and sacrifice low

frequency support in favor of a flatter overall response without EQ. Corner placement adds to the overall SPL
of the subwoofer without placing any additional demands on the amplifiers.
Dr. Floyd Toole:
Quote:
When a full-range signal is panned to each of the loudspeakers in turn, and measurements are made at the
listening position, we find hugely different bass responses for each of the loudspeakers. The differences are a
large as 40dB in this room, and the biggest ones are all at low frequencies. The reason, the woofers each have
very different acoustical coupling to the room resonances because they are in different locations. This will be
different for every different room. Again, referring back to the circle of confusion the bass that was heard in
the control room will not be the same as that heard at home. It cannot be.
Use Identical Subwoofers
As a general rule, if you are using multiple subwoofers, it is best to use identical ones from the same
manufacturer. Although using different subwoofers may work, equalization, level matching, and adjustments
become much more difficult. In all the research on the use of multiple subwoofers, the experts have used
identical subwoofers.
The Science Behind Identical Subwoofers: Assume we have a device with several metallic poles with a bob
attached to them. The bobs are colored red, blue, and green. Each pole has a different length, thus having a
different natural frequency of vibration. When the red bob is disturbed, it begins vibrating at its natural
frequency. This in turn forces the attached bar to vibrate at the same frequency; and this forces the other
attached red bob into vibrating at the same natural frequency. This is resonance - one bob vibrating at a given
frequency forcing a second object with the same natural frequency into vibrational motion. However, the green
and blue bobs would not resonate. This is because the frequency of the red bobs share the same natural
frequency. The result is that the second red bob begins vibrating with a huge amplitude. Identical subwoofers
will have the same natural frequency and can work together a lot easier to generate smoother low frequency
sound.

Source: Glenbrook South School, Glenview, Illinois


The following experts recommend using identical subwoofers:
Read Robert Harley's Books. He is the editor of the Absolute Sound Magazine. Robert Harley, Introductory
Guide to High-Performance Audio Systems & The Complete Guide to High-End Audio, 558 pages. Also read
Richard Hardestys articles in Audio Perfectionist.
Polk Audio: Polk Audio - Education, FAQ & Advice, Technology Overviews and Technical White Papers
Quote:

Using two asymmetrically placed subs will minimize the effects of standing waves in your room, yielding
smoother bass response as well as better dynamic range. If using two subwoofers, you must use the
identical model of subwoofer. If two different models are used, even from the same manufacturer at
some points they will help each other, at others they will fight each other causing a uneven response.
Subwoofer Connection Guide For A Multi Subwoofer System — Reviews and News from Audioholics
Quote:
We get a lot of questions about what types of subs to purchase for a multiple sub setup. When choosing the
right subwoofers for your system, its a good idea to choose identical subs for optimal cancellation of room
resonances, or ones of similar output level and design. Dont for example mix and match a high quality
15 servo subwoofer with a cheap dual 6 bandpass sub that came with your cubed speaker system.
Implementing an inferior subwoofer with a good one will limit your systems dynamic range and
bandwidth to the weaker sub making your ears focus on the one that is breaking up and running out of
steam. Mixing different subs will also reduce the success of canceling out room resonances since they
will exhibit different amplitude and phase responses. Always select two well designed subwoofers
(preferably the same) that are each in their own capable of filling your theater room with ample bass
without bottoming out or running out of gas. If you cant afford two subwoofers at the moment, buy
one quality sub for now and add a similar capable one down the road when youve got the cash.
http://www.rivesaudio.com/files/spkr_plcmt.pdf
Quote:
Two subwoofers are easier to place and result in a flatter frequency response in almost all situations. If you
can afford a second matching subwoofer, this is generally preferred to a single more expensive subwoofer.
You will almost always achieve a flatter frequency response and a more realistic overall integration with the
main system.
http://pdf.outlawaudio.com/outlaw/docs/lfmmanual.pdf
Quote:
In most circumstances two subwoofers will perform better than one. While you might assume this is for
added SPL, the greatest benefit will actually be smoother bass response. Two properly positioned subwoofers
will distribute the bass throughout the room with greater accuracy than a single sub. If near perfect bass
response is your goal, consider using two LFM Series Subwoofers: the Outlaw Audio Scattered
Subwoofer Systems.
Wendy Carlos Surround1
Quote:
In this case I made a trade off for two smaller subwoofers instead of one larger one. With careful A/B
comparisons I learned that the bass was nearly the same when the two smaller units were working together
as a team as with the single larger unit. But there was, contrary to what I had read, a small amount of
additional directionality present with the two subwoofers compared to one.
Sir Terrence, Audio Insider at Blu-Ray.com:
Quote:
The main reason for using identical subwoofers would be identical performance irrespective of room
acoustics. With two identical subwoofers, there is a much smaller chance that one will overdrive before the
other. If two different size woofers in two different subwoofers are used, the smaller one would have more
distortion, more cone motion, and a subtly different sound than the larger one at higher volumes. Even if you
use two identical woofers with a different cabinet size, amplifier size, and a different lower frequency limit,
one will reach its peak output at a different volume than the other. You want all of your subwoofers to have

identical performance to prevent one from dragging another down at high volumes. That is why two identical
subwoofers from the same manufacturer are preferred to two different ones.
ADDITIONAL TOPICS
Forced Vibration
If you were to take a guitar string and stretch it to a given length and a given tightness and pluck it, you would
hear a noise that you can barely hear. On the other hand, if the string is attached to the sound box of the guitar,
the vibrating string is capable of forcing the sound box into vibrating at that same natural frequency. The sound
box in turn forces air particles inside the box into vibration at the same natural frequency as the string. The
entire system (string, guitar, and enclosed air) begins vibrating and forces surrounding air particles into
vibrational motion. The tendency of one object to force another interconnected object into vibrational motion is
referred to as a forced vibration. This causes an increase in the amplitude and thus loudness of the sound. A
louder sound is always produced when an accompanying object of greater surface area is forced into vibration
at the same natural frequency.
Combining waves
If you are listening to waves from two sources at the same time:
1. A high pressure from one will cancel out a low pressure from the other.
2. Two high pressure waves will reinforce each other.
3. Two low pressure waves will reinforce each other.
When two or more waves with the same frequency reach the ear, the ear interprets these waves as one wave
with amplitude as big as the sum or difference of the initial waves. Two sound waves sound good when played
together, if one sound has twice the frequency (one octave higher) of the other.
Transient Response
In physics: a short-lived oscillation in a system caused by a sudden change of voltage or current or load.
Transient response: The ability of a component to respond quickly and accurately to changes. Transient
response affects reproduction of the attack and decay characteristics of a sound.
Echo and Reverberation
When a wave reaches the boundary, a portion of the wave undergoes reflection and a portion of the wave
undergoes transmission across the boundary. Reflection of sound waves off of surfaces can lead to either an
echo or a reverberation. A reverberation often occurs in a small room with height, width, and length dimensions
of approximately 17 meters or less. Why the 17 meters? The human brain keeps a sound in memory for up to
0.1 seconds. If a reflected sound wave reaches the ear within 0.1 seconds of the initial sound, then it seems that
the sound is prolonged. The reception of multiple reflections off of walls and ceilings within 0.1 seconds of
each other causes reverberations. Since sound waves travel at about 340 m/s at room temperature, it will take
approximately 0.1 seconds for a sound to travel the length of a 17 meter room and back.
Reflection of sound waves also lead to echoes. Echoes are different than reverberations. Echoes occur when a
reflected sound wave reaches the ear more than 0.1 seconds after the original sound wave was heard. In this
case, the arrival of the second sound wave will be perceived as a second sound rather than the prolonging of the
first sound. There will be an echo instead of a reverberation.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION AND REFERENCES
http://www.harman.com/EN-US/OurCompa...ndRoomsPt1.pdf
http://www.harman.com/EN-US/OurCompa...ndRoomsPt2.pdf

http://www.harman.com/EN-US/OurCompa...ndRoomsPt3.pdf
http://www.harman.com/EN-US/OurCompa...s/multsubs.pdf
http://www.harman.com/EN-US/OurCompa...ions/13680.pdf
http://www.harman.com/EN-US/OurCompa...dioScience.pdf
http://www.harman.com/EN-US/OurCompa...dioScience.pdf
http://www.aes.org/tmpFiles/elib/20080825/13680.pdf
Sound & Vision Magazine - Why You Need Four Subwoofers
Sean Olive
http://www.audioperfectionist.com/PD...journal2rl.pdf
ASC Home Theater Acoustics
http://www.glenbrook.k12.il.us/gbssc.../soundtoc.html
Acoustics and Vibration Animations
Speed of Sound
onhometheater.com - Features Archives
http://www.school-for-champions.com/science/sound.htm
ESP - Frequency, Amplitude and dB
Subwoofer Placement For Deep Bass Nirvana
http://www.highemotionaudio.com/whiteppr.pdf
Acoustics Crash Course 1 - Modes
SubwooferSetup and EQ page 2
http://www.harman.com/about_harman/t...eadership.aspx
An Easy Solution To Subwoofer Calibration — Reviews and News from Audioholics
Subwoofer Placement - The Place for Bass Part 1 — Reviews and News from Audioholics
Crawling for Bass - Subwoofer Placement — Reviews and News from Audioholics
http://www.audioholics.com/tweaks/ge...or-bass-part-1
http://www.audioholics.com/tweaks/ge...-bass/two-subs
http://www.audioholics.com/tweaks/ge...-part-1-page-4
http://www.audioholics.com/tweaks/ge...-calibration-1
http://www.baudline.com/erik/ht/news...positions.html