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Can't get my subwoofer to sound comfortable

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Last response: in Home Audio
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May 3, 2011 4:16:53 AM

I have been having a lot of trouble trying to get my sub in a spot where it sounds good. Basically the problem is, if the sub is either positioned somewhere to the left of me or somewhere to the right of me, my ear facing the sub feels like there is pressure on it, and it is very very uncomfortable. If I turn my head directly towards the sub, it sounds nice and evenly spread between my ears. To me this is very annoying, having to find a spot where the sub is perfectly positioned between both my ears. I though that subs were supposed to be directionless, but with the sub to the left of me, I can definitely tell that the booming is coming from that direction. Same for the right. It doesn't feel like it is filling the room, but rather, like it is concentrated in that one spot.

Is there something that I might have done wrong, or maybe I just have to find the perfect sweet spot for it? Any help would be much appreciated.
May 3, 2011 6:16:56 AM

Yoshinat0r said:
I have been having a lot of trouble trying to get my sub in a spot where it sounds good. Basically the problem is, if the sub is either positioned somewhere to the left of me or somewhere to the right of me, my ear facing the sub feels like there is pressure on it, and it is very very uncomfortable. If I turn my head directly towards the sub, it sounds nice and evenly spread between my ears. To me this is very annoying, having to find a spot where the sub is perfectly positioned between both my ears. I though that subs were supposed to be directionless, but with the sub to the left of me, I can definitely tell that the booming is coming from that direction. Same for the right. It doesn't feel like it is filling the room, but rather, like it is concentrated in that one spot.

Is there something that I might have done wrong, or maybe I just have to find the perfect sweet spot for it? Any help would be much appreciated.


I get the same problem! The only good spot near my laptop I can find is directly to my left, but then I also hear it from the left. But I've found out the opposite wall from where I sit is one big sweetspot (at least for me), except my cords don't reach that far or will be in the walking path! Pretty frustrating...

By the way there's a trick where if you put the subwoofer where you sit, you can walk around the room and find sweet spots. Then you just place it wherever it sounded good while you walked around. I personally turn on low bass test tones (on low volume) and walk around until the lowest frequencies it can make are hearable. That has usually ended it up in a corner or at a wall.

Other than placement, another factor might be your subwoofer volume! I've noticed if my subwoofer is overpowering the rest of the speakers, I start hearing it very obviously from where it's placed. But even then, my subwoofer has volume spikes at certain frequencies, so I hear certain notes from the left, and other notes centered. Fun!
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May 3, 2011 6:59:16 AM

is there something you have done wrong? yes. actually.
time alignment can help the sound fill the room.. but it wont necessarily remove the pressure from one ear.

obviously there are only two options imaginable from what you have said.
put the subwoofer in the middle of the room (like under the television or behind it)
or
put the subwoofer behind the couch.

i wouldnt suggest putting the subwoofer close to the television.
shouldnt matter if the television is an LCD or CRT or DLP
the vibrations could really break something.
LCD is liquid right? you dont want to be vibrating the liquid while it is trying to work.
CRT and DLP are electron guns right? you dont want to be vibrating the aim of the electron gun when it is trying to aim at a single pixel.
besides, you might rattle a soldered connection loose (could be a costly repair, and it could take a lot of time hunting for the broken connection)


with the subwoofer behind you, the sound pressure cant make it's way directly into your ear when the ear lobe is in the way (although it can still happen.. especially if you are close enough)

if you havent already tried..
maybe behind the couch is best to allow the fabric of the couch to absorb some of the pressure (you will probably want to turn the subwoofer down if it is much closer to you so that you dont drown out any of the other speakers)

and if you have tried the subwoofer behind the couch with bad results..
maybe you can tip the subwoofer to point the speaker cone in a different direction.
this might mean straight up towards the ceiling
or
placed on its side, pointed at the opposite wall.

if the subwoofer is down firing, pointing the subwoofer up at the ceiling shouldnt hurt (but gravity does pull the cone inwards, when before it was pulled outwards.. and in some special cases, this might have a noticeable change)
will it break the subwoofer? 99% of the time no it wont.
you could read the instruction manual for specific instructions to NOT tip the subwoofer upside down.
most speakers can be run in any direction without any harm at all.
but
if your subwoofer is very expensive or has a special place in your heart, its best to ask the manufacturer to prevent any rare problem.

say your speaker is downfiring and has a board in front of the speaker cone..
you could get brave and remove that board and tip the subwoofer so it is pointing at the opposite wall.
do the tests with the volume low to try and prevent damage.
most receivers have time alignment (delay) for speakers.. i suggest you try it.
even if that means connecting the computer to the receiver and disconnecting the left/right speakers to get only the subwoofer output.

you can download foobar audio player, then download the plugin 'channel mixer'
inside the plugin 'channel mixer' there are options to delay the signal.
dont get carried away with different values for left and right.
a simple goal would be to have the front and left speakers unplugged, with the receiver in virtual surround sound mode to turn the subwoofer on.
(maybe disconnect the rear speakers too, so you get a real good look/listen at what you are doing)
again, adjust the left and right delay with the same value.. and it should adjust the time alignment of the subwoofer.
you should realize a difference regardless as to whether the subwoofer is to the far right or far left of the room.
but pointing the cone differently can also help.

once you are done, it might lead to the conclusion that you need a receiver with dedicated time alignments for the speakers.
(or maybe you finally go through the advanced settings to find out if the receiver already has such an option)

sometimes the subwoofer doesnt need to fill the entire room, and it only needs to sound good where the listening position is.


the truth of the matter is, if you had better 3 way speakers for left/right/surround ... you wouldnt need a subwoofer.
but
some people do enjoy owning a dedicated subwoofer.. and in these situations, i prefer two subs with one on each side of the room.
the extra cone can help get lower when the single subwoofer struggles (distortion will distort with two subs of the same make and model)

but generally speaking, extra cones mean extra amplitude.
details and clarity come from the amplitude of the cone.
just ask the sound masters in the recording studios, because they use 7.1 (or higher) surround to fill in the gaps and voids that 5.1 surround has.

it takes a pretty special setup to put a subwoofer in the corner and make it play like there is another sub in the opposite corner.
usually there is always some sort of sound processing going on.
it could be a digital sound processor..
an analog sound effect built into the amplifier..
the subwoofer voice coil specially wound..
or even the design of the speaker box and how/when the soundwaves exit the port..
all of the above have different degrees of success.


you should be proud that you can hear where the subwoofer is.
it is that exact attention of detail needed to shop for new speakers.
i dont know your situation, but most subwoofers are pretty easy to point out.
some setups are built for the love of craftsmanship, and the sound is downright immune to being found blindfolded.
but
you need the attention of detail to listen for improvements if you are shopping for new speakers.
the unfortunate part behind that advice?
some speakers sound like crap until they have reverb applied to them.


if you are willing to go the foobar route and try out the time delay.. i will take it a step further if you find a reverb plugin with real input (not the childish toys that have wrong descriptions)
all you need then is a tape measure and a protractor.
when the subwoofer is positioned correctly, you can make the subwoofer (in front of you) sound like it is playing behind you.
this might have varying degrees of success depending on the quality of the subwoofer.. but the effect is easily achievable with main speakers.


i am willing to bet there are people out there who will charge money for such information.. but i feel like i will say it until i am tired of saying it (and even post it on my blog) and after that, i will charge a fee along with a fee to bring my microphone to calibrate their equalizer (seems like a wrap up of services then anyways.. as i am thinking about getting a video calibrator too)

i feel finding the right speaker and amplifier and television is hard enough.
so providing some information (or willing to do it) is only helping people enjoy their bought hardware more than out of the box.
because when it is all said for.. sometimes finding some audio or a movie can be really tough.
and all the speakers and televisions arent going to do a massive amount of good if the person cant find much material to play.

but anyways, i believe your problem with your ear is that the subwoofer cone is building up too much pressure in the air and making its way to your ear.
if the pressure isnt already filling the entire room, there are ways to channel that energy and help spread it out.
time alignment can be one method..
reverb can be another method..
i'm still quite new at it, so i would go as far as chorus helping.

the way i see it, chorus will work at an oscillation frequency.. and that oscillation can be enough to 'pump up' or 'pressurize' the air around the subwoofer.
the swelling of air might make the problem worse, or it might push the pressure past whatever is allowing it to go into your ear.
kinda like turning a corner too sharp and running over the curb with your tire, and with a little bit of chorus you make it past the curb without running it over.. and that will keep the tire from running over the curb causing a big bump (or in your situation, maybe help the pressure to 'move along' enough to stop the ear problem.
but as i said, chorus might also make the problem worse.. like turning into the curb even more.
(i'm not an expert or a master or trained.. just a hobbyist with little hands on experience)

i try to read into exactly how something works, and once i learn how.. i learn why (sometimes i learn why it works before i learn how)
but
you should really have enough information to get started.
try measuring the distance from the listening position to the subwoofer
and
try measuring the distance from the subwoofer to the wall that the speaker is pointed at.
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