How To Properly Set Your Subwoofer's Volume (Without Shaking The Roof)

If you have a subwoofer in your home theatre, stereo or car, you know how tough it is to get the bass levels just right. Here's a trick to setting it up in just a few seconds.

Fast forward to 2:53 in the video above to follow along — the rest is a showcase of a specific subwoofer.

I can't tell you how many times I've been to someone's house and the subwoofer was so loud that it made everything sound boomy and awful. Of course, sometimes this is personal preference — maybe they just like big bass — but even as a basshead myself, I've learned that more is not always better, and the optimal level is probably lower than most people think.

The above video from Parts Express breaks it down really nicely, and shows you how to get it done in no time. Here are the important parts:

  1. First, set the crossover. This is the frequency at which your subwoofer starts playing bass notes. You generally want your crossover set to where your speakers start to roll off — for example, my speakers can't go much lower than 80Hz, so my subwoofer's crossover is set to about 80. You can find this in your speaker's specs, or just slowly turn it up until it "rounds out" the sound on your speakers (so that your speakers and subwoofer aren't both playing the same notes). Note that if you have a home theatre with surround sound, this can get more complicated; we have detailed instructions here for that scenario.
  2. Next, adjust the gain. This is the important part, and the part that I've done incorrectly oh-so-many times — but it's also the easiest. Start playing a song, and turn the subwoofer down until you can't hear the subwoofer anymore. Then, turn the gain up just enough so you can start to hear it start to fill in the bass. That's all it takes.
  3. Lastly, if you have a phase switch, switch it between 0 and 180 degrees and see if you hear a difference. One may sound better than the other depending on your room and gear. You can read more about what phase is here, but in practice, it's pretty simple: pick whichever one sounds better.

That's it. The whole process shouldn't take you more than a minute. I've tried this on a number of different stereos and it has worked like a charm. If you want to do some extra tests, you can have a friend try and adjust it for you while you sit on your couch (or wherever your listening position is), but this should get you 90% of the way there with almost no effort.

Check out the video to see Joe from Parts Express demonstrate the process and you'll see how easy it is. Fast forward to 2:53 — the rest is a showcase of a specific subwoofer model.

See the New Dayton Audio Subwoofers in Action [YouTube via Parts Express]


Comments

    Most of the time if it's a car or a neighbor you can't actually hear the music, just the Bass, which has a tendency to make me feel ill..
    All I know is there's gonna be a lot of GenY/Xers going pretty much deaf, before they reach middle age....

      I'm not sure about this (and am too lazy to google it) but I recall reading once that bass notes are nowhere near as damaging to your hearing as tweet notes.

        Pretty sure any frequency at high decibel will damage your hearing.... So when I hear that familiar duf duf, in the distance and realise that it's the car down the end of the road coming towards me, I know it's too loud. Also, when you live next door to an inconsiderate twat that has the bass up so loud that it makes me feel sick in the gut, and yet I can't actually hear the music, I know it's too loud. For all I know, I may be somewhat more sensitive than most, but not that sensitive...!

          The duf duf you hear in the distance is because low frequency sounds have a longer wavelength and therefore travel further - not because they are louder.

            They are often load enough to give me a headache from a distance and make me feel physically ill...! If it can do that from a distance, what is it doing to the ears of those in the vehicle/house...?

            Last edited 28/01/14 11:43 am

              You may suffer from hyperacusis. But don't worry you're not alone.

          Generally speaking with the exception of your ear drum rupturing (which is definitely possible - but more to do with air pressure inside your ear caused by the sound than the actual sound afaik), you wont go 'deaf' as such, but it can impact that frequency range.. So listening to too much bassy music will eventually just mean it doesn't sound very bassy anymore to you.

          As far as I am aware, by far the biggest threat to peoples hearing is in ear headphones.

      Well I've already reached middle age and my hearing just intact…so there!

    jeez talk about shitty subs and shitty advice.
    subs need to run even lower frequencies then what this crossover offers. 20hz-80hz is where I have mine set up. I do have custom crossovers. and the go to mids, tweeters and subs .

      Now why do you have custom crossovers? Were the ones that came with your system bad? Could be a reflection on the quality of the speakers. Or did you add your own filters to tailor it more to your ears. Plus who cares what your sub's at ever system is different hence tuning it in. Mines at 50hz for music and 80 for movies.

        I made my own. my own box n everything (yes yes, aren't I a smart fucker ) :P haha so yeah I run crossovers I made.
        subs need low frequencies to prevent damage to them. it's not a pissing contest or a my crossover goes lower then yours. you really dont want high freq. running through a good expensive subbie! Period. < That's a period

    Sub Woofers won't make you deaf unless they are so extreme that they would burn out the voice coils (speaker coils) and you put your head in front of them for an hour or so.
    Sub Woofers can do damage to your body organs below 35Hz so don't stand in front of them at high output. They can make you ill.

    bass won't hurt as much as high tones.

    my subs crossed over at 80hz, mids just a little bit higher (can't really remember)
    my subs were flat from 15-80hz also.

    i ran custom gear in the car.

    but, you couldn't just hear the subs if it was loud, you could hear everything.
    but i did have 500w going into the mids and horns.

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