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5 Steps to Better Bass in Your Home Theater

by October 31, 2018
5 Steps to Better Bass

5 Steps to Better Bass

This 5-Step supplemental article assumes you already have a home theater system and simply want to improve the bass response for better impact and accuracy. This article also assumes you've properly set up the bass management in your AV receiver or processor and made all of the necessary connections to your speakers and subwoofers.

If you're running only one subwoofer, it may be time to upgrade and get a second matching sub. Dual subwoofers are ALWAYS better than a single subwoofer for distributing uniform bass across a wider listening area and also coupling very low frequencies for greater depth and dynamic range.

For more information see: Are Two Subs Better than One?

5 Steps to Better Bass in Your Home Theater YouTube Discussion

Here are the 5 Steps Towards Better Bass in Your Home Theater Room:

  1. locationSubwoofer Location (preferably multiple subs) - Follow our pictorial guidelines in our Subwoofer Setup Article for suggestive placements or our Subwoofer Crawl. There are multiple locations that can work in your room so finding the right spots is worth the effort to greatly improve sound quality and depth.  Positional EQ (Listening seat location) - where you place your listening seats also determines sound quality NOT just in bass but for the overall home theater surround envelop. Keep your seating away from back and side walls if possible. Backwall placement is a maximum pressure zone where you will hear very loud but not accurate bass. If you can move the couches at least 1/4L of the room away from the backwall, you will ensure more accurate bass reproduction.

    Again follow our Subwoofer Set Up Guidelines and diagrams for suggestions.

  2. Positional EQ - Believe it or not you can equalize the sound of your speaker/sub system simply by moving your theater chairs or couches. Proper seating location can have a huge impact in the quality of  bass you hear. You generally want to avoid placing your seats up against a back or side wall. We recommend locating the seats at least 1/4L (L = length of the room) away from the back wall to reduce excessive bass energies caused by build up of standing waves. Locating a seat to a sidewall will shift the balance of the sound towards the closest surround speaker while also severely impacting stereo imaging of the front left/right speakers. Instead, apply symmetry and line of sight principles when locating your couches so that every seating location has a direct unobstructed path of sound to each speaker and the front left/right speakers are equidistant for true stereo imaging.

  3. Proper time alignment (delay settings and phase) - Choosing an AV Receiver or Processor with 2 independent subwoofer outputs allows you to individually adjust delays and levels for each subwoofer. Variable phase on the subwoofer(s) can also be your friend towards getting things dialed in between both subs and your main speakers.

    For more information, see:  Subwoofer Integration: Bass Management and Distance Settings Explained

  4.  Level matching (between subs and mains) - its important to get the levels properly matched between your subwoofers and speakers to ensure optimal blend. Multi-sub relies on similar subwoofer output capabilities and levels to work in tandem to average out room modes to create a wider more even sweet spot in your listening area. There are some exceptions where lowering the level of a carefully placed nearfield subwoofer to resolve tricky room suckouts at the listening area can be beneficial in reducing localization of the pressure waves of that particular subwoofer.

    For more information, see: How To Calibrate and Level Match Your Speakers

  5.  REW KitManual and/or Auto-EQ - after getting the subwoofers properly set up and integrated into your home theater, it's time to put the icing on the cake. Once you reduce the seat to seat variance in bass response, EQ becomes a very effective tool at bass frequencies for the entire seating area to reduce remaining modal problems. This is accomplished with parametric equalization by taking that energy out of the room in the form of cutting the problematic frequencies. Once you flatten the bass, you're actually able to boost the level a few dB higher for more impact than the rest of the speakers without it sounding objectionable or boomy. For more information see our Subwoofer Setup Article where we give examples using mDSP to equalize a multi-subwoofer installation. Remember, it's usually better to apply a single equalization correction curve for all subs simultaneously.  This applies for all room correction systems, not just Audyssey.  If auto EQ doesn't improve the sound of your system, first tweak its settings such as bass management, delays, and EQ (if adjustable). If it still sounds off, disable it and stick with manual EQ.

*Note 1: It is critical to use measurements to guide you towards better bass! REW is a very powerful and easy to use FREE measurement software system. Coupled with a calibrated USB microphone like the UMM-6 from Dayton Audio, you can use an objective process to tuning bass response in your room for more accurate and consistent results.

*Note 2: Passive room treatments that effectively work at bass frequencies tend to be large and bulky. They are useful in improving bass quality but their need can be greatly reduced by employing multi-sub. we cover this topic in detail at: Early Reflections and Bass for Small Room Acoustics


SVS 4000 SeriesThe goal of a serious home theater playback system should be even (level) bass for all listening seats, plenty of dynamic range and smooth natural frequency response across all of the listening area for the most seamless blend.  The best way of achieving good bass is by reducing the modal peaks and nodal dips by utilizing passive room treatments, multiple subs, proper speaker/subwoofer and seating placements and setup, and active equalization.  Don't discount any of these tools in your bag of equalization (OR) correction tricks.  The key is proper subwoofer placement and setup to reduce the guess work and minimize chasing your tail to find the best settings that yield the most optimal measurable performance.

Once you hear a properly calibrated home theater with smooth and even bass across the entire listening area, it's hard to ever go back.  It's worth the time and effort to properly integrate multiple subwoofers into your theater room.  With the proper tools, know how and patience, you can create a home theater experience that rivals even the very best Cineplex's. It's important to be methodical and persistent when properly calibrating your theater. As Captain Picard says, "Make it So!"

Please share with us your calibration and setup procedure in achieving bass nirvana. We want to hear from you!


About the author:
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Gene manages this organization, establishes relations with manufacturers and keeps Audioholics a well oiled machine. His goal is to educate about home theater and develop more standards in the industry to eliminate consumer confusion clouded by industry snake oil.

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