How to Install a Subwoofer

It’s possible to hire a professional to install your subwoofer if you feel unsure of your ability to follow through the instruction and produce the required result. A professional will definitely cost some money to hire – depending on the level of expertise – but will also save you the time and stress of figuring out the procedure for installation. Also, a professional will be able to work around the technical details to set up your subwoofer with quality sound.

Install a Subwoofer
Vulphere, commons.wikimedia.org

However, you may be one to take up any challenge just like this one. Or you are a rookie audiophile who wants to learn the art and science of subwoofer installation for your home or car. Installing a subwoofer is a good way to challenge your self-professed love for good sound. For your home and car subwoofer, here’s how to go about the installation.

Prefer videos? This video explains how to set up a subwoofer in your home

Installing Subwoofer in Your Home

To install a subwoofer in your home, you should consider where you want to place the sub. This reason is that the bass frequencies of your subwoofer will respond to the varying conditions of the room where you place it and one of those conditions is the wall. As the sound waves from the bass are reflected through the room, you may come up with two challenges. One is standing waves and the other is bass nulls.

The problem of standing waves arises if a lot of bass energy is reflected throughout the room. This is as a result of the wall’s ability to strengthen a specific low frequency so much that it creates a resonance that is annoying at best. This makes it look like the bass is jammed to a tone without structure.

On the other hand, the challenge presented by bass nulls is that of waves neutralizing each other as they bounce through the room. The effect of this is that you end up with incomplete audio.

There are a number of ways to tackle these flaws. One is to set up some acoustical treatment to fill up the reflective issues. Software like an equalizer can also be used to fill up the dents. However, a good place to begin is to try placing the subwoofer in the right spot.

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Where is the Right Place to Place Your Subwoofer in Your Home?

You probably heard of how much more sound your bass woofer produces when boxed into a corner or placed close to a wall. Of course, this is because walls generally reinforce any object that bounces on it – including sound. As much as this is true, the reinforced sound might just be very crappy since more doesn’t always imply better.

In practical terms; assuming you got a sub that has tiny drivers plus low power-handling capacity, you might just consider positioning the sub close to a wall so that you can improve the bass sound it produces. However, the wall may just worsen the sound instead of improving it. This is to say that the wall isn’t the answer to the problem thus there has to be some better way to position your subwoofer.

First, you should consider that the size of your subwoofer driver matters during the installation process. You need a sub with a sizable driver and a robust amplifier. It’ll perform better away from the wall and closer to the main loudspeakers. Keeping this sub close to the input sources improves delay from timing and canceling out. Some manufacturers will even state the best position for your subwoofer if you are buying a ready-made one off the market.

If you don’t intend to take the manufacturer’s advice or you are trying to place your DIY subwoofer, here’s a procedure that will produce the right result for you. You need a bit of patience here to place your sub at the spot where it will produce the best sound. You want to consider enlisting the help of a willing dear friend.

This procedure requires that you move your favorite sitting chair from its position since this will most likely be the position you listen to your music from. Then place your subwoofer in the position of that chair you moved. Next, play some music that you are very familiar with on your sub. This music should have sufficiently heavy bass notes. The essence of playing this music is to get the full feel of your sub’s output ability at different points of the room.

While the music is playing, move around the room and mark the points where the notes are smoothest and deepest. Use tape or something to identify them while you return the chair to its position. Now, move your sub to those positions you marked off and listen to the sound it produces at those points from your chair. While you listen, you’ll be able to find the most suitable spot to keep the sub.

If moving your chair is too much of a bother, you can take an alternative procedure. Check out the wall closest to the main output system and the input system. Measure the distance from the said wall to the one opposite and mark out one-third of this distance. Place your subwoofer in this position. This position should be able to greatly reduce the effect of standing waves and bass nulls have.

What if you already got a small-sized sub? Well, the best spot to place it is still in a corner or close to the wall. You might as well take care of those boomy sounds with these ideas.

Ported box. If your subwoofer box has a port behind, then fill it in with tennis or rubber balls or some socks that you don’t use anymore. Stuffing the box will reduce the chances of sound bouncing on the wall.

You may find a sub that is designed to be fixed in the wall, though they tend to be pricey. If a sub isn’t built for the wall, you want to avoid placing it on the wall. However, one place to never your sub is in a closed space. You end up limiting its ability to produce a multi-directional sound which is what it is specifically built for.

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How to Connect to Your Input Device

When you connect your subwoofer to the home theater or gaming device, the control panel that makes the process efficient is the Audio/Video Receiver (AVR). With the AVR, you can link all your sound from the production point and transfer them to the speakers. These include sound from your game console, turntable, DVD player, etc. In essence, you will have to pass your subwoofer into the AVR when you’ve identified the best spot for it.

For most AVRs, the subwoofer port can easily be spotted on the panel behind denoted by a name like “subwoofer out”. Some AVRs may carry more than one port of subwoofers. In older AVR systems, you have to connect the subwoofer directly to the receiver using its speaker wire to link to the subwoofer out on the AVR’s speaker terminal.

However, in more recent AVRs, you need a cable connection like the RCA to link the subwoofer and the AVR. One important factor to note when making these connections is the type of wire you use. They should be designed for use on subwoofers because that ensures that your sound sent to your sub is as clean as possible.

Some AVRs are designed to automatically reset the speaker connection in the room once your set up is done well. However, if you find that yours does not automatically update then check the setup panel and do the setup yourself. If you can’t figure out how best to go about this, consider enlisting the services of a pro as the manual setup tends to be a bit complex.

Video: How to Install a Subwoofer

Watch this video to see how to install a subwoofer in the car

How to Install a Subwoofer – Setting It Up in Your Car

Installing a subwoofer in a car is a lot more complex than home installation. The materials and tools you’ll need for this installation vary from electrical to mechanical.

The electrical materials you need include:

  • A wire to connect your subwoofer and amp
  • A remote on lead that will work with the ignition or stereo to regulate the amp – +12 volts
  • A fused battery connection – +12 volts
  • A strong material that can adhere to the metal build of the car
  • A head unit (factory stereo or aftermarket) that provides audio input to the amp

The mechanical materials you need include:

  • A heavy bass speaker (driver)
  • A subwoofer box for the driver
  • An amp with about 150W/RMS or more power handling capacity

Tools you need include:

  • A wiring kit for your amp that contains a remote wire, fuse holder, and accessories for connection
  • Subwoofer speaker wire plus connections for signals (for a factory stereo)
  • Brackets (that you can use to mount down the sub box if you need to)
  • Speed drill (cordless)
  • Electrical tape (UL rated or a similar one of good quality)
  • Zip ties (wire ties)
  • 6 inch or 8 inch small bag
  • Coat hanger made from wire metal
  • Self-tapping screws – 3/8″ length (useful if you already have a drill)

Prefer video? This video explains how to install a subwoofer in your car

You are more likely to find the +12 volts battery connection for your amp if you have an old model car. The wiring in modern cars is usually unsuitable for installing a subwoofer in a car since they tend to be less than +12 volts.

You may use this installation guide for a factory stereo or for an aftermarket stereo. The difference will be in the number of hours it takes for you to successfully install the subwoofer. It’ll take more hours to install your subwoofer in a factory stereo than it will take to install it in an aftermarket stereo. Be sure you have all the materials and tools you need before you begin the subwoofer installation process so that you don’t get stuck along the way.

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Selecting an Amplifier

You can get an effective amplifier for your head unit even if you are on a budget. At best it’ll have all the necessary features that will enable it couple perfectly with a subwoofer to produce quality bass sound. A monoblock (or single-channel) amplifier is perfect for this job. However, if you have a bridged multi-channel amp that also will be sufficient.

What’s in a Good Bass?

  • Subwoofer that has good power handling capability up to 150W/RMS with one or two bridged amp channels
  • Crossover with low pass to filter high frequency sounds. They help your subwoofer system to produce clean, quality sound

A bridged amplifier is one where two amp channels are synced to power one or more drivers at once. With this, the amp power can be reinforced as much as 4 times.

Install a Subwoofer
Jamie McCall, flickr.com

Car Powered Subwoofer

A subwoofer built for cars will normally have everything like the right driver, a built-in amplifier and a box. You might consider getting one if you do not have the time to build your own subwoofer. Installing a car powered subwoofer is easier than installing a separate system of subwoofer and amplifier. They are very small and inexpensive, yet they still produce good bass.

Installing Subwoofer and Amplifier

Installing an amplifier, you’ll need to pay attention to some procedures that are important. First, you have to send your cable’s positive wire into your car’s battery area while hiding it beneath the interior trim and carpet. This will require lifting plastic trims that can easily go back to their position. An example of such trim is the rocker panel cover. You can ease the lifting process with a screwdriver that has a flat head.

Also, lift the carpet to cover up your amp wires. Just lift them carefully at their edges until you have enough space to place your wires.

The other part of this installation is the part of extending wires into the engine compartment and battery. Find a convenient spot of the car where you can create a hole using a screwdriver or some other tool. Then pass the wire through that hole all the way to the car engine. That hole can also be created by displacing a plug or may even preexist in the car.

You can also create that hole on a grommet seal or rubber seal in the car. Use a car hanger to pass the wire through either by pushing until you have enough of the tip on the engine end or by winding the wire around the straightened tip of the hanger. Then pull the wire out on that engine end. Once you’re able to pass the wire out on that end, much of the remaining work is a walkover.

The next place to run wire is to the boot. You may find a hole somewhere down the backrest of the rear seat on the side or you can decide to lift the entire rear seat to find a suitable hole to run your wires through. When you find the hole, run your wire through it until you have it in the back.

At this point, you want to link your fuse holder and positive wire. Cut off 0.5 inches of the wire insulator at both ends and pass it into the fuse holder. Hold down the wire with ring crimp terminal and pliers. When your positive wires are firmly in place, secure your fuse holder to the battery side with a 12-inch wire but do not install it. The idea is to have the wires so short there won’t be any form of short-circuiting to avoid any form of fire accident.

Why should you use ring terminals to crimp? They are a lot more budget-friendly and fit into the wiring kit of a good amp without much trouble. As much as possible, avoid terminals that you have to solder as they end up wasting much of your installation time.

When you have your positive wires installed to the fuse holder (without the fuse), then run it to the battery and secure with zip ties fastened to any brackets around. Next, link the ground wire of your amp to a metal part of your car and hold it up with ring terminals. Use your self-tapping screw and drill (cordless) to create a space for your ground wire, except if your car came with a ground wire space from the manufacturer.

Link your stereo and source of input to the remote-on lead. Most aftermarket stereos will come with output wire for the remote lead, usually color blue. The purpose of the blue output wire is to regulate on/off for the surface amp by supplying +12 volts to a turned-on stereo.

Without an aftermarket stereo, you have to connect the hidden wire to an ignition-controlled +12 volts wire. Alternatively, make use of an adapter that is designed to detect music and has the ability to reflect the signal once powered without manual handling. Take the time to locate the +12 volts in your car for a perfect connection.

If your car stereo (aftermarket) has RCA jackets, then you have to connect the RCA wires or speaker wires. The jackets are usually denoted as SUBW (or something close to that) and may come as 4 rear jackets or 2 (the left – white and right – red). On the other hand, if you are using a factory stereo, you may not find any RCA jackets. Your best bet will be connecting to signal sources with speaker wires. You should do this at the point when you link your stereo and remote wire. Also, connect to the speakers in your car boot.

To connect to your speaker or stereo using the speaker wires, cut off 0.5 inches of wire insulator and connect to the naked part of the factory wire. Feel free to hold it in place with a crimp connector and a gauge wire.

When you are done with linking the remote wire, signal wire, or power wire it’s time to send them to the amplifier. First, you have to assemble them at a point and secure them at a point with zip ties. Then trim off the excess zip tie. It’s okay to space your ties as much as 12 inches if you do not have a lot of it.

Mounting your Amplifier

The major ways to mount your amplifier will be on the subwoofer cabinet or with a board for mounting amps. It’s way easier to mount your amplifier on the subwoofer box but attaching a board to the car is neater and helps to reduce the rate at which your amplifier is affected by vibrations.

For amplifiers mounted on a board, get a custom-cut board that will allow you to install the amp in any location convenient to you and get a black fabric. Use car stereo installation straps to mount your amp. They’ll also work for your subwoofer box and board.

When you’re done mounting your amp, then its time to fix in the wires. Make sure power is disabled and that your power wire fuse is not connected. Now, fix the wires in their right ports – remote, power, ground wire. Look around to see that no wire is hanging out of its place and that there is absolutely no risk of short-circuiting. Then run your large speaker wire to your amp’s terminals.

Time to Check Your System Out

Now that you have completed the connection, fix back your power fuse and ignite your car’s engine plus stereo. If everything is right then your amp will show it with the power light coming on and some background sound.

What if your amp doesn’t signal power or sound?

There are a number of reasons your amp may not come after the installation. It’s either that the ground wire of the car is poor or the fuse holder is bad. Another reason is that the remote wire is not giving out as much as +12 volts or it has a low voltage.

In a nutshell

Installing your own subwoofer is a bit tricky but a fun challenge. You need to make sure you have the time before you begin the process because it will definitely take hours to complete this project. You sure will have a jolly, good time – especially if you invite a friend over.