Why Is My Subwoofer So Quiet?

Maybe you got your first (or a new) subwoofer. Maybe you’ve upgraded your AV receiver. It could be you moved your once beloved subwoofer to a new room. Whatever you did, your subwoofer seems to have lost all of its “oomph.” Gone is the chest-thumping bass. No more do your walls sound like they are going to shake apart. What happened? Why is your subwoofer so quiet? Let’s discuss.

Most Likely Cause – Settings

If we assume that your subwoofer isn’t underpowered (or undersized) for your space, then “quiet” shouldn’t be the word you are using to describe the bass. You probably know this and that’s why you are searching for answers on the Internet rather than returning the subwoofer. The first (and really only) step is to start over. Redo your auto-setup program on your AV receiver, double-check your crossover settings, and make sure you aren’t using the wrong audio mode. Here are some common issues we see when a subwoofer is too quiet:

  • Speakers set to large (disables subwoofer for most content except movies) – Link for fix
  • Crossover set too low – Link for fix
  • Incorrect listening mode – Link for fix
  • Receiver has different subwoofer settings for two-channel content – Link for fix
  • Auto-On function on sub not kicking in – Link for fix

Also Most Common Cause – Positioning

If you are sure that all your settings are correct, then the other most common cause is positioning. A little research into room acoustics will reveal that your position in a room in relation to your subwoofer can make your bass experience significantly different. The quick test of this is to change your location in the room temporarily. Sit in a different seat, move to a different area of your couch, or just get up and walk around the room. If your bass suddenly reappears, the problem isn’t your subwoofer, it’s where you are sitting.

We’ve talked a lot about how to properly position a single subwoofer, how to add a second subwoofer for more even bass across your seats, and where to place your couch. You’ll want to revisit those articles. Your “quiet” subwoofer may be because you are sitting in a null. A null is a location in your room where the bass waves cancel each other out (much like noise-canceling headphones). The solution is simple – something has to move. Move your subwoofer or move your couch. This will change the location of the null in your room so that your seat will have better bass.

Did he say “Move your subwoofer to your couch” or “Move your subwoofer or your couch?

What Are You Using To Test Your Subwoofer?

I can’t tell you the number of times people have complained about their subwoofers being too quiet and it turns out it is because they are using music to test their system. Some music has some fairly low bass. Not as low as movies, but pretty low. The problem is that bass in music is very often a single or a handful of notes. It doesn’t really test all of the bass frequencies. If you are sitting in a location where those bass notes are truncated (but all of the other bass is fine), then you’ll think that your subwoofer isn’t working properly.

Instead, use a bass sweep. Use our speaker comparison article as a guide on how to do this properly. If your subwoofer is playing most of the frequency range well but has a dip at a couple of frequencies, that’s not very concerning. You can fix it by adding a second subwoofer and room treatments.

Have you had a subwoofer that was too quiet? What did you do to fix it? Let us know in the comments below!

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