SVS SB-4000

Poll: How Many Subwoofers Do You Use?

Most home theaters, if they have surround sound at all, typically use a single subwoofer to reproduce bass frequencies. Many experts recommend at least two, and some bass fanatics really go crazy with multiple heavy-duty subs. What works in your home theater?

Anyone who has struggled like I have to get good bass knows that the subwoofer itself is only one part of the equation. Even the most powerful or capable sub in the world is at the mercy of your room acoustics and can leave you lacking bass if you can’t find precisely the best location to place it. Theory has it that two equivalent subwoofers placed on opposite ends of the room (typically in diagonal corners) can help to even out peaks and dips, and provide more uniform bass to all the seats in the room. Four subwoofers (either one in each corner, or one in the center of each wall) may be even better.

Unfortunately, however, good subwoofers tend to be an expensive purchase, and many home theater fans simply don’t find it realistic to buy more than one.

For the past couple months, I’ve been testing an SVS SB-4000 subwoofer for an upcoming review. For the evaluation, I find it best to just use the one subwoofer by itself, so as to not color the results. If I choose to purchase this one after the review is completed, it’s very doubtful that I’ll be able to afford a second identical unit. Although I still have my smaller SB-2000 model, it’s not ideal to pair unevenly matched subwoofers. I’m also limited by the layout and furnishings in my room as to whether I’d be able to find a good place to put the second sub for the best results.

As such, I’m not opposed to running multiple subwoofers, but I don’t know that it will be practical for me to do so.

What do you do in your home theater?

How Many Subwoofers Do You Use in Your Home Theater?

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38 comments

  1. Csm101

    I only run one subwoofer for now, but I am entertaining the idea of getting a second one. If I had a dedicated theater room, I probably would of already gone dual.
    Josh, do you think your Denon article will come first, or testing this new sub?

  2. Pedram

    I never knew how expensive subs could get until I replaced my HTiB audio system for an Atmos setup.
    The problem seems to be that price goes up way faster acoustic benefit, especially for a small condo setup like I have.
    I ended up going with a Polk one I found for just over $100 on black Friday. If I get a dedicated theatre room I’ll probably get a second one of the same model. I’ve never really had any issue with the one I have, so I could never see myself spending thousands on a sub like some of the higher end models go for.

    • It can, but I bought a 5.1 speaker set that I use for $400. I have 7.1 – I bought the front left and front right separate (I think I paid $300 for them), then used the center from the set and the sub (which is pretty darn good) and the other four became my surrounds as they were all matched. Then just balanced them all in my receiver.

      You can drop a ton on a sub – and I will admit that the more expensive subs DO sound better. But to me, around $300 – $400 is where you hit that wall of diminishing returns (I have heard some say that wall is around $1500). Yes, a $1000 sub sounds better than mine, but to me, it is not better enough to justify the additional cost. Plus, I am just adding bass to the sound in the living room – I don’t want to rattle the bones of my neighbors 3 houses down. If I had a larger space, like a basement or something (no house in my area has basements), then yeah, I would have gone with a significantly more expensive sub (and speakers, and amp)

      • Pedram

        Yeah I agree that a more expensive sub would sound better, but how much better? I’m sure this debate has already been had, but even a $300-400 sub wouldn’t sound 3-4 times better than my $100 one.
        At the same time, my condo neighbors probably hate me enough with the sub that I have. No need to crank up the bass even more.

  3. Scott Simonian

    Hmm. Is this total subwoofer enclosures? Drivers? Addressable outputs for said subwoofer system?

    In my case, I have seven enclosures each with dual drivers. Then I have them addressable in groups….

    Agghhh! I just put “more than four”. 😛

    • You know, you raise a good point. If you have full range speakers that have tweeters, woofers and drivers, do you even need a sub? You could just adjust the crossover on your receiver. You probably get significantly fuller range sound than the rest of us.

      May I ask what you are running? Links would be awesome if you could provide them.

      • Josh Zyber
        Author

        The notion of “full range” speakers is a common audio fallacy. You will almost 100% of the time get better bass response by offloading low frequencies to a dedicated subwoofer. This will also put less strain on the main speakers, allowing them to focus on the mid-range and higher frequencies.

  4. MovieWatcher

    Just one big, bad, dual 15″ Powersound Audio sub with a DSpeaker 8033Cinema EQ. I’d love two, but don’t have the room 🙁 According to REW, I’m -3dB at 8Hz, so no complaints 😀

  5. PG

    Low frequency soundwaves are large, this will cause uneven response in a room with only 1 LF source. This has all been modeled a long time ago, there are software programs that will model the response in your listening area. 1 monster sub fulfills ego, but will not perform as well as several optimally placed small but capable subs. Read Earl Geddes contributions to Audio Engineering Society.

  6. Mike H

    I have been through a lot of different subwoofers in my small dedicated room trying to achieve the “punch” I want from them but it wasn’t until I added bass shakers to my chairs that are balanced with my dual subwoofers did I finally achieve that.

  7. Daniel Chaves

    I have 2 12inch subs, 2 15inch subs, and 2 buttkickers. My main left and right have dedicated 8 inch subs as well. More than enough for my apartment lol.

  8. John Daddabbo

    The problem with such a Topic is that every person has different goals in mind, and therefore what is best for one person isn’t necessarily best for someone else. Example: Many folks need not at all concern themselves with seat to seat coverage (i.e. Not even a second spouse seat). If such a person isn’t looking for the utmost flattest frequency response, then ONE big sub placed ideally in the room (depending upon the room) may just do the trick. And such a person would then have more output per $ then any 2 or 3 subwoofer setup. OK, so just one example / iteration of several possibilities based on one’s priorities for their subwoofer… and the reason that this Topic tends to be all over the map 🙂

  9. Trey Klein

    I’ve noticed that the new home theater receivers have 2 subwoofer outputs 7.2, 9.2. Etc, Some of them are labeled front and rear I’m not sure about how that works… I currently use 1 sub, an older Sunfire D-8 in a 5.1 set up. Ideally I would add a sub, in line with each L & R main speaker and have a dedicated LFE sub from the receiver output. With 2 subs I could see placing them with the L & R mains but running them from the sub out on the receiver.

    • John Daddabbo

      Sorry, however the short answer is that you do not want to do as you describe. Honestly, it is often better and certainly much easy to setup / dial-in when all subs are playing the exact same signal.

  10. Scott Harpersberger

    I have a 2200 square ft room and wasn’t truly happy with any of my prior subs until getting the svs sub ultra16. Wasn’t easy to convence my wife to get it, but even if I could afford a second, I can’t see it being overkill for my roomsize. I can always dream though.

  11. Abe

    We just got a new home theater basement setup. So I voted for the dual subs. Because it’s a basement setup – it passes ALL WAF.
    We had two of these installed : http://www.hsuresearch.com/products/vtf-3mk5HP.html.

    Everyone says it’s overkill; but it depends on the content. Maybe take a while to tune them in just right.
    3000 cubic feet and these dual subs seem to not overdo it; unless you are upstairs. They are in the front left/right of the room and seems to be placed right.
    Need to test them in various spots one day with the wireless receivers from SVS. Any recommendations?

    Josh, looking forward to your review!

  12. Barsoom Bob

    I use two subs in a home brew type set up. I use Klipsh speakers for the 5 part of 5.2. I reworked two sturdy old, three way speaker cabinets, removed, blanked out the mid and tweeter openings and installed a 12″ woofer in each along with a low pass filter. I did this primarily for my stereo music listening. What, the LFE is only one channel you say ? My friend gave me his Nakamichi CD player because he just bought a new Samsung TV and blue ray player then found out it could play CDs. He gave me the Nakamichi to save space !
    This is a very fine CD player and unique in that it has two audio outputs, one of which has a front panel independent volume control. I power my two sub woofers with my previous Yamaha amp and use a Marantz for the main receiver. This enables me to achieve true stereo sub woofers, left and right, when listening to CDs from the Nakamichi, with the ability to control the bass level independent of the rest of the music. I send the fixed audio to the main amp, and the controlled one to the sub woofer amp. The LFE output from the Marantz is Y split out to two RCA plugs which go in to another input in the sub amp. It is Just a matter of switching between two inputs to toggle between stereo subs for music listening or both subs work for the LFE channel for movie watching. MY favorite stereo bass cut is Pink Floyd’s Welcome to the Machine with the bouncing left/right bass pattern. I’m enjoying it.

  13. I am tempted to say 3, which is TECHNICALLY true, but they are not hooked up to the same system. One in the living room, one in the bedroom for the soundbar, and a tiny cube thingy in the office that I plop my feet on when I am using the computer that sometimes decides to give me a foot massage.

    I had always heard that you were not supposed to have two subwoofers on the same system as they would cancel each other out (which never made sense, but people swore up and down that was the case), so I was really surprised when I started seeing the .2 systems and at first I mistook them for being height speakers. An extra sub always seemed like a waste of money to me – my sub fires downward on a wood floor – trust me, there is PLENTY of bass, even with it being tucked underneath my endtable between my two couches. That is part of the point of a sub – its non-directional. I always said that if you thought you needed a second sub, then you did not place your first in a good area, or you bought a crappy sub, or you need to get rid of your carpet. Even if someone could make an argument for a second sub, I don’t have the room for one anyways, unless I bought a tiny one and threw it under the coffee table (I don’t think the cat would like that – she is already annoyed that she has to move whenever I start a movie up (she likes to sleep on top of the sub, and moves to under the coffee table when I am watching a movie, unless she is in the unusual mood where she actually wants attention).

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      Multiple subwoofers can cancel each other out if they aren’t placed correctly. In a standard rectangular space, they should typically be on opposite ends of the room from each other, either at the mid-point of the front and rear walls or in opposite diagonal corners. However, irregularly shaped rooms and your furnishings can affect this, so experimentation and measurement are often required.

  14. Muttley

    Josh, have you tried the doing “subwoofer crawl” to determine the best position for your sub(s)?

    I’m assuming you have, but thought I’d bring it up just in case.

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      I’ve done better than that. I invested in a calibration microphone and downloaded Room EQ Wizard. That really opened my eyes that the place I’d put my subwoofer was entirely wrong.

      • Muttley

        Room EQ Wizard is MAGIC!

        Such an awesome tool.

        It’s eye-opening what it can tell you about your room/equipment combo.

  15. Rusty Shackleford

    I have a split level home, with my theater in the lone bedroom downstairs (11.5’x13’x8′, ~1100 cf, 7′-10′ viewing distance).

    I originally had a 7.4 Klipsch THX Ultra2 system (ported KL650x5 Mains/RS, sealed KS525x2 SS, ported 12″ KW120x4, KA1000x2 sub amps) with the speakers and subs mounted in a baffle wall behind an AT screen.

    This was major overkill for the space, but not the reason I ditched that setup. Given I had ~18dB/octave room gain starting around 50Hz, I felt I would benefit from a sealed sub/sat setup, rather than the ported 25Hz tuned design of the KW120’s and 45 ported tune design of the KL650’s.

    I had an old M&K THX Ultra setup lying around (sealed S-5000×5 mains/RS, dipole SS500x2 and tripole SS150x2 SS, and sealed dual 12″ MX-5000×2). The S5000’s are trapezoidal, so bafle wall is scrapped from r now, and the because there are are still 4×12″ woofers, but now in only two boxes, my placement options are significantly more limited, so they are stacked in the left front corner.

    Using REW with a calibrated UMIC, I am flat (after EQ’ing out room gain) as far as I trust accuracy of the microphone, and have more headroom than I need (I maxed out at 121dB with ~9% THD @20 Hz, but was afraid of window/structural damage if I went any louder), especially when one considers that real world analysis of digital hard-coding shows Blu-ray/UHD combined total bass output (summed 7 channel <100Hz + LFE) very rarely exceeds 115db (and usually at frequencies in the 30-50Hz range, a range at which even modest subs operate, albeit not quite at the levels desired), and the majority of movies made (even a significant number of action/sci-fi) will have peaks in the 100-105dB range (again, summed total <100Hz), which should be attainable even with mid-range model subs in the 30-50 Hz "slam" range, with minimal room gain in a medium sized room. This is obviously not typical of most dedicated theaters, as the room is much smaller, providing gaudy room gain.

    The Klipsch THX Ultra2 system is now in the upstairs living room, and it still provides reference level bass (123dB+ @20Hz) in an open floor plan that includes a living room, dining room, kitchen, hallway, and staircase (~8000+ cf). However, typical lastening volume in that setting is around -15dB to -25dB. So, in reality, a very modest, single sub system with minimal room gain would still provide the real world peaks of 85-95 dB for the overwhelming majority of movies and TV shows watched in that environment, which I think is representative of most shared space home theaters.

    At the volumes typically chosen in living room home theaters, there is no benefit to unused headroom. The old addage of multiple smallers subs in lieu of one massive sub seems to be the solution for best response in most domestic spaces, but aesthetics and practicality make it a less useful option in these spaces than in a dedicated theater. Such is life.

    Food for thought.

  16. Chris B

    I just run a 10’ Polk Audio sub I got for 200 bucks a few years back. Works great, don’t feel the need to add a second one.

  17. C.C.

    I thought you settled on the SVS SB-2000 a few years ago?
    Not satisfied with that one? What did you feel were the shortcomings?
    Adding a second SB-2000 would not have done the trick?

  18. Scott H

    My parents at one time had some full size Definitive Technology tower speakers which featured in each tower a 10″ side firing sub.
    Those were nice and had a ton of power. In my current system I use just one sub, the one that came with my Def Tech Pro Cinema 80, that I got on black Friday for a smoken good deal when Ultimate Electronics was around.

  19. H.C.

    I have two identical subs, using one sub out with a splitter, how is that?
    And how/where do you place the opening of the subs, to the back wall ^ ^, side wall , or to each other > <?

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      There’s only one LFE channel in a movie soundtrack, so connecting two subwoofers with a Y-splitter is perfectly legitimate. Anyone using four subwoofers has to split at least two of them.

  20. I am currently running 2 SB4000s and 1 SVS PB10-NSD. The 2 SB4000s are along the front wall, with the PB10 helping out along the side wall of the room, slightly behind listening position. The PB10 along the side helps even out a room dip that the SB4000s could do much with from their position.


    MP

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