Setting the Subwoofer / LFE Crossover for Best Performance

Why You Need a Subwoofer

When a subwoofer is set up correctly, it’s going to make your main monitors sound like they are producing sub-bass frequency content. A poorly integrated subwoofer can overpower your main monitors, and also create a notch at the crossover frequency between your subwoofer and main monitors. If the subwoofer draws attention to itself, it is set up incorrectly. By carelessly adding a subwoofer to your studio you can, unintentionally, create more problems than you solve, and this is why many people make the claim that they don’t like working with a subwoofer.

The reason you likely need a subwoofer is that most main speaker monitors aren’t capable of producing frequencies below 30-40Hz; this applies to some of the most popular studio monitors on the market: Yamaha HS8s (30 Hz), KRK Rokit 8s (35 Hz), ADAM A7Xs (42 Hz), and Kali LP-8s (45 Hz).

In general, humans can hear frequencies from 20-20,000 Hz, which means that depending on the speakers you’re using, you could be missing out on more than an entire octave of frequency content; E at 20.60 Hz up to the next E at 41.20 Hz.

There are four different types of drivers found in speakers that are responsible for producing different frequency ranges. These drivers include subwoofers (around 20-120Hz), woofers (around 40-3,000 Hz), midrange drivers (around 250-4,000 Hz), and tweeters (around 2,000+ Hz).

Most studio monitor speakers use a two-way configuration consisting of a woofer and tweeter, while some studio monitor speakers use a three-way configuration comprising of a woofer, midrange driver, and tweeter. In either case, a separate subwoofer has to be added to the set up to take care of extreme low-end content.

To produce low frequencies, you need to be able to move a lot of air at a slow rate. The main reason that your studio monitors can’t produce frequencies around 20 Hz is that their drivers are too small. Subwoofers are large which allows them to generate deep bass frequencies. Fluance has a great video that covers crossovers and drivers in detail.

Video

FAQs

Q. What is a good crossover frequency?

There is no particular good crossover frequency as crossover frequency requirements greatly depend on the speaker drivers being used in the design. The individual drivers that are chosen by the designer determine the crossover points chosen.

The numbers below highlight general guidelines for speaker/subwoofer crossover frequencies.

On-wall or Tiny ‘satellite’ speakers: 150-200 Hz.

Small center, surround, bookshelf: 100-120 Hz.

Many systems however recommend that you set your frequency at 80 Hz.

Q. What Hz is best for bass?

There is no right answer for all; not without knowing more. In most cases, you will find that is around 100Hz. The type of crossover/filter you are using will also greatly influence the specific frequencies you settle on. However, the table below should help you determine this.

Frequency Range Frequency Values
Sub-bass 20 to 60 Hz
Bass 60 to 250 Hz
Low mid-range 250 to 500 Hz
Mid-range 500 Hz to 2 kHz

Q. What does Hz mean on a subwoofer?

A. Hz is heartz: unit of frequency. In a subwoofer it is used to measure audible periodic vibration. The higher the frequency, the higher-pitched the sound. Research shows that on average, humans have the ability to hear sounds within the range of 20 to 20,000 Hz. Subwoofers are speakers designed to reproduce the lowest audible frequencies, with 80 Hz being the recommended frequency level for most systems.

Q. How to set crossover frequency on amp

A. Crossover is the frequency where speakers begin to roll off, and the subwoofer starts outputting bass notes and LFEs.

Most modern systems have an EQ feature that will automatically set up the proper crossover based on the specifications of your speakers.

If you own such a system and you aren’t quite sure how to do it yourself, it is advisable that you leave it alone.

However, if you need to do it manually, , here are a few tips to make the process smooth for you;

  1. Set the crossover point 10 Hz higher than the low end of your speaker’s tolerance range.
  2. Use a subwoofer matching tool If you don’t know the frequency range of your speaker.
  3. Listen for smooth transitioning between the subwoofer and the speakers. Ideally, the blending should be seamless and without distortion.
  4. If you hear any bass bumps at the crossover frequency, simply adjust the volume till it matches the output your main speakers.

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Subwoofer Frequency Setting

A speaker’s subwoofer frequency setting is a defining component of the sound it creates. The low-frequency sounds output that emanate from this part of a stereo system may be so powerful they can shake objects near them, literally shaking up any party atmosphere you happen to have to go on at your house! The range for most home theater systems starts somewhere between 60 Hz and 120Hz specifications. It depends on what speakers are being used and personal preference; some people like their thumping bass while others would instead put out less noise pollution to avoid bothering other household or community members.

Below are some tips for finding the correct frequency setting.

  • Set the main speakers as small as possible without losing any of the frequency range you want from them.
  • Leave plenty of room behind your front channel speakers and keep them at least 3 feet away from walls or corners so that they are not prone to coloration by standing wave cancellation effects of resonances, which could occur if close to a wall in high frequencies (especially if it is a corner).
  • Ensure that there is plenty of space between your rear channel speakers, ensure their placement allows enough distance from each other, and do not place them too near to the side walls or corners due to coloration effects which may color everything from your soundstage and imaging to subwoofer crossovers.
  • Ensure that the subwoofer is set to be as accurate as possible to the correct crossover frequency, which may be 80-100Hz for your particular setup.

When using your subwoofer, set the volume control so that bass notes can easily produce deep bass frequencies down to 20 Hz in your room without any distortion or missed beats. Such very low frequencies are referred to as infrasonic (below 20Hz). Some recordings will cause such strong vibrations in your listening space that it will create a rattling sensation even if you have a large sealed subwoofer enclosure with powerful amps onboard as some higher-end car audio systems do.

At this point, evaluate whether the method of damping may be desired by adding acoustic soundproofing materials or a second subwoofer in order to control the vibrations in your room. If you don’t have enough budget tools for that, there is another solution which I will discuss later on. This will help you get more accurate bass performance and extend your subwoofer’s useful range specifications considerably. Make sure that if you use a powered subwoofer with a line input (such as some home audio power amps), then run it at a low level instead of max volume control so that your speakers are not forced to reproduce sounds below their optimal frequency range or below the sub woofer crossover.

After using this setup for at least one month or so, I recommend going back to your original settings and listening again without the crossover engaged(if possible). You should now notice much better stereo imaging, tighter soundstage behind the main loudspeakers, and more natural-sounding vocals, as well as better clarity and detail from your main speakers while the subwoofer handles all the deep frequencies.

How to Test the Subwoofer Crossover

Once you have set up the crossover’s starting point, it is time to test the audio system. It cannot be easy to try your sub crossover. You must choose a familiar sound that you can identify with your brain.

It would help if you reduced overlap to make it less noticeable. To achieve the desired transition, increase your overlap slowly if there is a discernible discontinuity.

You might hear bass bumps when your sub and speakers overlap during your testing. This is not a problem with the crossover but with the output volume.

These bumps can be fixed by setting your subwoofer volume at the same level as your main speaker output volume. Because it will affect the smooth transition you want to make, both output volumes should be equal.

You will almost always need to adjust the crossover manually by your ear. There is always an exception. In this case, you have a tool to check the crossover of your subwoofer.

A bass frequency sweep can be used whenever you don’t feel like diving into the details of setting up sound systems or aren’t comfortable making those adjustments on your own.

A bass frequency sweep is an instrument that creates a tone that begins at the highest frequency and ends at the lowest for any setup. This tool is extremely useful because you most likely already have it in your possession. These tones will be embedded in every THX-certified movie.

You can find the THX Optimizer application in the Extras section of the menu for any movie with the logo THX. This app will create a tone similar to a frequency sweep. It will allow you to determine if you are experiencing drops, peaking, or bumps within your soundAdjust your system’s audio output accordingly system.

Suppose you hear a distinctive sound when this app accordingly. If you have a peak or drop, reduce the overlap and increase it, or adjust volume output if there is a bump.

There are occasions when your output is inconsistent despite numerous adjustments. It could be that your subwoofer position is not correct for your sound system.

One Versus Two Subwoofers

There’s some controversy over whether you should use one or two subwoofers in your studio. If one subwoofer is able to evenly distribute bass throughout your studio without creating problematic resonances, great. However, using multiple subwoofers can help improve bass quality by spreading it more evenly throughout your room.

Subwoofer Settings for Home Theater: The Big Picture

Surround receivers vary in how they address bass management. Typically, they provide either a global setting for a low-pass frequency setting or a per-channel low-pass setting. The idea is that you want to supplement your speakers with a subwoofer. This handles the frequencies they cannot reproduce—or cannot reproduce with enough authority.

A subwoofer, by design, handles frequencies that make your main speakers want to cry for their mamma. Getting the correct subwoofer settings for home theater involves setting each component properly. They need to work with each other—not against each other.

If you don’t configure bass management properly, you’ll find that your low frequencies can be muddy. This really ends up producing sub-par sound. I’ve been in rooms where the subwoofer was playing back frequencies so high, you could hear dialogue coming from the 10-inch woofer! That is NOT how you want your subwoofer configured.

Aside from the muddy sound, setting the crossover incorrectly doesn’t allow the sub to push volume out in a way that it’s designed to do. But it also does something else. If your speakers are set incorrectly, they will be receiving frequencies for which they were never designed. Just because they can’t play back 20Hz doesn’t mean they aren’t trying like crazy!

That results in muddy sound throughout the range of frequencies for which they are better suited. It’s just all-around bad. Because of this, we want to be sure and optimize our settings.

Subwoofer Crossover Settings: What is It?

The crossover settings functionality is built by default in two-way or greater speaker units. Those speaker units are usually part of an audio system (in this case, a home theater system). The main purpose of a crossover setting is to determine which sound driver the audio source will be traveling into as output (i.e. the sound that you hear).

Without a crossover setting, the audio source will be just going to different transducers within the system. This may mean suboptimal play back of different frequency ranges (for example the main speaker units handling the bass of a subwoofer).

Thus, a crossover setting in a subwoofer helps the low-frequency part of the audio source being transmitted by the main unit to be properly transferred to the correct drivers of a speaker for listening.

Current crossover settings for many subwoofer units are usually set up to 80 Hz by default. However, that hertz rating can be lower or higher in other subwoofer units, depending on its system capabilities and design. There are even some other subwoofer units that have their own custom crossover settings.

From Home Theater Academy
From Home Theater Academy

Learn More About the Principles of Sound

Learn more about the songs we recommend using to set up your system in our article, Tuning Tracks, the Definitive Guide to Getting it Right.

In our next blog, we’ll be tackling phase which is simple until it’s not. Check out our phase article here, for the next best steps for setting up your REL Subwoofer to perfection. We’ll do our best to make sure it stays on the simple side of things.

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