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How to connect your home theater subwoofer

Plus tips on placement and fine-tuning

In a nutshell: To get the biggest bang from your new home subwoofer, you need to do three things.

  1. Properly connect it to your home theater receiver
  2. Place it in just the right spot
  3. Tweak it — calibrate your system and adjust the sub's settings

Read on to learn everything you need to know.

T

ight, well-defined and, yes, DEEP bass is a key component of any home theater. A powered subwoofer is a must for bringing those explosions, crashes, and other big-time action to life. Here's how to hook it up and dial it in.

1. How to connect your subwoofer to your receiver

All powered subwoofers require two connections: power and signal.

For power, you just need a nearby outlet. We highly recommend plugging your sub into a power protection device to guard against surges.

For the signal, use a subwoofer cable  to connect your receiver’s subwoofer output to the LFE (low frequency effect) input on the sub.

LFE connection to a home theater receiver.

Many stereo receivers and amps also have subwoofer outputs for these connections. Don't have an LFE option? See our bonus tip below.

2. How to choose the right place for your sub

Typically you should try and put the subwoofer near your front speakers. But let’s be honest: most people put their subwoofer wherever they have room. And that’s not necessarily a bad idea.

Subwoofer placement illustration.

The low-frequency waves we hear as “bass” are less directional than higher frequencies generated by full-range speakers. That means that even if the subwoofer isn’t close to your TV, your ears will have trouble telling the difference.

Some manufacturers recommend placing your sub in a corner. The walls can help bounce more waves back toward the seating areas. If you’re after very full, exciting bass response, this is a good option.

If you have a few placement options and a long enough subwoofer cable, you may want to experiment with different placement options. Fire up some music with some good bass. Then sit in your primary seat and listen. Does the bass sound weak? Or maybe too boomy?

Now move to a couple of different spots and listen. You’ll probably notice that the bass can sound very different as you change locations.

Illustration of room with alternate sub placements.

If you used auto-calibration to set up your home theater system, remember to rerun it every time you move your sub.

To tailor the bass to your “sweet spot” use the popular method known as “crawling.” Start with the subwoofer at or near your primary listening position. Then stand in different spots the sub could go and listen to your chosen sample music. When you find a spot where the bass sounds just right, that’s where you should put your sub.

Not enough bass? Try two subs

If you have a very large room that’s bass-challenged, we recommend adding a second subwoofer. It’s the best option for evenly distributing bass response in a large space. Most newer receivers offer a second subwoofer output for connection. Or you can simply use a Y-adapter.

Illustration of room with two subs.

For some suggestions and diagrams of speaker setups for different floor plans, check out our article on home theater speaker placement.

3. Tweak it

Most receivers include a calibration microphone to optimize the performance of your speakers. Usually, these room correction systems do a very good job of adapting the sound to your surroundings. Check out our Home theater receiver setup guide for more info and to watch a video about auto calibration.

But what if your receiver doesn’t have auto calibration? Or you’ve tried it and still aren't completely satisfied? You can make some manual adjustments.

Setting speaker size — Go into your receiver’s settings menu and find the speaker setup.  There will be a size setting for your front left and right speakers. This actually has less to do with the physical size of your speaker. It's more about bass management.

Try setting the speakers to “small,” even if you’re using floor-standing speakers. The “small” setting will send more of the low frequencies to the subwoofer.

Crossover — Setting the speaker size automatically sets a crossover point. But you can fine-tune it manually. For bookshelf speakers, you’ll want a crossover frequency around 120 Hz. For large tower speakers, try 60 Hz.

Phase switch — If your sub still feels a little off, your subwoofer may be out of phase with your speakers. Most subs have a two-position phase switch on the back. Toggle it to the other setting and see if you get better bass.

Level control — Most subs have independent volume controls. It’s an easy way to get a little more oomph or dial back a particularly loud soundtrack. You may need to make adjustments from movie to movie.

Put your sub on a platform — If your floor, walls, and ceiling vibrate to the beat of your sub, you get unwanted resonances that color the sound of your bass. To stop the vibrations, place your sub on a sound-absorbing platform.

Bonus tip

What if my receiver doesn’t have a sub output or my sub has no LFE input?

Depending on your available connections, you may be able connect your sub using one of the following two options:

To use stereo preamp-level connections, you may have to switch your sub out of LFE mode.

Diagram of connection for pre-out/main-in.

With some subs, you can connect your receiver's front speaker outputs to the sub's speaker-level inputs, and then connect your front speakers to the sub's speaker outputs.

Diagram of connection for sub's speaker-level inputs.

Our tech support team is here to help

If you purchase your home theater gear from Crutchfield, our Virginia-based Tech Support team can help you with setup, connections, and fine-tuning. Give them a call at the phone number found on your invoice and shipping confirmation email.

Need help choosing a powered subwoofer?

Need help choosing a sub? Check out our Subwoofers buying guide. Or contact one of our Advisors via chat, email, or phone at 1(888) 955-6000.

  • Steve Kloscak from Goodyear

    Posted on 11/2/2021

    Regarding: Setting speaker size. Speakers enclosures have built in crossovers, from the manufacturer. No need to block low frequencies from the AVR to the speaker. Set them to large because the internal crossovers with work correctly. Then use LFE + Main for the subwoofer setting. My system sounds way better with this setup. I have a Denon AVR

  • Stephen Hoffman from Aberdeen,MD

    Posted on 10/13/2021

    How do I find a professional installer in my area?

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 10/14/2021

    Stephen - We have a tool that will help you find a certified installer near you. Just pop in your zip code on that page and you'll get a list. Thanks!
  • Hamilton Gray from Srilanka.. Negombo

    Posted on 9/30/2021

    Thank you very much for guiding us how to get the maximum out of a Subwoofer.. Great information..

  • Matthew from Portland, OR

    Posted on 9/14/2021

    My receiver doesn't have a sub out. If I run speaker wire to the sub input and then out to the mains, do I have to run both L and R speakers through the sub to keep them sonically balanced or can I have one main wired directly from the receiver to reduce the wire sprawl?

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 9/15/2021

    Matthew - I don't really know enough about the subwoofer to make a definite call, but in general I'd want my L/R mains to be in balance. If you bought any of your gear from us, your best bet is to reach out to tech support - it's free!
  • Victor from Hamden

    Posted on 2/28/2021

    Hi, do I need a rca y splitter for my psw10 ( because it has a r and l rca plugs)or can i just use a single rca ,using one side on the sub,connected to my sony 590 reciever? Some people have said that using both rca plugs on the sub makes it louder . Thanks.

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 3/1/2021

    Victor - I peeked at the manual for the sub, and found this: "If your receiver or processor only has a single subwoofer line output, either the left or right input jack can be used." I know the subwoofer outputs on the back of that receiver are intended to send signal to two separate subwoofers, and I must admit I don't know what would happen if you plugged both into your single sub - I've never tried it, but it doesn't sound like the manufacturer's intent. The loudness of the subwoofer will really be a function of the built-in amp. Hope this helps!
  • Kyle Kondert from Sioux Falls, SD

    Posted on 2/27/2021

    Hi. I have a couple questions for you... I have a Denon X2300W Receiver. (I need to upgrade) and a Helfire XTEQ12 Powered sub. I bought a Mediabridge 8 foot Y cable. Would I be able to use that cable to connect them? Its a nice cable, hate to find out that I couldn't use it. My other question is, I have Definitive Technology Mythos STS towers and the amp on one of them doesn't work anymore so there isn't anything to drive that woofer. Can I use my sub out to connect to it to drive the woofer? The Mytho does have an LFE in. Sorry, I have one more question. I have Def Tech SR9080'S and SR9040'S surrounds. Which ones should I use for my sides and which for my rears? So I guess have 3 questions for you to HOPEFULLY answer for me. I wish that I was able to find a replacement amp for my mytho STS. I hear they kinda had programs with them I guess. I have the Def Tech CS9080 Center channel also. I had the system for almost 5 yrs now. I actually had the SR90840's for just about a yr. I got both for the price of one. They were used but in pristine shape. I had to jump on that opportunity. My weakest link is the Denon, can't afford to upgrade quite yet. Lol. Well I guess the Mytho tower is one too but only for now. I really like the Mytho's so I have to find a way to replace the amp on that...Anyway, any answers that you can give me and/or that you can find out, I would REALLY REALLY appreciate it. Thank you so much in advance.

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 3/1/2021

    Kyle - I'll see what I can do. Question 1: I don't have any hands-on experience with that sub, but it looks like it has the usual LFE inputs, so you can try it with that cable, though typically a sub only needs one input from the subwoofer output on the receiver (if it doesn't sound right, try unplugging one side of the Y). Question 2: A subwoofer output is sending only signal, so if the amp it out on the Mythos, you won't get any power from it (and I'm not sure it would work anyway). Question 3: Without knowing the dimensions of your room, it's hard to say which speaker would be better on the sides or in the back. The 9080s have a slightly bigger woofer, so it may come down to your personal preference as to whether you want that punch coming from the sides or the back. Hope this helps!
  • Louis Messere from Youngstown

    Posted on 2/25/2021

    How do I connect a powered sub with an lfe connection to a new receiver that has rca connections? I'm upgrading receivers and would like to keep my life powered sub, but the receivers all have rca jacks.

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 2/26/2021

    Louis - If you're in the process of upgrading your receiver, and want to keep that subwoofer, you want one with a dedicated subwoofer output. Here is a link showing home theater receivers with subwoofer outputs. Hope that helps!
  • Christopher from Windsor

    Posted on 2/1/2021

    Hi - I bought a Cambridge CXA81 integrated amplifier and Focal Chora 826 floorstanders. I prefer a sub to round out the lower frequencies and provide some 'kick' but cannot for the life of me figure out the best way to connect the CXA81 to the SVS SB-2000 subwoofer I bought. I tried the Subwoofer output on the CXA81 - it's "OK" but not as good as I was expecting...I've read online that the Subwoofer output on the CXA81 is WAY too high to really matter much...Is another option to use the Pre-Out to connect to the Subwoofer and then back into the CXA81? But then I don't know how I would switch inputs on the CXA81. Any advice on how to set this up would be appreciated. Thank you!

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 2/2/2021

    Christopher - I feel like the subwoofer output to the LFE input on the subwoofer should give you what you're looking for, but it doesn't sound like it's working the way you want it to. The only other thing I can think of is to make sure the crossover on the sub is set properly to pick up where the Chora speakers leave off. Or to get really tweaky with the SVS EQ in the app. To get really hands-on, methodical diagnosis, it would be best to talk to a tech support rep on the phone so they can walk you through a few scenarios. Thanks for the question!
  • Rick Munn from Charlottetown

    Posted on 1/1/2021

    Hi, Greatly appreciate all of Crutchfield's tips and self-help articles, they're fantastic! Kind Regards, Rick

  • Dennis Chacon from Staten Island

    Posted on 11/23/2020

    i just purchased my first atmos system on a budget. I got the Sony STR-DN1080 receiver with the CS Speaker bundle and extra sub. This is all new to me so please excuse my lack of knowledge. My front speaker has a frequency response 45 Hz-50 kHz. Center 55 Hz-25 kHz, atmos enabled speaker 70 Hz - 32,000 Hz, surround speakers 53Hz-50kHz and subwoofer is 28-200 Hz. I basically did the auto cal which set everything to large except the atmos enabled which it set small with 120Hz crossover freq. I keep reading that I should set my speakers to small so I can have my subs do their thing. The back of my subs has only 2 settings, a cut off freq turn wheel with 200Hz and 50hz and phase normal or reverse. I want to get the best sound possible out of my receiver, speakers and subs and I feel leaving everything at default is not giving me the best results. Can someone please help me out with crossover settings etc?

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 11/24/2020

    Dennis - To my way of thinking, the subwoofer should pick up right around where the front speakers stop, which you indicated is around 50 kHz. I don't think I'd mess around with the phase unless you experience it as sounding "off." If you want more detailed, conversational setup help, and if you bought any of that gear from us, I highly recommend talking to a Tech Support expert. They'll get you right where you want to be. Thanks for the question!