If you just bought 2.1 PC speakers with a subwoofer, you might be wondering where to put a sub near the PC.
On the desk, under the desk, in the corner, or next to the desk with the driver facing the desk? The floor near your feet? A floor away from your feet? Also, will subs damage the PC?
Well, the answers are pretty straightforward here, but it also varies from room to room. Subwoofers are semi-non-directional. You can easily tell where a subwoofer is based on listening, whereas you cannot tell with two subwoofers.
Generally speaking, subs are supposed to be “felt,” not “heard,” which is why they must be in a place that allows that – floor. Placing your subwoofer on the desk will make the desk vibrate and likely ruin the sound. Don’t place it underneath the desk or next to the computer, rather, put it next to your desk, 8-12 inches away from the wall.
You can also put it in a corner next to your desk, the same distance away but avoid that if you want to preserve your bass sound quality. It will sound more bassy if you place it in a corner. It will be louder in most cases, but not always, and it will be more noticeable when it hits than when it does not.
There’s no need for a sub crawl because this is nearfield bass, which you’ll notice at early wavelengths before your room messes with it.
A subwoofer on the floor or desk?
I’ve installed many systems before, easy and complex, with 1 to 4 subs. It depends on where the other objects are, where the outlets are, and where the signal is arriving from.
Place the subwoofer on the floor or another extremely sturdy surface further from other objects. Placing it on your desk or close to other objects will surely cause rattling and different problems. It’s hard to choose an ideal location since it all depends on the room you hold it in. Try some different locations, and then notice how it sounds. If you don’t enjoy it, move it and repeat.
When you put it right below the desk, the bass will get eaten, and you won’t be able to hear it properly.
Put it to the left of the desk without the surface of the desk blocking the path to my ears, and it will be perfect when you set the levels right.
Also, you will want it roughly 12 inches away from any walls if attainable. Try to keep it from being directly under your desk and keep it further from the corners if you can.
Why put it away from the corner?
Well, because the sound waves produced end up running into one another after they hit flat surfaces. This can cause some frequencies to get enhanced (constructive interference) or diminished (destructive interference). I also forgot to mention that typically a subwoofer performs better when it is towards the center/front of the sound system as a whole.
With some experimentation for placement and settings, you can probably get it working well with a little patience.
Don’t place subwoofer to face the desk or PC
I’m pretty certain if you stick a bass driver right up against a solid object facing it with no gap or very little gap, it’s going to block some of the sounds. It shouldn’t have much effect if it’s a large gap since bass radiates omnidirectionally. It’s unknown exactly what happens between those two extremes (small or medium gap). Still, if you have other choices, I’d avoid it.
Why placing the subwoofer on a desk won’t reduce the vibrations
Placing your sub on your desk won’t reduce how much you upset the neighbors in any way that couldn’t be solved by just raising your subwoofer off the floor a bit with some feet or a low rack.
While occasionally, with specific floors, the sub can clang the floor a bit, which adds to the noise – the main problem with subs is that low-frequency sound travels a significant distance. So it doesn’t matter if your sub is on the floor or your desk. If it’s turned up too loud, your neighbors will hear it just the same with either placement.
If you want to avoid irritating the neighbors, your best chance is to do the subwoofer crawl when you buy your subwoofer. Place your sub in your listening position, turn it on, and crawl on the floor until you locate the spot where the bass sounds the cleanest and most complete.
Why will this help?
Straightforward – the flatter the frequency response you’re gaining at your listening position, the less possible you will turn up the volume too high because one of the low frequencies sounds quiet.
If you keep bad positioning, then there’s a good bet you’ll turn the sub up a lot louder than you require to hear all the frequencies – and as a consequence, while it may not sound too loud in your sitting position, it’ll likely sound excessively boomy to your adjoining neighbors.
In general, just be aware of apartment appropriateness for music. If you’re going to listen loud, do it during the daytime. If anyone complains, turn it down. Set volumes a lot lower, and keep the bass turned down at night.
Does wattage impact the loudness and clearness of a sub? When buying, do we just look for the highest-rated sub in terms of wattage in our budget? How many watts make a good subwoofer? Find out in the linked article.
Other things to consider when placing a sub near the PC
When placing a subwoofer near the PC, you need to consider two things:
1. You don’t want the driver fronting a solid surface. With bass, it likely won’t mess everything up too badly if there is a small gap, but it likely isn’t a great idea either.
2. Subwoofers tend to deliver extra bass volume to the room if they’re placed in a corner. It’s not preferred (there are better ways to place a subwoofer), but it can be done.
The norm is to sit in the listening position and notice how it sounds. Ideally, you can pick a location where you can hear the full range (lowest bass notes to highest bass notes) at approximately equal volume, without some being louder than others.
One other issue with PC speaker systems is that, due to the size limitations of the speakers on the desk, the subwoofer usually covers higher frequencies than a subwoofer typically does.
Generally, a true subwoofer will only handle sound below 80 Hz or perhaps 100 Hz, whereas, in a more expansive system, the subwoofer may reach 200 Hz or more.
Bass below 80 Hz isn’t directional (your ear can’t tell where it’s arriving from), so you don’t need to place it in the center of the two speakers with a true subwoofer. With a more expansive type of system, though, you will be able to tell partially, so you might want to choose a more symmetrical setup with the subwoofer directly in front of you, about midway between the left and right speakers.
Also, putting it to the side is just fine. Just don’t set the crossover frequency too high.
A higher crossover frequency means you’ll be able to locate where the sound is coming from, and so those lower frequencies will seem to originate from the side where your sub is placed. A lower crossover frequency like ~80Hz or so will be hard to localize, and so it won’t sound like the bass is coming from one side – it’ll seem evenly distributed throughout the room.
Can a subwoofer damage a computer?
My brother was always worried that the vibrations could have a damaging effect on PC components. I always told him that our subs are magnetically shielded and that it can’t happen.
Most not-cheap computer speaker systems usually are magnetically shielded. However, this is only a problem if you have floppy or spinning platter hard disc drives. If you don’t use floppy drives and only use SSDs, it doesn’t matter.
It all depends on the magnet’s strength and the distance, and the effect of distance is squared, so in other words, a bit of distance goes a long way.
Most people have mass-market consumer subwoofers, so the assumption is a weaker magnet than a piece of expensive audiophile gear. However, some of those, like Logitech, are known for some booming subwoofers, so they may not be as weak as some cheaper kits.
The odds of a subwoofer damaging a PC are low, but not zero. The best way to keep your PC safe is to seek ways to increase the separation distance because the field drops by a factor of distance squared. The magnetic fields could be disruptive to media and equipment within the field area, and they could also be subject to accumulating effects over time.
In other words, just because you don’t see a problem today, you could see one develop. For example, a hard drive in your system might lose data sooner than it might have otherwise.
The magnet is in the center of the box, so by the time the field gets to the edge of the box, it’s 4 inches away. If you then add 4 inches of separation, you have just cut the field in half, you’ve cut it by 4, and so on.
I would not place my PC on top of anything that vibrates, but unless you have a subwoofer that would be dangerous to your health, your PC is fine.