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I have just bought a 2.1 speaker kit (Corsair sp2500), but I've never had a ".1" kit before and so I have a couple questions about the subwoofer.

  1. Is it supposed to actually make music, or just a bass sound? Right now it makes a deep "brrrrmmmmm" or bass sound which is very noticable and makes the whole kit sound great. I just want to be sure that's all it's supposed to do.

  2. Is it normal that I have to set up a very high sound level for the subwoofer? I have the kit volume at around 20% yet the subwoofer at a good 75% otherwise I feel air vibration in front of it but not much sound.

  3. Is it ok for it to be under the height of my head?

    enter image description here

Right now I've put it under the main desk table but above ground (my desk has a mid-level table). Is it that a good positioning?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

Is it supposed to actually make music, or just a bass sound?

No, a subwoofer typically only emits frequencies well below 300 Hz, which we don't really hear as notes or actual music, but rather just a "thump" or … well … moving air. A subwoofer is built for this, with its larger membrane being able to reproduce these frequencies better (and without distortion).

It's supposed to be that way, because the smaller speakers take care of the rest of the (higher) frequencies. Your subwoofer normally has a built-in frequency switch that splits up the signal. Some (more expensive) subwoofers also allow you to define this "crossover" point.

Is it normal that I have to set up a very high sound level for the subwoofer?

Whatever feels or sounds right for you is fine. There's no way to tell, as every subwoofer is different, and your room typically plays a large role when it comes to how your system sounds. Just experiment and see what sounds best for you.

Is it ok for it to be under the height of my head?

The human auditory system does a better job at locating the source of higher frequencies than the source of lower frequencies. Because of this, it is not that important where you place your subwoofer (i.e. to the left or to the right). For the smaller "satellite" speakers, minor position changes could make a difference though.

As per Wikipedia:

[…] so a precise evaluation of the input direction is nearly impossible on the basis of level differences alone. As the frequency drops below 80 Hz it becomes difficult or impossible to use either time difference or level difference to determine a sound's lateral source, because the phase difference between the ears becomes too small for a directional evaluation.

Where do you place it then?

Some people prefer to put it on the floor to reduce shaking or vibrations, whereas others like to "isolate" it from the floor. If the subwoofer interferes with your room (by being too tightly coupled to the floor or other objects), it might start sounding bad. You can try placing it on a cushion or a piece of styrofoam.

You will want to put your subwoofer out of your line of sight though (so under the table should be fine). The reason is that you would otherwise pick up noise that's not intended for you to be heard. If you listen to the subwoofer a) on your desk and b) on the floor, you will hear what I mean.

Again, try different placements and see what delivers the best sound for your ears.

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+1 Thoroughly answered – CodeBlend Sep 20 '11 at 21:32

Yes, a subwoofer only makes that Brrrm sound, and only does so on audio tracks that instruct it to do so, in a manner of speaking.

The subwoofer's position does not matter at all because of how sound at that low frequency travels (or propagates, to use the technical term).

Placing it on the floor near the other speakers should be just fine. A soft surface that minimizes vibration buzzing is probably best.

More information, not exactly necessary to read unless you want to know more and are interested:

Difference sizes, masses, and contruction types of speakers produce different sorts of sounds differently. It is difficult to build a single element speaker that will faithfully represent a full range of audible and sub-audible (felt, rather than heard) sounds. For this reason, many of the better speaker systems use multiple speaker elements to produce the wide range of sound more faithfully.

Small and light but very stiff speaker elements are better for very high frequencies (high sounds) but will not produce a real bass sound. As you go lower and lower in frequency you want generally larger and more massize speaker elements for each "section" of sound.

For instance, a set of 4-way speakers I picked up at a garage sale many years ago had four speaker elements (the "4" ways). A small 2-inch tweeter than was shielded gave off a very nice clear high range. Two larger cones at 4 and 6 inches served to produce a nice mellow mid-range, and a huge 14" cone with a magnet that must've weighed nearly 2lbs produced a rich bass that wasn't necessarily very thumpy or boomy.

Because it's hard to fit a 14" cone near the average desk, subwoofers are generally make with 3 or 4 inch cones of very thick paper with massive magnets that will produce a very sharp, booming bass note, which is excellent for games and most movies. It won't make a very smooth bass if you're, say, trying to play a beautiful concerto or other symphonic piece. The drums will sound OK but the double-bass will simply not sound like it's supposed to. Even for all it's trade-offs, though, a good subwoofer will still work much better than a simple stereo speaker setup because it offers that speaker that is precisely tuned for giving a good thump. The normal small desktop speakers just can't do it.

The human ear is relatively good at picking up the direction of most higher frequency sounds because these sounds tend to bounce around the environment in specific and predictable ways. For this reason you generally want your high- and mid-range speakers to point at where you'll be sitting, and even better, they should be pointing at your ears.

Low-frequency sounds don't bounce off things so much as they go through things, and because the wavelengths they represent are significantly larger than your ears (and even than your head) you have a much harder time telling where they are coming from. This is a major benefit of helicopters in military operations. The whump-whump-whump of their blades, while loud, is very hard to pinpoint directionally and so people cannot tell where they are coming from. For this reason, the subwoofer can, and should, be placed on the floor with the only requirement being that a soft floor is better than a hard floor to prevent vibration buzzing.

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