You don’t have to be a professional to locate your subwoofer at home. But the surprising thing is that 99% of sound enthusiasts including me have the same common question about whether it’s ok to put a subwoofer in a cabinet. I did some research and here’s what I found.
So, can you put a subwoofer in a cabinet? The subwoofer user manual for Sonos and Alpine – two of the leading subwoofer manufacturers – say that you shouldn’t place your subwoofer where it gets no airflow and causes a lot of vibrations. Provided you allow for these two conditions you can place your subwoofer in a cabinet.
Most cabinets have no airflow, and under the extreme bass that subwoofers make will cause a lot of vibrations. So, below I’ll explain ways to modify your cabinet so that it has enough airflow, and won’t cause vibrations.
How Do You Put A Subwoofer In A Cabinet Without Causing Issues?
You need to install a fan or cut some airflow holes in your cabinet to get enough airflow. There is also a range of sound dampening measures you can take to reduce vibrations, including making sure it’s tightly screwed together, and installing some foam or blue tack to stop it from rattling.
An open style cabinet that doesn’t have any doors will get enough airflow so for these you don’t need to install a fan or make some air holes.
Below, I’ll explain how to make some airflow holes for cabinets with doors.
Making Some Air Flow Holes In Your Cabinet
You can create some airflow by cutting out some pieces of wood and/or drilling some holes.
You can cut long thin slices of wood out of your cabinet to make them less noticeable, and it’s a good idea to make them at the back of your cabinet. That way you won’t see them from the front.
If you have a woodworking space in your home or know someone who’s good with that sort of thing you could ask them to spend the afternoon making some airflow holes. This will generally involve drilling some starter holes into it, which will allow you can fit a saw that you can use to cut out a piece of wood.
But, if you have a woodworking space, you might want to take the whole cabinet into the woodshop, place it on a bench and use a skill saw to make some cuts.
Fixing Rattles Caused By Your Subwoofer Bass
Rattles will happen when the vibrations from your subwoofer make pieces of wood in your cabinet bang against each other.
To fix this you can check the visible screws to see how tight they are. And tighten them as needed. You can also install small slivers of foam in between the spaces where the door closes.
You’ll want to use only enough to soften the contact between the wood, and if you use too much, then you won’t be able to close the doors. You can generally find something that will work at Home Depot or Walmart.
Another easy option is to use blue tack along the edges of the cabinet doors, and any space where it will fit. The blue take does stick, which will make it more difficult to open and close the doors. But, once it’s all set up you generally won’t need to open the doors very often.
Installing a fan in your cabinet can be unsightly, and it’s best to install a fan on the back of your cabinet. To this you’ll want to cut a hole in the cabinet the right size for the fan, allowing for the cable. And then glue or duct tape it into place.
Finally, you’ll want to remove any loose items you have in your cabinet because they will bounce around when the subwoofer is playing.
Bass Vibrations Loosening Your Cabinet
The vibrations caused by your subwoofer will slowly loosen the joins in your cabinet. And over time it will loosen the screws and glue that hold it together; this can cause your cabinet to become loose, which weakens the frame.
In my opinion, it’s best to avoid it if you can, and you’ll also get better sound quality by not putting your subwoofer in a cabinet – more on this later.
Can I Put A Subwoofer In A Cupboard?
You can put a subwoofer in a cupboard however, you want to make sure that it gets airflow, according to the subwoofer manual for the well-known subwoofer brand Sonos. Airflow allows the subwoofer cone to move, which creates better bass, and increases the life of your subwoofer.
When you position your subwoofer in a cupboard, be sure to place it away from the walls to make sure that it gets enough air. According to Itstillruns.com, the recommended space around a subwoofer should be 12 inches (30 cm) on each side.
Most sizes of subwoofers should JUST fit with this amount of space around it in a standard sized cupboard.
But, be aware the door on your cupboard might vibrate a bit with the subwoofer bass when closed.
If it does, a good idea is to use some blue tack or thin strips of foam to create some cushion between the door and the door frame.
Can You Enclose A Subwoofer?
The recommendation of top subwoofer manufacturers is to NOT enclose your subwoofer. This will limit the airflow, causes the bass to not sound as crisp, and shortens the life of your subwoofer. Over time the vibrations will also weaken what you want to enclose it in. And will ultimately cause it to break apart.
There is a lot of anecdotal evidence in forums online where people have seen minor structural failures in their house, such as cracked drywall from the vibrations caused by a subwoofer, and is a known engineering phenomenon known as vibration fatigue.
Therefore, it’s best to exercise caution with the volume. Subwoofers speakers are housed in a box that’s specially designed to withstand the vibrations.
However, there is a range of guides online about how to build a box for a subwoofer speaker to enclose it.
Two examples of websites that have instructions on how to build one can be found here and here.
Where Is The Best Place To Put A Subwoofer?
In the opinion of Sonos, a leading manufacturer of speakers and subwoofers the best place to put a subwoofer is in line with your other speakers. They also suggest not putting it in a corner. However, they say you’ll need to experiment to find the place that sounds the best.
The reason they say to put your subwoofer in line with the other speakers is so that the subwoofer bass blends in with the sound produced by the other speakers.
And they recommend not to put it in a corner because it can produce standing waves which makes the sound uneven.
However, each room has a unique shape, so you should tweak its position to find the best location. If you want to improve the sound further you can also incorporate acoustic panels.
I recently wrote an article about what acoustic panels are, how they work, and how to set them up which you can read by clicking here.
You can put a subwoofer in a cabinet but you’ll want to allow for airflow and vibrations. A subwoofer needs a good amount of airflow to get the best quality sound. It also increases the life of your subwoofer.
Vibrations caused by subwoofers can weaken and crack the wood and the glue used in wood, so it’s a good idea to use some foam or Blue Tak to provide some cushioning.
Putting a subwoofer in a cabinet isn’t the best place to put it, and ideally, you want to put it in line with the other speakers to get the best quality sound.
- Sonance.com: Cabinet Subwoofer Manual
- Alpine-asia.com: Owner’s Manual
- Itstillruns.com: Subwoofer Enclosure Specs
- Wikipedia.org: Vibration Fatigue
- Crutchfield.com: How to build a subwoofer box
Can You Put Things on Top of a Subwoofer?
Does a Subwoofer Only Play Bass?