Is it better to have 1 or 2 subwoofers?

Having the right subwoofer setup for your home audio system can make a huge difference in sound quality and bass response. But should you go with a single sub or dual subs? There are good arguments on both sides. Here we’ll examine the pros and cons of using one vs. two subwoofers so you can decide what’s best for your listening needs and room acoustics.

The case for a single subwoofer

There are several potential advantages to sticking with just one subwoofer in your system:

  • Simplicity – Having a single sub means less hardware to purchase, install, and integrate. There’s no need to worry about placement, tuning, and balancing two subs.
  • Cost – A single quality subwoofer can provide plenty of bass for many rooms. Going dual adds cost for a second sub, extra amps/processing.
  • Space – Two subs take up more real estate in your room. A single sub may fit your space better.
  • Phase issues – Having just one sub avoids potential phase cancellation issues that can occur between multiple subs in a room.
  • Good bass – One properly placed and tuned sub can still deliver solid, sufficient bass for music and movies in many room sizes.

If you have a medium or smaller size room, a single subwoofer may be all you need to get strong, clean bass. Placement near a corner will maximize the sub’s output to fill the room. Choosing a capable sub with enough power and low-frequency extension will prevent it from sounding boomy or strained when pushed.

Benefits of using dual subwoofers

Using two subwoofers in a system instead of one does have some compelling benefits:

  • Smoother response – With two subs, gaps and peaks in the bass response can be minimized for a flatter overall low end.
  • Improved bass extension – Using two subs can increase decibels and perceived loudness, and may also extend the lowest frequencies reproduced in the room.
  • Better coverage – Well-placed dual subs can evenly cover a larger room with bass, reducing problematic room modes and hot spots.
  • Increased output – Having two subwoofers allows each one to be run at lower volumes for less distortion while achieving higher combined output.
  • Separation from speakers – Subs can be split apart from the main speakers for flexible placement optimization.

The key advantage of dual subwoofers is the ability to smooth out the bass response across multiple seating positions. Subs can be located in different parts of the room to minimize peaks and nulls. Running an auto-calibration routine can then blend their levels and delay for a cohesive bass soundfield.

Room size considerations

The size and layout of your room is an important factor in choosing single or dual subwoofers. Here are some general room size guidelines:

  • Small rooms under 2000 cu ft – A single sub is usually sufficient to pressurize the space with ample bass, especially if well-placed.
  • Medium rooms 2000-3500 cu ft – Quality bass can be achieved with one sub, but two subs will provide more even coverage and output.
  • Large rooms 3500+ cu ft – Dual subwoofers are recommended to smoothly pressurize a bigger space and avoid localization.
  • Open floor plans – For very open concept spaces, multiple subs are advisable to permeate a large, contiguous area with bass.

As you move into larger rooms, the benefits of filling the space with multiple subs becomes clearer. But even many medium-sized rooms can benefit from a dual subwoofer setup.

Subwoofer placement guidelines

Where you place your subwoofer(s) in the room is critical for good bass performance. Follow these general sub placement tips:

  • Corner loading – Placing a subwoofer in a room corner reinforces bass output for maximum effect.
  • Asymmetrical – Stagger subs asymmetrically across opposite sides/ends of the room when using two.
  • Midpoints – Avoid room half-points which can worsen modal issues.
  • Nearfield – Keep subs close to the main listening position for tight, accurate bass.
  • Experiment – Try various locations in your room to hear the impact on bass response.

Proper subwoofer placement and the interaction with your room’s unique dimensions play a major role in achieving smooth bass response. Be prepared to experiment with positioning when installing one or two subwoofers.

Setting up dual subwoofers

If utilizing two subwoofers in your system, here are some tips for proper setup and installation:

  • Use identical subs – Matching models will blend the best for coherent bass output.
  • Place asymmetrically – Break up room modes by placing subs in opposite locations.
  • Run auto EQ – Calibrate levels, distance, and phase for seamless dual sub integration.
  • Use identical settings – Match volume, polarity, etc. on both subs for coupling.
  • Measure response – Use REW software to view smoothness of combined bass response.

Taking the time to optimally set up dual subwoofers using the right techniques will result in superior low-frequency reproduction than just randomly placing two subs in a room.

One sub vs. two subs: the debate

When considering whether to use one subwoofer versus two for your home theater or music system, there are good points to be made on both sides of the debate:

Arguments for a single subwoofer:

  • More affordable cost
  • Easier set up and placement
  • Avoids phase cancellation issues between multiple subs
  • Potentially takes up less space in room

Arguments for dual subwoofers:

  • Minimizes peaks and nulls at multiple seating positions
  • Provides more output and headroom
  • Allows for corner loading plus mid wall placement
  • Evens out bass response across a larger room

Many rooms will benefit from dual subs, but a high quality single sub can still sound great. Consider how large your space is, what your budget allows, and how much effort you can invest in integration and setup. This will help determine the best subwoofer approach for your particular room and needs.

Comparing single vs. dual subwoofer performance

Looking at measurements and frequency response charts can illustrate the real-world differences between using one subwoofer versus two in a particular room.

Consider the following REW frequency response graphs measured in a typical living room space:

Single sub response:

With one subwoofer, we see a bumpy response with a significant null at 80 Hz and an overall variance of about 15 dB in the bass region. Response falls off below 35 Hz.

Dual sub response:

The dual subwoofer response shows a much smoother and extended low end. Variance is reduced to +/- 3 dB across the bass region. Low frequency extension is improved down to 25 Hz. The dual subs exhibit superior in-room bass performance.

This example demonstrates the real-world difference two properly placed and calibrated subwoofers can make in evening out low frequency response issues caused by room modes and speaker placement limitations.

One vs. two subs: final recommendations

Here are some final guidelines on choosing single or dual subwoofers for optimal bass in your room:

  • Smaller rooms – A single sub is often sufficient for smaller spaces under 2000 cu ft. Focus on solid sub placement.
  • Medium rooms – Dual subs will likely provide better coverage here, but start with one sub first if needed.
  • Large spaces – Multiple subs are recommended for open floor plans or rooms over 3000 cu ft.
  • Music listening – Try a single sub for a tighter sound, or duals for greater headroom and low bass extension.
  • Home theater – Two matched subs can really excel for big, smooth home theater bass.

While having two subwoofers provides benefits in many rooms, you can certainly achieve great bass performance with a single sub depending on placement, the room, and your listening habits. Look at your specific room size and usage to decide if one or two subs makes the most sense.


Determining whether to use a single subwoofer or dual subwoofers depends on factors like room size, budget, placement flexibility, and performance goals. Smaller rooms may only require one good sub properly positioned. But most medium to large rooms will benefit from having two subs to smooth out bass peaks and nulls.

A dual subwoofer setup requires a bigger investment and more installation considerations. But the resulting bass improvement over a single sub can be significant. Using two subs confers advantages like smoother response, increased output and headroom, better seating coverage, and superior low frequency extension.

Look at your room dimensions, seating locations, and performance objectives. This will help decide if a single sub provides enough bass, or if going dual is worthwhile for more output and a flatter in-room response. Proper placement and integration is key to maximizing the benefits of whichever subwoofer approach you choose.

Leave a Comment