Subwoofers are great additions to any home theater and car audio system, especially if you’re
a bass fan. If you want to improve the quality of your subwoofer’s sound, you should calibrate your subwoofer with an SPL meter.
Here’s how to calibrate your subwoofer with an SPL meter:
- Connect your subwoofer.
- Get the right SPL meter.
- Place fresh batteries in the SPL meter
- Adjust response and weight settings.
- Select the dB range.
- Place the SPL meter in your listening spot
- Make sure your subwoofer’s volume levels are uniform.
- Calibrate all other sound equipment in the room.
This article is a more detailed step-by-step guide to calibrating your Subwoofer. It also includes technical information and guidelines to help you better understand how calibration works. This technical understanding will help you ensure you get the best quality sound. You will also find recommendations for some of the best subwoofers and SPL meters on the market.
What Does Calibrating a Subwoofer Mean?
Calibrating a subwoofer involves tuning the subwoofer to ensure accurate frequencies. This process makes the sound clear and high-quality and allows the subwoofer volume to match the speaker volume.
Calibrating a subwoofer does take some technical skill, as it allows you to adjust your subwoofer to match the acoustic properties of the room or space your subwoofer is in.
When you calibrate your subwoofer, you enhance your audio and listening experience. Subwoofers can be calibrated with sound-level meters, otherwise known as SPL meters. SPL meters conduct acoustic measurements by measuring changes in air pressure. They detect these changes using a microphone – allowing them to measure sound quality.
Calibrating a Speaker Using an SPL Meter
1. Connect Your Subwoofer
If you’re using subwoofers, you’ll most likely need speakers. Subwoofers will only handle low-frequency sounds, while speakers will handle the medium and high-frequency signals.
So, before beginning to calibrate, you should connect your subwoofer to your speaker and any other sound equipment. This includes connecting your subwoofer to the sound source.
Before connecting the devices, you should also ensure you have set up your speaker and subwoofer in the places you will be using them. You shouldn’t move them after calibrating.
2. Get the Right SPL Meter
Once you’ve connected your systems, you should find the right SPL meter. A good SPL meter has a high-quality microphone and can measure a wide range of decibels. The Decibel Meter, Bafx Products Sound Pressure LEVEL Meter, OXV Decibel SPL Reader are excellent options. These are explored in further detail below:
RISEPRO Decibel Meter
This meter is a pocket-friendly tool that offers a wide range of measurements. Here are some of the standout features of the RISEPro Decibel Meter:
- It can measure from 30-130 dB and has a frequency range of 4 Khz.
- It has an accuracy of +/-1.5dB.
- It can store data, including the maximum and minimum recording.
- In addition to calibrating sound for a subwoofer, you can also use it at industrial and construction sites to measure noise pollution.
Bax Products Sound Pressure Level Meter
This is another excellent SPL meter at a lower price point. Here are some of its standout features:
- It can measure a decibel range of 30-130dBA.
- It can capture high and low peaks with an accuracy of +/-1.5dB.
- It allows up to 30 hours of continuous use.
- It has a one-year warranty.
The Standard SPL Meter works well if you’re setting up a car or home sound system. However, if you’re trying to calibrate sound for a more advanced sound system like a theater or recording studio, you may want to consider the BafX Advanced Sound Pressure Level Meter.
OXV Decibel SPL Reader
This is a high-tech SPL meter featuring an LCD screen. It can be used in various environments, including home theaters, traffic roads, and factories. Here are some of the specs of this SPL reader:
- It can measure a wide range of decibel levels – from 30- 130 dB with an accuracy of +/-1.5 dB.
- It has an anti-drop grip and design, which keeps it stable and protected.
- It is under $50, making it a pocket-friendly option.
Can I Use an SPL Meter on My Phone?
If you have a smartphone, you can download an SPL Meter app on your phone. While this option won’t offer as much accuracy as a made-for-purpose SPL meter, it’s a great interim solution.
If you have an Apple phone, iPad, or other Apple product, try downloading the Decibel X: dB Noise Meter. It has pre-calibrated measurements and is easy to use and navigate. It captures the full history of the measurements you have taken and allows for easy analysis.
For Android, you can use the Sound Meter App. It can calibrate the decibel level for various devices and can pick up a range of data.
3. Place Fresh Batteries in the SPL Meter
Once you have the right SPL meter, you’re ready to start calibrating your subwoofer. Make sure to put fresh batteries in your SPL meter, as weak batteries may impact the accuracy of the readings and calibration. Most SPL meters will use double or triple A batteries. These batteries will last for about 12 hours when being used.
If you’re using the SPL meter on your phone, ensure your phone is fully charged and that the microphone is unobstructed.
4. Adjust the Response Setting on the SPL Meter
Ensure that the Response setting on your SPL Meter is set on ‘Slow.’ This allows you to see the measurements. If the setting is on ‘Medium’ or ‘Fast,’ the measurement will bounce, making it hard for you to get a precise reading.
If you calibrate a Subwoofer in a home theater or other complex sound system, set the weight on the SPL meter as C. The C frequency weight picks up measurements of peak sound pressure levels. You can set up the weight by using the SPL meter’s screen or by adjusting the knobs on the side of it.
5. Select the dB Range
Some SPL Meters will come with a preselected dB range. However, if your SPL meter doesn’t have one, select a range that has 75 dB in the middle. Typically sounds above 85 dB are considered dangerous, while sounds under 60 dB are considered background music. For optimum sound, 75dB is probably best.
6. Place the SPL Meter in Your Listening Spot
As you’re calibrating the subwoofer, you should try to mimic the conditions of how you’ll be listening to the sound. Place the meter at the place where your ears will be.
You don’t have to angle the mic towards the subwoofer or speakers. Instead, it would help if you pointed it towards the ceiling. However, you should make sure that the mic is not being blocked from any angle, as this will prevent it from picking up some of the sounds and impacting the readings’ accuracy.
7. Get the Subwoofer’s Volume Levels to a Uniform Reading
You can now begin calibrating your Subwoofer. Look at the subwoofer’s menu and find the function for level calibration. If you can’t find the calibration function, look at the subwoofer’s user manual to find where calibration occurs.
Playtest audio from each subwoofer and measure it against the SPL meter. Continue adjusting the subwoofer’s volume levels to match the calibration level of 75 dB. Be patient and carefully listen to the kind of sound your subwoofer is producing.
To ensure you’re calibrating your subwoofer correctly, play different kinds of sounds from your subwoofer. These include:
- Vocal and instrumental music. These produce different types of sound quality, so you should test both instrumental and vocal music.
- Different genres of music. The genre of music you are playing will affect the kind of bass your subwoofer produces. You should experiment with playing different genres like country, punk, and classic rock, which have lower bass levels and genres known for higher bass like dubstep, hip hop, and rap.
If you have more than one subwoofer, you’ll need to turn each subwoofer off when testing the other.
However, note that each subwoofer in space would add their sound together to create a combined sound level. So, if you set both subwoofers in space to 75dB, their sound will combine and add up. If you want to play multiple subwoofers in a space, calibrate each one to 70-72 dB. When they’re playing together, they will reach 75 dB.
8. Calibrate All Other Sound Equipment in the Room
The subwoofers and speakers have to be aligned to ensure the best quality sound. So, once you have finished calibrating your subwoofer, you should calibrate the other speakers in your room or space. Follow the same process outlined above to make sure all sound sources are aligned.
What Are the Best Subwoofers on the Market?
Calibrating your subwoofer will ensure you get great sound, but it helps if you’re starting with a high-quality subwoofer.
Some excellent subwoofers include the Q Acoustics Q B12 Subwoofer, the Alpine Car Audio Subwoofer, the Majority K2 SoundBar and Wireless Subwoofer, and the Rockford Fosgate R2D4-10 Prime Subwoofer.
Each of these Subwoofers has been selected for the different features they offer—while one is excellent for your car, another is best for your car. Consider your Subwoofer based on your needs and the space it will be sitting in.
Best Subwoofer for Home Theater System: Q Acoustics Q B12 Subwoofer
This is an excellent subwoofer for a home theater system because it can handle loud, deep, and powerful sounds often produced in movies. Here are some of the standout features of the Q Acoustics Q B12 Subwoofer:
- It’s powered by a low distortion 220-watt Class D amplifier.
- It has a Frequency range: 28 Hz – 300 Hz.
- It has a 50 mm voice coil which reduces thermal compression, reducing the potential of sound distortion.
- It has various display options, and black and white matte finishes allowing it to blend seamlessly into your home theater environment.
Best Subwoofer for Your Car: Alpine Type Round Car Audio Subwoofer
This subwoofer has been specially designed to bring high-quality audio into your car. It’s pocket-friendly but generates excellent sound. Here are some of the impressive specifications of the Alpine Audio Subwoofer:
- It has a power range of 500W-750W RMS.
- It has a Voice Coil Diameter of 65.5mm (2.57 inches), allowing for excellent audio distribution.
- It has a diameter of 12 inches (30.48 cm) that allows it to fit easily into a car’s boot or backspace.
This car subwoofer has received excellent reviews from users.
Best Wireless Subwoofer: Majority K2 SoundBar and Wireless Subwoofer
If you’re looking for a wireless subwoofer, the Majority K Sound Bar is an excellent option. Here’s why you should consider this subwoofer:
- It is compatible with many devices, including televisions, phones, projectors, and computers. It can also be connected to phones, allowing you to stream and control your favorite playlists from your devices.
- It is long rather than round, allowing it to act as a soundbar in a variety of spaces.
- It offers 2.1 surround sound with a range of 10 meters (32.80 feet) and 150W output.
- It can be easily navigated and connected, helping you use it even if you’re a beginner to sound systems.
When calibrating this subwoofer, you should make sure you connect it with the full spectrum of devices you’ll be using it for. This will help you ensure that you get high-quality sound in various scenarios.
Best Budget Subwoofer: Rockford Fosgate R2D4-10 Prime Subwoofer
This subwoofer has been designed for cars but you can also use it in home theater systems if you’re on a budget. It’s under $100 but provides excellent sound. Here are some of the noteworthy features of this subwoofer:
- Despite its low cost, it has technical features found in more expensive models. They include spider valentine and a mice-injected polystyrene cone.
- It comes with a one-year limited warranty, covering you if the sound in your subwoofer starts to fail.
- It’s optimized for vented enclosures. If you use this subwoofer in a home theater system, you should place it inside an enclosed box to enhance sound.