Subwoofers deliver thundering, heart-stopping, pulse-pounding bass to literally shake the floors. But, that thunder can come from a couple of different places, depending on what subwoofer you choose to pursue for your killer home theater system.
We’ll explain the difference between down-firing and front-firing subwoofers and help you decide which one is right for your space and budget.
“We wanted different solutions for different consumers.”
Klipsch Senior Product Manager Michael Buratto
DOWN-FIRING VS FRONT-FIRING SUBWOOFERS - WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
As common as it is to think about the woofer size you want, the sub being down-firing or front-firing is also something people need to keep top of mind as they shop.
Subwoofers are built in one of two ways: some subs are down-firing, which means the sound is directed out of the bottom of the speaker, while front-firing units project the sound out of one side of the unit.
This means a front-firing subwoofer will create those vibrations in the air, while a down-firing subwoofer creates vibrations that drive into the ground. The literal definition of shaking the floor comes through a down-firing subwoofer like the KlipschR-80SWi. According to “The Home Theater DIY,” “down-firing subwoofers are intended to be close to the listening area, not part of your TV console.”
One hard and fast rule: never put a down-firing sub on its side and never put a front-firing subwoofer face down. That’s not what it is designed for and it will ruin the sound profile.
SO, IS THERE A DIFFERENCE IN THE SOUND?
Not really, no.
Sounds at bass frequencies are known as being omnidirectional. That is, the ear cannot perceive from which direction they are coming from. As a result, the discernible difference between front-firing and down-firing models is next to none. Other types of speakers - say, typical floorstanding speakers - are usually placed very deliberately, depending on where the listener is most likely to be sitting.
That is not exactly the case with subwoofers. In fact, it may be difficult to tell where exactly the bass is coming from. That’s not to say that where a sub is going to be positioned doesn’t make a difference.
Klipsch subwoofers offer a deep response, high output, and low distortion, with both down-firing and front-firing options to bring bass to your soundstage.
LOCATION: DOWN-FIRING VS. FRONT-FIRING SUBWOOFERS
Placement is also a big factor when choosing between down-firing or front-firing subwoofers. For example, you wouldn’t want a subwoofer pounding sound into a floor if someone lives below you. Pissing off your neighbors is one thing - making their lives a living hell is quite another. If you live in an apartment or condo, a front-firing sub is a better fit in the literal sense.
Note - there is no wrong answer here when it comes to rumbling bass you can feel in every bone in your body. It’s all a matter of personal preference, your living space, and your budget.