If you are in the process of upgrading your home theater system or want to listen to your favorite music in a way you never have before, you’re probably thinking about getting a subwoofer.
Subwoofers are speakers that deliver lower frequencies that traditional two channel or surround sound setups can’t reproduce on their own.
While you may hear the bass through your regular bookshelf or bluetooth speakers, subwoofers let you feel the bass. Subwoofers also tend to do the heavy lifting from your loudspeakers, so they improve your overall system.
Sounds become more dynamic, and stereo imaging becomes more accurate. But what happens when you live in an apartment building? The simplest and most obvious answer is to simply not have subwoofers.
However, if you’re reading this right now that probably means that’s not what you want to hear. Will your subwoofer annoy your neighbors? Here are some tips to make sure it doesn’t.
What is Bass?
The first thing one must understand is what the issue is. With subwoofers, while noise is still a problem, it is mainly the vibrations they cause that can annoy the people who live around you. Your first goal should be to reduce the vibrations.
Bass is a sort of physical manifestation of sound and is a crucial part of the hearing experience. Bass is not a sound so much as a physical sensation, something even deaf or hard of hearing people can feel.
The use of subwoofers to provide deep bass in films became more of a thing around 1974 with the movie Earthquake. Subwoofers were installed initially in 17 U.S theaters, and they were large. The subwoofers were driven by racks of 500 watt amplifiers which were turned on by control tones printed on one of the audio tracks of the film.
The theater was set up with four of the subwoofers positioned at the front of the audience under, or sometimes behind, the film screen, and then two more subwoofers were placed together at the rear of the audiences on a platform.
Powerful noise energy and loud rumbling in the range of anywhere between 17 and 20 Hertz was produced, and the new low frequency was a huge hit.
Moviegoers were able to feel rumbling in their seats and it made the overall movie experience better. Subwoofers have always provided a heightened listening experience, and it makes sense that you’d want something like that in your home where you can enjoy it in your free time.
There are lots of different methods that when put together, make your listening experience better while also helping to not bother the neighbors.
How Do You Stop Your Subwoofer from Bothering Neighbors?
The first is the placement of your subwoofer. Moving your subwoofer closer to you can help you when you need to turn the volume down. The lower the volume, the less vibrations you’ll be emanating out through your walls, ceiling, and floor.
This provides you with an equally loud experience at a lower volume, where you can still feel the sub bass without it shaking the whole floor and bothering the neighbors.
When you’re mixing music, this is a great option because you’ll be able to receive the purer version of a waveform directly into your ear before it’s had a chance to bounce all around the room and become corrupted.
The biggest thing is placement. Putting your subwoofer away from walls and corners is best; walls and corners increase the bass by reflecting it. The next thing that you might think about getting is a subwoofer isolation pad for your apartment.
There are all manner of isolation pads on the market, and you can even make one yourself. However, the quickest and cheapest isolation pad to scoop up is the Auralex Gramma isolation pad. There are different sizes and thicknesses to choose from(x).
What these pads do is they separate your subwoofer from the floor with a sponge or rubbery material that is full of air gaps. These pads end up dampening the vibrations before they have a chance to hit the floor and travel on down to your neighbor’s home.
The floor is essentially a giant resonator for bass, so isolating the subwoofer is a must in order to avoid angry neighbors.
What are Other Ways to Dampen a Subwoofer in an apartment?
Aside from isolation pads and general placement, there are other steps you could take in order for your subwoofers to not only work and sound good, but also ways to make sure your neighbors don’t complain. One of the main things you can do is decouple the subwoofer from the ground.
Lifting the subwoofer off of the floor means that you’ll increase the distance and provide less material for vibrations to be carried through physically. There are a few different shapes that subwoofer decouplers come in, but the goal remains the same.
You can also place your isolation pad on top for extra dampening.
Some subwoofers often come with decoupler pegs that you can install to lift it above the ground. They may come as short speaker stands, tiny metal decoupling pegs, or little rubber feet.
The idea is to absorb the vibrations while minimizing any path they have to the ground. It’s a little bit like floating your subwoofer in the air, there isn’t a chance for the vibrations to ripple through the floor and bother the people around you.
Some decoupling subwoofer stands minimize contact not only with the floor but the subwoofer itself as well(x). It places a vibration-absorbing rubber between them and is a great solution, especially if you can combine it with the isolation pads.
Hardwood floors also provide a challenge. Floors made of hardwood tend to let the energy being emitted by the subwoofers travel further before fading out. This means that the likelihood of your neighbors hearing or feeling the bass is much more likely.
Carpeted floors are helpful, as well as properly placed absorptive material. Bass is often improved in general by placing traps and other energy absorbers throughout the space.
It’s dependent on where you place your subwoofer, but placing these pieces of absorbent foam around the space actually helps the sound carry better to you, while in turn isolating the sound from the people around you.
Placing your subwoofer at an angle to your common wall may also help cut the energy transferred to the wall, and may sometimes be all you need in order to isolate the sound and vibrations.
If you know where the structural columns in your space are, you can place your subwoofer near one and let the column absorb the bulk of the energy before transferring it to one of your neighbors.
Similar to isolation pads, bass trap pads also help more with sounds bouncing around the room than vibrations. These foam pads can be placed strategically around your space on the walls and in the corners of the room to absorb stray bass waves.
They absorb them through allowing the fibers in insulation or rigid fiberglass to vibrate and convert the kinetic energy into heat. These will help your subwoofer sound better while helping a bit with the sound and the potential noise complaints.
When soundproofing against higher-frequency sound waves, you should use materials that are high in mass as well as density. High-density fabrics are good for sound absorption and redistribution.
However, higher mass materials completely block sound waves, and even the type of sensation that bass produces.
Therefore, when you are looking for effective bass blocking materials, you’ll want to have something with a lot of mass. There are also many guides online to help with soundproofing. They detail what best materials to use if you are not buying pads, things like using rubber mats on the ground, etc.
They also go into detail as to where the best placement for soundproofing is. Incredibly low bass frequencies can travel through brick and concrete, which is why sometimes you may feel vibrations when a heavy truck passes near your building.
The sensation is caused by structural noise, which is when some sound is carried through your walls, ceilings, and floors rather than by air. Putting all of these tips in mind can help reduce the vibrations and hopefully keep your neighbors from banging on your door.
Along with the steps talked about above, generally being considerate and keeping your neighbors in mind goes a long way. When you move in or when you get your subwoofers, make a note to talk to your surrounding neighbors.
Give them your contact info and let them know that if you ever get too loud, they can let you know.
This will also help you get a better sense of what settings and general set-up for your subwoofers works the best and keeps your neighbors happy. Along with this, remember to also be reasonable.
Turning the bass down early in the morning or late at night on weeknights is just good practice, and your neighbors will absolutely appreciate it. Another option is to ask to listen in your neighbors apartment to see if you can hear the sound and how you can tweak your set-up.
Most of all, just keeping in constant communication with your neighbors and maybe even inviting them over for a movie night will make it a lot easier on everyone.
What is the Best Subwoofer for a Smaller Apartment?
Before setting up your subwoofer, it’s important for you to obtain one that fits your needs as well as your space first. While there are many different kinds of subwoofers on the market, a lot of them will be too noisy for a smaller apartment.
While there isn’t a good subwoofer made specifically for apartments, you can still pick one that isn’t too loud and adjust the settings and overall placement later. Many people choose to go with the brand Sonos, an audio brand that has all kinds of speakers and subwoofers on the market.
One such subwoofer is the Beam, which one can hang on the walls and it takes up a minimum amount of space as well as not being too loud. A lot of the time with subwoofers as well, there’s a good chance that unless you’re an extreme audiophile, they won’t really alter your experience.
Some would say that subwoofers may be overkill, and the average small household would do fine with just a nice speaker. The Sonos Beam seems to do well on its own in small rooms and condos.
Overall, the use of subwoofers is a great way to upgrade your movie watching or your music listening experience. Feeling the music instead of just listening is truly an amazing experience.
But when living in small spaces, it’s important to be considerate to the people around you. The fact that you’re reading this article right now means that you want to be proactive in making sure everyone is comfortable in their living spaces!
While simply choosing to not get a subwoofer would be the most effective, we’ve learned that dampening sound and doing your best to lessen the vibrations the subwoofers cause are a great way to keep the neighbors from knocking on your door.
We also know that there are other alternatives besides subwoofers that are better for smaller spaces and work almost as well. If the audiophile in you still wants the full experience, don’t forget to invest in padding, carpet, and a way to lift your subwoofer off the ground.
Don’t forget that it’s also easy to just talk to the people around you! Let them know how to contact you in case your music ever gets too loud.
Being considerate of your neighbors and turning the volume down early in the morning and late at night is a helpful practice too. If it’s time to upgrade your setup, let these tips help guide you to a good placement and a wonderful listening experience!