Subwoofer Phase 0 or 180?

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Updated October 26, 2022

If you are new to the world of speaker design, you may look to compare a subwoofer’s phase – 0 or 180. Many of the best speakers, after all, are subwoofers, and the phase setting distinctly impacts the audio quality of the speaker, especially as it integrates with the rest of your setup. So what is the phase setting, and how to use it to make the best subwoofers sound even better? Keep reading to find out.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Subwoofers, and all speakers, must remain in proper phase with one another to ensure a strong stereo signal.
  • Subwoofers typically feature a phase switch that takes the phase from 0 to 180 and back again.
  • The key here is to match the phase of your other speakers, so experiment with the phase switch until you find the correct setting and the sound quality improves.

What is Phase 180 on a Subwoofer?

Simply put, a speaker’s phase is the direction in which it moves and emits a sound if you are learning how to connect a subwoofer. When speakers are out-of-phase with one another, the audio quality drops significantly, which is important when wondering why your subwoofer is making noise when turned on.

Insider Tip

There is no correct universal phase setting. There is only a correct phase setting as one speaker integrates with another.

There is no “correct” phase setting, per se, as it is all about how your entire system works in concert, which is also true when deciding what gauge speaker wire for a subwoofer. Most subwoofers allow phase settings from 0 to 180. Each number along the dial here represents a direction on the stereo field. You know it is set correctly when everything sounds on point, and you do not wonder why a subwoofer pops when turned on.

How to Set the Phase on a Subwoofer

This depends on the design of your subwoofer, but adjusting this setting is typically done in one of two ways. Some subwoofers include a rotary dial to make selections along the stereo spectrum from 0 to 180. Others feature a switch that goes only to 0 or 180. The most important thing to do here is check what phase setting your other speakers should use and copy that. If you cannot find this setting on your other speakers, just try 0 and 180 and use your ears, choosing whichever selection sounds “thicker” and better. At the end of the day, it is up to you to decide which phase adjustment setting sounds best in any listening position.

Benefits of Proper Phase Setting

The main benefit here is a strong audio signal with a wide stereo field, thus improving your overall enjoyment as you listen to music, watch movies, and more. An out-of-phase subwoofer will sound weak and thin, and the bass frequencies will sound almost non-existent.

STAT: The phase control in a powered subwoofer allows the user to add electrical delay to the incoming signal. The phase control operates over a range of 0 to 180 degrees. (source)

Subwoofer Phase Control FAQs

Should my subwoofer be phase 0 or 180?

This depends on the phase setting of your other speaker cones. Generally speaking, you want the variable phase to match exactly.

What if you don't have an SPL meter?

Some speakers have a built-in SPL meter to let you know the exact phase setting, so you can avoid crossover frequency when dealing with an incoming signal. If your speakers lack such a meter, you can download a smartphone app to find the proper setting of your speaker drivers.

Does subwoofer phase 180 sound muddy?

The only time phase 180 sounds muddy, offering poor sound quality in any listening position, is when your other speakers have phase set to 0. This is called crossover frequency, and it does impact the sound quality.