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You just bought a subwoofer and can’t wait to play your favourite tunes.
Before you do so, you should let the component break in so as to get the best possible audio quality from your setup.
But what does it mean to break in a subwoofer and how do you do this?
Breaking in a subwoofer is nothing more than playing some music and/or low frequencies over a period of time to lessen the stiffness of the moving parts present inside the component.
This will help your setup perform better and will make a significant improvement in the bass of your audio.
In this article, we will explain the best and fastest ways to break in your subwoofer, plus the science behind the practice. Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
- How to Quickly Break in a Subwoofer?
- Do I Need to Break in a Subwoofer?
- What Happens If You Don’t Break in a Subwoofer?
- Preparation to Break-in Your Subwoofer
- Make Sure your Amplifier is Compatible with your Subwoofer and is Providing it with the Proper Amount of Power
- Check the Wiring and the Installation of your Setup
- Check your Volume and Test your System before Breaking in your Subwoofer
- Optional: Use an Audio File Specially Designed to Break in Subwoofers
- How Do I Break in a Subwoofer?
- Dos and Don’ts for Breaking in a Subwoofer
- How a Break-in Affects Parts of a Subwoofer?
- Mistakes People Make While Installing a Car Subwoofer
How to Quickly Break in a Subwoofer?
The best way to quickly break in a subwoofer is to play pure low frequencies at a reasonable volume for at least 8 hours.
The playtime doesn’t need to be continuous and you can divide the process over the course of several days.
Alternatively, you can also play bass-heavy music or simply let your subwoofer break in naturally while you enjoy your songs.
If you choose this route though, the process will take a little bit more time to have an effect.
Do I Need to Break in a Subwoofer?
There is great discussion over the practice of breaking in subwoofers and other audio components.
Some say it is not necessary at all, while others swear by the process claiming it will have a huge impact on your listening experience.
To be honest, breaking in your subwoofer is, at the end of the day, optional. Your sub will work like it is supposed to right after you install it.
While there is no scientific proof that the practice yields results, some manufacturers still recommend that you let your subwoofer have a break-in period.
The greatest evidence in favor of that practice is that subwoofers, just like any type of speaker, feature moveable components that might still be a little stiff when coming out of the factory.
We should say though that the effects of breaking in a subwoofer won’t be that drastic in your sound quality, but you should definitely notice a difference, especially if you’re an audiophile.
At the end of the day, breaking in a subwoofer is a choice, but if you have the time and means to do so, we definitely recommend you do the process so as to make sure you have the best listening experience.
What Happens If You Don’t Break in a Subwoofer?
You won’t cause any damage to your subwoofer if you don’t go through the process of breaking in the component, since your speaker will sound like it is supposed to right out of the factory.
However, you will miss out on the chance of improving the bass response of your system even further, so it is advisable that you do the break in process, after all, it is a very simple and straightforward process.
Preparation to Break-in Your Subwoofer
Make Sure your Amplifier is Compatible with your Subwoofer and is Providing it with the Proper Amount of Power
There are three key factors you should check in order to make sure your amplifier is compatible with your subwoofer: RMS power handling, impedance, and frequency response.
The RMS power handling of your amplifier, usually referred to in watts, should be equal to or higher than the one of your subwoofer.
For example, if you have a sub with an RMS of 80 watts, then the ideal scenario would be to have an amp of 100 watts RMS to make sure you have some headroom.
This will ensure the component is receiving proper power and prevent your amplifier from heating up.
Failing to do so would result in a less-than-ideal, quieter sound.
What about impedance? Well, the impedance of an audio component is rated in Ohms and will determine how much current a speaker draws.
Your subwoofer’s impedance should be equal (best scenario) or greater than your amplifier’s.
Last but not least, there is frequency response. The frequency response, represented in Hz, will represent the lowest and the highest frequency your speaker can reproduce.
It wouldn’t make sense to, for example, hook a subwoofer that can reproduce frequencies down to 10Hz to an amplifier that can only deliver audio signals above 30Hz, so make sure your amp can handle your sub.
You can find the frequency response of most audio products on the manufacturer’s website or the provided manual.
Check the Wiring and the Installation of your Setup
It might sound obvious, but make sure to check the wiring and the installation of your setup before proceeding to break in your subwoofer.
A faulty connection could result in a short circuit, a less-than-ideal sound or even damage your speaker and/or amplifier, and this is not by any means a rare occurrence when installing audio products.
If you’re installing the subwoofer by yourself, you should find the specific wiring schematics in the instruction manual of the device or the amplifier.
Check your Volume and Test your System before Breaking in your Subwoofer
Below, we will link you to a few useful pure-frequency videos on YouTube that are excellent for breaking in your subwoofer but could fry your speaker before you even have the chance to enjoy it if you play it at extremely loud volumes.
For that reason, turn your volume all the way down before turning your setup on for the first time, and play a random song to make sure everything is up and running correctly.
It is also important that, while breaking in your subwoofer, you keep your system at low to medium volume. The intensity will be more than enough for the process to be successful.
Optional: Use an Audio File Specially Designed to Break in Subwoofers
As we said, there are two main ways to break in a subwoofer: playing bass-heavy songs or using an audio file with pure frequencies that are specially designed for the process. The latter will give you faster results.
There are countless audio files on YouTube designed for the subwoofer break-in process.
These are usuSally several hours long and will sweep through pure frequencies in order to have a greater impact on your system’s audio quality.
Below, we selected a few of these useful videos for your convenience:
How Do I Break in a Subwoofer?
After you have gathered everything needed and made sure your subwoofer is installed properly and has the correct wiring, you can proceed to break in your subwoofer. The process is very simple.
You can break in a subwoofer by playing either bass-heavy songs or the pure frequency sweeps we provided the link to in our previous topic.
If you don’t mind keeping your audio system playing for several hours, then we recommend the second option as it will give you better and faster results.
Now, remember to turn the volume all the way down before you turn on your system for the first time to avoid any damage; As well as keeping your songs or pure frequency sweep at low to medium volume: cranking it up too much is not a great idea.
Keep your subwoofer playing those low frequency sounds for a minimum of 8 hours. These 8 hours don’t have to be continuous.
You can, for example, play the frequency sweep for 2 daily hours over the course of several days.
Make sure to monitor your subwoofer and your audio setup from time to time to maintain everything working correctly.
If you notice that any component is overheating or not performing as it should, turn off your stereo immediately and double-check the installation.
Dos and Don’ts for Breaking in a Subwoofer
- Use bass-heavy songs or pure frequency sweeps (you can find several on YouTube).
- Check if your subwoofer is installed properly and the wiring is correct before turning on your system for the first time.
- Check if your subwoofer is compatible with your amplifier’s RMS power handling, impedance, and frequency response.
- Follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer on the manual.
- Keep your system at low to medium volume while breaking in your subwoofer.
- Monitor your system from time to time and check if your amplifier isn’t too hot.
- Don’t use faulty wires when installing your subwoofer. Your system will have a less-than-ideal performance and it could even be a fire hazard.
- Don’t attempt to install the subwoofer if you don’t have the necessary experience for the job. Take it to an auto shop instead.
- Don’t crank up the volume of your system until the break in process is complete.
How a Break-in Affects Parts of a Subwoofer?
A subwoofer, just like any other type of speaker, is essentially a device made with moving parts that will turn the electrical current sent by your head unit to your amplifier into sound waves.
The main fact behind breaking in a subwoofer is that, more often than not, when a sub comes out of the factory, its parts are still stiff and not fully flexible, especially the outer cone, which can prevent the speaker from efficiently converting the electrical current it receives.
The break in process will lessen the stiffness of the components inside your subwoofer and allow it to deliver its best performance.
Mistakes People Make While Installing a Car Subwoofer
As we said before, incorrectly wiring your subwoofer can be dangerous since it might damage your device without return and even pose a fire hazard if you, for example, mismatch the positive and negative terminals of the speaker.
We always recommend that you have your subwoofer installed in an auto shop, but if you’re doing the process yourself, you should find the wiring instructions on the manual provided with your sub, amplifier and/or head unit.
Subwoofers come in different sizes. Always determine beforehand the height, width and depth of the enclosure you will need to install your new sub, especially if you’re installing it in your car.
Did you know that the placement of your subwoofer (and the other components in your audio setup) can have a huge impact on the quality of your sound?
Depending on whether you’re installing your subwoofer on your car or home theater, you should be mindful about where you’re placing the device. Failing to do so can create phase issues and cause your low frequencies to not perform as well as they should.
Not Matching the Amplifier to the Subwoofer / Overpowering the Subwoofer
We already mentioned it before, but your subwoofer specifications and requirements should match the ones of your amplifier.
There are 3 key factors you should pay attention to: RMS power handling, impedance and frequency response, all covered in-depth under the topic “Preparation to Break-in Your Subwoofer”.
Underpowering the Subwoofer
Overpowering your subwoofer isn’t the only possible issue when installing the device: you can end up underpowering it too.
Obviously, when a sub is underpowered, your setup won’t reproduce the low frequencies properly.
As we mentioned in the last topic, make sure you match the power requirements of your sub to your amplifier.
There is an issue called phase cancellation that can occur depending on the placement of your subwoofer related to the other components of your setup. This will result in a thin-sounding bass.
The easiest way to prevent phase issues is to move your subwoofer around and experiment with different placements.
If the issue persists, you should try switching the phase of your subwoofer.
Most amplifiers have a phase switch button.
The location and specific process will differ depending on the manufacturer, but you should find the exact steps to do this in the instruction manual provided with your amp.
Incorrect Crossover Settings
The crossover is a component present inside your amplifier that will divide the audio signal into different intervals of frequencies and send them to their respective components in your audio setup.
It will isolate the low frequencies and deliver them to your subwoofer, for example.
However, it’s no use to have a powerful subwoofer if your crossover isn’t set up properly, as it would cause the bass to sound weak and far from its full potential.
Make sure to double-check your crossover settings when installing your system. The process is particular to each amplifier model, so you should check your device’s instruction manual for the exact steps.
There is no exact period of time, but we recommend that you do the subwoofer break in process for at least 8 hours.
It is worth remembering that these 8 hours don’t have to be continuous.
If your subwoofer has a weird smell, then most likely there is an electrical short inside it. In any case, you should turn your audio system off immediately and take the device to an auto shop to be further inspected, since it is very dangerous to keep using a speaker in that condition.
You have a few different options that can work depending on your particular case. The simplest one is to check the screws that attach your subwoofer to your car’s mounting. Make sure to tighten those screws firmly.
Sometimes the problem isn’t on the subwoofer itself, but on the other components of your audio system. Subwoofers will naturally vibrate since they are designed to reproduce low frequencies, so they could cause a tweeter to rattle, for example, if it is not mounted properly.
Last but not least, if none of the previous solutions worked, it is possible that there is a loose component inside your subwoofer and you should take it to an authorized repair shop or contact the manufacturer.
The process of breaking in a subwoofer is very simple and straightforward, and could result in some real improvements on your audio setup, so there’s really no reason not to do it.
Remember that the process takes time (we recommend you break in your subwoofer for at least 8 hours).
Have patience and keep your stereo at low to medium volume until the process is complete.
We once again reiterate that you should make sure your subwoofer is installed properly before you even start the break in period, as this will prevent a lot of headaches in the future.
Thank you for reading this article. If you’re into car audio, make sure to check our related posts about the subject and share this page with a friend.
Feel free to contact us if you have any questions or suggestions on our website. We hope you have a great listening experience with your new subwoofer!
Hello, I’m Ian.
I’m a music producer, musician, and writer for the AudioReputation website. I’ve been involved with making music and the processes revolving around audio technology for longer than I can recall, so I find it amusing to share my knowledge with fellow enthusiasts worldwide when I’m not working with artists or creating new songs.
Along my path as a music maker, I discovered the ability to write informative content, and I decided to embrace it. I’ve written for a few websites about audio and music, including a digital magazine.
I’m particularly passionate about any sort of audio gear: guitar pedals, amplifiers, headphones, and even home speakers. That makes it really joyful for me to review any product related to the subject and give my honest opinion about them. I also frequently write tips and guides for consumer and professional-grade audio.