a downfiring or sidefiring sub will not be as easy to audibly locate in the room compared to a front firing sub.
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Down firing will reduce the audibility of harmonic distortion. It generally makes placement easier and will increase the sub efficiency (like a horn - the coupling to the air will be improved at a room boudary). It also means that a huge cone and large voice coil and suspension will not have gravity acting across it from one side...think of a yo-yo - it will remain most balanced and controlled going up and down and is relatively harder to control going straight out in front of you - as gravity has a tendency to make pull it out of alignment and you have to fight this pull to keep the yo-yo going out straight in front of you.
Some people recommend removing front firing subwoofers and rotating them by one screw point each year to stop any gravitational affect eventualy causing cone misalignment.
Down firing subs also cause more vibration to go into the floor instead of the room, which may or may not be a good thing. You can feel the vibrations from the sub in my living room (down-firing) on the other end of the house! Great for special effects, not so great if someone else is trying to sleep.