The 10 Best Subwoofers
Booming bass and a crisp, clear low end will make your home theater sound better than ever. Our comprehensive selection of subwoofers includes options in every price range that will add a greater resonance and dimension to your music, movie, or gaming experiences. We've ranked them here by frequency range, power, and build quality. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best subwoofer on Amazon.
The Various Uses For A Subwoofer
There are several models designed with the high audio quality demands of a movie theater in mind.
Subwoofers are used to deliver bass in audio applications such as music and sound effects.
Subwoofers are used to deliver bass in audio applications such as music and sound effects. They have the ability to accurately reproduce low-frequency sounds, typically in the 20 to 200 Hertz range. Subwoofers usually contain one or two woofers, which are the devices capable of turning a low audio signal into a sound, housed inside of a loudspeaker.
A subwoofer’s housing can handle the air pressure produced by low-frequency signals without distorting the resulting audio. There are two main categories of subwoofers, namely passive and active. Passive subwoofers retrieve power from an external amplifier, while active ones have an in-unit amplifier.
In a home entertainment room, subwoofers can boost the main speaker's bass capabilities. Most loudspeakers made for home use cannot accurately reproduce low-frequency sounds like pipe organ music or large bass drums, but these often appear in the scoring of movies and television shows. A subwoofer can aid standard speakers, and prevent low-frequency sounds from harming them. Models made for home use are typically small because people want to store them in a cabinet and out of sight.
Unlike home subwoofers, which are made small enough to hide, car subwoofers are designed to go in the trunk due to the space limitations of a vehicle. The confined space of a car is also what makes a subwoofer especially important for drivers who like to listen to bass-heavy music because the pressure of the low-frequency sound can cause damage to the interior of the vehicle. Subwoofers can help absorb some of that pressure. In terms of commercial use, movie theaters often have permanent subwoofers. There are several models designed with the high audio quality demands of a movie theater in mind. These usually reduce outside noise interference for an immersive listening experience.
Historic Moments Of The Subwoofer
El Cerrito, CA native, Raymon Dones, received the first subwoofer patent in 1964. His model not only reproduced low-frequency sounds without distortion, but it also offered a surround sound effect so listeners could not determine from which part of a room the audio was coming. This subwoofer was called the Octavium and was utilized by famous musicians like the Grateful Dead and the Pointer Sisters.
Recording engineer Roger Nichols offered up a subwoofer he designed for the band’s recording of the Pretzel Logic album.
Physicist Arnold Nudell and airline pilot Cary Christie developed a second primitive subwoofer in 1966. The duo’s creation was a separate bass speaker designed to work in conjunction with the Servo Static 1 loudspeaker, made by New Technology Enterprises. Christie and Nudell marketed their subwoofer at $1,795. This price was significantly higher than that of any model available at the time, which earned the creators criticism in some publications. Christie and Nudell ultimately managed to find investors to make more units. Christie and Nudell formed the company Infinity and named their subwoofer the SS-1.
The 1960s saw the emergence of several influential subwoofers. Ken Kreisel and Jonas Miller of the Miller & Kreisel Sound Corporation in Los Angeles received several complaints from customers about their popular electrostatic speakers failing to produce quality bass sound. The pair designed a woofer that could reproduce frequencies that were too low for the speaker. Steely Dan was the first band to use a subwoofer in the recording of an album.
Recording engineer Roger Nichols offered up a subwoofer he designed for the band’s recording of the Pretzel Logic album. Audiences who watched the 1974 film “Earthquake” in theaters experienced the low-frequency sounds of the film through the revolutionary Sensurround system, which included large subwoofers and 500-watt amplifiers. The dramatic and quality sound of the film is one of the things that made it a box office hit.
Three Iconic Bass Players
John Entwistle of the iconic rock band The Who transformed the image of the bass guitar from a background item to a flashy, star player of any group. He captivated fans with his bass solo in the 1965 song “My Generation” and earned the nickname “Thunderfingers.” Entwistle built his first bass guitar and had it fretted to imitate a Hofner violin bass. The result was a nine-inch fingerboard with nearly zero frets. He attached the control knobs with glue and used a drum material for the scratch plate.
He captivated fans with his bass solo in the 1965 song “My Generation” and earned the nickname “Thunderfingers.”
Bootsy Collins played bass for James Brown in the 1970s and has since then worked with Snoop Dogg and Parliament-Funkadelic, to name a few. Collins was known for his trademark Space Bass, which had a mahogany body, maple neck, mirror pick guard and white finish. The guitar can be seen on the cover of the album “Stretchin’ Out In Bootsy’s Rubber Band.”
Collins still plays a version of the Space Bass, but his current model is star-shaped. Traben Bass Company of Clearwater, Florida developed a signature Collins guitar called the “Bootzilla” and several other companies also designed instruments in honor of the artist.
Carol Kaye is a session musician who has worked on albums with several famous artists including Phil Spector and Brian Wilson. She has played bass in over 10,000 songs, some of which became huge hits like Ritchie Valens’ “La Bamba” as well as Sonny and Cher’s “The Beat Goes On.” Kaye is known for effortlessly switching between genres.
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