The 10 Best Subwoofers

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This wiki has been updated 36 times since it was first published in March of 2015. Booming bass and a crisp, clear low-end will make your home theater sound better than ever. A quality subwoofer adds a greater resonance and dimension to your music, movie, or gaming experiences, and there are worthwhile selections in nearly every price range. We've ranked the best according to their response range, sound quality, peak volume, and value for the money. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. JBL LSR310S

2. SVS SB2000

3. Monoprice Stage Right

Editor's Notes

December 03, 2020:

For our latest update, we wanted to include options for a broader range of applications. The Mackie CR-X earned a spot on the list due to its simplicity and price. While most of the other options require a stereo receiver, the Mackie CR-X has built-in Bluetooth and comes with a desktop remote, allowing users to connect pair of powered speakers or monitors to the subwoofer and play music from their devices wirelessly.

The KRK 8s-V2 was added as an option for music producers and sound engineers, but is also great for anyone looking to get real hands-on with tuning. It has a number of features to ensure the best possible sound is achieved with minimal phasing and reflecting, allowing for versatility in placement.

We updated the Polk Audio PSW505 12-Inch to the Polk Audio HTS 12. This model aims to distribute sound and airflow evenly through the room with a downward-facing reflex port that pushes air onto a curved cone on the unit's base. This is intended to smoothly redirect air in all directions, cutting down on vent noise.

July 02, 2019:

A subwoofer is integral to the home theater experience, and many studio musicians and engineers fin them useful for production as well. You'll find some that are geared specifically towards cinematic surround sound and others that are more suited to use by musicians. The Monoprice Stage Right can actually fill both roles, though it does sound much better with balanced inputs, which even a modest home theater with an inexpensive pre-amp. The JBL is commonly regarded as one of the most accurate, and considering its quality, it's actually quite well priced.

If you don't mind spending a little more, the Audioengine and ELAC Debut 2.0 Series are both powerufl enough to fill rooms of decent size, though large rooms should look more closely at the latter. If you have a reasonably large budget, SVS makes great audio equipment and their SB2000 is a fantastic option for floor-shaking bass. The BIC America, Klipsch, and Fluance are excellent as wella s relatively affordable, and while the Polk costs just a bit more than them, it's one of the least expensive that's suitable for large rooms. If you have enough money to afford the entire brand, though, check out the Sonos Sub, which requires the use of other Sonos products, but is basically unmatched as far as home cinema performance.

Special Honors

SV Sound PB16-Ultra If you're in the market for something to supplement your high-end laser projector or gigantic OLED TV, check out SV Sound's high-end amplifiers. Their PB16-Ultra is an especially worthwhile choice for home theater enthusiasts, thanks to a 5,000-watt peak output and 13-hertz floor, though it does cost more than the average homeowner will likely want to spend.

REL Acousitcs T/7i While it's pretty costly for its size, this audiophile-grade device takes the high fidelity of the company's most powerful designs and shrinks it to a small form factor that integrates seamlessly with a wide range of setups. It uses advanced alloys and fiber-impregnated materials to ensure a clean and crisp response throughout its range, and its compression-free wireless capability prevents the hassle of running a bunch of extra cables.

DynAudio Sub 6 This one isn't terribly expensive, but it does offer the kind of performance that an audiophile will appreciate. One of its useful features is an advanced digital signal processor that ensures every note that comes out of it sounds exactly as the composer intended. Its slim form factor makes it ideal for compact spaces as well as use in tandem.

4. Elac SUB3010

5. Polk Audio HTS 12

6. Bic Acoustech

7. Klipsch R-120SW

8. KRK 8s-V2

9. Sonos Sub

10. Mackie CR-X

The Various Uses For A Subwoofer

In a home entertainment room, subwoofers can boost the main speaker's bass capabilities.

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.

The pair designed a woofer that could reproduce frequencies that were too low for the speaker.

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 a significantly higher price 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.

The result was a nine-inch fingerboard with nearly zero frets.

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.

Christopher Thomas
Last updated by Christopher Thomas

Building PCs, remodeling, and cooking since he was young, quasi-renowned trumpeter Christopher Thomas traveled the USA performing at and organizing shows from an early age. His work experiences led him to open a catering company, eventually becoming a sous chef in several fine LA restaurants. He enjoys all sorts of barely necessary gadgets, specialty computing, cutting-edge video games, and modern social policy. He has given talks on debunking pseudoscience, the Dunning-Kruger effect, culinary technique, and traveling. After two decades of product and market research, Chris has a keen sense of what people want to know and how to explain it clearly. He delights in parsing complex subjects for anyone who will listen -- because teaching is the best way to ensure that you understand things yourself.

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