- Best Mid Range Subwoofer
- Best Budget Subwoofer
- Best High End Subwoofer
- Best Wireless Subwoofer
- Best Outdoor Subwoofer
A subwoofer is the one piece of audio equipment that will lift a simple sound system out of the ordinary, and can make or break the most expensive HiFi system. Even the cheapest subwoofer will take a pair of basic bookshelf speakers and turn them into something that sounds like a real sound system. A truly high-end subwoofer, on the other hand, is the difference between simply "good" sound and true realism. Good low frequency response is an absolute must for a home theater system, making dialogue richer and more immediate sounding, and bringing much-needed depth to sound tracks, explosions, and ambient noises. Most music requires solid bass response too: everything from orchestral classical music to dubstep sounds better when bass notes are fully fleshed out and given their real atmospheric textures by a dedicated subwoofer. Even a loan acoustic guitar benefits from extra LF, making plucked strings sound much more immediate and realistic, and adding rich reverb to lower notes.
Subwoofers, like speakers, come in all shapes, sizes, and designs. Some are optimized for outdoor use; others are ported to give the most powerful output possible, or sealed to maintain tightness and evenness of response. And price does matter; here, perhaps more than anywhere else in home theater audio, you get what you pay for. Spend under $100, and you're really just adding extra thump. Jump to $200 or so, and we're talking real slam with decent extension and easily distinguishable multi-tonal textures. Around $500 will get you deep, tight, punchy bass that can shake windows and, in a smaller space or with multiple woofers, produce room lock, that famous sensation of a room being filled by bass waves, pressurizing the air and creating a truly immediate, tactile experience. Cross the $1,000 mark, and you are in true HiFi territory: expect serious LF vibrations and the kind of sound that will put anything you've ever heard, including movie theaters and high-end concert hall systems, to absolute shame. All in all, if you aren't willing to shell out at least half the price of the rest of your system for a subwoofer, you won't be doing your speakers justice, but better any subwoofer than none! This is perhaps the most important piece of any sound system, and if you aren't putting serious consideration into which one is best for you, you'll be shortchanging yourself and anyone who hears your system.
Best Mid Range Subwoofer:
Those looking to obtain serious audio quality for a home theater without emptying the bank entirely face perhaps the most difficult choice of any market; while the options over $1000 for true summit-fi are limited enough to avoid the need for die-hard research, and cater mostly to larger spaces, the market below a grand is intensely competitive and offers an enormous array of options for different room sizes, shapes, and configurations. Knowing your room size and having a sense of just how much bass you want are the two most important factors, and can help narrow down an otherwise intimidating decision fairly quickly. As a rule of thumb, assuming standard 8-foot ceilings, spaces under 400 square feet shouldn't need more than one 10-15 inch subwoofer to achieve good response, but you may want two subs if you want real room lock; anything less than 200 square feet might be overwhelmed by a serious 10+ inch sub and may want to consider something smaller, but that depends on preference as much as anything. The subwoofers in this review have been chosen based on their ability to properly cater to a particular room size and taste in sound; the wise would be wary of taking the best pick at face value, and its best to be sure that the product you choose is not simply the best, but the proper fit for your specific application. That said, the products listed here are all of the highest quality for their respective price range, and each one should satisfy its intended purpose very well.
Reaching impressive depths below 20hz, a rare feat for a woofer that can be had for less than $1,000, the SW-115 plays on the high end of mid-priced subwoofers, but it earns its brand name and price with seriously deep, rumbling bass that can shake large rooms when necessary. Tamer music lovers beware: this is one for the bassheads. Read Full Review
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Most of the subs in this list are reviewed with primary importance given to their applications in surround sound systems for movies. The Rhythmik F12 will do fine for films, but if your top priority is music, youd be hard pressed to find a more musical sealed sub for under $1,000. Read Full Review
Big brother to the ASW608, the 610 is a great full-sized subwoofer that will fill all but the largest home theaters with high-quality bass. While lacking some features of truly high-end woofers, the ASW610 is a very technically capable sub and digs to depths its little brother cant quite manage, a boon for those looking for true fidelity and the much sought-after room lock vibrations, but can do so without sounding excessively boomy or voluminous. Read Full Review
Built to deliver substantial LF response for smaller rooms or those in search of tamer bass for an average home theater, the ASW608 is an elegant, compact subwoofer designed with the space-conscious in mind. If your space is limited, or you want to avoid disturbing neighboring rooms or apartments, the ASW608 is a great option. Read Full Review
Cerwin Vega is a name known by few consumers but many audiophiles and enthusiasts. While the XLS-12S will perform admirably in a master bedroom, smaller theater or studio, it wont create true room lock due to early roll-off and its not built to really give that chest-thumping feel, but it produces very impressive sound and is one of the better textured woofers in this review, with a reasonable price tag to boot. Read Full Review
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Best Budget Subwoofer:
If youre looking to shake the floor, but not your wallet, youve come to the right place! Subwoofers are typically seen as the most dauntingly expensive component of a home theater system; sure, true HiFi is going to cost a pretty penny no matter how savvy you are, but a pair of half-decent tower speakers can usually be had for under $300, and satellites are smaller and just not worth shelling out serious money on. But finding a good subwoofer on a budget can be a challenge, and that's why we're here! Truly cheap subwoofers will fill your living room or bedroom with bloated, muddy bass that does nothing but bug your neighbors and make you cringe; a real subwoofer should be well-controlled, added punch and rumble when its needed, and staying out of the way when its not. Thats asking a lot for under three bills, unfortunately, but were up to the challenge.
Retail costs on some of the items listed here will likely seem high for "budget" classification, but each has been selected due to ease of availability for below $300. They are ranked here on the basis of overall sound quality, including depth of frequency response and definition, and price-to-performance ratio.
No baloney here, folks: JBL does it again with the ES250P, giving us a great, affordable woofer that will more than fill most home theaters with thunderous bass. It packs a clean, tight punch for the price, and should do everything most people want from a subwoofer. Read Full Review
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MartinLogans entry level woofer produces well-textured, dynamic bass for a reasonable price, and can be found far below MSRP if you're lucky. Built to accompany their Motion series speakers, the Dynamo 300 is a good buy at its price and complements its intended system very well for giving great sound to a smaller space. Read Full Review
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While originally retailing for over $400, the F12 can easily be had for under $200 in the current market, and it is an absolute steal at that price. With an adjustable crossover and powerful sound without being bloated, its a great buy and will satisfy most families home theater needs without breaking the bank. Read Full Review
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The KW-100 is another solid subwoofer from Klipsch, always a reliable name in home audio. Neither the best nor the worst for the price, the KW-100 is a reliable woofer with a bit of a midbass hump that delivers the slam and power most people expect from an entry level sub. Read Full Review
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While lacking the standard adjustable crossover and a few other niceties, the SW012 is a decent subwoofer for cheap. Anyone looking for a basic unit for a simple bedroom or play room setup will likely be happy with both the price and sound. Read Full Review
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Best High End Subwoofer:
Subwoofers come in all shapes, sizes, varieties and designs, and no price tier better exemplifies this phenomenon than the absolute summit. The most expensive subwoofers in the world also tend to be the most unique, whether it be simply the physical design they employ, the number or type of speakers, or the new tech they employ to ensure the best bass presentation possible. Woofers in this category come in all different configurations, from nearly unrecognizable next-gen tech to multi-driver towers that can fill anything short of a true dance hall with deep, reverberant bass tones to keep chests thumping and bodies moving. The units listed here are some of the finest subwoofers money can buy, and while I will discuss how they compare in terms of absolute sound quality, they are ranked here based on suitability for consumer use. Please keep in mind that a larger room is generally a given at this price point, so if youre looking to fill a smaller space, like an average living room or master bedroom, a few of the options in my Midrange list will better suit your needs for a fraction of the price. But if you really, truly want the best bass possible, this is the time to decide your budget, because if you are ready to take out a loan on your car for your system, you could spend most of it right here!
Note: For those with serious cash and a thirst for truly ultimate bass, do a quick Google search on the Eminent Technology TRW-17. It doesn't quite fit in with the products listed here, but for those who truly want the best, there is no traditional subwoofer that can match its performance. If your tastes are more traditional, read on here.
The DB1 is well known in the music industry and among enthusiasts as one of, if not the finest traditional production subwoofer. Including state-of-the-art room correction tech, it reaches down past 20hz with authority, and is a true audiophile-worthy woofer and a one of Bowers & Wilkins' greatest achievements. Read Full Review
Most people looking to spend thousands on a subwoofer will probably want to impress guests with chest-thumping bass power; this is who the Signature Sub 2 is designed for. Capable of filling all but the largest home theaters will head-rattling LF, this is one for the bass heads, no doubt about it. Read Full Review
JTR is entirely a niche-market company, producing only the finest high-end speakers and home theater components. The Captivator upholds JTRs finest standards, and represents one of the best values on the market, in addition to delivering absolutely mind-blowing bass, both in quantity and quality. Read Full Review
The Digital Drive Plus 18 sports the single largest woofer of any speaker in this review, but numbers can be deceiving. With a price tag approaching $6,000, its also the second most expensive traditional unit on this list, out-blinged only by Sub 2, but is closer to the DB1 in character, with options for room correction and a tighter, more accurate approach to bass delivery that makes the more expensive units sound overblown or downright intrusive at times, depending mostly of course on personal preferences and environment. Read Full Review
In just about every segment of audio, there is usually a new or lesser known manufacturer willing to offer a product comparable to those many times its price simply by eliminating the frills, extra bells and whistles, and hyped-up brand name: enter the Epik Empire. Producing notes all the way down to 20hz, the limit of natural human hearing, with authority and astonishing clarity, the Empire competes with the best of the best and is one of the sweetest deals in the subwoofer kingdom. Read Full Review
Best Wireless Subwoofer:
While wireless subwoofers have become a standard accessory to today’s midrange and upper tier sound bars, their integration into traditional surround sound systems is still catching on. In a setup that already requires extensive wiring and delicate placement, its value is debatable at first glance, but it is a feature that offers extensive possibilities for room tuning and flexibility. The subwoofer is the one speaker that, on it’s own power, can change the entire sound of a system for better (or worse) simply by moving it, and that is exactly the convenience that wireless subs are designed to offer. Standing speakers are easy enough to move if you feel the need, but once placed properly, it’s generally best to leave them where they are, and that goes double for satellites, which should be carefully placed to provide an accurate ambient experience.
Subwoofers are also sensitive to placement, and their performance can vary, with noticeable dips or peaks emerging in their perceived frequency response if placed poorly. But depending on the number of people you want to entertain on a given night, or the different seating configurations that your home theater offers, its very plausible that you will want to move your subwoofer around the room to customize the system’s sound to the audience of the moment. Bringing it to rest between two chairs can make an intimate experience for two even more explosive and immediate, while placing it in a corner or your room’s sweet spot will better fill out the room for a more realistic presentation for a larger audience. If you’re a real basshead and you choose a ported model, you may even want to move it right in front of the TV, firing the bass right at you (non-ported subs won't sound bassier this way, as bass frequencies are omnidirectional). Or maybe you just hate wires and want to add bass to your system without running wires all over the place! Whatever your need or desire, a wireless subwoofer can help accommodate it, and if you prefer versatility to absolute sound quality, there’s no reason not to go cord-free.
For reference, all of the wireless units on this list transmit over the 2.4ghz spectrum, with the exception of the Sonos Sub, which uses Sonos' Bridge WiFi adapter to deploy signal. They have each been chosen for offering high quality bass output compared to other wireless units, as well as excellent build quality and clear transmission. They have been ranked in this review based on a combination of ease of use, sound quality, and versatility for use with either movies or music.
The 1000W is MartinLogan’s wireless iteration of their Dynamo sub, and it easily lives up to expectations set by the products in its line. The 1000W delivers tight, clean bass, and while the quality is a hair below ML’s wired subs, it nonetheless outperforms any branded wireless subwoofer on the market, and if you’re looking for home theater sound without knocking out walls and running cables, it should be at the top of your list... if you can afford it. Read Full Review
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The WiConnect 10 is a direct competitor to JBL's ES150PW, in both price and performance. It delivers bass that is fairly impactful but never boomy or bloated, and while it can't dig quite as deep as the JBL, it seems to have better control. Read Full Review
The Sonos Sub doesn’t produce the highest quality bass, and won’t please true audiophiles but what it lacks in quality it is more than capable of making up in quantity. Sonos’ 5.1 system is a solid choice for an easy to setup, simple to use surround sound system, including incredibly handy smartphone integration, and the Sonos Sub brings plenty of bass to match, making it a good choice for those who want big bass without a fuss. Read Full Review
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The ES150PW is JBL’s wireless take on their popular ES150 subwoofer. Digging deep and delivering JBL’s characteristic tight, punchy slam, the ES150PW can be had for a reasonable price and sounds great with both movies and music. Read Full Review
The PSWi225 falls in the lower range of wireless subs, and is a good option for those looking for a quality wireless home theater system without breaking the bank. While it doesn’t dig as deep as the slightly more expensive units from JBL and Infinity, it provides plenty of slam and good texture, and should satisfy anyone who has never owned a high-end subwoofer before. Read Full Review
Best Outdoor Subwoofer:
While just about any subwoofer can be used outdoors for a party or social gathering, not all are meant to be left there; in fact, a traditional sub would probably be toast after one good rain or snow storm. There are, however, a few options for those who want to keep their indoor and outdoor systems separate. The subwoofers reviewed here are built with durability in mind: they are water-proofed to survive the wear and tear of mild to moderate precipitation, and are sturdy enough to withstand wind, minor debris, and, in some cases, even occasional animal trampling. Most are designed to blend well with a garden or landscaped environment, making them a great choice for creating an atmospheric, somewhat mysterious experience for your outdoor parties and quiet time.
The Atrium Sub 10 is Polk’s subwoofer designed to match their Atrium series of outdoor speakers. They combine to make a very functional outdoor sound system, and the Sub 10 provides plenty of bass, so long as you’re not expecting earthquake-level. Read Full Review
Its not the prettiest of the bunch, but the CA-800-TSW renders Klipsch's notoriously bassy house sound with aplomb. Designed with outdoor stage performance in mind, two units will put out plenty of LF for small or medium sized shows, and a single speaker works equally well for outdoor parties or tailgating. Read Full Review
Easily the most expensive strictly outdoor subwoofer currently on the market, the Owi Inc Rock Sub is available in a variety of different shapes, all of which deliver impressive bass and will blend well in most gardens, yards, and outdoor spaces. Unlike most subwoofers, it delivers full-range response, from 30hz all the way up to 20khz, the high-end limit of human hearing, making it a good choice for those wanting a minimalistic outdoor setup. Read Full Review
OSD’s rock-like subs put out great bass, and while they’re not the most incognito of the lot mentioned here, they still blend fairly well, and put out plenty of LF. They aren’t the classiest option, but the sound is decent, and they serve their purpose well. Read Full Review
While the word subterranean might be used to joke about a subwoofer’s bass depth capabilities, this one is actually meant to be buried! The OM-SUB 200 is fully sealed and weather-proofed to the extreme, meaning you can actually dig a hole for it. Don’t put it too close to your veggies, though, because it might just shake them out of their roots! Read Full Review
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