As follows is my current list judged from both experience and being an active participant/reader on this forum. Of course there are alternates to each of these that I'd also recommend in a particular pricepoint - in some cases the winner could even be decided by a coin flip because the subs are so close in performance, but generally speaking these would be my 'go to' recommendation at a given pricepoint for the typical situation.
Subs in red designate models I've heard in person.
Pricepoint / Recommendation
$100 - Polk Audio PSW10
$200 - BIC F12
$300 - BIC PL-200
$400 - PA-150
$500 - Rythmik's intro subs
$600 - Outlaw's upper tier subs
$700 - N/A
$800 - N/A
$1,000- HSU VTF-15H MK2 (I've only experienced the original - but MK2 is a very worthy improvement by the specs)
$1,333 - Rythmik FV15 HP
- top shelf sound quality --- the only thing you get above this pricepoint is additional SPL and matching sound quality in my opinion. This is the first 'level' sub of my list that I could say that with subjectively. With the higher priced subs -- you are getting that same sound quality with more SPL capability.
$1,666 - N/A
$2,000 - JTR Captivator (passive) + iNuke DSP 3000 amp
- Tremendous output, lots of air movement. Fantastic sound quality, A top shelf sub all around. Usually placed first or second at every subwoofer shootout it has participated in.
$2,500 - Seaton Submersive HP
- More output than Rythmik FV15HP - same sound quality! Wins the majority of subwoofer events it participates in. Perhaps one of the, if not the, defining Internet Direct subwoofer.
$3,000 - JTR Orbit Shifter
- Prodigious output. If a 30 foot robot was stomping through your neighborhood it likely wouldn't have the impact the Orbit Shifter can muster. A pair of these subwoofers can actually physically break electronics with their acoustic energy. A pair in the 2012 blind meet broke my projector convergence, my PC's bluray drive, my HD-DVD drive, cracked my kitchen floor grout (above my theater room) and loosed my drywall. Crank these beasts to max at your own peril.
Price no object? - to my experience there isn't much value in spending more than $3000 on a subwoofer...I've not yet heard a more impressive SPL demo than a pair of Orbit Shifters at full tilt. They made the hair all over you body stand on end, the jelly in your eyes shake, they very nearly felt as though they could control your breathing. We are talking competition car audio levels -- in your HOUSE. Yes, the kind of SPL levels that quicken your heartrate to dangerous levels and invoke the fight or flight reflex.
As an alternative; you sure can do a lot these days with DIY these days if you can assemble a flat pack.
$200 range - Stereo Integrity 18 HT
$250 range - Dayton Audio Ultimax 18"
$500 range - iST Ltd. UXL-18"
$1000 range - LMS 5400 18" or Stereo Integrity HS 24"
Amps like the iNuke DSP 1000, 3000, 6000 are stellar inexpensive options with built in fully featured digital signal processing including parametric EQs, dynamic EQs, voltage limiting, HPF and LPF functions.
Frequency response tools like REW or Omnimic allow for proper integration and setup with both DIY and Internet Direct subwoofer purchase/integration.
If you want to take the time to, buy/learn the measuring tools, and learn how to set these up, you can make a comparable system for 1/2 the cost of ID with AIY. If you don't buy the measuring tools and learn how to implement PEQs as appropriate for your build in your room - you might as well buy ID - you'll be more satisfied with that experience.
I currently have eight assemble it yourself, (AIY) subwoofers. I used the Dayton Audio UM18-22 18" driver with cabinets built by a shop in Chicago. I'm using Behringer iNuke DSP 6000 amps to power the subs. My project is chronicled here:
Bought four sealed 18" cabinets on a wild hare - Direct me to a driver setup at least competitive or superior to JTR Captivators...
You can see a frequency response capture of my system below. I'm reasonably flat to 7hz with my AIY system.
As to my subwoofer experience:
• Eight, Ultimax UM18-22 subwoofers in 21" cubed wooden veneer boxes. This is the best subwoofer system I've owned - when taken as a whole system. Individually just a sealed 18" subwoofer is not terribly exciting. When eight of them are combined, and a couple are nearfield, they deliver a remarkable presentation. Link to build thread: Bought four sealed 18" cabinets on a wild hare - Direct me to a driver setup at least competitive or superior to JTR Captivators...
• Jamo 650 sub - (purchased 2012) discontinued price of $250
. This Jamo is excellent for a smaller room full audible bandwith sub system (flat down to 20hz in room)
• Pioneer SW-8 = junk but still currently own for secondary system (purchased in 2012)
• Captivator Pro pair (purchased mid 2011 -sold in 2014) Love - all around my favorite single sub I've encountered when considering value to performance. A pair for 3k and 99.9% of the audio enthusiasts group is wholly satisfied)
• SVS PB13 Ultra pair (purchased mid 2011) (sold 2011 - I didn't like them for music, but they did great in home theater!)
• Yamaha CW218V (purchased mid 2011) (sold 2011 - love for music - doesn't do much for home theater)
• Jamo D7sub pair (purchased mid 2011) (sold 2012 - liked them quite a bit for $500 price - were fantastic for music with the right settings - THX Ultra II certified - overpriced MSRP - not very capable of high SPL)
• Infinity HPS-1000 pair (purchased 2003) (very nice subs IMO, the best Infinity has ever made according to my local authorized repair shop, one 15" driver with two passive 15" radiators and a 1000 watt amp - sold 2014)
• DIY subwoofer ottoman with four 15" MA car audio subwoofers (built in 2002 - sold 2012)
• JBL PSW-D115 - 15" home theater sub (purchased 1999 - sold?)
• AIWA HTIB sub = junk (bought in 1997 - sold 1999)
• Multiple iterations of car audio subs, some I used in theater (most of my car audio stuff was in my younger days - high school/collge -- my favorite car audio drivers remain the Infinity Kappa Perfect drivers)
Subwoofers I've heard since Jan 2011.
BIC America Formula F12 at KCNitro07's house and my place
BIC America V1220 pair at KCNitro077's house and my place
Chase Home Theater CS 18.1 pair at my place and at husker omaha's meet
Chase Home Theater SS 18.2 at huskeromaha's meet
Chase Home Theater VS 18.1 pair at huskeromaha's meet
Crystal Acoustic TX-12 Sub at my place
Danley Sound Labs DTS-10 + JTR Growler at huskeromaha's meet, at nebrunner's house on Omaha home theater tour, and a pair of DTS-10s at Gorilla83's 2014 HT Heavy Hitters meet
Definitive Technology Supercube at Gorilla83's meet
DIY Dayton Audio 15" pair at ecrabb's house, and Gorilla83's meet
DIY Dayton Audio Titanik MK3 pair in 3.5 cubic foot sealed enclosures at KCNitro07's house
DIY Dayton Audio RSS460HO-4 dual opposed box / Cerwin Vega CV-5000 watt amp at carp's house and a pair of dual opposed at mrsmither's house.
DIY Dual Cinema F-20 (lilmike designed) at huskeromaha's meet
DIY Dual gjallarhorn (ricci designed) at d_c's house.
DIY Dual othorns (ricci designed) at d_c's house, and at the Swope Park Audio G2G.
DIY Infinite Baffle System with eight 15" AE subwoofers at desertdomes on Omaha home theater tour
DIY LMS-5400 pair in sealed 4.5 cubic foot enclosures / EP4000 at TJhub's house, and another pair in 3.5 cubic foot enclosures / Inuke DSP 6000 at Gorilla83's meet, and another pair in 21" cubed boxes at my house and KCNitro's house.
DIY Rythmik 15" at huskeromaha's meet
DIY Eight 18" SI HT drivers in sealed DIY Sound Group boxes / Cerwin Vega CV-5000 watt amp at carp's house, four at my house / Crown XLS-5000, four at scrappydues house / Inuke DSP 6000, four at stitch1's house, and yes the ultimate sixteen SI HT 18" at popalock's house / two LG clone amps, and two in ported enclosures at mikemurphy21's house /inuke DSP 6000.
DIY THT at Braushs' house
DIY THT LP at KC Speaker Meet in the park 2013
DIY Two Anarchy tapped horns at scrappydue's house
DIY X48 15" Pro Audio sub at the KC Speaker Meet in the park 2013
DIY Four UXL18's powered by a Lab Gruppen Clone amp at HuskerOmaha's on the Omaha home theater tour
DIY Eight 18" UM18-22 in 21" cubed boxes, powered by iNuke DSP 6000s, at my house (my current setup)
DIY SI HS24 in a sealed box at d_c's house, and later a dual opposed box at d_c's house
DIY 18" Acoustic Elegance PB18H+ drivers as midbass modules at dlbeck's
DIY three Infinity Kappa Perfect 10.1 subs at my house / iNuke DSP 3000.
DIY four 15" MA Audio subwoofers built into an ottoman at my house
Elemental Designs A7s-450 18" at huskeromaha's meet
Epik Empire (heard four in the same room at counsil's place) and a single at my place, heard a pair at Gorilla83's meet, and a single at thebean's house
HSU ULS15 at Gorilla83 meet
HSU VTF-3 HO at andersa's on Omaha home theater tour
HSU VTF-15H pair at Luke Kamps house and the same pair at my place, and a single at Jeahrens's house
Infinity HPS-1000 pair at my place
Infinity IL100S sub at ignoring my wife's house
Jamo D7sub pair at my place and Luke Kamps place
Jamo Sub 650 at my place, at my borther's place, and a pair at tatersly's place
Jenson MS500 at my place
JTR Speakers Dual Captivator 4000 passive at carps house, my house, Gorilla83's meet, HuskerOmaha Meet, bluesprings1's house,
JTR Speakers Dual Captivator 1400 at stoked21's house.
JTR Speakers Growler at HuskerOmaha's meet and at nebrunner's house on Omaha Home Theater tour
JTR Speakers Dual Orbit Shifters at my house, and a single at carps house, a single at jedimastergrant's house
JTR Speakers Orbit Shifter Pro at cvinfg's house.
JTR Speakers Dual S1 at my place
JTR Speakers Dual S2 at dlbeck's house
Klipsch RW-12D sub pair at my place, and my brother's place, and a single at my uncle's house
Klipsch Palladium p-312 - at scrappydue's place.
MFW-15 dual opposed DIY setup x 4 - (eight drivers) at huskeromaha's meet, and Omaha home tour at W00lly's house.
Motor City Custom Audio Dual MFW-15 Turbos at huskeromaha's meet
Onkyo THX HTIB sub at Luke Kamps house
Polk PSW10 at a non avsforum friend's house
Polk PSW505 at Gorilla83's place
Procella P18 and P10 at Randy Bessigner's Place
PSA XS15 at Gorilla83's meet
Rythmik E15 at Gorilla83's meet
Rythmik FV15HP at Gorilla83's meet
Seaton Sound Submersive HP heard five units in the same room at counsil's place, duals at my place, duals at carps place, triples at Gorilla83's meet, and a single at huskeromaha's meet.
Seaton Sound F2 at Gorilla83's meet
SVS 20-39 PCI at Gorill83's meet, and one at ZLTFUL's house.
SVS PC12-NSD at ZLTFUL's house
SVS PB12+ at my place
SVS PB12+/2 at cvinfg's place
SVS PB13 Ultra pair at my place, a pair at scrappydues place, and a single at thebean's house, and a single at Draden1's house.
Yamaha 10" hometheater subwoofer at tatersly's house
Yamaha CW218V (dual 18" pro audio subs) at my place
~ and probably more I'm forgetting ATM.
and not so recently - - - scads of car audio subs --- up to some of the best types of subs like JL w7's and competition Orion drivers -- because I and many of my friends were into car audio.
My experience with subs that I would subjectively define as being able to pressurize a room?
My thoughts on the importance of subsonic ultra low frequencies?
Advice ; goal is 8-10hz flat at -15 reference
My current frequency response with eight sealed Dayton Audio UM18-22 subwoofers (unsmoothed)
My former frequency response with the pair of ported JTR Captivators (2011 - 20hz tune models). (unsmoothed)
Since January 2011, I've attended (or hosted) the following full scale AVSforum audio meets.
2011 KC Meet (subwoofers) - Post 9
2011 Omaha Meet (subwoofers) - Post 5
2012 KC Blind Meet (subwoofers)
2012 Wisconsin Meet (speakers) - Post 994
2012 Iowa Home Theater Tour (home theaters)
2012 KC Blind Meet (speakers)
2012 PA Meet (subwoofers and speakers)
- Post 9
2012 Omaha Home Theater Tour (home theaters)
- Post 188
2012 KC Speaker Meet in the Park (speakers)
2013 Iowa Blind Meet (speakers)
- post 3480 (IA Meet?
2013 Central Iowa Spring G2G (speakers)
2014 PA Gorilla83 HT Heavy Hitters Loudspeaker Blind meet (speakers)
2014 Grand Opening of dlbeck's The Savoy Theater
2014 Auto Room EQ Processor Blind comparison (Audyssey, MCACC, DIRAC, YPAO, Trinnov, ARC, AccuEQ)
2015 Central Iowa HT Crawl - Post 210 and 213
2015 Crazy KC Home Theater Crawl - post 679
2017 KC Home Theater Crawl - February 2017 - Kansas City Home Theater Crawl
And some smaller events:
A day split between a pair of JTR Captivators and a pair of Seaton Submersives in June of 2012 at carp's place
A brief evening spent comparing a pair of Jamo Sub 650s, a pair of Klipsch RW-12Ds, and a pair of Dayton Titanik MK3 subwoofers in August of 2012 at my brother's place
A afternoon split between a pair of JTR Noesis 212HT and a pair of JTR Noesis 228HT in February 2013 at carp's place
A short face off between a pair of JTR 228HTs and a pair of Tekton Pendragons at thebean's home
A short day of testing between my JTR Captivator pair and a quad set of Stereo Integrity 18" sealed cabs.
A comparison of three PA speakers Mackie C200, and C300Z, and Behringer 215XL, and the SVS SCS01
A blind comparison of JBL LSR305, QSC K10, Mackie C200 and DIYSG Volt 10 - Blind Audition - JBL LSR 305 vs. Mackie C200 vs. QSC K10 vs. DIYSG Volt 8
I've heard lots of speakers, everything from pairs of speakers costing upwards of $20k for a set, to the cheaper Internet Direct huckleberries touted heavily on this forum. Some of my favorites were not the ones that were most expensive necessarily. Read the links above to see my subjective evaluations on a lot of the various gear heard.