Subwoofers are an underappreciated component in audio systems. But the are also the key to unlocking a system's full potential. Few speaker systems are truly full-range, and even those that are could benefit from decoupling the deep bass reproducing drivers from the rest of the speaker. And for home theater, choosing the best subwoofer you can accommodate is a must!

Whether it's viewed through measurements or subjective empirical experience, the best subwoofers prove their worth time and again by playing deeper, hitting harder, and allowing for more flexibility in conquering the challenges involved with reproducing deep bass.



Subwoofer Types: Sealed vs. Ported vs. Passive Radiator

Subwoofers come in all different shapes and sizes. Ported subs tend to be larger but they feature a tuned port that increases their efficiency. If you seek maximum bang for your buck and high impact in a home theater application, you should probably check out ported designs. The primary limitation is that output drops dramatically below the "port tune" frequency. Also bad ported designs can suffer from "chuffing" which is a distorted sound caused by air moving too quickly through the port.Some ported subwoofers allow you to plug the ports, effectively converting them into a sealed design.Sealed subwoofers tend to be more compact. You might not get as many dB per $ as ported, but sealed designs behave very predictably.and output drops off much more gradually in the lowest frequencies, versus ported subs. Some listeners prefer sealed subwoofers for music.

Passive radiators looks like the cone drivers found in subs but instead of being connected to a motor, they move freely. When the sub is playing, they move in unison with the active driver due to the pressure changes in the otherwise sealed box. Adding weight to the passive radiator allows subwoofer designers to "tune" them, so in practice they perform a similar task to a port. The main difference is they do not suffer from chuffing and can be tuned lower while fitting in a smaller enclosure, but this comes at the cost of some efficiency versus ported subs.



Subwoofers are a Must-Have for Home Theater

Your AV receiver will thank you for adding a sub. Bass eats up amplifier power and when you add one or more subs and use bass management, you relieve the AVR of having to move all that air. Instead, the amplifiers built into active subs take care of that business, contributing hundreds, and sometimes thousands of watts of power to the overall system. (most consumer subs are active i.e. self-powered).

With subs, bigger usually is better in the sense that physics demands a large sub if you want to play really low. "There is no replacement for displacement" is an axiomatic expression when it comes to subwoofera and deep bass! But it is also true that you can achieve high displacement by utilizing multiple subwoofers. And when you have multiple subs, you can distribute them optimally throughout the room in, order to reduce the peaks and dips in response that are caused by room interactions. Alternately, you can buy one monster sub that, once optimized for your listening position, allows you to split atoms and create portals to new dimensions... Or at least enjoy the infrasonic sounds found in some music genres as well as some movies.

Not everyone needs a monster sub, or multiple subs—that tends to be for home theater. If you're listening to music at moderate levels, a more modest subwoofer will typically cover the frequency range found in most music recordings. However if you do not have an AV receiver that includes room correction, you will probably want to look for a subwoofer that has some sort of built in EQ and other DSP functions.




1. Editor's Pick: SVS PB-1000


The SVS PB-1000 plays deep. Indeed, it offers extension below the limits of human hearing, digging down as low as 19Hz. The SVS PB-1000 is a 10" front-firing subwoofer that achieves such low frequencies thanks to its powerful motor with dual high-grade ferrite magnets and FEA-optimized components. The subwoofer operates with an advanced DSP engine that allows for fine tuning, easy set-up, and integration into any home theater or stereo system.





2. SVS PB-3000


If the SVS PB-1000 isn't enough for your bass need, check out the SVS PB-3000. The SVS PB-3000 features a 13" driver in the first ever dual-port SVS cabinet design. This leads to distortionless output of the deepest notes at high output levels. The SVS PB-3000 features two port tuning modes, each with individual response curves—choose either sealed or standard mode. Rated peak output is a healthy 2,500 watts of power.

The SVS PB-3000 also features an advanced DSP to maintain accuracy and achieve pristine sound quality through advanced in-room tuning with optimized frequency response curves. Better yet, the subwoofer can be controlled and modifies through the SVS App.





3. Bic Acoustech PL-200 II


The Bic Acoustech PL-200 II is a front-firing long-throw 12" subwoofer with dual flared front ports, and is powered by a BASH amplifier capable of delivering up to 1000-watts dynamic peak output. The Bic Acoustech PL-200 II is capable of smoothly reaching down to 20Hz with "virtually flat" response, thanks to its front ports.





4. Polk HTS 12


The Polk HTS 12 features a long-throw Dynamic Balance 12" driver complimented by Polk's Power Port technology. The technology smooths out airflow from the sub, delivering powerful bass to your listening area for dee impact. The design minimizes turbulence, thus reducing port noise. The Polk HTS 12 is a front-firing subwoofer with a premium look, despite the affordable price. The subwoofer features built-in controls for variable volume, low pass filter, and phase, and can be set to auto power on or off depending on if it's getting any signal.





5. Monolith 15 Inch Powered Subwoofer


The Monoprice Monolith 15 is THX Ultra Certified, meaning can reach the high volumes necessary to achieve THX Reference Level without creating audible distortion or artifacts. The Monoprice Monolith 15 features a 15” driver and three tuned ports that can be plugged with foam, allowing you to customize your bass profile. With its DSP engine and 1000W RMS amplifier, it’s hard to argue that the Monoprice Monolith 15 is anything but a great deal on a hugely capable subwoofer.






6. ELAC Debut 2.0 SUB3030



The ELAC Debut 2.0 SUB3030 features a 12" driver connected to an amp that maxes out around 1,000 watts of power. Bass extension is enhanced through the use of a 12" passive radiator. This subwoofer has been engineered and built to deliver huge performance at an affordable price, and features the SUB Control 2.0 mobile app for sound customization. Combined with its built-in DSP, the ELAC Debut 2.0 SUB3030 is an excellent addition to any home theater or music listening setup.





7. Klipsch R-115SW


The Klipsch R-115SW is a front-firing 15" subwoofer that delivers a whopping 800W of power. Combined with its exclusive internal flare technology that minimizes the amount of distortion and maximizes dispersion, the R-115SW is sure to bring bass to your entire neighborhood! The Klipsch R-115SW features both a low pass crossover and phase control, to best match its sound to the rest of your home setup.

As an added bonus, the subwoofer also comes with the WA-2 wireless subwoofer kit, allowing for highly flexible room placement options.





8. MartinLogan Dynamo 1600


The MartinLogan Dynamo 1600X employs a 15" driver. It can easily convert from down-firing to front-firing orientation, it's your choice. Its sealed, non-resonant cabinet and Anthem Room Correction make for an incredible, one-of-a-kind listening experience tailored to your space. A wide array of inputs like XLR, RCA, and even speaker level inputs take your connectivity options to the next level.

MartinLogan's Dynamo 1600X features a digital control system via a smartphone app and is capable of working with the SWT-X Wireless Receiver & Transmitter, just in case you needed the ability to tweak even more settings.








9. PSB SubSeries 350


The PSB SubSeries 350 is a 12" subwoofer that employs "smart bass" technology that selectively limits the woofer and amplifier output so they won't be overdriven with any input level. In conjunction with being labeled "smart", the PSB SubSeries 350 also employs a MOSFET amplifier, it's highly efficient and uses less energy to produce more power with reduced heat, while bringing standby power draw to an industry low. While the PSB SubSeries 350 sounds great and packs a punch, its real winning feature is how well it maintains its poise under pressure.




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