High-end power and sound fidelity. 5,000-watt peak. Enhanced cooling system for voice coil.
Excessive volume. Subwoofer speaker only; enclosure not included. Requires extra power and pro installation.
Dual speakers each provide 250 watts. Pro installation not required. Enclosure included.
Some describe sound as "boomy" rather than clear and crisp.
Sedan-friendly power (800 watts). Includes two subwoofers and an amp enclosed in 5/8-inch MDF.
Amp may overheat with max loads. Sound quality is variable.
Compact; fits most vehicles. No window rattling. Can be added to an existing system without modification.
Does not deliver the heavy, thumping power some consumers seek. Installation can be difficult.
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When you want music you can feel vibrating through your body, you want a big bass sound. It’s hard to beat that deep bass that rumbles in your chest when you’re at an arena concert. Reproducing that feeling at home is pretty tough. After all, you don’t have the massive speaker system of your favorite band.
But you don’t need those huge speakers to give a pleasurably loud sound experience in a space like your living room or car. That’s where a high quality subwoofer works great. It gives you a bass sound you can feel at home. With the right subwoofer, you may even be able to let the neighbors feel the bass of your favorite music.
At BestReviews, we pride ourselves on the detailed research we perform in many product categories, including subwoofers. Check out the product selections for our top picks, and read on for more information about subwoofers.
A subwoofer is a loudspeaker that primarily produces the lowest sound frequencies — the bass.
Other speakers in a system are more dedicated to higher frequency sounds, so the subwoofer gives you a good balance in the sound your overall speaker system creates.
The subwoofer often will fit inside an enclosure, allowing it to perform better. The term “subwoofer” refers to the round speaker inside the enclosure, or box.
As a general rule, a subwoofer with a heavier weight will outperform a subwoofer with less weight (if both are the same size). Higher quality interior components tend to weigh more.
When you’re comparing subwoofers, it pays to look closely at power rating and driver size. A subwoofer with a higher power rating but a smaller driver size could deliver the same level of maximum volume as a larger driver size with a smaller power rating. This means these two measurements work in tandem to deliver the maximum level of volume.
Let’s discuss these two important measurements in more detail.
The driver size involves measuring the size of the woofer’s diameter. It’s common in a consumer-level subwoofer to have a size of 6, 8, 10, 12, or 15 inches. Larger subwoofers, which you primarily find in professional audio settings like concerts, can be 18 or 21 inches. Larger driver sizes will have a greater size of enclosure box. And, as you’d expect, larger driver sizes typically result in a greater maximum possible volume.
Power ratings for subwoofers are measured in watts. A subwoofer with a higher maximum wattage number rating will be able to deliver more volume. It’s common to see subwoofers with wattages ranging from 100 to 4,000 watts. A larger-watt subwoofer doesn’t always have to be played at a high volume, so many people appreciate the versatility a 500- or 1,000-watt subwoofer delivers.
If you have a large room that needs a lot of sound to fill it, you will want a larger subwoofer driver size or multiple subwoofers.
Carefully consider the type of enclosure in use with your subwoofer (or subwoofers, as some units can hold two). Not only does the enclosure give you a safe means of holding the subwoofer, but the build quality of the enclosure ensures better sound quality. A well-built enclosure with tight, properly-fitting edges will direct the subwoofer’s sound properly.
Some people will choose to construct their own enclosures for the subwoofer. Others will purchase a unit that has the subwoofer already inside the enclosure. One advantage of creating your own enclosure is that you can build it to fit in a particular space. But if you aren’t comfortable with this, buying a pre-made enclosure ensures the sound quality will be great.
A bandpass subwoofer enclosure is fairly uncommon. Those who choose a bandpass box are looking to fill a particular sound need.
The bandpass seals the subwoofer in one box, and then uses a vent in an attached box around the subwoofer to really drive a huge bass sound. This type of subwoofer enclosure doesn’t work with all frequency sounds, so it has a limited usefulness as a general, all-around box. But when you want a huge bass sound, nothing beats a bandpass subwoofer enclosure. (Some models of subwoofers are not made to work in a bandpass enclosure.)
The positioning of the vent on the subwoofer doesn’t matter in determining the quality of the sound. Just don’t block the vent with a wall as you place the subwoofer in a room.
A sealed subwoofer enclosure is the most common type available. Manufacturers place the subwoofer in the middle of the front of the box, which they tightly enclose around the subwoofer.
You will need a high quality amplifier with this style of subwoofer enclosure. A sealed enclosure requires more power to operate the subwoofer than other types of enclosures.
A sealed box produces a pleasing, clean bass sound, but it will not give you the excessively booming bass that other enclosures provide. Think of the sealed enclosure for the subwoofer as a good all-around option.
A subwoofer in an enclosure will deliver the lowest bass tones.An enclosed subwoofer often will contain a polyfill material inside the box to deliver an accurate level of sound by absorbing standing waves.
A ported subwoofer enclosure produces huge bass sounds, too, although not quite what a bandpass box delivers. It includes a port (or vent) and woofer in a single box versus a sealed box, and it can create louder bass sounds with less wattage.
If you’re looking for an excessively deep bass sound, large ported boxes will outperform sealed boxes. However, the ported enclosure is not going to deliver the same clean sound of a sealed subwoofer enclosure.
People who like fast, loud styles of music, such as rock, heavy metal, or rap, will appreciate the huge, driving bass sounds they’ll receive with a ported enclosure. However, some users struggle to dial in the sound just how they want it with this type of box.
Some people prefer using two subwoofers in a large room, ensuring a balanced bass sound.
As with most pieces of technology-related hardware, the more you spend, the more features and quality you can expect in your subwoofer. Even though you can’t see it, less expensive subwoofers typically use cheaper components, which don’t deliver top-end audio quality.
You can find some very basic subwoofers in the sub-$100 price range, but they often will not deliver the type of bass quality you’re seeking. These cheaper subwoofers will be have smallish driver sizes and low maximum power settings, too.
A subwoofer with a wireless remote control unit will allow you to adjust the settings easily.
For most people looking for a subwoofer that has a nice sound, this is the type of unit they’ll want. It will deliver good quality and levels of volume. Those seeking the highest possible audio quality won’t be pleased with these subwoofers, though.
You can spend anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars for the best subwoofers on the market. These types of subwoofers will be large units that deliver plenty of power and great sound quality. If you love great audio, you’ll receive some impressive performance from the subwoofers in this price range.
Q. Why would I pick a non-round subwoofer?
A. You can pick from square, triangular, or round subwoofers. A traditional round subwoofer tends to deliver the sound more accurately than other shapes. However, some people like the way a square or triangular subwoofer looks. Some feel that a square subwoofer delivers a stronger bass sound than other shapes. And some people pick a triangle-shaped subwoofer to fit better in a particular space.
Q. What’s the difference between a passive and active subwoofer?
A. Choosing whether to use a passive or active subwoofer will depend on the type of stereo system components you own. Both types of subwoofers typically will have the subwoofer speaker inside an enclosure. But when using a passive subwoofer, you’re going to need to have an external amplifier to power the subwoofer. With an active subwoofer, the enclosure will contain both the subwoofer and the amplifier.
Q. What’s the best place to position the subwoofer in the room?
A. Most people will attempt to place the subwoofer against a wall or in the corner of a room to generate more volume. However, this type of placement could lead to a slightly less accurate sound quality. The best option is to test the subwoofer in a few different spots in your room and listen to the sound quality from your primary sitting position. You’ll probably find one position that delivers the best sound. Just make sure that you aren’t blocking any vents on the enclosure.
Q. How can I find a subwoofer with a high level of volume?
A. The type of enclosure for the subwoofer makes a big difference in its volume level. A ported box delivers a large amount of volume, especially when you want a heavy bass, versus a sealed box. Look for a unit that has a high sensitivity rating, which delivers a strong level of volume. Finally, you can boost the volume of the subwoofer by using an amplifier that has a maximum power output that matches or exceeds the recommended power range of the subwoofer.
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