Love the feeling of big bass sound thumping in your chest at a concert? You can recreate a similar experience in your own home with a high-quality subwoofer.
Subwoofers deliver a concert-like music experience that you (and your neighbors!) can actually feel -- no big amps or massive speaker systems needed. Our shopping guide covers all of the key features you'll want to consider before purchasing a subwoofer, including enclosure types, power rating, and driver size. We'll also share our recommendations for specific models, like our top choice, the fully loaded Polk Audio PSW505 12" Powered Subwoofer.
Considerations when choosing subwoofers
The most important quality in a good subwoofer is the ability to clearly and accurately produce low frequencies (bass). Driver size and power rating work in tandem to deliver that rich base sound.
Driver size is determined by the subwoofer's diameter and can measure anywhere from 6 to 15 inches. Larger driver size means more volume capacity and a cleaner sound. A smaller driver size will have greater power needs, and vice versa.
A subwoofer's power rating or wattage makes a big difference in how much volume it can deliver. Wattage can vary quite a bit, ranging from 100 watts all the way to 4,000 watts. For a high-quality, mid-range woofer, most people choose a power rating between 500 and 1,000.
After power rating and driver type, enclosure type (the box that encloses the loudspeaker) is the biggest feature that sets different subwoofers apart and can influence sound quality.
A properly constructed, closely fitting enclosure will protect your subwoofer and help direct its sound properly. While some people choose to build their own enclosures, many models come with pre-made enclosures known as sealed, ported, and bandpass.
Sealed: This common enclosure delivers a bass sound that's clean and pleasant although not quite as deeply booming as bandpass or ported enclosures. The subwoofer sits at the front of a tightly sealed box and requires lots of power and a quality amplifier.
Ported: Ported subwoofers deliver more heart-pumping base than sealed enclosures, but they sacrifice some sound clarity. In this enclosure type, the woofer and port are in the same box, which requires less power than sealed enclosures.
Bandpass: This enclosure type seals the subwoofer into a single box surrounded by another box with vents that drive maximum bass. Bandpass enclosures are fairly unusual because their frequency range is quite narrow -- but if your main goal is to recreate the deepest vibrating bass sound, a bandpass enclosure is your best option.
You can find basic subwoofer models with smaller drivers and lower power settings for less than $100. However, for larger units with ideal sound quality, plenty of power, and the most bass, you'll need to spend closer to $300, with top-of-the-line models running into the thousands.
Q. Which type of subwoofer offers the highest volume level?
A. If volume is your top priority, pay close attention to your subwoofer's enclosure type. Ported enclosures with high sensitivity ratings typically offer the best volume combined with powerful bass. If you still need more volume, you can also pair your subwoofer with an amplifier.
Q. What's the ideal location for my subwoofer in the room?
A. While placing the subwoofer against a wall or in a corner will deliver maximum volume, it may distort the sound. Experiment with different placements around the room, and make sure you don't block any of the subwoofer's vents.
Subwoofers we recommend
Best of the best: Polk Audio's PSW505 12-Inch Powered Subwoofer
Our take: Powerful, high-fidelity subwoofer with sound clarity and bass that rival more expensive competitors.
What we like: Integrates easily with other speakers and systems. Deep bass, with 460 watts for excellent sound quality and fidelity. Magnetic shield that minimizes interference from other electronics.
What we dislike: Amplifier lifespan is questionable.
Best bang for your buck: Power Acoustik's MOFO-154X 15-Inch Dual 4-Ohm VC 3,000-Watt Pro Subwoofer
Our take: Affordable option with plenty of power and a clean, deep bass sound.
What we like: 3,000 watts for maximum power. Includes dust cap ventilator to keep voice coils from overheating.
What we dislike: Best suited for expert installation. Doesn't include enclosure or amp.
Our take: User-friendly set of two small subwoofers from a trusted manufacturer.
What we like: Straightforward installation right out of the box. Includes enclosure. Two subwoofers allows for more flexibility in room placement.
What we dislike: Sound quality may not be crisp enough for some users.
Noelle Ihli is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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