Best Subwoofers of 2019 - Home Theater Subwoofers Tested & Ranked
We tested 11 home theater subwoofers for more than 40 hours in our AV lab by watching action movies and listening to a variety of musical selections. We recorded our impressions of each product’s ability to supplement low frequencies alongside a pair of floor-standing speakers. We believe the Yamaha SW300 is the best subwoofer for most people because it had the most consistent and accurate frequency response in our tests. The smart design features make it easy to set up in any size entertainment room.
The Yamaha SW300 performed well in every phase of our testing. This 10-inch woofer had no problem keeping up with larger and more powerful home subwoofers.
BIC America F-12
The BIC America F-12 is less than $250 and delivered impactful and startling low bass in our tests. If you have a medium- or large-size theater room, this is a great low-cost option.
Velodyne Impact 10
This isn’t the best subwoofer for large entertainment rooms, but if you have a small- or medium-size theater room, this compact subwoofer can easily fit into tight spaces.
|Product||Price||Overall Rating||Audio Performance||Power Handling||Speaker Design||Help & Support||Listening Test||Low Frequency Response (Hz)||High Frequency Response (Hz)||Adjustable Crossover Frequency (Hz)||RMS Continuous Power (watts)||Peak Power (watts)||Driver Size (inches)||Dimensions (HxWxD)||Weight (pounds)||Port Placement||Available Finishes||Speaker-Level Inputs||Speaker-Level Outputs||Speaker Warranty||Amplifier Warranty||Email Support||Phone Support||FAQs|
|Yamaha SW300||View Deal||4.5/5||10||6||8.8||9.3||A||20||160||40-140||250||Not Specified||10||14.4 x 13.7 x 16.5||40||Side-Firing||Black||✓||✓||2 Years||2 Years||✓||✓||✓|
|Polk Audio DSW Pro 660 wi||View Deal||4.5/5||8.3||10||9.5||10||B+||25||125||60-120||400||600||12||17.1 x 16.5 x 16.5||45||Down-Firing||Black||✓||✓||5 Years||3 Years||✓||✓||✓|
|BIC America F-12||View Deal||4.5/5||9.8||4||9.5||8||A-||25||200||40-180||150||475||12||17 x 14.8 x 17.3||42||Rear-Firing||Black||✓||✓||5 Years||5 Years||✓||✓||-|
|Klipsch Reference 110SW||View Deal||4/5||9||5.3||7.5||9.8||A-||27||125||40-180||200||450||10||16.3 x 14.8 x 15.8||39||Front-Firing||Black||✓||-||5 Years||2 Years||✓||✓||✓|
|Fluance DB12||View Deal||3.5/5||7||6||10||9.3||C+||36||180||40-180||240||400||12||16.7 x 15 x 16.8||37||Front-Firing||Black, Dark Walnut, Mahogany||✓||✓||2 Years||2 Years||✓||✓||✓|
|Velodyne Impact 10||View Deal||3.5/5||7.5||3.8||8.8||4.8||B-||32||140||50-200||150||250||10||13.6 x 12.6 x 14.9||30||Down-Firing||Black||✓||✓||2 Years||2 Years||✓||-||-|
|Pioneer SW-10||View Deal||3.5/5||7||5||6.3||8.8||C+||30||150||50-150||200||400||10||15.3 x 14.3 x 14.3||30||Front-Firing||Black||-||-||1 Year||1 Year||✓||✓||✓|
|JBL Arena Sub 100P||View Deal||3/5||7||2.5||6.8||9.5||B-||41||150||50-150||100||200||10||14.3 x 14.3 x 16||24||Rear-Firing||Black, White||-||-||5 Years||1 Year||✓||✓||✓|
The Yamaha SW300 is not the largest or most powerful subwoofer we tested, but it received the best scores from our diverse panel of evaluators.
The 10-inch woofer is powered by an efficient 250-watt amplifier. The speaker and amplifier pairing in this well-designed enclosure are capable of re-creating frequencies as low as 20Hz on the low end and 160Hz on the high end. The SW300 has the widest frequency response of all the subwoofers we tested, which is surprising considering it is competing with larger 12-inch woofers.
This subwoofer has some distinctive design features that make it easy to set up and adjust. This is the only subwoofer in our comparison that has a volume knob on the front panel. That makes it easy to adjust the volume of the subwoofer to match the type of content you are playing through your home audio system. It also has a side-firing port that uses Yamaha’s unique Twisted Flare design to move air more efficiently out of the enclosure. We found that the side-firing port worked well no matter where we placed it in our test lab.
The enclosure is made from MDF and wrapped with a high-gloss finish. High-gloss finishes look good when they are clean, but they aren’t forgiving with fingerprints and dust.
The BIC America F-12 was the only subwoofer we tested that made us constantly examine our decibel meter because the thundering low-frequencies seemed louder than they actually were.
We tested each subwoofer’s ability to re-create long and low sustained bass notes by playing a scene from the James Bond movie “Skyfall” that has a 15-second long low-frequency rumble. The BIC sub showed no signs of volume loss and exhibited surprisingly good frequency separation for a speaker that costs less than $250.
The sought-after BASH amplifier in this home subwoofer is rated for 150 watts of continuous power and short bursts of up to 475 watts of peak power. That power rating is below average for our test group, but the 90 dB sensitivity rating means that the speaker is very efficient at converting power to sound. We volume matched all the subwoofers we tested at 85 dB, and the BIC sub only required us to turn the gain knob up to about 50% of its total capacity to achieve that volume.
The cabinet is solidly constructed from durable materials and finished with attractive matte black laminate. The grille cloth is removeable, which allows you to display the stylish black-trimmed metallic driver if you prefer. BIC offers a five-year warranty on both the amplifier and speaker, which is the best warranty offered by active subwoofer manufacturers.
The Velodyne Impact 10 has the most compact cabinet design in our test group. That makes it easy to find an inconspicuous place to put it, even in a small entertainment room.
Subwoofers are omnidirectional, which means that you don’t necessarily have to point the speaker directly at your preferred listening position. The down-firing port is also a desirable design feature for smaller entertainment rooms, especially ones with a hard flooring surface. That port placement reflects the sound waves off the floor and helps simulate a theater-quality experience.
The amplifier in this subwoofer is rated for 150 watts of continuous power, which is below average for our test group, but plenty of power to project low frequencies at a sufficient volume for a small entertainment room. The 10-inch woofer and compact cabinet design make the Velodyne sub a good fit for someone who wants subtle bass reinforcement for listening to music or watching movies in a small- or medium-size theater room. This sub is also a good pairing with sound bars that don’t include a subwoofer.
The Impact 10 has speaker level inputs and outputs for use with older receivers that don’t have a subwoofer output. However, if you AV receiver does have a dedicated subwoofer output, you should use the LFE input on the back panel.
Best for Action Movies
The Klipsch Reference 110SW is a 10-inch subwoofer that had no problem competing with larger, more powerful subwoofers in our movie tests.
The 200-watt continuous power rating may seem modest compared to some of the other subwoofers we tested, but it had no problem filling every corner of our 400 square-foot A/V room with chest thumping low-frequencies. The all-digital amplifier offered an accurate and pleasant sound stage with no signs of clipping at well over 85 decibels.
The speaker cabinet is made from durable and acoustically inert MDF covered in a black polymer veneer that hides fingerprints and dust well. The front-firing enclosure is a good fit for tight spaces because you can place it in a corner without fear of early reflection and port noise.
The Polk Audio DSW Pro 660 is a powerful 12-inch subwoofer with a proprietary wireless adapter connection.
We tested wireless transmission to make sure there wasn’t significant volume loss or signal degradation and found no noticeable signs of either. Wireless connections present the opportunity for a wide range of placement options without the need to run an RCA cable to the far reaches of your entertainment room. The subwoofer still needs to plug into a wall socket, but the audio signal is transmitted wirelessly.
This subwoofer has a unique design that allows you to choose between a down-firing woofer and port or front-firing orientation. We prefer the front-firing option because it resulted in less early reflection and port noise. This is one of the few subwoofers we tested that comes with a remote. It has helpful controls for room optimization, phase and volume.
Why Trust Us
We spent more than 40 hours in our AV lab listening to a variety of audio material before making our final recommendations. My 15 years of experience evaluating and critically listening to speakers was balanced with the input of a panel of evaluators that range in experience from novice to audiophile. Although my final judgements carried the most weight, we felt it was important to consider the impressions of other listeners before rendering our final judgment. Most of my experience evaluating subwoofers is as a studio sound engineer, so I value accuracy and a well-balanced sound stage above loud and startling low-frequency reproduction, and our recommendations reflect that bias.
Our AV lab is set up to react to reflection and phase much like a normal living room would. Speaker manufacturers do a good job of testing their products in controlled environments, but our recommendations are based on our impressions of the products in a real-world scenario.
To gain more insight about how to best supplement the bass in your place, we talked to a handful of engineers and product specialists from Polk Audio and Definitive Technology. One of the most important tenants I took away from that conversation was the idea of properly placing two subwoofers in the room, rather than buying one powerful sub. Every room has its own unique acoustic characteristics, but the consensus among the talented group of professionals I talked to was, the more speakers you have in the room, the less likely you are to have a portion of your entertainment room that sounds bad. One of the senior vice presidents at Polk Audio told me he has five subwoofers in his entertainment room (wouldn’t that be nice?), and the only reason he doesn’t have six is his AV receiver ran out of outputs.
How We Tested
We were able to do a proper side-by-side comparison of 11 different subwoofers by connecting them all to an RCA switcher that was receiving its signal from the subwoofer output on our favorite AV receiver. That setup allowed us to quickly switch back and forth among all the subwoofers in our comparison and gave our survey panel the chance to hear the subtle differences before making their final evaluation. We realize that the RCA switcher may have slightly degraded the output signal coming from the AV receiver, but that degradation would have been consistent throughout the testing lineup.
Once we had everything wired up to do side-by-side comparisons, we connected an Apple TV and a UHD Blu-ray player to the AV receiver to stream the audio and video content. The subwoofers were accompanied by a pair of floor-standing speakers that are a familiar point of reference for us.
We narrowed our list down to the 10 best subwoofers by surveying a panel of evaluators while watching action scenes from the James Bond movie “Skyfall” and “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” The scene we chose from “Skyfall” has a sustained rumbling effect that lasts around 15 seconds, and it pushed the subwoofers’ amplifiers and speakers to their low-frequency limits. The scene from the Star Wars movie has shorter sound effects that highlight a sub’s ability to accurately re-create a wide range of frequencies and force the amplifier to recover quickly.
We did some music testing by wirelessly streaming content, via a Bluetooth connection between an iPhone and the receiver, to see how the subs reacted to a compressed music format. We also played lossless music files and recorded our impressions of each subwoofer’s ability to recreate high-definition bass content. All the movie and music content was evaluated at 85 dB, which is a typical volume for a commercial theater.
How Much Does a Home Subwoofer Cost?
Subwoofers are responsible for a very narrow range of frequencies. If there aren’t rumbling effect sequences on the TV, or low drum and bass parts in a musical selection, the subwoofer isn’t doing much. That makes the subwoofer the best component in a home audio system to save some money on without worrying about without significant loss in fidelity. We focused our comparison on subwoofers that cost less than $600 and found the best products in the $300-400 range. We don’t recommend spending more than $1,000 on a subwoofer unless it’s part of a high-end package and you have a theater room with matching acoustic treatment.
Important Specs to Consider When Buying a Home Theater Subwoofer
Peak power ratings are not a good indicator of a subwoofer’s volume capability. Instead, you will want to consult the RMS (root mean square) or continuous power ratings to gauge how loud a subwoofer can get. You can always decrease the volume of a powerful active subwoofer, but trying to push an underpowered subwoofer too hard can result in unwanted distortion.
Larger speakers move more air, which creates impactful bass notes. However, the sound waves are also larger and require more room to get moving. You should consider a driver size that matches the other speakers in your audio system and the size of your entertainment room. Bigger isn’t always better, especially in tight spaces.
A subwoofer’s frequency response is the range of tones, from the lowest low to the highest high, it can re-create. Subs are tasked with supplementing the low frequencies that the main left and right speakers can’t handle. A subwoofer that can re-create tones below 30Hz and as high as 200Hz have good dynamic range and should be able to reproduce most of the low-frequency content found in movies and music.
Wireless Subwoofers for Smart Speakers
The best home subwoofers we tested work well alongside traditional home audio systems that include AV receivers and full-range speakers. Manufacturers of whole-home smart audio systems – like Sonos, Amazon and Google – are making a strong case for replacing traditional systems with low-cost, internet-connected smart speakers. We tested 12 of the best smart speakers to see how they stacked up against soundbars and traditional home theater systems. Although smart speakers excel at web browsing, smart home control and other voice-activated conveniences, their audio quality doesn't match that of traditional home audio systems, especially for low-frequency reproduction. Here are some wireless subwoofers that help to improve the audio performance of popular smart speakers.
Amazon Echo Sub
The Echo Sub is compatible with the first- and second-generation Echo, as well as the third-generation Echo Dot, Echo Plus and Echo Show. It has a 6-inch downward-firing speaker powered by a 100-watt class-D amplifier. The design is simple and looks like a swollen Echo speaker wrapped in charcoal-colored fabric. Because it’s controlled by the Echo speakers and the Amazon Alexa app, there aren’t any physical controls for volume – only a slot for the power cable and pairing button. The Echo Sub is easy to set up with other speakers using the Alexa app and, if combined with a pair of the newest-generation Echo or Echo Plus smart speakers, creates a 2.1-channel system that rivals entry-level soundbar packages.
The Sonos One is our favorite smart speaker for audio quality and overall design. Similarly priced wireless speakers and soundbars can't match the midrange and treble clarity of the Sonos Sub, but the bass reproduction is lacking compared with that of a traditional home stereo. Luckily, the Sonos Sub is a capable, and surprisingly powerful, low-end companion for Sonos wireless speakers. The two force-canceling woofers are powered by two dedicated class-D amplifiers, and the futuristic design is available in white or black to match your home decor.