It’s easy to write off subwoofers as an optional accessory that’s nice to have, but ultimately unnecessary. If you listen to music on a stereo home audio system though, adding a subwoofer will vastly improve the experience by producing more accurate low (bass) frequencies than the drivers on your speakers can. Think about going to a club or concert: why would you just want to shake and shimmy, when you can really feel the beat and get down?
If you’re looking to build a surround sound home theater system, a subwoofer is required (it’s the .1 in a 5.1 or 7.1 system). Adding a subwoofer does not mean your audio system will have too much bass; it’ll add just enough for music to sound more clear and balanced. Your favorite tunes sound more vibrant, and sound effects from games or moves feel more immersive. The best subwoofers help deliver fuller, louder sound. Still, each of the subwoofers in our guide have a volume knob on the back, which you can adjust to make your system sound right to your ears.
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What Are the Best Subwoofers?
There are many factors to consider when choosing the best subwoofer for you; below are the most important ones, which we considered while we were researching this list.
Size: We’ve chosen subwoofers with eight, ten, or 12-inch drivers (the part of a speaker that produces sound). The bigger the driver, the louder the subwoofer can get. Consider the room your audio system is in, the type of speakers you’re using, and how much bass you’d like to add before making your choice.
Power: Every one of the subwoofers in this guide is powered, which means it needs to be plugged into an outlet to work.
Wired: A lot of audio gear has gone wireless over the past decade, but standalone subwoofers still need to be plugged into your stereo receiver with a cable. If you want a wireless subwoofer, you can get one as part of an all-in-one home theater or sound bar speaker system.
Compatibility: The easiest way to connect a subwoofer to your receiver is via its LFE (Low Frequency Effects) port, which you can use if your receiver has a Sub output. If it doesn’t, consider getting one of the subwoofers in this guide that have multiple inputs and outputs.
Subwoofers all use the same types of inputs, so you can continue to use the one you get even when you eventually upgrade you stereo receiver. Here are some of the best subwoofers to consider.
1. Polk Audio PSW111
Polk’s PSW111 is a compact subwoofer with an eight-inch woofer, and it’s a great choice for adding some punch to an audio system based around bookshelf speakers.
This subwoofer uses one of Polk’s custom intelligent amplifiers, which can automatically adjust how much power it consumes based on your volume. It has speaker inputs and outputs, and a set of RCA (red and white) inputs if you want to run multiple audio components through it, but we recommend connecting it to your receiver through its LFE input.
Above its ports you’ll find two knobs: one for volume, and a low pass filter that lets you adjust which frequencies the receiver sends to the PSW111. If your speakers are bass lite, you’ll want it to handle slightly higher frequencies, if they’re only struggling with deep bass, you’ll want it turned lower. For the best results, play the same a few times while changing the low pass filter and stick with the one you like most.
If you don’t have a lot of room, and like to tinker with your audio gear until it sounds just right, Polk’s PSW111 is the right choice.
2. Yamaha SW100BL
Yamaha’s SW100BL is a mid-sized subwoofer with a 10-inch driver. It’s a great complement to a pair of larger bookshelf speakers or standard sized floor standing speakers.
The company changed the physical design of the port on its side into a “twisted flare” shape, which it says allows the SW100BL to create better sounding bass. The SW100BL’s circuitry includes Yamaha’s YST (Yamaha Audio Servo Technology II) technology and a custom ANIC (advanced negative Impedance Converter), which Yamaha says provides the driver with a constant current of electricity, and optimizes its sound.
On the back you’ll find a single subwoofer input and a volume knob. This is bare bones compared to some subwoofers in our guide, but you can always make adjustments to the amount of bass you want from your system by changing your receivers EQ (equalizer). Yamaha is betting the technology inside its subwoofer will provide solid bass without needing any tweaks.
If you want a technically-advanced subwoofer in a minimalist package, Yamaha’s SW100BL deserves your attention.
3. Klipsch R-120SW
Klipsch’s R-120SW is a large subwoofer with a 12-inch driver. It’s a great choice if you’re creating a 5.1 home theater speaker system, or want a lot of bass in your stereo audio system.
The R-120SW is a component from Klipsch’s reference line of speakers, so it includes a lot design choices that improve the way it sounds. The cone inside its driver is made of copper and injection-molded, which the company says keeps it rigid to reduce distortion. Its all-digital amplifier is efficient at managing power, and its driver was positioned to create deep bass wherever it’s placed.
This subwoofer has a pair of RCA inputs (again, we recommend connecting it to your stereo receiver via the jack marked LFE) along with volume and Low Pass Filter knobs. When you have a subwoofer this large and powerful, it’s good to have the option to adjust its frequencies to avoid overwhelming your system. That’s far less likely to happen in a surround sound setup, but the option is still welcome.
If your intention is to build a high-end home theater system piece by piece, Klipsch’s R-120SW is a great pick. You’ll may need to make a little space for it, but the improvement it’ll make to your system is worth it.
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