Most modern movie soundtracks and music recordings have at least one thing in common: abundant bass. Explosions, rockets blasting off, deep synthesizer notes, and many other elements consist of copious low frequencies that most speakers simply cannot reproduce. To experience the full effect of these subterranean sounds, you need a subwoofer. To help you select a good one, we present a list of the best subwoofers we’ve reviewed during 2017.
A subwoofer must be evaluated in the context of a complete speaker system—it’s impossible to judge a sub’s performance all by itself. In addition to the quality of its low-frequency reproduction, the best subwoofers also integrate seamlessly with the main speakers. In some of the reviews linked below, the sub was the main focus, while in other cases, it was part of an entire speaker system being evaluated as a whole.
If your bass is anemic, it’s time to add a high-quality sub to your rig. Here’s a list of the best subwoofers we’ve reviewed, listed from least to most expensive. Any of them is sure to rock your world!
Emotiva BasX S12 ($399)
The Emotiva BasX S12 is a fitting place to start exploring what the entry-level BasX line has to offer AV enthusiasts. It’s a no-nonsense performer that delivers exactly what you’d expect from a quality 12″ subwoofer, and at a price that’s easy to swallow. The BasX S12 deserves the consideration of anyone seeking a $400 sub that does justice to both movies and music. It’s a rock-solid performer from a company dedicated to making high-fidelity audio affordable.
ELAC SW12EQ ($700)
The ELAC S12EQ is truly awesome. It takes a laborious task—obtaining flat bass response at the listening position—and makes it as easy as pushing a few buttons on a smartphone or tablet. In the world of subwoofers, that’s a huge deal. And the S12EQ’s performance is so good, it would be a great deal even if it was a “dumb” subwoofer that didn’t offer EQ. Add the value offered by its app-controlled DSP functionality, and I can’t think of another sub-$1000 subwoofer that offers as great an experience right out of the box. There are other subs that offer some form of automated calibration, but they typically cost a lot more and require a dedicated, corded microphone.
ELAC’s Debut S12EQ is an exciting new option for anyone seeking a full-featured bass-making machine that doesn’t break the bank. It’s might not thrill folks seeking infrasonic capabilities, but its bass reproduction within the audible spectrum is both powerful and polished.
Power Sound Audio 15V ($950)
Based on what I heard and measured, the 15V is arguably the best-performing sub-$1000 subwoofer I have reviewed. AV enthusiasts concerned with performance will find much to love in a 2.1 system featuring the 15V sub and MT-110 speakers. Music lovers are sure to be thrilled with the performance, you will not find a pair of tower speakers that have similar capabilities at anywhere near this price point.
If you care about music, seek extreme performance, and are concerned about getting maximum bang for your buck from a 2.1 speaker system, then you need to check out Power Sound Audio. Refreshingly, the company publishes very accurate specs, so you can make purchase decisions based on numbers instead of purple prose. Oh, and did I mention it’s made in the USA by an independent company? What more do you want—great performance, fair price, honest specs, and it’s made in America by entrepreneurs.
PSB SubSeries 450 ($1499)
The PSB SubSeries 450 offers extension and dynamics often associated with larger, high-performance subs. If you’re seeking for a sub that looks good, transforms your stereo or surround speakers into a true full-range system that can hit 20 Hz with authority, and disappears doing it, then consider the SubSeries 450. It offers finesse to go with the power it possesses.
SVS PB16-Ultra ($2500)
For bass addicts, the SVS PB16-Ultra can handle the most demanding content. It’s the most powerful sub SVS makes, and the company has described it as the most important product introduction in its history. Based on the accepted metric of CEA-2010 measurements, it offers output that places it in the top tier of single-driver subs. The advances SVS has made in terms of usability—particularly the app and the front-panel controls—complement the improved performance of this beast. The ease and flexibility with which you can configure and program it to do your bidding using an app is a significant leap forward for SVS.
If your wallet and your listening room are both big enough to accommodate the PB16-Ultra, it’s worth serious consideration. The PB16-Ultra is one of the best-performing, highest-impact subs I’ve heard, and it’s a worthy flagship for a company that made its name building awesome subwoofers and speakers at a reasonable cost.