A powered subwoofer is one of the best ways to beef up the sound quality of your home entertainment center. A packaged home theater system usually comes with a passive subwoofer, a speaker that gets its power from the central amplifier. But a powered subwoofer has its own built-in amplifier that delivers more power to the woofer, resulting in deeper bass and more volume.
Powered subwoofers come in many different sizes, anywhere from 8-inch subs all the way up to 15 inches. A 15-inch woofer can oversaturate your sound with low-end and an 8-inch woofer won’t have enough. The most practical subwoofer sizes for your home entertainment center are 10-inch and 12-inch. These two sizes can easily fit under your end table or next to your entertainment center without looking bulky or out of place. They also deliver the perfect amount of bass for both music and movies, making them the most versatile out of the subwoofer sizes.
As you begin to build your home theater, our top-ranked subwoofers are a great place to start – the BIC Acoustech PL-200, BIC America F-12 and Premier Acoustic PA-120. These subwoofer speakers feature great frequency response and enough power to drive the bass throughout your home entertainment room. You can also check out our articles on home subwoofers to learn more about these ground-pounding speakers.
When choosing a powered subwoofer for your home sound system, you want to get the best value in terms of features and sound quality for the best price. We reviewed entry-level subs that deliver big sounds with small price tags. Here are the categories we considered when evaluating subwoofer speakers:
It's important to understand the technical aspects of each home theater subwoofer. You should look at frequency response, crossover frequency and power output to know which unit is right for you. In smaller spaces, you won't need a speaker with large power and volume settings. Look for a subwoofer with 225-watts of RMS continuous power which should be more than enough to drive the bass throughout your home entertainment center.
All the home subwoofers we reviewed have great sound quality, so in deciding which is best for your needs, consider what you will be using the speaker for. A speaker that reaches below 30Hz at its low frequency is typically great for movies and games, as it will be able to hit the low-frequency effects. For music, bass players usually stay in the 40-60Hz range, but some musicians will take their bass guitars into the higher frequencies. If you're an audiophile, you'll want a sub that can reach above 150Hz. The best subwoofers deliver a full range of low frequencies that make music and movie soundtracks powerful and precise.
When evaluating design, you should take into account the available finishes and the aesthetics of the cabinet. More than that, though, you want a low-frequency speaker that can handle the sounds you expect it to produce. A sturdy build will help protect the amplifier, and an efficient amp will deliver big sounds without getting too hot. Next, look at the size and placement of the woofer. Large woofers move more air, creating a thumping effect, but there's more vibration space, so the sounds are less crisp. Finally, a sub's port placement helps determine how physical the device is. Ports help to move air and make the speaker more efficient, and as an added bonus, they offer another source for chest-pounding sound.
When looking for a subwoofer, the more input and output options available, the better. You want your sound system to take both RCA and sub in/LFE inputs so you can connect to any audio/video receiver. Be sure to find a sub that's also ready to connect to devices that will be released in the near future. As you build your home theater, you may decide you want more than one sub, or you might need your sub's amp to power other speakers. Speaker-level outputs allow for more customization. In addition to connectivity, you'll want a subwoofer that offers plenty of user control. This control comes from adjustable volume and crossover, as well as phase switching. Also look for signal-sensing, automatic on/off controls.
Help & Support
Audio equipment is a big investment that should be covered by an extensive warranty to protect you against manufacturer's defects. You'll also want to make sure the manufacturer offers sufficient support resources. Look for available online manuals, FAQs and user forums. The best companies offer several methods for contacting technical support, such as email, telephone and live chat support.
The best home subwoofers can turn your living room into a concert hall or movie theater. We'll help you decide which sub offers the right combination of design and performance for your living space.