Are you in the market for a subwoofer? Maybe it’s your first time shopping for one or you need to replace your current device.
Choosing the best subwoofer is critical whether you are watching movies, gaming or listening to music. When you buy the right product, it can enhance your listening experience.
If you want to add more bass to your home theater system or increase the depth of the lows while listening to music, we’ve identified the most important factors you should evaluate as you choose a subwoofer.
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What to Consider When Buying a Subwoofer
As you shop for the best subwoofer, it’s essential to do your research in order to choose the right product for your home. But what specs should you analyze?
In alphabetical order, these are some of the most important factors you should keep in mind as you research subwoofers.
Related Post: 10 Best Subwoofers For A Home Theater
1. EQ and Room Calibration
The subwoofer’s EQ (or equalizer) helps you improve the sound quality of your subwoofer. With the EQ, you can adjust bass levels and the overall sound to your liking. This can create a customized sound profile tailor-made to your unique preferences.
However, adjusting the EQ is just one part of the process. You’ll also need to calibrate your subwoofer for the room it’s sitting in. While calibrating a subwoofer can take time, it’s worth the process.
When you are choosing a subwoofer, research the technology in place for EQ and room calibration.
Get answers to questions like:
- Is there a built-in EQ?
- Is the EQ controlled through an app?
- Does the subwoofer provide self-calibration?
Ideally, you’ll want to understand how to make the adjustments before you purchase your subwoofer. Ask questions at your local electronic retailer so that you won’t be flying blind once you get home.
By taking the time to calibrate your system properly and adjusting your EQ, you’ll be able to enjoy music and movies the way they were meant to be heard.
You’ll want to make sure the subwoofer has EQ and calibration controls. Higher-end models usually include this technology. Even though you’ll pay more, you’ll have better overall sound.
2. Frequency Range
When you are listening to audio, including music and dialogue, a subwoofer adds an extra dimension to what you hear. It reproduces low-frequency bass tones to round out a sonic profile.
For a typical subwoofer, you can expect a range of 20Hz to 200Hz. Your ears can detect frequencies down to 20Hz.
The lower the frequency, the deeper the sound. If exceptional bass is your goal, go for the lower frequency options, ranging from 20Hz to 35Hz.
However, if you want to hear the entire register of low frequencies and not just bass, aim for a subwoofer range of 40Hz to 60Hz.
3. Front-Firing or Down-Firing
Front-firing subwoofers deliver sound straight ahead to the walls from one side of the speaker. Down-firing models shoot sound to the bottom of the speaker toward the floor.
While each has its pros and cons, they both deliver proper bass that will take your listening experience to the next level.
- Have a smaller form factor that is ideal for compact spaces
- Are typically less expensive than down-firing models
- Offer an airborne bass experience
- Can be difficult to place in a room for the best bass response
- Tend to have a larger footprint and are ideal for big rooms
- Can be the same price or more expensive than front-firing subs
- Deliver deep vibrations you can feel from the ground up
- Are typically easier to place in a room for the best bass response
Ultimately, the right choice for you will depend on your specific needs and preferences. Visiting an electronics store to request a demonstration can help you make a decision.
4. Hi-Fi or Home Theater
How will you use your new subwoofer? Whether stationary or mobile, the guiding factor is how you will use it.
Do you want to listen to music? If so, choose a subwoofer designed for Hi-Fi systems.
Hi-Fi subwoofers are smaller and create less bass. Nevertheless, they offer excellent sound quality designed for musical enjoyment.
Do you want to feel like you’re in a cinema? Purchasing a subwoofer designed for home theater systems would be the best option for you.
These subwoofers tend to be larger than Hi-Fi subwoofers and produce thundering bass. This makes a difference when you are watching action movies. They are also ideal for action and adventure games.
The right subwoofer offers a delicate balance between power and accuracy. If you can, find an electronics store that allows you to listen to both so that you can hear the sonic nuances between them.
5. Ported or Sealed
Subwoofers have two main types, including ported and sealed. Opinions vary about which design is best.
The ported design is freer with its bass response. It’s open and powerful, which is ideal if you really want to feel the bass in music, games or high-action movies.
However, they are large and are hard to hide in a room if you prefer a minimalist look.
Sealed subwoofers are smaller. They also require less power.
If powerful bass is your goal, go with a ported model. Otherwise, if you value the overall sound with good but not overpowering lows, stick with a sealed sub.
Ported subwoofers are perfect for home theater systems, while sealed subs flow nicely with Hi-Fi systems.
Your subwoofer is part of a larger sound system that is made up of multiple speakers and an amplifier. When configuring your sound system, you can choose a passive or active setup.
Active subs have built-in amplifiers and plug directly into a power outlet. They are more powerful in bass response and often require more power usage.
Passive subs plug into an external amplifier to feed it power.
Subwoofer power usage ranges between 150 watts to 1000 watts. A subwoofer with a higher power output reproduces low frequencies more accurately than a lower-powered subwoofer.
Look for a model that has a rating of at least 300 watts. The more bass you want to feel, the more wattage you need.
A quality subwoofer will enhance your listening experience, but it can be costly.
There are many instances in which you would benefit from a subwoofer. Each will command a different price point. For example, a subwoofer for a car will be cheaper than one for a high-end home audio or theater system.
That said, subwoofers range in price from around $100 to $1,000 or more. As with most products, remember that you get what you pay for.
Subwoofers that are $100 or less will not produce the rich, all-encompassing bass you desire. To get a decent bass response, expect to spend at least $150 to start.
As a rule of thumb, large feature-rich subwoofers will cost more. As a result, it’s important to think about what you need and have a budget in mind before you shop.
As with many purchases you make, size does matter when it comes to buying a subwoofer.
The size of the subwoofer you need is dictated by several factors, including:
- The size of your room
- What you’ll be listening to (movies, music or games)
- Your preferred listening volume
- Power rating
- Your budget
A smaller room would be overpowered by a large subwoofer. Similarly, a small sub will get lost in a large room.
Do you like subtle bass, or do you want to feel it in your bones as it rattles the listening space? Thinking about how and where you’ll use your subwoofer can help you hone in on what’s necessary.
Subwoofers are measured by the size of their internal driver. A driver creates the sound that comes from the subwoofer. The most common subwoofer drivers range between eight and 12 inches, although there are smaller and larger options.
A 12-inch subwoofer is a good middle-ground first choice for an audio setup at home if you aren’t sure where to start. It will cover a lot of ground in a room.
If you are installing a subwoofer in a vehicle, talk to your electronics store pro to determine which size will fit best.
Ideally, you can find the perfect size subwoofer by testing out different models. Unfortunately, that isn’t always feasible. If you buy your subwoofer online, you’ll need to rely heavily on product reviews and video demonstrations.
9. Sound Quality
Before testing the sound quality of a subwoofer, there are a few things to keep in mind.
You’ll want the sub in the sweet spot of your room. This may take some trial and error since it will depend on your own preferences. There is no universal perfect spot.
Additionally, if you have a large family or like to host get-togethers, consider throwing a listening party so that you can ensure a good sound no matter where people sit.
As you are testing the sound quality, be sure to play a mix of audio content like movies, music and video games.
Take note of how the sub handles different frequencies. Is the sound rich and full or thin? Does it get distorted at certain levels?
The endgame is for your listening experience to be comfortable and immersive. You want it to blend with the rest of your speaker setup, and a quality subwoofer can achieve this.
Admittedly, sound quality is hard to gauge when you can’t listen to a subwoofer’s performance before buying one. You’ll need to research the best speaker brands and read customer reviews to get a feel for high-quality options in the marketplace.
Ultimately, the best sound quality is whatever sounds and feels right to you.
10. Wired or Wireless
When it comes to wired or wireless subwoofers, which option is better? The reality is that there are advantages and disadvantages on both sides.
If budget is your main concern, wired subwoofers are often more affordable than wireless options. If the sound is your focus, wired subwoofers win since the risk of signal interference is low.
However, if you are looking for convenience and freedom of placement, a wireless subwoofer is tough to beat.
Ultimately, the best choice will depend on your budget and installation needs. Here’s a more thorough breakdown of the positives and negatives of each option to help you decide which is best for you.
Wired Subwoofer Pros
- More affordable
- Less signal interference issues
- Not dependent on Wi-Fi network
Wired Subwoofer Cons
- Takes more time to set up
- Limited placement options
- Have to hide wires for a clean look
Wireless Subwoofer Pros
- More placement options
- Faster setup
- No wires to hide
Wireless Subwoofer Cons
- More complex setup
- Dependent on wireless network connectivity
The decibel (dB) level is also important to consider. On average, people are comfortable listening to an output of roughly 70 dB, but preferences vary.
If you don’t have a sound level meter, you can try an app like NIOSH Sound Level Meter on iOS devices or the Sound Meter on Android.
When adjusting the dB level for a home theater, you can often use the DVD that comes with the system. It will play different sounds and tones to help you make adjustments.
As far as volume goes, it’s better if the sub has built-in power controls or options to adjust it in a companion app. It’ll allow you to fine-tune your listening experience.
For the best results, sit where you plan to enjoy the sound and adjust the volume until it has a nice blend with the other speakers.
Choosing a subwoofer can be an exciting but overwhelming experience. If it is your first time shopping for one, keep it simple. Even with ample research, you’ll have to get it home and play around with it.
Make sure you understand the return, refund or exchange policies for whichever device you buy in case it’s not the right fit.
The right subwoofer adds depth and realism to audio. Have a budget in mind, use this guide as a reference as you explore the features and ask questions before you make a purchase.