Adding a home audio subwoofer (or sub woofer) is one of the most noticeable upgrades you can make to the performance of an home theater speaker system. The best home theater subwoofers add dimensions of sonic impact you can feel in your sternum and body, while expanding the soundstage and presenting bass notes and content you never knew existed before with stunning realism.
Cheap subwoofers can make bass, but the low frequency output they deliver is often boomy or over-inflated in the mid-bass and can negatively impact the overall accuracy and believability of the system’s sound. Not to mention the clipping or popping you get when pushing them to the limits.
To get the best bass experience possible, here are five key things the top powered subwoofers have in common that will help as you research the best options.
1) Outstanding Low Frequency Extension – Deep Bass
Obvious, right? Well, many subwoofers can’t reproduce the deepest bass down to 20Hz and below, and attempt to make up for it by exaggerating the mid-bass performance to address the shortfall. The best powered subwoofers deliver all the low frequencies in the content being played, sometimes at frequencies so low they can only be felt, not heard! That’s deep bass at its finest and something very few home audio speakers can recreate.
2) Produce Low Frequencies at the Highest Sound Pressure Levels (SPLs)
The best subwoofers play effortlessly loud and distortion-free, no matter how demanding the content. Lesser home subwoofers use amplifier limiting to cap low frequency output, resulting in the bass “disappearing” when the listener turns up the volume past conversational levels. One of the great joys of subwoofer ownership is thrill of listening at reference volumes with perfect clarity, especially with action movies, rock music and other content that begs to be cranked up.
3) Speed and Control in Transient Response
Many people refer to this as a subwoofers ability to, “Stop and start on a dime”, which means they can stop and start reproducing bass per the actual program content with no overhang. The best home subwoofers are lightning quick in musical or cinematic transients to keep pace with the content. Think about the pluck of a bass guitar string or a shotgun blast; lesser subwoofers struggle to keep up with the content and full range speakers, making the overall home theater system sound smeared and undetailed.
4) Pinpoint Accuracy in Frequencies Produced, and NOT Produced
The best subwoofers add no sonic signature and are completely faithful to the source content, only delivering the bass notes or low frequencies exactly as the artist or director intended. Nothing less, nothing more. Cheaper subwoofers deliver boomy “one note” bass that is more distracting than convincing, and rarely enjoyable.
5) Blend seamlessly with full range speakers
Subwoofers are great, but to function properly they must seamlessly blend with the overall sound of the home audio speaker system, never drawing attention to the bass alone. The best subwoofers integrate so perfectly that it sounds as though the loudspeakers are creating the bass themselves.
From infrasonic deep bass notes and explosive sound effects in a movie score to toe-tapping, head-nodding basslines in our favorite music, the best subwoofers reveal layers of sound a loudspeaker is simply not equipped to handle. They also energize a room with sonic waves we can feel all throughout our bodies, creating an unmistakably immersive experience. And while some subwoofers merely add bass, a truly great powered subwoofer elevates our favorite movies, music, TV shows and video games in a unique and visceral way.
If you’ve never experienced this level of performance, SVS has many resources to help you make the best decision possible. Our Merlin Subwoofer Matching Tool makes recommendations for the best subwoofer based on your individual brand of speakers. With thousands of audiophile and home theater speakers in the database, it’s a fast and easy way to start your search.
When you come to a decision, SVS offers a risk free 45-day in-home trial with free shipping as well as a full SVS Customer Bill of Rights, so you can judge for yourself in your own home, how dynamic and impactful a home audio subwoofer can be.