Thanks to modern innovation and design, finding the right subwoofer to fit your space and budget while delivering impressive audio effects is easier than you might think. This buying guide will help you get started.
First, let’s clarify what a subwoofer is and does. Subwoofers are like speakers, but they are responsible only for the low-frequency sounds, from the bass line in your favorite song to the rumbling of a helicopter in an action-packed movie. Subwoofers add depth to any movie, song or game soundtrack that generally cannot be achieved through typical speakers alone.
The only types of speakers that can come close to delivering low frequencies the way a subwoofer does are free-standing floor speakers, but even then the addition of a subwoofer will improve the overall sound experience. Smaller bookshelf-type speakers aren’t able to handle the long drivers required to reproduce the lower frequencies, which is another reason why surround sound systems generally include a separate, dedicated subwoofer.
When it comes to space and placement of your subwoofer, you will find a number of options available. Subwoofers come in all sizes and can be placed just about anywhere in your listening area, though positioning it close to a wall can increase the rumbling effects. If you think you might want to position your subwoofer near your television, you will want to look into getting a video-shielded subwoofer.
What you really want to pay attention to when selecting a subwoofer is how much power it generates. If you are working with a large room, you’re going to need a more powerful subwoofer. Some of the more powerful models come with a built-in amp and multi-woofers, both of which greatly increase the bass output. However, there are also some high-performing compact models available if you don’t have a lot of space to work with, or you might consider an in-wall subwoofer. In any case, you will want to purchase a powered subwoofer (one with its own power cord) – not a passive one that draws its power supply from your receiver.
As you are looking at different types of subwoofers, you may come across the terms down-firing and front-firing. A down-firing subwoofer is one in which the woofer cone is mounted on the bottom of the subwoofer cabinet, whereas a front-firing sub is one in which the cone is mounted on one of the sides. Both are perfectly good options.
You will also come across models that come with preset modes, which work by changing the subwoofer’s bass response based on what you are listening to, whether it’s a movie, a specific type of music, or a video game. Other models also include some type of equalization, allowing you to customize the sound produced by your subwoofer to suit your tastes. High-end models actually include a built-in microphone, which is used to sample the sound in your room and then the sub will modify its output to fit the space.
Some manufacturers are even making subwoofers for special applications, such as attached to the bottom of theater chairs for that Earth-shaking effect, built-in to center channel speakers, and even outdoor subwoofers.
As you can see, there are many different considerations when selecting a subwoofer model. You can now find a subwoofer for practically any budget, any location, and in a variety of colors to match your décor. Need help finding just the right one for you? Talk to an audio expert or a consumer electronics audio specialist for more advice.