Choosing an audio system a home theater subwoofer is all about high fidelity. Reproducing sound is something that needs to be precise but also rich in depth. The subwoofer is therefore an accessory that will give power and depth to what you are going to listen to, whether it is a movie or a music. The subwoofer has long been neglected in favor of classic hi-fi speakers, yet with the arrival of home cinema it is almost inconceivable today to watch and listen to a movie without a good subwoofer.
Finding the best budget home theater subwoofer is not an easy thing and given the large number of models offered in specialized stores it is easy to get lost and in the end to make a choice more on the price than on the performance of the apparatus. We are therefore going to try to dissect the different elements that make a subwoofer the ultimate object to put under your sofa.
Definition of a Subwoofer
The subwoofer is a speaker capable of reproducing extreme bass (or sub-bass), i.e. frequencies between 20 and 80Hz within the framework of the LFE channel ( it is the .1 of 5.1, a channel dedicated to the effects in the bass), or up to 100-120Hz in the case of satellite speakers (therefore configured in “small” on the amplifier, since they are unable to reproduce the serious). The subwoofer therefore makes it possible to strongly reinforce the bandwidth of your system at the bottom of the spectrum, reinforcement impossible to obtain without it, even with good column speakers, because this requires the use of a bass speaker (woofer) with a large membrane (25, 30, 38 or 46cm in diameter).
The Different Types of Subwoofers
There are a multitude of subwoofer, we will try to introduce a few.
- The closed box : As its name suggests, the subwoofer is screwed in a completely waterproof box. It is the one that offers the best bass in terms of acoustic quality. It’s also the least volume-intensive; however, all the air is vibrated by the speaker alone, and the energy from the back wave is absorbed into the absorbent material. We therefore lose efficiency the more we go down in frequency. This method quickly becomes expensive and cumbersome because it is necessary to use a loudspeaker of large diameter and of good quality when one wants to restore a serious sound without distortions at high volume.
- The bass-reflex box : this box has a vent (tube) allowing the decompression of the sub and the output of its rear wave. This slightly increases the decibels compared to a closed box, to the detriment of a beautiful bass. Wouldn’t that be the perfect box? Unfortunately, its construction is very rigorous under penalty of destroying the loudspeaker (extreme excursion of the membrane). The calculation of the vent must not only agree with the body and the speaker, but also according to the desired power and frequency ranges. This type of box has a poorer impulse response than the closed box.
- The band-pass box: It is on one side a closed box and on the other a bass reflex: this type of box makes it possible to go down further in the bass level, and to increase the acoustic pressure. box takes up considerable space! This is a way of reducing the size of the boxes and filtering (like an acoustic bandpass) in a natural way, allowing the use of less advanced electronics. The bass reproduction is very satisfactory as long as you stay within the frequency range allowed by the body.
Indeed, if the volumes of the compartments are incorrectly calculated or if the vent is not well tuned, the bandwidth of the box will decrease very sharply.
The Power of the Box
The power of a subwoofer determines the amount of power permissible in steady state that a subwoofer can withstand. The effective power (Watts RMS) is the only really significant power. So remember that the RMS watts are the real watts, that is to say the power available all the time in steady state.
Best Budget: Polk Audio HTS 10-inch Powered Subwoofer
This active subwoofer incorporates a subwoofer that has a frequency of 40 – 160 Hz, a 10-inch woofer, 2 pairs of spring terminals, and 100 watts of power. Here are its dimensions:16.2 x 14 x 14.4 inches. In addition, its weight is 26 pounds. Apart from that, the device has inputs: stereo with thru function, and microphone.
For sound enthusiasts, this bi-amplified subwoofer is recommended with the Laser-Based Klippel Measurement Technology. Whether you are an event organizer, DJ, or simply looking for a subwoofer with correct sound reproduction, opt for this proposal from Polk Audio.
One of the advantages of this subwoofer is its protective metal grille and integrated carrying handles
Best Value: The JBL Arena SUB 100
Thanks to this JBL subwoofer, your music, cinema and video games sessions at home will offer you intense moments of emotion. Indeed, this model is brilliantly designed to provide additional power and impact in the bass.
This box is sold in white or black. It features an attractive cover in acoustic fabric topped with two brushed metal bands. The box is rigid. The non-parallel sidewalls and the slightly inclined top limit the phenomenon of standing waves inside the box. This results in a marked reduction in the risk of sound distortion.
Carefully designed, the Arena SUB 100 active subwoofer incorporates 100 W digital amplification. The speaker, powered by polycellulose, has a diameter of 25 cm and is located on the front of the subwoofer. The airflow is optimized by a bass-reflex load equipped with two rear vents. The risks of turbulence and distortions are therefore perfectly controlled.
In terms of connectivity, this box is equipped with an LFE input. It also has various adjustment controls such as cutoff frequency and volume. Equipped with a main power switch, this model incorporates a switch with two positions: On and Auto. Powering up can therefore be done manually or automatically.
With a power of 50 Watts, this Yamaha subwoofer feeds a high-quality speaker 20 cm in diameter. Its spiral “Twisted Flare Port” vent and its high technology “Advanced YST II” allow it to combine brilliantly with home cinema speakers to deepen the bass and multiply the listening pleasure. Whether it’s music or movies, your ears and your entire body will feel the difference. With amplification of 50 Watts and a technology perfectly controlling the speaker, the quality of the bass is perfectly optimized.
The Yamaha NS-SW050 housing box is rigid and accommodates the speaker in the front position. With a bass reflex load and a new generation vent, the latter acts like a spiral tube that channels the airflow. The flow of the latter is therefore optimized, the bass is more nervous and the noise of airflow is considerably limited.
In terms of connectivity, this powerful subwoofer has a single LFE input. It can therefore be associated with an amplifier or a hi-fi system equipped with a pre-amplified output. On the back of the box, you also have access to a power button and the volume potentiometer.
With this modern and compact model, Yamaha offers an ideal alternative to complete home cinema speakers in a room not exceeding a surface of about twenty meter sq.
Speaker Diameter (HP)
The diameter of the speaker membrane in a subwoofer is very important, indeed to obtain deep bass at high level, it is essential to have a large diameter membrane, capable of stirring a lot of air without too much travel. There are membranes of 16, 20, 25, 30, 38 and 46 cm. For a home cinema, a subwoofer with a woofer having a membrane of 16 to 30 cm is ideal. The height trimmers 38 and 46 cm being reserved for very large rooms, or for sound professionals and shows.
The criteria for purchasing a subwoofer
According to our test, one of the first things to do is to objectively ask yourself the question: how much am I prepared to pay for a quality subwoofer? The prices are rather variable on the market, so your selection can start with this first criterion. While knowing that there are models that are quite efficient, and which offer you excellent value for money. Do not hesitate to consult our selection again, in order to better compare the different models and thus determine the most appropriate for your projects.
Indeed, we have presented you with subwoofers of various ranges and prices. Thus, you have at your disposal a wider range of choices, but also a better visibility on the range of options and possible costs. Now it’s up to you to match your performance expectations to your budget.
Usage and Projects
Now is the time for THE key question. Determining what exactly you want to achieve from your subwoofer model is THE essential factor. Indeed, this aspect is crucial to focus your attention on the models most appropriate to your ambitions. Remember that the room you place your subwoofer in is also important, because you won’t need the same functionality for a small or a large room.
Conversely, if your primary concern is precision and sonic excellence, then look for higher range and budget models.
If the goal of purchasing your subwoofer is to improve the sound quality of audio equipment you already own, then go for mid-range options, which offer very attractive value for money.
Active or passive ? Active models have many advantages and are currently more popular on the market. Passive models may be suitable for you as well. In truth, it mainly depends on your use, amateur or professional, as well as your current audio equipment. For convenience, the most common and recommended is the active subwoofer. But there is no rule: it all depends on your needs!
For a classic use, but without neglecting the quality, know that a subwoofer offering between 150 and 200 Watts of RMS power is perfectly sufficient, for a room of about 20 square meters.
Of course, the power criterion also depends on the integrated technology of each type of subwoofer, but also on the quality of their materials. It is not necessarily necessary to seek a high maximum power value, if the RMS power supplied is efficient.
This is about the range of low frequencies that your subwoofer can cover . They are usually designed to cover the first two octaves, that is, the frequency ranges of 20 to 80 Hertz (Hz), which conventional loudspeakers usually do not reach.