Sun. Sep 24th, 2023

Whether it’s for music or movies, a subwoofer will improve almost any sort of audio. If you’re not familiar with them, it can be tough to choose the perfect subwoofer for you, which is what we’re here for.

UPDATE: 09/07/2023

We’ve reviewed our recommendations and have updated our best 12-inch subwoofer pick.

What to Look For in a Subwoofer in 2023

Low frequencies are comparatively uncommon in nature, and when we do hear them, they’re usually a sign of danger. Thunderstorms, earthquakes, and landslides are some reasons you’d hear this low-frequency range in the natural world. Because of this, they’re exciting.

Adding a subwoofer to your home theater setup makes movies and music feel more impactful because of the way our bodies respond to these lower frequencies. Adding a powerful subwoofer to your home audio setup makes a much bigger difference than turning up the bass on your A/V receiver or soundbar.

Low frequencies are harder to reproduce than higher frequencies because of the size of the waveforms. This means you need a larger speaker to reproduce lower frequencies, so subwoofers often have speakers 12 inches or more in diameter. That said, you’ll find an eight-inch subwoofer can be surprisingly powerful.

Because of the size of the speakers, subwoofers tend to take up a fair amount of space. Some companies build low-profile subwoofers that can hide away under a couch, for example, but these are tougher to build, so you’ll find they’re often more expensive than traditional, cube-shaped subwoofers.

Most subwoofers are also powered, meaning they don’t require an external amplifier, but they do need to be plugged into a wall outlet. Typically, you’ll also need to run a cable from your A/V receiver or soundbar to the subwoofer. Wireless subwoofers are available, though you’ll often find them packaged in home-theater-in-a-box or soundbar systems.

While most subwoofers will work equally well for music or movies, you’ll want to remember how you plan to use them. Smaller subwoofers often work fine for home theater systems, but you might need a larger subwoofer to keep up with floor-standing hi-fi speakers, for example.

Finally, subwoofers for your vehicle are almost an entirely different category. These often need to be more shallow to easily mount in a car, and they often don’t come in a bespoke speaker cabinet.

Bluesound subwoofer on grey background



✓ Low-profile design makes it easier to fit into your room

✗ Only wireless when used with the Pulse Soundbar+

✓ Digital signal processing perfectly sculpts sound

✓ Low, powerful bass despite small size

Usually, scaling down the size of a subwoofer is a quick route to thin, lifeless sound. That is far from the case with the Bluesound Pulse SUB+ Wireless Powered Subwoofer. While it only packs an eight-inch woofer, it provides powerful bass, and you can put it almost anywhere.

The Bluesound Pulse SUB+ features a slim, low-profile design that makes it easy to find a home for, no matter how large or small your living room might be. Slide it under your couch to keep it out of sight, or place it in the perfect spot for room-filling bass. No matter what, it won’t be in the way.

Looking at the audio performance, the Pulse SUB+ packs 150 watts of power, with digital signal processing (DSP) to ensure perfect audio. This is a solid wattage to start from in the first place, but the DSP makes this subwoofer sound much bigger than the wattage and woofer size would have you imagine.

One minor downside of the Bluesound Pulse SUB+ is that it doesn’t include a hardware remote. Instead, you control everything from the BluOS controller app on your phone or tablet.

If you’re shopping for a soundbar and aren’t seeking a budget option, Bluesound’s Pulse range is worth considering. While it’s great on its own, as we’ve outlined above, Bluesound built the Pulse subwoofer to pair with its Pulse Soundbar+ soundbar, making a solid package for your home theater.


Bluesound Pulse SUB+ Wireless Powered Subwoofer

Best Subwoofer Overall

The Bluesound Pulse SUB+ brings powerful bass nearly anywhere in your home, with a slim fit that lets it fit places other subwoofers can’t.

Monoprice Subwoofer on grey background



✓ Multiple inputs make it easy to connect to anything

✗ Relatively low wattage

✓ Smaller cabinet makes it easy to hide away

✓ Black MDF cabinet looks good anywhere

If you want a solid rumble during the action scenes in movies, but you want to avoid spending too much, the Monoprice 60-Watt Powered Subwoofer is a surprisingly solid option. It doesn’t take up too much space, and even though it only packs 60 watts, it brings some serious low-end audio to your audio.

The Monoprice 60-Watt Powered Subwoofer might only have an eight-inch driver but can still produce frequencies as low as 50 Hz. If you’re using smaller speakers for the rest of your system, the crossover goes up to 150 Hz, meaning the subwoofer can handle the entire low-end audio spectrum without any help from your other speakers.

If you’re using an A/V receiver that doesn’t have a proper subwoofer output, there’s no need to worry. This model takes a standard RCA left/right connection, you can use a standard line out, which the subwoofer will combine into mono for the bass signal. You can also take a standard speaker output from the front left and front right channels and use that.

This being a budget option, you’re not going to find an exotic wood used for the cabinet. That said, this black wood cabinet with a fabric covering for the driver and bass port doesn’t look cheap. Plus, the minimalist design should fit in, no matter your choice of decor.

While it isn’t low-profile like the Bluesound Pulse SUB+, the Monoprice 60-Watt Powered Subwoofer is still on the smaller side. If you’re not certain that you’ll be able to make room for a larger subwoofer, this smaller size is easier to fit next to your TV or by your couch.


Monoprice 60-Watt Powered Subwoofer

Best Budget Subwoofer

The Monoprice 60-Watt Powered Subwoofer might have a low price, but there’s nothing small about the bass that this speaker is capable of cranking out.

Martin logan subwoofer on purple background



✓ Plenty of power to match any home theater system

✗ Wireless option is sold separately

✓ Automatic room correction app matches the subwoofer to your room

✓ Plenty of inputs

Are you looking to make sure your movies sound as good as possible? If the answer is yes, the MartinLogan Dynamo 600 X subwoofer will be perfect for you. Described by the company as audiophile-grade, the Dynamo 600 X features a 10-inch woofer driven by an amplifier with a peak power of 240 watts.

No matter what you’re using for the rest of your sound system, the MartinLogan Dynamo 600 X can connect to it. The subwoofer features a standard LFE subwoofer input, as well as left and right RCA inputs in case your A/V receiver doesn’t have a dedicated subwoofer out. You can even connect using speaker-level inputs if that’s your preferred connection.

When it comes to setting up and controlling the MartinLogan Dynamo 600 X, a pair of apps helps you control everything. The MartinLogan Subwoofer Control app for Apple and Android devices lets you control volume, crossover frequency, and more. It can even run a tone sweep of low frequencies to help you identify anything in your room that may be rattling or resonating.

For a more advanced setup, Anthem ARC app helps you precisely tune the subwoofer to your room. Using the built-in mic on your smartphone, the app can identify issues with how the subwoofer sounds in your room. Then, the built-in DSP in the subwoofer can adjust the sound of the speaker to sound its very best, regardless of where you place it.

If you prefer not to deal with wires and have some spare cash on hand, you can even convert the Dynamo 600 X into a wireless subwoofer. All you need is the MartinLogan SWT-X Wireless Subwoofer Kit, which is sold separately.


MartinLogan Dynamo 600 X

Best Subwoofer for Home Theaters

The MartinLogan Dynamo 600 X is a high-end subwoofer with features to match, including software that adjusts the sound to fit your room and optional wireless connectivity.

Rockford Subwoofer on pink background



✓ Powerful power handling in a 12-inch woofer design

✗ May not actually hold up to its maximum power rating

✓ Rigid built prevents distortion

✓ Shallow design lets you fit it in your vehicle without giving up space

Because of their size, finding a subwoofer to fit inside your car can be an exercise in frustration. The Rockford Fosgate Punch P3SD2-12 is a great option, as it’s a 12-inch woofer with a shallow profile, letting you mount it many places inside your car without having to give up much space.

The P3SD2-12 handles 400 watts of continuous power, with a peak capacity of 800 watts. That said, some Amazon reviews mention that it doesn’t gracefully handle higher wattage, so if you’re planning to crank your stereo, you might want to opt for an amplifier that won’t approach the maximum power.

Rockford has packed the Punch P3SD2-12 with the same features you’ll find on many of its speakers. The StampCast Basket provides a rigid structure for the speaker, preventing flex caused by distortion, while the aluminum voice coil prevents the woofer from overheating during extended use.

The Rockford Fosgate Punch P3SD2-12 is a 2 Ohm speaker, but also comes in a 4 Ohm version, the Rockford Fosgate P3SD4-12.


Rockford Fosgate Punch P3SD2-12

Best Subwoofer for Car/Best Shallow Mount Subwoofer

If you’re looking to bring the boom to your vehicle, the Rockford Fosgate Punch P3SD2-12 is capable of delivering all the bass you can handle in a compact design.

Klipsch R-121SW



Front-firing driver and rear port maximize bass

Only available in black

RCA and LFE inputs for compatibility

Adjustable crossover and phase switch

Klipsch is well-known in the audio world for its bookshelf and floor-standing speakers, but the company also knows its way around a subwoofer. The Klipsch Reference R-121SW Subwoofer may be a perfect companion piece to the company’s own speakers, but it has all the connectivity and options you need to ensure that it will fit perfectly with any receiver or speaker system.

The 12-inch woofer has a front-firing design with a rear port for even more punchy bass. An amplifier that Klipsch refers to as “all-digital” provides 200 watts of continuous power and up to 400 watts of peak power. The cabinet comprises half-inch MDF side panels, with a .75-inch front panel and center bracing for a tough enclosure.

Connectivity options may look limited with the R-121SW, as there is only one pair of RCA inputs on the back. However, this pair of inputs doubles as the line-in and LFE inputs, depending on whether you use one or both terminals. This means one fewer jack on the back than most subwoofers, but it makes for a slightly cleaner look.

To ensure the subwoofer is as compatible as possible, Klipsch has equipped it with a crossover knob, adjustable from 40Hz to 120Hz, while turning it up all the way enables the LFE input. A gain control joins this to adjust the maximum volume and a switch to invert the phase, which can solve problems in certain stereo and home theater setups

There aren’t any color options, just the standard Klipsch black and gold. Still, this is a color scheme that can fit in almost anywhere, regardless of your decor.

Klipsch R-121SW

Klipsch Reference R-112SW

Best 12-inch Subwoofer

The Klipsch Reference R-112SW may fit in well with the company’s other speakers, but it’s meant to work with any speakers, amp, or receiver you own. With solid wired connectivity and an adjustable crossover, this subwoofer will work with almost any system.

Klipsch Cinema 600 Sound Bar on blue background



✓ 10-inch subwoofer and 600 watts peak power mean big bass

✗ No wireless connectivity

✓ Setting up is easy thanks to the wireless subwoofer

✗ No Dolby Atmos

✓ Solid wood build is tough and looks great

✓ Adjustable subwoofer volume

Full home theater systems are great, but they’re often bulky, difficult to set up, and complicated to use. A soundbar gets you most of the benefits of a home theater system, but they’re much easier to use and sound nearly as good, especially if it’s a model with a subwoofer like the Klipsch Cinema 600 Sound Bar 3.1.

This is a simple, relatively bare-bones soundbar. There aren’t any satellite speakers or complicated connectivity. You get the soundbar itself and the wireless subwoofer, which is pre-paired, so you don’t even need to struggle with this part of the process.

The Cinema 600 is a 3.1-channel soundbar, and there isn’t any support for more complex audio channel setups, like Dolby Atmos. Fortunately, the soundbar does feature 5.1-channel decoding, but you won’t hear the rear surround channels. You connect the soundbar to your TV via HDMI ARC, and there is no Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connectivity.

Looking at the subwoofer itself, this is a 10-inch model, so it offers up plenty of bass. The good news is the subwoofer is level adjustable, so if you find the bass is overpowering or too subtle, you can adjust it to your personal preference.

Klipsch complements the simplicity of the Cinema 600 sound bar with a classic look. Unlike many soundbars, this is constructed out of real wood. This not only makes for a very solid build, but it’s also an aesthetically pleasing design choice.


Klipsch Cinema 600 Sound Bar 3.1

Best Soundbar with Subwoofer

The Klipsch Cinema 600 Sound Bar 3.1 is a soundbar with all the boom you need, courtesy of the 10-inch subwoofer and 600 watts of power. This model keeps it simple, but the wooden build gives it the feel of a modern classic.


What does a subwoofer do?

A subwoofer is a speaker that is especially well-suited toward low frequencies, typically from 20 Hz to 160 Hz, or sometimes higher. These frequencies are harder to reproduce, so a dedicated speaker lets your other frequencies focus on midrange and high frequencies.

Where should I place a subwoofer?

You can place a subwoofer nearly anywhere, and it will work. Typically, putting it either near your sitting position or near your TV are two common choices. Putting your subwoofer in a corner can make it sound lower.

How do I test a subwoofer?

Your home theater system or A/V receiver often has a test function that will play white noise through every speaker connected, including your subwoofer. You can also watch the cone of the speaker, assuming it’s visible, to see if it’s moving. Another option is playing some music, starting at a low volume, then raising it to see if you can hear the subwoofer working.

How do I connect a subwoofer with a sound bar?

Many subwoofers connect wirelessly to the subwoofers they come with, so there’s no need to make a connection manually. For a wired subwoofer, you’ll typically run a supplied cable from the soundbar to the subwoofer.

How do I connect a subwoofer to a receiver?

Receivers connect to subwoofers via a few methods. The first is an RCA cable, running from the Subwoofer output on your receiver to the input of a subwoofer. For a passive subwoofer, you’ll find typical speaker jacks, labeled Subwoofer, on your receiver or integrated amplifier. Connect the subwoofer to this with speaker wire.

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By John P.

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