Subwoofers under $500: What to expect?
If you spend over $500 on a home theater sub or a music sub you will be expecting the very best that the market has to offer. Truth be told, $500 is a budget that can get you a professional sub. At this price, you should probably be expecting:
- A sub that is loud enough to fill the room.
- Everything you need to get playing audio, all wires should really be included.
- A warranty.
- A frequency response down to around the 40 Hz or lower mark.
Features to consider before you buy a subwoofer under $500
Still confused? Don’t worry, we explain all of the features you need to think about below, so that you can make a properly informed decision on what is the best subwoofer for you. At $500, you certainly don’t want to choose something that lets you down when it comes to features and functionality.
Power output: Continuous and peak
The power output of a speaker of any kind can be measured. The power output will come with two ratings, continuous and peak, but what do these mean?
Continuous is how much power output the speaker can handle on an ongoing, continuous basis. Long periods of play at this amplitude. “Peak” refers to how much the speakers can handle in short bursts. Playing at this power level for long periods would inevitably cause damage to the speakers.
The frequency response refers to how low the bass can go. Human hearing is 20 Hz to 20 kHz (give or take) and we need a bass response to go down as close to the 20 Hz mark as possible. This gives a real thump and low-end response to the sound.
Some subs really struggle to hit the lower sounds and reproduce them if they are in a song. The Acoustic Audio PSW-15 down firing powered subwoofer is an example of one of the subwoofers under $500 that can handle very low sounds, reproducing 22 Hz with no problems (many people can’t even actually hear this low).
Crossover is another technical term you should learn about. The crossover can be thought of as where the subwoofer “takes over” from the other speakers, and where the sound starts to roll off. Each set of speakers is responsible for its own frequencies this way, leaving the sub to handle the bass for the best effects. Many of the models on this list have a range and allow you to choose the crossover. The SVS SB-1000 subwoofer lets you set the crossover to anywhere between 50 Hz and 160 Hz for the best possible results.
When setting the crossover, make sure you don’t end up with a gap in the audio where no speaker is accounting for those frequencies.
The size of the cone is usually the biggest thing to have an impact on the power and response, though the materials they are made out of are important too. A smaller cone may not give you quite so much punch The Yamaha option on the list is an example of this. It is designed to be tiny, so it fits in smaller spaces. While the sound is respectable, it doesn’t have the same hard-hitting bass of some of the bigger cones.
There are different ways of replicating the bass frequencies. Downfiring and front-firing are the two main ones you will see. Downfiring subs “aim” the bass frequencies toward the floor to give more of a deep punch and rumble. These are very good for home theater applications. Front-firing are more of a straightforward sound.
What does the cone of the sub, and the electronics, come encased in? The enclosure is important for a few reasons. It needs to look good, but more importantly it needs to provide you with a stable enclosure so you don’t get loads of buzzing or distorting of the audio because of the fact that the design is not coping with the vibrations.
Most of the subwoofers on our list are good when it comes to compatibility, but you need to check that they work with the specific speaker system you want to set them up with. Some of the wireless subwoofers create a bit more difficulty when it comes to setting up a full-system, and sometimes staying in the same brand can be the solution. For example, the Klipsch R-10SWi 10″ wireless subwoofer works best with other wireless speakers in the same brand.
Dimensions and weight
Think carefully about how much space you have for your subwoofer. If you are looking to kit out your room with five or seven speakers then it could be that you have to really think about this and be clever about the space you allocate and where the speakers will go. The weight is also another consideration when it comes to marking your carpets or just being simple to set up.
This is one of the key considerations when buying any electronic product, but definitely with subwoofers. You might be really surprised to learn about all the different models and just how much they vary in terms of what warranties they can offer. Some of the subs on this list offer just one year, which is okay, but not outstanding. Our editor’s pick, the SVS SB-1000 subwoofer, gives five years, and some others even provide up to 8 years of protection.
It’s tough to include extra features as subs are very simple products in their design. One of the most impressive extras is adjustable feet, which help you to get the sub in the right position and prevent any buzz from an uneven standpoint.
Some subs do also come with wireless adapters so you can turn them into wireless systems if you wish.
Naturally, the subwoofers on our list are all under the $500 mark at the time of writing, but there is a lot of variation within this price point. Some of the more affordable options are actually under $200, and some cheap subs can often do a very good job for music or theater, as long as they are used correctly.