SUBWOOFER REVIEWS

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Daniel Kumin  |  Jun 16, 2017  |  0 comments

Signature S60 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

PSW125 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,600 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Excellent range and tonal balance
Dramatic looks
Good blend from unusually low-profile center
Minus
Sub doesn’t add much to the towers alone

THE VERDICT
With the Signature Series, Polk successfully practices its long-held ethos of delivering high performance at affordable cost in a new, smartly designed lineup.

Of the three or four speaker brands that pumped the vast majority of air throughout the hi-fi boom of the 1970s, only one—Polk Audio—is still doing what they’ve always done (design and make loudspeakers), where they’ve always done it (more or less), and with very much the same ethos (value/performance, with value in italics). OK, so Polks, like virtually all other mass-market speakers sold in the U.S. are now actually manufactured overseas. But they’re still conceived here according to the old Polk standards—industrially designed in San Diego out of the corporate headquarters and engineered in Polk’s original hometown in greater Baltimore.

Daniel Kumin  |  May 18, 2017  |  0 comments

Pulse Soundbar
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Pulse Sub
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,598 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Excellent musical sound quality
Notable bass extension, with or without sub
Many streaming capabilities, including hi-res audio
Multiroom system architecture
Visually outstanding
Minus
Some level and dynamics limitations
Occasional cumbersome or inconsistent operation

THE VERDICT
Accurate, dynamic musical sound, lifelike stereo imaging, and remarkable bass extension and control—plus extensive multiroom streaming abilities—easily counterbalance the few ergonomic quirks of a lovely, ultra-compact design.

Don’t look now, but the soundbars are gaining on us. Hardcore home theater heads like you and me can scoff all we want, but consumer electronics’ all-inone answer to audio for video is getting better, smarter, bassier, and popular-er, by leaps and bounds. High-end-ier, too.

Daniel Kumin  |  Mar 02, 2017  |  0 comments

CG3 5.1 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Speedwoofer 10S Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,079 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Rigorously balanced sound
Plays surprisingly loud
Easy, excellent sub/sat blending
Minus
Sats can be a bit power-hungry in larger rooms

THE VERDICT
Given its low cost, solid dynamics, and impressive neutrality, it would be tough to find a better or more honest small speaker system for the price than RSL’s latest.

When it comes to loudspeakers, how big is big enough? How small is too small? What size is j-u-u-ust right? Speaker buyers have been asking these questions, and speaker makers have been answering them, ever since a certain Brand B shook the world years ago with micro-sized satellites employing 2.5-inch drivers that struggled to reach down to 200 hertz, mated with similarly challenged Lilliputian subs. Physics notwithstanding, buyers took to them in droves—and since then, the race to the bottom, cubicvolume-wise, has been on.

David Vaughn  |  Feb 16, 2017  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $1,100 each; $2,200 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Powerful bass for a compact sub
Performs extremely well with music and movies
Minus
Lacks last half-octave of deep bass you can get from larger subs

THE VERDICT
If you’re limited on space but have adequate funding, this is the strongest-performing compact sub I’ve auditioned.

It’s another American business success story. A couple of kids, Jim Birch and Lucio Proni, begin building home loudspeakers during summer break in 1975. More than 40 years later, Jim and Lucio are still going strong, having seen JL Audio become one of the most respected consumer electronics brands in the world, branching out from the home to mobile and marine applications. I’ve experienced their products at some custom shops and have read glowing reviews of their subwoofers over the years. My favorite review was by my colleague Darryl Wilkinson, who said the company’s Fathom f212 sub could play a 20-hertz test tone loud enough to liquefy his bowels! High praise, indeed.

David Vaughn  |  Jan 09, 2017  |  4 comments

PB16-Ultra Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value

SB16-Ultra Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $2,499, $1,999

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Powerful, deep bass response
Infrared remote and Bluetooth app control
User adjustable EQ presets
Minus
Extremely heavy
Large size can make optimal placement challenging

THE VERDICT
If you want foundation-shaking bass and have the floor space to accommodate one (or two) of these beasts, you’ll be the envy of the neighborhood on movie night.

I’ve had a home theater going on 20 years now, and one thing has remained constant through those years: upgrades. It got so bad at one point that my wife had me enter into a contract with her in 2004 that my latest subwoofer upgrade would be my last for the next 10 years. Desperate to make the purchase, I reluctantly agreed and signed my name on the dotted line. Fortunately, the subwoofer just happened to be an SVS PC-Ultra, a cylindrical monster that kept my subwoofer itch scratched for a full decade. But as soon as the contract was up in 2014, I did add a second subwoofer to the mix, a Hsu VTF-15H MK2, which has been filling my room with copious amounts of bass ever since.

David Vaughn  |  Nov 18, 2016  |  0 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,499

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Very powerful on music
Outstanding build quality
Small size
Minus
Tepid output at the very bottom

THE VERDICT
One of the most musical subwoofers I’ve ever auditioned, and it’s damn pretty, too!

Founded in 1972 in Ontario, PSB Speakers has grown from one man’s passion for audio into an international speaker company with more than 50 distributors and approximately 1,000 dealers. Paul Barton got his start in audio when he was just 11 years old, making speakers with his father. As he became more confident with his designs when he was in high school, he started to sell his speakers to college students at the nearby University of Waterloo. From the beginning, Barton’s goal was to create high-performance, highvalue loudspeakers for music and, eventually, for home cinema applications.

David Vaughn  |  Aug 09, 2016  |  10 comments

Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $50

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Easy to install
Tames unwanted vibrations
Minus
Why aren’t these standard issue?

THE VERDICT
If you have touchy neighbors who complain about vibrations from your subwoofer, you need these in your system.

I love bass, always have, always will. The same can’t be said for my wife, who constantly tells me, “Turn it down. You’re going to wake the dead, or worse, go deaf!” Part of my problem is that my home rests on a raised foundation with a wood subfloor underneath my carpet, which means my dual-subwoofer setup transmits plenty of vibrations from the subwoofer to the floor, which then resonate through the rest of the house. In fact, on certain low-frequency scenes in movies, you can literally see my windows vibrating. But is this really a problem?

David Vaughn  |  Jun 22, 2016  |  10 comments

Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $399

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Exemplary value
Clean, punchy bass
Optional wireless transmitter works like a charm
Minus
Doesn’t go quite as deep as the big boys

THE VERDICT
When I heard I was going to review a budget $399 subwoofer, I dreaded the month I’d miss my reference subs. I couldn’t have been more wrong!

There are two things that I really love in life. The first is the entrepreneurial spirit that grows within someone and inspires them to take a chance with an idea, create a company, and do their best to make it succeed. The second is great bass. As longtime readers know, I’m a bass-oholic—and if my wife would let me, I’d have four (or more) subwoofers in my media room, because there’s no such thing as too much bass!

Daniel Kumin  |  Nov 18, 2015  |  1 comments
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $999

AT A GLANCE
Plus
True bass from truly tiny sub
Highly flexible setup, including wireless option
Beautifully made and finished
Minus
Finite upper-volume limits
Display too small to discern easily

THE VERDICT
If you demand real bass from a really small subwoofer (and you have $1,000 to pay for it), Artison’s got your micro-sub.

Ever since the first hominid bashed another hominid over the head (with the femur of a third hominid), humankind has pursued one arms race or another. From the atlatl to the AR-15, man’s competitive genius always finds a way to up the ante. One rather more constructive expression of this innate drive can be seen in the long-standing contest to extract more and more bass out of smaller and smaller boxes.

David Vaughn  |  Sep 24, 2015  |  1 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,750

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Small form factor is décor friendly
Satisfying bass response
Minus
Can’t deliver the sonic impact of a bigger sub
Better values can be found in the market

THE VERDICT
Given the Sunfire’s dainty size, I didn’t expect much, but it delivers in spades with music and should be adequate with movies for many listeners.

My name is David Vaughn, and I’m a bass-a-holic. There isn’t a 12-step program to cure me of this disease—and even if there were, I’d avoid the treatment like the plague. There’s nothing like feeling the thump in your chest when an explosion rocks the room in the latest Hollywood blockbuster or hearing the windows rattle to some classic rap from the early 1990s. (Hell, who would have ever thought that “classic” and “rap” would go together in the same sentence?)

Daniel Kumin  |  Aug 11, 2015  |  4 comments

Zensor 5 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

VTF-1 MK2 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $2,244 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Neutral balance
Excellent center-L/R tonal match
Superb “small”-sub output and extension
Minus
Zensor 5 mini-towers are rather short

THE VERDICT
Combining DALI’s fine-performing, high-value two-way line with one of the best inexpensive 10-inch subwoofers available creates an affordable system that competes well with the many contenders in its price class.

DALI is a company that has nothing to do with surrealist art or Tibetan Buddhism. The acronym is for Danish Audiophile Loudspeaker Industries, which over some 30 years has grown from a home-market specialist to a respected international brand. Despite this success, I had never gotten up close and personal with any DALI designs (trade-show demos excepted) until they shipped us a representative selection of their new Zensor entry-level series. Since the Zensor-ship currently lacks a subwoofer, we tapped one of the best size- and price-appropriate designs we know, Hsu Research’s affordable VTF-1 MK2.

David Vaughn  |  Jan 16, 2015  |  5 comments

VTF-15H MK2
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value

VTF-3 MK5 HP
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $899, $799

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Tremendous bass output
Excellent value proposition
Highly flexible setup controls
Minus
Won’t win any beauty contests
Heavy!

THE VERDICT
Both subs have plenty of bass per dollar and offer lots of adjustments to fine-tune the performance to fit your room.

Robert Southey was an English poet and author whose version of the fabulous children’s story “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” was the first one published, in 1837. While the tale has entertained kids for 177 years, little did Southey realize that his story is a fitting metaphor for modern subwoofers. Like the three bears’ porridge, chairs, and beds, subwoofers come in all shapes and sizes, and finding the one that’s “just right” for your particular room can sometimes require sampling different subs and room positions in order to get the best bass response.

Bob Ankosko  |  Dec 19, 2014  |  11 comments
At Sound & Vision, we’re constantly looking for subwoofers that outperform the competition and rise to the top of their price class. Here’s our list of the best subwoofers you can buy with recommendations in three price categories: less than $1,000, $1,000 to $4,000, and $5,000 and up.
David Vaughn  |  May 09, 2014  |  4 comments

SVS SB-2000 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value

SVS PB-2000 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $700, $800

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Room-friendly form factor (SB-2000)
Outstanding build quality
45-day in-home trial period
Minus
No built-in parametric equalizer
Best for moderately sized rooms

THE VERDICT
For rooms smaller than 3,000 cubic feet, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better bass value than what either of these subwoofers offers.

I've loved movies since I was a kid and have been interested in home theater for more than 20 years now. There are many reasons I prefer watching movies at home versus the local cinema: There's no texting or talking, for example, and I can pause the movie if I need a potty break. But the biggest reason I love watching at home is the sound. Don't get me wrong. It's not that the local theater sounds bad; it's just that my home theater sounds better overall, especially when it comes to bass.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Apr 18, 2014  |  0 comments

Aero 2 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

Aero 9 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $2,446

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Flat BMR in lieu of tweeter
Clear sonic window into the midrange
Unusual dual-mono/bipole surrounds
Affordable price
Minus
Boxy vinyl-wrap enclosures

THE VERDICT
Cambridge Audio’s Aero reinvents the two-way loudspeaker in midrange-friendly fashion with excellent performance and value.

What if you needed two throats to speak? Sounds a bit cumbersome, right? But that’s how a two-way loudspeaker usually treats the human voice. Its drivers divide the midrange frequencies where the voice resides into two parts, sending higher frequencies to the tweeter and lower frequencies to the woofer. While the crossover varies from speaker to speaker, the frequencies that handle the voice usually get split right in the region where human ears are most sensitive to vocal timbre.

Of course, good speaker designers routinely surmount this obstacle to natural vocal sound, either by carefully tweaking their two-way designs or by going to three-way designs that dedicate a separate driver to midrange reproduction. But the three-way approach adds two more crossover sections, potentially leading to other troubled areas of reproduction.

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