How Big a Subwoofer Do I Need?

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Q How big a subwoofer would I need to produce good home theater-quality bass in a 3,100-cubic-foot room? Would the Hsu VTF-15H be up to the job, or is there a better choice in my target price range (around $1,000)? —Steven Winter / via e-mail

A You’re going to have to consider more than just subwoofer size to zone in on the right model. I ran your question by S&V contributing technical editor Brent Butterworth, a man with years of speaker evaluation and measurement under his belt. Brent pointed me to his “Primer: CEA-2010” feature on subwoofer measurement, and specifically to this passage: “For home theater enthusiasts, I recommend a sub that delivers at least 120 decibels at 40, 50, and 63 hertz, and at least 110 dB at 20, 25, and 31.5 Hz.” Finding a sub that meets those criteria won’t be easy, however, since subwoofer manufacturers cite performance in terms of frequency response (i.e., –3 dB at 25 Hz) rather than output levels at the Low Bass (40, 50, 63 Hz) and Ultra-low Bass (20, 25, 31.5 Hz) tiers specified by the CEA-2010 subwoofer measurement standard. As luck would have it, Brent was able to recommend two models in your target price range that satisfy his specs (which address a typical 1,500 to 3,000 square-foot home theater room size). One you already know of: the Hsu VTF-15H ($879). The second is the recently reviewed Power Sound Audio XV15 ($799).

aopu.mohsin's picture


Funny, I was about to post a similar question!

My current Onkyo 10" subwoofer, which was part of a speaker package, seems to be giving up on me. I can clearly hear distortion even with a moderate subwoofer level when I put on blurays such as Dredd, Olympus has fallen, etc.

Initially I have been thinking of replacing my sub with one Hsu VTF-15H (350 W, 15", as low as 16 Hz, ported) for $879. But someone recently suggested I go with two SVS PB-1000 (300 W, 10", as low as 19 Hz, ported) for $1000 ($499 each).

My current room dimension is relatively small: 14' x 13' x 12', although we plan to move to a bigger house next year. If room filing, deep bass extension is preferable for both music and movies, then which route you would recommend I go with?

Any suggestions are very appreciated.

Valencia, CA

amann's picture

Do-It-Yourself and you can get a lot more for your money. For $1000 you can get a pair of 18" subs and an amp that will outperform any SVS or HSU sub at that price point.


See measurements of commercially available and DIY subs at