Should I Replace My 20-Year-Old Subwoofer?

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Q I have a modest home theater in my basement that I have been slowly upgrading over the last two decades. The only component I haven’t upgraded yet is my Polk Audio subwoofer since it was a pretty decent model when I purchased it 20 years ago. The Polk is a vented sub with a 12-inch driver and a Class-AB amp rated for 100 watts continuous (400 watts max) output, with frequency response rated down to 28 Hz. Here’s my question: Would I benefit from upgrading to a new 12-inch sub? I am currently looking at a Polk HTS 12 (pictured above), another model with a 12-inch driver but a Class-D amp rated for 200 watts continuous (400 watts max) output, and frequency response down to 22 Hz. My system is in my basement rec room, a 3,200 cubic foot space, and I mostly use it for watching movies and occasionally for listening to music. —Cal Rempel, via email

A An approximately 3,000 cubic foot space such as yours would be considered as edging on “large” for a home theater. And while you might think that a single subwoofer with a 12-inch driver might not be enough to fill a large space with bass, the THX certification program consumers can use for comparative shopping has certified 12-inch subwoofers under its Ultra specification, which is for spaces up to 3,000 cubic feet. (See our review of the $800 Monoprice Monolith M12-S, a 2019 Top Pick of the Year finalist.) One THX Ultra requirement is that the subwoofer be able to hit a peak sound-pressure level (SPL) of 115 dB in a 3,000 cubic foot room from a distance of 12 feet. And while it’s unclear if your current subwoofer is capable of delivering that level of performance, there are other reasons why you might want to upgrade to a new model.

Newer subs offer features like DSP controls, onboard room correction, and parametric EQ adjustments. Some also provide iOS/Android apps that can be used for easy setup and calibration, and for making on-the-fly tweaks while viewing/listening. While the Polk Audio HTS 12 you’re looking at lacks features like app control or room correction, one key upgrade it does provide is Polk’s Power Port, a bottom-mounted, floor-firing design that effectively minimizes port noise and turbulence — artifacts you’re most liable to hear when watching movies with powerful low-frequency effects.

If you do upgrade to a new sub, you might also want to hang on to your old one. Using dual subwoofers will help to smooth out response so the sound is equally balanced across multiple seats. In some ways, deploying multiple subs in your system is the best possible bass upgrade you can make.


Subwoofer Setup: How to Get Great Bass in 3 Steps

mars2k's picture

Could someone explain that concept with regard to sub woof use?

brenro's picture

A 100 watt plate amplifier doesn't sound like it would pressure a room very much. My subs are old also but they're Velodyne DD15's with 1250 watt amplifiers. A pain to set up compared to what's available now but I see no compelling reason to replace them.

JediFonger's picture

i've got an old velodyne cht12 and i'm in exactly the same boat as you. i've demo'd a few subs out there like svs/rythmik/monoprice/velodyne/rel and honestly all of the latest offerings beats the pants off what you and i have.

also given your room size i'd recommend going with something larger, 15+.

as for me, i'm going to save up and eventually get the rythmik fv18 and go all out :)

John Sully's picture

Except that I have a Velodyne HGS-15. This thing is still a beast and really rattles the walls when I crank my system up. So far I see no reason to get a replacement.

BigMac's picture

Y'all must have some big mansions on this forum. My entire home is 4,100 sq. ft. and I think that's a big home. A 3,000 sq. ft. home theater by itself is HUGE in my books!

funambulistic's picture

The OP's basement is 3200 Cubic Feet, which translates to roughly 450 Square Feet (assuming an 8' ceiling). That is not huge... Your whole house, for instance (and using the same 8' ceiling assumption) is around 32,000 cubic feet!

Dealzguy18's picture

Just get a midrange HSU or SVS for about $600 and you are good. More than enough for 400 SFT HT room. I love the dual sub deals that SVS puts out for their SB1000 pair for about $800. Best upgrade on a budget

3ddavey13's picture

I have similar sub, a Paradigm PW-2200 that's 19 years old. I just added an SVS SB3000. The bass is so much more defined. The more powerful amps and DSPs in new subs make a world of difference. Since watching movies is a prime concern, a ported sub with tuning bongs may be your best option. With your large space go as big as you can afford. Definitely hold on to old sub and read the S&V article on Subwoofer Setup Steps. I made the mistake of setting mine up as a stereo pair. It sounded so bad I removed the Paradigm until I read the article. Now I have both subs diagonally on front and back walls. Good luck. I'm sure you'll be delighted with how much much better your new sub sounds compared to to a 20-year old model. I know I did.

TFK40's picture

Just a follow up, this was my question to S&V. I purchased the Polk sub and am very happy with it. It definitely goes deeper and plays bass more clearly than my old sub. So far I am just using the new Polk, not sure if I need the second sub as things are already vibrating in my basement. I may try the dual sub set up just to see how it sounds.

3ddavey13's picture

I commented earlier about my 2-sub setup which pairs an SVS SB3000 and a Paradigm PW-2200. I've recently been informed that you shouldn't combine sealed and ported subs in the same system. Is this true? I'll admit that occasionally things got a little bass heavy, however I attributed that to Audyssey which I feel does a poor job with subs in general.