Best subwoofer: beef up the bass of your home audio system

The best subwoofers to get the greatest audio power from your home theater system

best subwoofer: SONOS SUB (Gen 3) Wireless Subwoofer
(Image credit: Sonos)

That rumbling bass frequency that fills the movie theater during a dramatic action scene is a huge part of what makes the experience so immersive. The thunderous feeling of bass vibrating through your seat is what helps you feel like you’re in amongst the action. If you want to recreate that feeling at home, you’ll need the best subwoofer as part of your home theater audio setup.

Subwoofers are speakers that specifically deliver bass frequencies (these are the frequencies at 20-200Hz if you want to get technical). Yes, of course, you can get bass from ordinary speakers, but with a subwoofer, you’ll get the kind of bass that you can feel vibrating around the room as well as through your seat.

It’s what delivers the authentic movie theater experience. Subwoofers aren’t purely for movie buffs though, if you love listening to bass-heavy music, a subwoofer will definitely enhance the experience. And if you're just getting started building your audio set-up, take a look at our guide to the best surround sound systems.

Here’s our pick of the best and most popular subwoofers available now, we’ve taken into account size, appearance, and frequency response as well as how easily it’ll connect to your current system.

The best subwoofers 2021

Bowers & Wilkins DB4S Subwoofer

(Image credit: Bowers & Wilkins)

1. Bowers & Wilkins DB4S Subwoofer

Best subwoofer for home theater

Direction: Front-firing
Driver size: 10-inch
Frequency response: 10-350Hz
Dimensions: 14.8 x 14.1 x 14.5in
Weight: 57.3lbs
Reasons to buy
+Wide frequency response+1000W built-in amp+Dedicated smartphone app
Reasons to avoid

This precision subwoofer is aimed at audiophiles, it’s an expensive bit of kit and the price won’t be easily justified if you simply want to add a bit of bass rumble to a movie soundtrack. But if you’re looking for top-notch audio quality and a thunderous bass that’ll shake your bones, then it’s worth investing in a higher-end sub.

Designed to create life-like yet dramatic bass through B&W’s uniquely shaped Aerofoil cone, this sub will work well for your home theater, but equally, it’ll add a stunning depth to your favorite albums with impressive frequency response.

The smartphone app gives you all the control you need to get the best out of this mighty sub, including room EQ which utilizes the microphone on your phone to calibrate the sub and tailor the sound to your room – which is particularly useful for those of us who aren’t audio geeks.

Livingetc rating: 5 out of 5 stars

SVS SB-1000 Pro Subwoofer

(Image credit: SVS)

2. SVS SB-1000 Pro Subwoofer

Best 12-inch subwoofer

Direction: Front-firing
Driver size: 12-inch
Frequency response: 20-270Hz
Dimensions: 13.5 x 13 x 14.8in
Weight: 26lbs
Reasons to buy
+No need to connect to an external amp +User-friendly app gives ultimate control +Not too chunky 
Reasons to avoid
-Not the most attractive sub on the list 

Ohio-based SVS provides home audio solutions that are enjoyed by many audio enthusiasts. The SB-1000 Pro is a compact sub that still packs a punch when it comes to low frequencies. The wide frequency range from 20–270Hz should provide more than enough bass to make your home theater feel like you’re at the movies.

The accompanying smartphone app gives you all the control you need to adjust the volume, create custom presets, and optimize settings to suit your room. Plus, you can make all the adjustments from your favorite spot on the couch so that the listening experience is optimized for this part of the room.

This mid-range subwoofer manages to pack a 12-inch driver into a neat box that’s not too tricky to hide under furniture. It’s a great solution if you’re short on space or reluctant to invest in a sizable sub but still want some punchy bass for the ultimate home theater.

Livingetc rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars 

SONOS SUB (Gen 3) Wireless Subwoofer

(Image credit: Sonos)

3. SONOS SUB (Gen 3) Wireless Subwoofer

Best wireless subwoofer

Direction: Can stand upright or lay on its side
Driver size: Two force cancelling drivers
Frequency response: As low as 25Hz
Dimensions: 15.3 x 15.8 x 6.2in
Weight: 36.3lbs
Reasons to buy
+Easy to pair with other Sonos speakers or soundbars+Available in black or white+Wireless configuration
Reasons to avoid
-Requires either a Sonos amp or speakers-Expensive-Only compatible with the S2 Sonos app

This wireless subwoofer from Sonos is the perfect option if you’ve already invested in a Sonos soundbar or speakers. The sleek high gloss finish and refined subtle design make it a great addition to your living room and nobody will guess it’s a sub. But, if you prefer your technology to be heard and not seen, it can lay on its side and slide under the sofa without impacting the audio quality.

It’s easy to pair with your existing Sonos system and the audio settings will automatically balance the sub with other Sonos speakers, offloading low frequencies to the sub so your other Sonos speakers can look after the higher frequencies.

There are adjustable EQ settings in the app, or you can use the Trueplay software and allow Sonos to tune the system to the acoustics of your room. If you’re not an audio geek but you appreciate good quality sound – Sonos gives you an easy route to superior home audio.

Livingetc rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars 

KEF KC62 Subwoofer

(Image credit: KEF)

4. KEF KC62 Subwoofer

Best compact subwoofer

Direction: Side-firing
Driver size: 2 x 6.5in
Frequency response: 11-200Hz
Dimensions: 9.7 x 10.1 x 9.8in
Weight: 30.9lbs
Reasons to buy
+Available in black or white+Subtle design and small size+Plenty of power
Reasons to avoid

Small subwoofers don’t always deliver when it comes to impactful bass, but if you’re prepared to invest a bit of extra cash, you’ll get all the bass you could hope for from this small box. As subwoofers go, this 10-inch cube is compact and will be easy to tuck out of sight, additionally, the side-firing design leaves the front of the box looking streamlined and simple and not at all like a typical sub.

Not only does it come with two 6.5 in drivers, but 1000W of built-in amplification will make sure this little box produces deceptively big bass. It provides the perfect compromise for bass lovers who value interior design that isn’t dominated by speakers, but it’s not the most affordable option.

Livingetc rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars 

Polk Audio HTS10 Powered Subwoofer

(Image credit: Polk Audio)

5. Polk Audio HTS10 Powered Subwoofer

Best budget subwoofer

Direction: Front-firing
Driver size: Dynamic Balance 10” driver (also available in 12 inch)
Frequency response: 25-180Hz
Dimensions: 16.6 x 15.1 x 16.1in
Weight: 37.8lbs
Reasons to buy
+Compatible with most home theater systems+Powered subwoofer doesn’t need to be connected to an amp+Available in 10 or 12-inch options
Reasons to avoid
-Not the smallest sub on the list -Frequency response range not as wide as some others 

If you’re looking for a sub that’ll enhance your home theater setup but won’t break the bank, the Polk Audio HTS is a great choice. Despite the affordable price, this front-firing subwoofer is powered so you won’t need to invest in a separate amp or power source – just hook it up to your audio source and you’re good to go. It’s not wireless though, so you will need to run a cable to it.

Not only is there a 10 or 12-inch option but you can also choose between a black or walnut finish to complement your décor and as subwoofers go, we think this one looks pretty good. With a frequency response as low as 25Hz, it’ll produce enough rumbling bass to take your movie experience to the next level but without an eye-watering price tag.

Livingetc rating: 4 out of 5 stars 

Klipsch R-100SW Reference Series 10" 150W Powered Subwoofer

(Image credit: Klipsch)

6. Klipsch R-100SW Reference Series 10" 150W Powered Subwoofer

Best budget subwoofer (runner up)

Direction: Front-firing
Driver size: 10-inch
Frequency response: 32-120Hz
Dimensions: 14.5 x 12.5 x 16.4in
Weight: 24lbs
Reasons to buy
+Good value+Attractive copper cone+Also available with a 12-inch driver for extra punchiness
Reasons to avoid
-Doesn’t have the widest frequency response range

The spun copper injection-molded graphite cone is what gives this sub its distinct look, but it’s not all style over substance. This construction makes it lightweight and rigid – exactly what’s required for excellent low-frequency response. It’s got a digital amp built-in so you don’t need to hook it up to an external amp but it’s not wireless so you’ll still need to get your audio to it via a cable.

The frequency response range isn’t as wide as you get from some other subs, but for under $500 this Klipsch sub will deliver all the bass you need for most home theater or music setups. At 16.4 inches deep, it’s not a compact sub but thankfully at just 14.5 inches tall, you should still be able to tuck it under a side table if you want it out of sight.

Livingetc rating: 4 out of 5 stars 

How to choose the best subwoofer for your home

Bowers & Wilkins DB4S Subwoofer

(Image credit: Bowers & Wilkins)

Not all subwoofers are made the same and there are a few useful things to know when deciding which one will meet your needs. Here’s our guide to some of the terminology. 

Powered or passive?

Powered subwoofers (also known as active subwoofers) have a built-in amplifier or power source, so there’s no need to connect them to a separate, standalone amplifier – this can make set up easier.

Powered subwoofers are typically the preferred choice in a setup where only one subwoofer is required. They’re also the most popular solution, hence why all the amps on our list are powered. With a passive subwoofer, you’ll need an external amp, which adds to the cost of the setup. 

Front-firing or down-firing?

Down-firing subwoofers direct the sound directly at the floor whereas front-firing models usually direct the sound out of the side of the subwoofer. As for which produces the best quality bass – well that seems to be one thing audiophiles can’t agree on.

The general consensus is that the differences are barely audible to most people. However, if you live in an apartment, you’d be better off picking a front-firing subwoofer so that you’re not directing those deep bass frequencies through the floor to your downstairs neighbors. 

Wired or wireless? 

If you’re concerned about miles of speaker cable circling your room and have no way to hide it neatly, you may be tempted to go for a wireless subwoofer. These use wireless methods like Bluetooth or wi-fi to transmit the sound signal instead of the traditional cables.

Wireless subwoofers are more expensive and audio quality can be limited by poor wireless connections. Having said that, set up is easier with a wireless model and when you don’t have to worry about how to hide cables you have more options for where you can place it.