You need a subwoofer if you want to elevate the listening experience. If you ever experienced a sound system enhanced with a subwoofer, you understand the subwoofer’s positive effect on the overall experience. The good news is that you don’t have to be rich to enjoy great sound. There are many budget subwoofer for you to choose from.
Do I really need a subwoofer?
Having a subwoofer as part of your sound system always adds to your enjoyment of music or movies. A subwoofer can provide realistic sound to your music listening or movie watching experience. When you add a subwoofer to your room, it allows you to position your main speakers to allow them to perform their best.
A subwoofer can better reproduce deep bass than the woofer(s) built into passive speakers. One of the reasons for that is that subwoofers have their own dedicated amplifier. And a dedicated amplifier can do a better job.
Powered subwoofers are equipped with robust drivers with large excursion capabilities. Some models have an extraordinary 4” of a peak to peak excursion. The ideal subwoofer design should be engineered to dissipate the high heat associated with producing the sound. A well-designed subwoofer will be able to maintain reliable operation while reducing distortion.
The electronics built-in subwoofers may include Digital Signal Processing (DSP). DSPs are used to equalize the system with high precision while generating the high current required. To generate bass below 40Hz requires moving a lot of air, which is hard to do with low distortion. Thus, it makes sense that a dedicated subwoofer will do a better job than a regular speaker.
Having a subwoofer in your sound system also provides a sense of scale and dynamics superior to the speakers on their own. Don’t think that only music with a lot of bass content requires a subwoofer. When you have a subwoofer, even lower volume listening is more enjoyable.
And a second subwoofer can further enhance the listening experience by evening out the inevitable peaks and dips in room gain at bass frequencies. What that means is that you will get better sound distribution throughout your room. Having two subwoofers means that each of them will work half as hard for the same acoustic output, reducing sound distortion.
How do subwoofers help?
Subwoofers became popular in the 1970s. Today, subwoofers have much evolved. They are considered one of the essential enhancements in home audio in the last few decades. Check out the ways a budget subwoofer can enhance your listening experience:
- What makes a high-quality audio system? You might be surprised at how important the location of the speakers. Speaker placement is as important as the location of your speakers. You can place a subwoofer in places you could never place a traditional speaker. You can even hide your subwoofer behind a sofa or in a corner, where it drives better sound nicely tucked out of sight. And now that you have a subwoofer, you can have great quality sound with smaller speakers in your home.
- Large speakers can efficiently reproduce bass. But most of us don’t want to have large speakers in our homes. Others simply don’t have the space for huge speakers. With subwoofers, you no longer need to own large speakers to have high-quality bass. Now, even with small speakers and one or two subwoofers, you can reproduce great sound in your home. Subwoofers provide you with limitless flexibility and placement.
- When you use a subwoofer in your sound system, you can achieve excellent tonal balance – regardless of location – simply by turning on your subwoofer.
- Not only can your speakers be smaller today – even subwoofers shrunk over the years. Today, many subwoofers have a built-in amplifier. The added electronic equalization can compensate for the smaller size of your subwoofer.
What makes a great budget subwoofer?
Your ear hears sound within the range of 20 to 20,000 Hz. Music and other audio a frequency between. Basically, a subwoofer is critical to help you enjoy different frequency range sounds. It is a special type of speaker specifically engineered to reproduce the lowest frequencies for your audio listening pleasure. We know low frequencies as bass. It is true that all subwoofers are designed to reproduce bass, not all of them are built the same way. Certain features make some subwoofers higher-quality than others. If you want a budget subwoofer that also sounds great, you should know what to look for in such a specialized speaker. Your personal preference is also important when buying a subwoofer. You might prefer loud bass while someone else might prefer a subwoofer with tight bass. Thus, your ideal subwoofer might not be the best for someone else.
What to know when shopping for a budget subwoofer?
Let me be perfectly honest with you – if you’re on a budget and want to buy a subwoofer, you have to accept certain compromises. Buying the best subwoofer isn’t easy. But if you are willing to do a bit of research before you make the purchase you’ll be better prepared.
Before you start shopping for a budget subwoofer, make sure you understand the following:
- Manufacturer specs – In the past many subwoofer manufacturers have sold their speakers with some outrageous power ratings. Often these power ratings have been unbelievable for a budget subwoofer. As an example, you wouldn’t really believe that a subwoofer that measures no more than 15″ x 15″ in size could produce 1000 watts of power, correct? But for the inexperienced buyer, this might be difficult to catch. Understand that manufacturer’s specs are not always accurate.
- Amp power ratings – Amp power ratings describe the actual usable power a subwoofer can produce. The peak power rating doesn’t represent the actual power rating. You can think of the peak power rating the same way you would think of flooring a car. That’s not how you would normally drive your car if you expect it to last.
- Cheaper components – Keep in mind that budget subwoofers aren’t designed the same way as high-end models. Budget models include cheaper materials and components. But when you’ve got a budget, you’ve got to stick to it. And that’s OK.
- Crossovers – A subwoofer with crossovers are great to have. Crossovers offer a way to prevent distortion by blocking low-end bass that some speakers might not be able to handle well. If you want a clear and crisp sound, buy a subwoofer with crossovers.
Passive vs Powered Subwoofers
There are two main types of subwoofers on the market, passive or powered. Passive subwoofers require an external power supply, similar to regular speakers. If you are going to use a passive subwoofer, you will also need an external amplifier to drive a passive subwoofer. For the best sound quality, a passive subwoofer must be connected to the preamp outputs of your receiver. They are specifically designed to output audio signals that are clean for amplification. As a result, they deliver better sound quality.
Because subwoofers need a lot of power to reproduce bass, receiver outputs are insufficient for passive subwoofers. They simply cannot provide the necessary power output for passive subwoofers. For most receivers are low powered they are unable to output enough power to drive a subwoofer.
For this reason, you need an external amplifier. The amp is required to feed your passive sub with a sufficient amount of power. Check the power rating of your amp to make sure it can drive enough to drive your subwoofer.
A powered subwoofer, on the other hand, is a type of speaker that comes with its own built-in amplifier. That is the reason, a powered subwoofer doesn’t require an external power source. Therefore, you can connect your powered subwoofer directly to the preamp outputs of a receiver and achieve excellent sound quality. Consequently, you can leave your external amplifier to power your other tweeters and speakers. But, you’ll need an external powered source for your subwoofer – AC or DC depending on its power specs of your sub.
Because of ease of use, powered subwoofers are the most popular. They have their own built-in volume controls, allowing you to separate them from your receiver.
Before you buy a passive or a powered budget subwoofer, consider your requirements. If you prefer more customization, a passive subwoofer might work better for you. But, if you want easy setup, consider buying a powered subwoofer.
Your Budget Subwoofer Comparison Checklist
You can use the following checklist as you shop for your budget subwoofer:
- Size – What is the right size subwoofer for your home? If you buy a subwoofer that is too big, you will spend too much money. And a subwoofer that is too small will not provide the listening pleasure you want. So, what is the ideal subwoofer for your home? Before anything else, consider the size of your listening room. A larger room requires a larger subwoofer. That’s because you need more power to energize all that air space. Three times the room volume requires three times the power from the subwoofer to deliver the same loudness. But even more important than the size of the room is your personal preferences. Do you like loud sounds? Do you listen to bass-heavy movies? If yes, you will need a larger subwoofer or two.
- Powered subwoofer or not – Some experts only recommend powered subwoofers. A powered subwoofer has a built-in amplifier. The built-in amplifier gives the listener more control.
- Control is king—Look for features that are important to you. Will you be using the woofer in a home theater receiver? If yes, a “crossover bypass” on the sub allows the receiver to use its built-in crossover. The result is less interference. A “crossover” adjustment will allow your subwoofer to work well with other speakers. And a “phase” knob is helpful in getting the sub work with various room placements. An “auto ON/OFF” feature will shut down the subwoofer when not needed.
- One subwoofer or two?—If you want a more even listening experience, you might consider having two subwoofers instead of only one. Having two subwoofers create a smooth sound quality.
- Warranty—Only buy a subwoofer with an excellent manufacturer’s warranty. Read customer reviews to find out about how the company handles warranty issues.
- In-home audition and return policy— It is best to try a subwoofer in your home before you make a decision. Before you purchase your subwoofer, make sure that the company offers a generous return policy.
- Price—What is your budget? Are you looking for a budget subwoofer? Cross off the models that aren’t within your budget. Finally, compare the performance of the subwoofers you like. Consider the features, size, and looks of the models that are within your budget.
What to expect when shopping for a budget subwoofer?
When choosing a budget subwoofer, consider everything I wrote above as well as understanding that the least expensive subwoofers are a compromise. But even with budget subwoofers, you can expect good quality and performance but not the same high-performance level as you would get from more expensive higher-end models.
- A good budget subwoofer should still have a combination of the features you want, sufficient power, and good customer reviews. Never buy a subwoofer without a sufficient amount of buyer reviews.
- Don’t let a few one-star reviews deter you. Some budget-conscious buyers have unrealistic expectations of inexpensive subwoofers and leave negative reviews. Read a lot of reviews, and pay close attention to the reviews in the middle. That means five start and one-star reviews may not tell the whole story about a subwoofer. Also, read three and four-star reviews to get a better idea about the speaker before you decide.
- Don’t believe all the manufacturer’s specs you read. It is not at all uncommon to use “peak” power ratings in their specs for sales purposes. The real power rating is continuous RMS power.
- If you have the budget later, you could add a second subwoofer for better sound quality.
Closing thoughts about budget subwoofers
There are many features that make a great budget subwoofer. You want a high-quality subwoofer that recreates low-frequency sounds accurately. Look for a subwoofer that delivers quality bass, not just loud booming noise. An excellent budget subwoofer is about the fidelity of bass response. A subwoofer should deliver realistic sounds. As you can see from this article, experiencing high-quality bass from a sub is a combination of multiple factors. Keep all the above information in mind when you evaluate a subwoofer.