Written By Teodora Spirovska
Published Nov. 12, 2020

As a music and audio connoisseur, you already know the massive difference that quality sound equipment can make in a listening experience. Sure, you could turn on any old stereo and hear your music just fine, but to fully enjoy a track the way it was meant to be heard you want to be able to appreciate the deep, room-filling low tones that only a powered subwoofer can provide.

There are many features and specifications to consider when it comes to powered subwoofers, such as whether you need a large subwoofer or a small one and whether it is a deep or shallow mount subwoofer. Below, we’ve compiled a list of the best powered subwoofers on the market, broken down by the different types, features, and benefits that make each one a worthy addition.

The Best Powered Subwoofers

The Cerwin Vega VPAS10 is an ultra-slim 10-inch powered subwoofer that provides comparable punch to bigger subwoofers without taking up all of that trunk space. The inside features a fully integrated amplifier encased in a cast aluminum heatsink for increased durability and conductivity. It also offers a variable bass boost option to increase the bass by up to 12 decibels and high-level inputs to increase your system’s volume and clarity even further. Aside from its raw sound production power, the VPAS10 offers some great perks: the unit comes with a remote control so you can adjust it easily from a distance and an inner phase switch that increases its sensitivity and expands its effective bandwidth.

One thing to take note of with this subwoofer is that it has a relatively narrow bandwidth. Users also report that it can have problems with overheating.

Key Features
  • Adjustable input sensitivity
  • Delayed soft remote turn on
  • Constant subsonic filter at 35 Hz
  • Power handling peak at 550 watts
Specification
  • Brand Cerwin Vega
  • Model VPAS10r
  • Weight 13.02 pounds
PROS

Sleek and compact

Remote control included

Can be attached to your vehicle

CONS

Relatively narrow bandwidth

Works best in very small spaces

Problems with overheating

The Monoprice Powered Subwoofer is an 8-inch enclosure capable of operating continuously at a comfortable 60 watts (RMS). It has a frequency range of 50 to 250 Hz with a low pass crossover filter, which can be easily adjusted from 50 to 150 Hz. Knobs on the main control panel allow you to adjust gain, blend, and balance with your other speakers. What’s great about Monoprice’s product is the level of versatility offered for such a reasonable price. It has multiple input options, making it compatible with most existing stereo setups and 5.1 amplifier systems. Additionally, it uses line-level inputs to process mono bass signals from multiple inputs, whereas other subwoofers keep the sounds split.

One thing to consider is that the frequency ceiling is relatively high compared to other subwoofers. Also, there is a noticeable lack of detail in the subwoofer’s finish.

Key Features
  • High-level inputs
  • Black wood cabinet
  • Frequency response range of 50 to 250 Hz
  • Automatic power-down
Specification
  • Brand Monoprice
  • Model 108248
  • Weight 3 pounds
PROS

Can be used with any existing stereo or 5.1 amplifier system

Has a set of right/left line level inputs

Frequency floor is very low

CONS

Frequency ceiling is relatively high

Lack of detail on the finish

Doesn’t measure up to more expensive options

This subwoofer uses a professional bandpass design that delivers high-level output unmatched by its competitors. It offers incredible power and resonance created by some of the industry’s leading sound designers. It also features a full set of input and output connections, allowing quick integration and sonic optimization of any system. The sheer versatility and power of the Thump18S make it clear why professional sound engineers worldwide choose it to fill their rooms with deep and clear tones.

While this premium pick is a solid choice, it should be noted that there can often be weak Bluetooth connectivity. It’s also fairly large compared to other subwoofers on the market.

The Polk Audio PSW10 is a 10-inch active subwoofer with dynamic balance and a directed port that increases accurate bass with added depth for more realism in all the sounds you hear. This is a great subwoofer for a cinematic home system that is mostly used for watching movies. It also features a polymer composite driver that delivers extra punch, lifting your audio experience no matter what type of media you’re enjoying. This subwoofer also blends well with other speaker systems, thanks to its continuously variable frequency crossover range and resonance-free driver materials. It also includes a detachable front grill and speaker-level outputs on the back.

Although this is an overall great subwoofer, it’s a bit bulkier than most and doesn’t entirely add up to other more expensive competitors on the market.

Key Features
  • Single 10" Subwoofer
  • 100 watts RMS
  • State-of-the-art Klippel distortion analyzer
  • 80-160 Hz crossover
Specification
  • Brand N/A
  • Model AM1055-C
  • Weight 26 pounds
PROS

Clear sound even at high volumes

Easily integrates with other systems

Unique design for increased stability

CONS

Bulky

Doesn’t measure up to more expensive models

The Sony SACS9 active subwoofer was also designed with home theaters in mind. The 9.84 in cone diaphragm moves large volumes of air, producing heavy low-end resonance that makes your bass sounds more rich and authentic. The cone is built of specially designed mica reinforced cellular fibers that can hold their rigid shapes, even at the high speeds required for driving your bass into crystal-clear audio quality. Its inner amplifier can reach up to 115 watts of power output, causing it to release more high pressure inside the enclosure, thereby creating high-quality and powerful bass sounds. 

Although it undoubtedly delivers quality sound, this subwoofer isn’t best suited for playing music. It also isn’t compatible with some older speaker models, and it has a limited wattage compared to other options.

Key Features
  • Compatible with high-resolution audio
  • MCR fibers reinforce the cone structure
  • Speaker and line level inputs
  • RCA cord included
Specification
  • Brand Sony
  • Model SACS9
  • Weight 21 pounds
PROS

Compact design

Minimizes vibrations

Great for a home theater

CONS

Not optimized for music

Not compatible with some older speaker setups

Limited wattage compared to competitors

If an excellent car subwoofer is what you’re looking for, then check out the Rockville RW10CA. This super slim device is designed to fit in your trunk or under the seat of a car. Though it may be small, this subwoofer can reach 800 watts at peak power consumption and 200 watts RMS. It also has its own high-level inputs, so you don’t need a remote wire to trigger the unit on and off. Rockville also managed to fit a lot of controls onto such a small main panel. Included are volume controls, a subsonic filter for low-end frequencies, and a low pass crossover, among other great knobs for fine-tuning your sound experience.

Since this subwoofer is designed for cars, it performs best in smaller areas and doesn’t perform well in larger spaces. It also tends to run hot.

Key Features
  • Auto turn on technology
  • Soft Delayed Remote Turn-On
  • Adjustable Input Sensitivity
Specification
  • Brand Rockville
  • Model RW10CA
  • Weight 14.25 pounds
PROS

Overload protection circuit

Mounts easily in the car

30-day money back guarantee

CONS

Poor performance in large spaces

Runs hot overall

The BIC F12 is an excellent powered subwoofer for larger spaces like movie theaters, concert halls, or outdoor venues. It is built with an injection molded long throw woofer, which allows it to project sounds further away than its competitors without sacrificing clarity. It also used BIC’s patented “Venturi” vent to eliminate port noise and keep your sounds playing crisp and throwing in the direction you need. The high power levels that the F12 offers make it clear why professionals favor it over competitors for big rooms and loud music, looking at its high current 475-watt peak amplifier. Additionally, you can tweak the noise level using the adjustable crossover, volume control, signal sensing, and other user-input settings that BIC has built into this great product.

Although this subwoofer is powerful, it is on the more expensive end of the price range and is very large and heavy.

Key Features
  • 12-inch injection molded long throw woofer
  • Patented BIC "Venturi" vent
  • Magnetic shielding
  • Gold-plated terminals
Specification
  • Brand BIC
  • Model F12
  • Weight 41.2 pounds
PROS

Lots of adjustable features

Inputs for both Dolby Pro Logic and Dolby Digital

Limited five-year warranty

CONS

Very large and heavy

Too powerful for most home systems

On the expensive side

The Klipsch R-100SW is an excellent powered subwoofer for your home entertainment system, boasting many impressive features, including a spun-copper IMG woofer that is both light and rigid, providing high-quality sound and minimal distortion. The built-in, all-digital amplifier delivers power with high efficiency and superb accuracy reproduction, providing maximum output, detail, and power. Your experience with the R-100SW is also highly customizable, as it includes user-inputs for subwoofer gain, low pass crossover, and phase controls to help low frequencies blend with other sounds and create the perfect sound for your space. With such high-quality output, you can place it anywhere in a room without worrying about placement acoustics.

A few things to consider before purchasing this subwoofer are that it doesn’t have mounting options and has a high floor for low frequencies. Also, reviewers have said it’s not the most durable.

Key Features
  • All-digital amplifier
  • RCA inputs for maximum receiver compatibility
  • Auto power on function
  • 10 inches wide
Specification
  • Brand Klipsch
  • Model Klipsch R-100SW
  • Weight 26 pounds
PROS

Flexible placement capability

Lots of adjustment controls

Blends well with other speakers

CONS

No mounting options

High floor for low frequencies

Not the most durable

A great powered subwoofer for your home theater could be the Acoustic Audio PSW-12. This unit can reach up to 500 watts at peak power, using an integrated high-efficiency amplifier to give you loud and clear sounds in a medium-sized space. These are supplemented by many inner support methods, including a PVA-treated cone with incredibly high rigidity and added internal bracings for increased stability. The PSW-12 features high and low-level inputs for compatibility with most other systems, and its wide frequency response range ensures that you don’t miss any of the sounds from your favorite movie or album.

Although this subwoofer is great for medium-sized spaces, it doesn’t perform as well in larger areas. You also need to give it some time to warm up before using it, and there also might be some unwanted background noise.

Key Features
  • Automatic signal sensing
  • 500 watts at peak power
  • Long throw woofer
  • High rigidity PVA-treated cone
Specification
  • Brand Acoustic Audio
  • Model PSW-12
  • Weight 32 pounds
PROS

Includes RCA cable and Y adapter

Available in different sizes

Mount on wall or ceiling

CONS

Some background noise

Needs to warm up

Poor performance in large spaces

This compact and powerful subwoofer is available in several different sizes and arrangement options, all of them featuring powerful sound from a sturdy, carpeted enclosure with plenty of ventilation. The power and style that this unit provides make it an excellent option for your vehicle since it can provide volume and clarity without taking up a lot of space in your trunk. It’s easy to connect this subwoofer with your home system as well, since it features high level and RCA inputs. Additionally, external controls are included so you can adjust the volume easily from the backside. It also comes with mounting equipment, so setting it up wherever you need is simple.

While the adjustment controls are a handy feature, there are not as many as one would like. Also, be aware that the carpet material can get warm when the subwoofer is in use.

Key Features
  • 8-inch single amplified tube
  • 240 watts at peak power
  • High level and RCA inputs
  • Wireless display
Specification
  • Brand MTX
  • Model RT8PT
  • Weight 19.45 pounds
PROS

Vented design increases output

Small, convenient size

10-inch and 12-inch options available

CONS

Poor performance in large spaces

Carpet material gets warm

Few adjustment controls

Best Powered Subwoofers Buying Guide & FAQ

Now that you’ve seen all the options, you might be ready to make a purchase, but maybe you still want to learn more so that you can be the most informed buyer possible. If that’s the case, we’ve assembled this comprehensive buying guide to help answer all the burning questions you have about picking the perfect powered subwoofer. Below, you’ll learn about the different types of subwoofers available and the variety of benefits that your options can provide for you.

The Advantages of Owning a Powered Subwoofer

You might need a powered subwoofer because they produce the low bass frequencies that give music depth and richness. Listening to music without a subwoofer could generally sound of poor quality, but adding one to your home entertainment setup is one of the fastest ways to increase your overall experience. Because subwoofers are more efficient than traditional speakers, having just one will noticeably increase your entire sound system’s performance.

A powered subwoofer will make sounds clearer and more realistic. Music will sound more like a live performance, and sound effects in movies will seem like they’re coming from all around you. Particularly when it comes to low-frequency sounds that make you feel a rumbling in your chest, you can’t beat the quality that a subwoofer will offer over traditional options.

  • Powered subwoofers allow you to reduce the overall size of your entertainment system.
  • Sound effects and background ambiance will seem more realistic and cinematic.
  • It will take care of the bass, freeing up your other speakers to produce high tones more reliably.
  • Place it anywhere in the room without worrying about acoustic efficiency.

Popular Types of Powered Subwoofers

To the naked eye, many subwoofers might look like a nondescript box with a hole in one side, but their insides can contain many minute differences that contribute to the benefits they offer and what kinds of sound will come through them in the highest possible quality. Consider the different types of powered subwoofers available before making your final decision.

Direct Radiating

Direct radiating powered subwoofers are generally enclosures on the smaller and lighter side. To make up for the compact design, a port tube is affixed to one side of the box to improve its overall efficiency and low-frequency output. Although its small size results in this type of subwoofer having a shorter focused throw, its omnidirectional capabilities allow it to cover all directions much better in a reasonably-sized space.

If you’re using direct radiating subwoofers in a huge room, you may find that you need additional subwoofers chained together to cover all that space.

Horn-Loaded

Horn-loaded powered subwoofers are built with directionality in mind. They are designed to emanate most of their sound in one direction, making a sort of horn shape and traveling much further away from the point of origin. Though they are often large and heavy compared to other subwoofers, they have a very high output in their relatively short bandwidth.

By improving the coupling between the speaker system and the air, horn-loaded subwoofers often give the impression that they are amplifying the sound, but they just increase the speaker cone’s electrical energy, which makes the whole process more efficient overall.

Cardioid

Cardioid subwoofers are designed for omnidirectional use, emitting sound in every direction at the same time. A potential problem with this type of subwoofer is that it can cause a buildup of bass onstage, leading to heavy microphone feedback and worse stage monitor performance. Cardioid speakers are best used in groups of two or three to avoid this issue, where one is programmed to produce cancellation of the excess vibrations and feedback. 

Some subwoofers on the market now come with cardioid-like settings that allow you to toggle between different modes and achieve similar effects.

Powered Subwoofer

What to Look for When Buying Powered Subwoofers

Perhaps the most important thing to consider when buying a powered subwoofer is what space you’re going to use it in. Are you looking for a huge enclosure that can fill a stadium with sound, or do you just need an improved subwoofer for your car? Different subwoofers will offer different features that will work better or worse, depending on what you need them for. The size and shape of the enclosure can also affect the efficiency of the hardware inside. 

To have the fullest understanding of how your powered subwoofer will operate, it’s important to consider all of its parts together because the way they interact will matter more to your final sound quality than how efficient any individual feature is.

The Most Important Features of Powered Subwoofers

There are a few basic but essential, features to consider before making a major purchase, like a powered subwoofer. The relationship between the subwoofer you use, the types of sounds you’re producing, and the space that you’re playing in cannot be overstated. Before you buy, take care to consider the following and decide whether the powered subwoofer you’re looking at has the features to fulfill all of your needs.

Size

Powered subwoofers come in many different shapes and sizes, usually ranging from 8-inch subwoofers to 15-inch subwoofers. Some of them can be easily placed on a table while others could more easily have a small table placed on top. The larger your subwoofer is, the more efficiently it will work, meaning it will use less energy and produce higher-quality sound.

The tradeoff is that larger enclosures will have a narrower range, which means that the cut-off for frequencies to produce will be tighter on the top and bottom. In the end, the sounds you hear will be great, but you may end up missing important tones that are lost outside of a big subwoofer’s range.

Output

The output determines how loud the subwoofer can get. A subwoofer can have excellent output, regardless of its size, but having a small unit with huge output usually means that some other feature, such as its frequency bandwidth, will suffer as a result.

If you need a loud subwoofer that can travel across a stadium, you will need a large enclosure to keep the overall sound quality up. However, if you are managing an intimate concert or other more private space, it’s likely you don’t need something so loud, which will allow you to spend your money on additional features that will serve you better.

Bass Extension

Bass extension refers to the lowest frequency that your subwoofer can produce before it becomes distorted or compressed. There is usually a small “slope” near the bottom of an enclosure’s frequency range where the sound quality drops due to reaching the edge of the unit’s extension.

Finding a subwoofer with a wide extension could mean sacrificing other features as a result, but it’s also possible to increase your effective frequency range somewhat by chaining multiple subwoofers together. Either option can end up requiring relatively more energy consumption than other available features, so it’s important to know the range you’re operating in before committing.

Powered Subwoofer

Best Powered Subwoofer FAQs:

If you’re still unsure which powered subwoofer is the best one for your needs, consider the basic functions that they all come with and compare them to what you’ll be using them for. There are a lot of features and specifications that you might want to take into account. Read through this short FAQ for some more information that could help give context for your purchase.

Q: What is a powered subwoofer?

Powered subwoofers have a self-contained amplifier/speaker configuration that helps to conserve power and allow more fine-tuning of the sound quality that comes through them.

Q: What is the difference between an active subwoofer and a powered subwoofer?

‘Active Subwoofer’ and ‘Powered Subwoofer’ are two names for the same type of subwoofer, which has an internal amplifier instead of a ‘passive’ subwoofer that requires an external amplifier.

Q: What is the best powered subwoofer?

The best powered subwoofer for you depends on the acoustics of the space you’re using it in and the type of sound you’re playing through it.

Our Top Pick

In the end, we chose the Cerwin Vega VPAS10 as our top pick out of all the best powered subwoofers we found available on the market. This decision came out of the impressive range of functionality, durability, and extra perks that it offers compared to its competitors. Between its high power handling peak, variable pass filter, and nifty remote control, we couldn’t deny that the VPAS10 earned its place at the top.

Final Thoughts

Now we’ve laid out all the best powered subwoofers we could find and the methods we used for comparing them. Whether you’re partial to the overall performance and features of the Cerwin Vega VPAS10 or the value of the Monoprice Powered Subwoofer, we’re sure the tools are here for you to find a powered subwoofer to suit your needs.

Sources:

  1. Subwoofer – Wikipedia

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