Last Updated on September 19, 2020 by Ryan Harrell
If you want to truly get a handle on your bass, you need a subwoofer for your studio. The best studio subwoofers amp up the low-end and help you figure out how your tracks sound in bass-heavy environments, such as theaters. If you’re producing music for movies or games, a subwoofer is a necessity. This guide will help you find the best studio subwoofer for your budget in 2020.
Subwoofers divide opinion greatly among producers. There are those who believe that you can’t build a studio without one. And there are those who believe that subwoofers crowd the lower end, especially in untreated rooms.
The truth, as with most things, is somewhere in between.
For most producers and most home studios, subwoofers are not necessary. In fact, I’d say that subwoofers can lead to poorer mixes since most bedroom producers don’t have well-treated rooms. The power wielded by a good subwoofer is far too much in such untreated environments, creating low-end reflections that don’t give you a fair idea of the mix.
Moreover, people will usually listen to your mixes on regular headphones or speakers. Most of these don’t have enough low-end to mix specifically for them.
On the other hand, if you’re producing music for movies, games, or anything that will be played on large speakers (such as a home theater system), then you absolutely need a subwoofer in your studio – with good acoustic treatment, of course. You need to be able to hear the low rumbling frequencies in order to mix for them, and that’s where a subwoofer comes in handy.
If this describes you, then this guide is for you. Below, I’ll look at the top subwoofers available in the market right now. I’ll share my list of the best studio subwoofers for every budget, from entry-level producers to professionals who need pristine low-end sound.
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The Best Studio Subwoofer in 2020
When looking at the best studio subwoofers in 2020, I divided the range of selections by budget and need. I looked at the very low end of the market where entry level subwoofers help bedroom producers add some bass to their setup. Then I looked at mid-range subwoofers that would fit most production environments.
Finally, I looked at the mid-upper range that would be suited for majority of producers – barring ultra high-end movie studios.
Here are my top picks:
This excellent subwoofer has been around for a while; however, it stands the test of time and remains one of the best studio subwoofers you can find on the market right now. It offers audiophiles crystal clear sound and comes with several impressive features despite the age and relatively low price.
When buying a subwoofer, or any musical gear for that matter, it is wise to consider the design. Fortunately, the design of the Yamaha HS8 is one of the best looking I’ve seen. It looks stunning and will fit into any studio, even making the studio space looking better.
At first glance, you might notice that it features 14 bolts that have been placed in key areas on the body and that accentuate its physical appeal. While the overall design is simple, there is something about the minimalist appearance that draws you in. If you are looking for a classy yet simple design, then you will love this model.
The design isn’t just for show, though. I observed that the build of the cabinets results in a subwoofer that effectively eliminates unwanted resonance. The enclosed cabinets make it sound so much better than most options on the market. Upon in-depth research, I discovered that these cabinets are actually made from MDF which is known for its ability to dampen acoustic response.
There is a pair of connection options. These are TRS and XLR. The connection options lets you connect balanced and unbalanced signals to get the best sound quality.
Sound quality is the main reason why you will be looking to invest in this product. I have personally tested several models on the market, and I must say that the performance of this product is one of the best I have personally used. One of the most impressive things about the sound is the bass reproduction. It is simply incredible. Considering the relatively affordable cost of the Yamaha, it is truly impressive.
It comes with a bi-amp design that ensures that the tweeter and woofer sound separately. Therefore, it offers a noteworthy flat response.
To get the best performance from this speaker, Yamaha have made it with several tuning options. Hence you can adjust the output to get exactly what you want.
What I don’t like:
They are rather heavy. While I personally don’t plan on carrying it from place to place, folks that want something portable might balk at the weight. The HS8 might also be a little too overpowered if you’re using smaller studio monitors such as the PreSonus 4.5. I also wouldn’t recommend using them in smaller studios.
Best Small Studio Subwoofer: BIC America F12
- Dolby Pro Logic and Digital inputs
- 5-year warranty
- 12” injection molded woofer
The BIC America Company has been making high-quality audio equipment for more than 40 years and this model is the company’s most popular budget option on the market right now. Aside from being a leading product in the manufacturer’s line of products, it also is one of the most impressive budget options that I tested. Most BIC speakers come with impressive bass, and I’m glad that this model does not disappoint.
It comes in a simple design. However, it still is very effective at what it does. The simple rectangular black box is somewhat generic. However, like our top choice discussed above, it comes with a cabinet made from MDF board. It also is coated with black laminate. All these features mean that it will produce really decent sounds. The base of the box features a quartet of rubber feet. These absorb vibrations and ensure that despite these vibrations, the box remains stable.
While design-wise there isn’t anything spectacular about the subwoofer, the minimalist design is oddly attractive. The cabinet is from very durable, and high-quality materials that will definitely last for a long time. The shiny metallic middle is exposed and adds a dash of style to the simple design.
Setting up the BIC America F12 is straightforward. I could set it up in a few minutes. Just plug in the power cable, connect the receiver via the sub input, choose the receiver type, and switch it on. As you do this, remember to consider placement. Choose a spot in the studio that will amplify the sound.
This excellent product produced some really rich sounds. In fact, I had to recheck the volume because the bass response seemed far louder than what it really was. Overall, the sound quality is excellent. Despite being a budget option, it delivers consistent volume, impactful bass response, and impressive frequency separation.
What I don’t like
Although it produces really great sound and comes with rubber feet to help with vibration, I found the vibration, especially at high volumes, to be nearly unbearable.
Best Professional Studio Subwoofer: ADAM Audio Sub8
- 8” woofer
- 160w Amp
- Dual motorized knobs
- Remote controllable
The Adam Audio Sun8 is the next option on this roundup and comes with nice features that make it one of the best I have tested. From testing and reviews, it arguably offers the best audio quality from studio subwoofers on the market.
The design is very simple, and it wouldn’t likely catch your eye in a room full of subwoofer. At first glance, I feel that this is a perfect case of a company optimizing performance over aesthetics. Although it doesn’t, by any stretch of the imagination look like an awful product, it doesn’t stand out either. It looks basic; what really matters isn’t what it looks like but what it sounds like. The cabinet has a classy, black vinyl finish. Overall, it offers a neutral appearance and will not clash with the aesthetics of your studio.
The material is made with high-quality MDF. Aside from the MDF build, I like the different locations of the controls.
The subwoofer comes with excellent features that make up for the relatively muted design. At its core, it has an 8.5” woofer with a 1.5” coil. This is powered by the 160 Watt ICE amplifier. This build ensures that it delivers efficient performance. During testing, I observed that it used very little energy. Therefore, if you plan on mixing all day, this model can take the heat, so to speak.
As I pointed out earlier, I love the placement of the controls. The controls lie between the front and back panels. The rear panel features rarely used controls like polarity switches, while the front panel comes with regularly used controls like volume and crossover adjustment.
Performance is where this product really shines. It delivers optimal volume while being very clear. It can reach down to 28Hz without compromising on its linear response.
What I don’t like
The design is the only fault I have with this otherwise perfect subwoofer.
Best for Small Home Theaters: Polk Audio PSW10
- 10” dynamic balance woofer
- 50 Watt RMS Amp
- 80-160 Hz crossover
- 40-160 Hz frequency response
The Polk PSW10 won’t knock your socks off but it’s entirely serviceable as a home theater or mini studio subwoofer. The small size and robust performance is ideal for small to medium-sized rooms. It is available in a pair of colors: black and cherry vinyl. With its 14.5” by 14” dimensions, it is a compact subwoofer that will fit into most studios easily.
As with many top-quality options, it is made with MDF; hence, it is fairly durable.
It is a 10” woofer that features a 50 Watt amplifier. While it isn’t the most powerful option on this roundup, in fact, it is the weakest; it is still better than several budget options you can find on the market. The power rating was originally a cause for scepticism, but after testing, I was convinced by its performance and will recommend it as a budget addition to a studio.
It comes with nice connectivity features. You will get a speaker level I/Os and RCA line-level inputs as well. However, it doesn’t have a direct input. I personally prefer my subwoofers to have a direct input because it makes blending sound much easier. Nevertheless, I must admit that I didn’t have any issues pairing it with other speakers.
Performance is the main reason to get the Polk Audio PSW10. Due to its small size and price, I did not expect much from the woofer. However, tests proved me quite wrong and hasty in my judgment. It comes with impressive bass output which sounded clear and detailed without being overwhelming.
It was also more than adequate for audio playback as it sounded precise and offered a great low-end.
Set up is quite straightforward as it can be connected to devices easily.
What I don’t like
The PSW10 can be a bit moody. Some users report that the unit fails to fire up randomly without any explanation. However, these complaints are rare.
Best for Serious Home Theaters: Yamaha NS-SW300PN
- 20 to 160 Hz frequency
- 250W output power
- 10” woofer
- Dual feedback circuit
The Polk PSW10 is too underpowered and muddy for serious home theaters. And the Yamaha HS8 is too dry for home theaters – it’s best reserved for studio settings.
So if you’re looking to build a serious home theater, what subwoofer should you go for?
Enter: the Yamaha NS-SW300PN.
First of all, this subwoofer comes with Yamaha’s Active Servo Circuitry. While this technology isn’t new, it is quite impressive when used in a subwoofer. Another feature that it comes with is the twister bass reflex port, which is definitely new and ground-breaking in subwoofer design.
It looks really good as it comes with a high-gloss finish.
It comes in a compact form, measuring just 350×366×420mm. With this compact design, it might somewhat be disconcerting that such a small product delivers such excellent sound quality. Something I found quite surprising is that Yamaha claims that it has a frequency response as low as 20Hz, a feature which is found only in larger models. The front panel on this model features a power button and a volume knob. Therefore, I love it because you don’t have to stretch to the back to switch it on or adjust the volume. While this might not seem like a very impressive feature, the ability to quickly adjust the volume will definitely come in handy over time.
The rear panel comes with several connection ports. You will find an LFE input and RCA inputs. You will also find speaker-level I/O. It will snugly fit any room regardless of size, and it can even complement an existing speaker system.
Well, the answer to this is that the manufacturer has incorporated the earlier mentioned Active Servo Circuitry. This technology has greatly improved the capabilities of the subwoofer, making it even better than more expensive models.
It comes with a side-firing port; which is rare on a subwoofer of this size and price.
What I don’t like
Well, the ON switch and volume controls on the front panel are great, but their presence means that you cannot remove the grille cloth. Another drawback is that it comes with a fixed 240V cable. Furthermore, the high gloss finish might look great, but it is a fingerprint magnet.
Best for Bedroom Studios: Rockville APM10C
- 10” subwoofer
- 400 Watt Active Studio Subwoofer
- 200 Watt RMS
- Class D Amplifier Circuitry
The Rockville APM10C 10 is proof that you don’t have to spend a fortune before you can get a high-quality subwoofer. It comes with several features found on more expensive models.
In terms of design, this is one of the most distinctive options on the market. Although it comes in 3 different finishes, we found each one to be quite nice to look at. For instance, the model I tested comes with a wood finish with vinyl front board. The speaker lies by the side of the unit. One unique design feature is the placement of the bass reflex port.
The features make this a good option in the studio. It comes with a 10” low-frequency driver which is coupled with a powerful Class D amplifier. This isn’t just powerful on paper, but it is also quite impressive in real-time use. One reason for the impressive power is the 200 Watts of RMS power at your disposal.
Due to the placement of the bass reflex port, you will not get the poor and chaotic booming sound that exists in many low-priced options on the market.
The rear panel of the unit comes with a unique I/O combination. These ports include the RCA ports, ¼” TRS ports, and XLR I/Os.
In terms of performance, it is surprisingly impressive; considering that it is a budget option. I love the saturation it delivers at the low end and the plenty of headroom it leaves. Furthermore, the response is really flat. Therefore, you can rest assured that you will not have jerking, accentuated frequencies.
Due to the placement of the firing slotted port, you are spoiled for choice when it comes to its closeness to other objects in the studio.
What I don’t like
Despite the overall good performance, it still has its flaws. I observed that it produces a noise similar to white noise. It isn’t very evident during practice or mixing, but it can be heard at lower levels.
Over to You
Buying the best studio subwoofers isn’t easy. You need to find the subwoofer that works for your room size and use case. You also need to make sure that you buy studio subwoofers, and not the ones meant for home studios.
Hopefully, this article would have helped you find the right subwoofer for your needs.
For more recommendations and advice, don’t hesitate to reach out to me here.
- Our guide to buying the right studio monitors – all under $200
- Our guide to the best studio headphones to complement your subwoofers and studio monitors