One of the problems when discussing subwoofers in small rooms is that people often give you what looks like conflicting or contradictory suggestions. And, the person we are advising doesn’t understand how to sort it all out.
That’s one reason this article is being written: to give objective advice that isn’t based so much on the person’s personal perspective.
You will choose and then position your new subwoofer where it sounds the best. That would be true in any room. And, the closer you place it to your listening position, the less that the room will influence the sound. This is something that you’ll need to work out the best way you can, just as anybody else with a small room has to do.
But right now, you just need to pick a subwoofer capable of doing the things you want it to do. Listen closely to the recommendations you are getting in this article and then use your own common sense and judgment.
People purchase subs all the time. It’s an important investment. I’m sure that whatever you end up buying will be enjoyable to you.
Let’s dive right in!
We were writing about subwoofers by room size in the previous article, you can check that out if you’d like, and today we are diving into specifics about subs for small rooms.
The best subs for a small room you can find on the market today (from lowest to highest price) are:
While you probably don’t need anything more than the SVS PB-1000 Pro, which you can just buy and call a day, not everyone’s capable of spending close to $900 for a subwoofer.
Suppose you only listen to music with absolutely no HT. In that case, you could do fine with an SB-1000 or something similar.
But, if you like movies (in particular action movies, thrillers, etc.) with tons of basses, you’ll shortly realize that you not only need more woofing but that you’ll be paying 2-3x the cost as you not only have to take a loss on your first investment but, in addition to the next upgrade you’ll have spent what could have gone towards a proper subwoofer in the first place.
Not too long ago, my friend was deciding on a subwoofer for a 1,200 cubic foot enclosed room used almost equally for movies, music, and gaming. His budget was flexible but under $1000. He already had speakers pretty close to the seating, and the sub was supposed to be 4-7 feet from the MLP (main listening position). The listening level for him was around 14 feet and probably not above 9.
I recommended a sealed sub but also told him that a smallish ported sub could be fine. It depends from game to game how low they can go on the frequency spectrum, but it’s similar to movies these days. He took PB-1000 Pro in the end.
Ultimately, most of us are looking for a sub that will nicely fill the room when called for, that will provide some good weight to the sound, and at a good price/performance point (considering we’re talking about a small room, not a hall).
However, those who like the idea of buying a sub with some flexibility for future situations in mind, which means being flexible about spending more for a better sub than their room really needs, will look into more detail what’s in store for them.
I tested all of these subwoofers in the last 12 months and wrote some notes on them. I’m not going to go into detail about specs because you can find that on Amazon and manufacturers’ websites. The following are my observations.
1. Polk Audio HTS 10 “Powered Subwoofer
Polk Audio HTS 10 “Powered Subwoofer can produce powerful bass down to roughly 35hz. But, it will not get anywhere near the advertised 20hz. One huge thing I felt is how much the HTS shakes the room. In fact, I could practically feel my room shake more than I could hear the sub.
This was a pleasing experience when watching movies, but feeling a room-shaking thud with each stroke of the passive radiator while listening to music appeared off. Not just this, but the woofer’s cabinet managed to resonate, causing normally non-directional appear to be extremely directional. Note that I am utilizing it in near-filed, roughly 18″ to 30″ away from my head; my volume needs are FAR less than that of a home theater, and I have not experienced the woofer bottoming out.
This sub appears to suit any music that can have a beat in it: rock, metal, trance, drum and bass, and classical sounded awesome. However, any kind of music that demanded the woofer to keep a deep tone (dubstep, trailer, orchestral) just didn’t sound good due to the shaking/resonance explained above. On the other hand, movies were an incredible experience, ALMOST across the board.
In the cave troll fight scenes and the mines of Moria (at the bridge of Khazad Dum) in Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, the boom was deep and strong. I could sense the troll’s footsteps/hammer blows and the crumbling of the walkways under the adventurers’ feet.
I also tested the sub in the film Tenet. There was so much bass in this movie, and everything sounded pleasing on the Polk Audio, save for one aspect. The film has a dark and deep bass atmosphere (in the 30 to 45hz range), accompanying the emotionally bleak treble utilized in many cases. The Polk Audio HTS did excellent at reproducing this bass.
Overall I’d give it 8/10 given the price category.
2. SVS SB-1000 12″ Compact Sealed Subwoofer
So after thinking about what sub to test (Klipsch, REL, or SVS), I decided on the SVS SB-1000. I desired a compact, front-firing, sealed box to execute better musical effects than a ported box’s higher output. SVS’s 5-year warranty, 45-day trial, 1 yr upgrade, and free shipping policies are appealing and probably unrivaled.
I have it paired with Rockville’s in a 2.1 setup, with a Yamaha TSR-700 as the receiver (planning on altering to a separate amp, running the Yamaha as a preamp in the future). Right now, I have it connected to the LFE channel and my Rockville’s set to small crossed at 80hz so that the receiver sends the front channel info to the sub.
Firstly, SVS is fantastic. The woofer absolutely gets down, way more than what I was expecting from this level. It has performed flawlessly for movies, with great quickness and muscle for days.
It shakes my sectional throughout the room, and it’s not even at 50% gain. Musically it’s not precisely where I wanted it to be, just not as clear as I would like and not as “punchy.”
However, I’m having problems getting the Yamaha set up precisely as I need for the Rockville’s and my current room (NOT a perfect room setup), so I’m not 100% persuaded the sub is lacking at this point. It could very well be the Yamaha arrangement here.
As stated above, I’m thinking about switching the setup to use the preamp front outputs to get around operating the LFE channel. Hopefully, this will help on the music part. I may redo this after I change it, but it may be a while for that (no time). When I have more time, I intend to use an RTA from work and see what the room is doing to decide if it is a sub-issue.
So overall, I need to say this sub is excellent, absolutely worth the money.
3. SVS PB-1000 Pro Ported Subwoofer
I bought a regular PB1000 almost a year ago from SVS and really started trying to comprehend how subs react in a room and what real bass sounds like.
This year I ordered PB1000 Pro, and I’m currently trying it to see if I want to utilize the upgrade.
So far, the most significant difference I’ve come across is the low extension. I could earlier get to 19Hz with my PB1000, and the 1000 Pro gets me down to 16Hz before they begin to drop off. As far as the sound contrast, they actually sound identical, partly because the enclosure looks to be the exact same size and model of PB1000, only with a 12″ inside vs. a 10″ and two 2.5″ portholes rather than one 3.5″ port.
It has a significant output edge over the SB-2000 in the 18-36 Hz octave, where LFE is powerful on action/sci-fi movies, implying that it’s FANTASTIC for movies.
The PB-1000 Pro is a superb subwoofer. It is a worthy companion of the latest SB-1000 Pro and a substantial upgrade in capacity over the PB-1000 it replaces.
While it represents the SVS ported sub lineup entrance, it is no entry-level sub and provides a complete, enjoyable listening experience when working within its performance envelope.
Is it the right woofer for you? The only way to actually find out is to give one a try. Just don’t be shocked when it exceeds your expectations, particularly when it comes to deep bass and how good it looks and effortless it is to configure.
Considering the value, capacity, and flexibility the SVS PB-1000 pro delivers to the table, it’s an easy choice for those willing to spend more than $700 for a sub.
A word about Klipsch R-120SW
My friend had a Klipsch R-120SW a few years ago and was fairly satisfied with it, other than a few things that I will tell you in a second.
The Klipsch was in the front left of his room. While not optimal, it did sound the most pleasing there when he was setting everything up.
When we were hanging in his place, my observations were: the bass seemed muddy sometimes, I felt like it’s missing out on the lower frequencies (confirmed with a few generic YouTube tests show that at 31 to 33 Hz is arout the limit of that subwoofer) and sometimes I would want a bit more “feel” while staying clean.
This is why I’m constantly saying that you really need to spend $500+ to get into the entry-level to “actual quality bass.”
Quality bass is unfortunately expensive, as the bass is the most difficult frequency range to reproduce accurately.
My friend’s Klipsch subwoofer had fairly poor linearity in general and a bloated mid-range response between 40-60hz. It could not also reproduce bass articulately, both of which cause that perception of “muddy” bass.
This is because Klipsch prioritizes SPL at a low cost over a lower port tuning.
To summarize: a quality subwoofer (like an SVS PB1000 Pro) would fix all of these complaints. You get tons of output, a much more linear response, and gain 15hz of extension into the lower registers.
Do you need a subwoofer in a small room?
Ten years ago, I had the same concern. My speakers would go down to 38hz in a 13.5×11.5 room, but there wasn’t much information coming out there.
I used my old B&W sub from my attic studio and set it to around 50hz at a fairly low volume level, and it did a great job of filling out the lower end. That’s what got me into subwoofers.
Here are my 2 cents on subs:
- You don’t have to blast the volume for them to sound good. Even at low listening levels, they can nicely support and fill out the bass.
- You don’t have to go big. I find a 10″ sub just about perfect for a smaller listening space. Check out SVS or Polk Audio.
SVS makes some smaller subs; you might want to look into a sealed sub like SB-1000. They also have a handy phone app that makes it simple to make changes.
A subwoofer will help round out the low end at moderate and below listening volumes.
Bass is only part of the total experience but adding a sub (assuming you have it properly set up) will do so many things to your sound system.
A subwoofer will add low-end frequencies and add volume to the lower-end frequencies but equally important. It will allow you to set the crossover on your main speakers to play only higher frequencies.
This will make your speakers perform much better. Your sound will be much more dynamic, and you’ll be very pleased.
A careful setup is extremely important. Most people getting a sub for the first time tend to overdrive it, so they always hear the bass.
The truth is, it takes time, and when set up properly, sometimes you’ll find that it’s very subtle until something kicks in that rattle your brain.