Owning a nice sound system is so expensive and we aren’t willing to sell the TV in exchange for a pair of good woofers. Should best things come at a price? Maybe. But what if the price is 500 bucks? Oh, you would be surprised. Even though cheaper woofers won’t deliver deepest basses and rich frequency response, they still have a wide range of uses for them.
We’ve tested over 40 devices to present to you 15 best subwoofers under $500 with the amazing top model Polk Audio PSW505. If this is a buy just for you, we’ve prepared compact models with great designs. You can also opt for well-balanced models that can be used for studio or home theater – they offer custom set up and adjustable crossovers. Read on to find more outstanding options!
More features: adjustable low pass crossover, phase switch and volume control, unfiltered LFE input
Ask anyone who has used this subwoofer from Polk Audio, and they’ll tell you that it is far and away the best subwoofer for the money, period. Many users report buying multiple, either to set up dual subwoofers for a 7.1 surround sound system or to use in multiple rooms.
One of the features that sets this subwoofer apart for the price is the power output. Compared to the many 50-watt subwoofers available for under $500, this subwoofer is capable of 300 watts of continuous sound power and up to 460 watts of dynamic power. Most users report rarely turning the gain to more than 60%, which leaves plenty of volume while still operating in the sweet spot of this subwoofer.
The downside to this subwoofer at this price point is that the frequency range is relatively limited, at 23–160 Hz, so you lose the transition frequencies between your bass and your mid-frequency speakers. In addition, users note that the rear port design is susceptible to causing noise, which can be quite noticeable at high gains.
That said, the subwoofer also comes with an adjustable low pass crossover system to help reduce noise and improve the blending with other speakers in your sound system. While the subwoofer is excellent for booming vibrations when watching movies, it also has the responsiveness needed to provide good sound quality for music playback.
Plus, Polk Audio provides one of the longest warranties on their inexpensive subwoofers, at five years. That provides peace of mind that this subwoofer will last at least as long as the rest of your sound system.
This powerful subwoofer from Klipsch shares much of its design with the R-10SW from the same manufacturer, but features an enlarged 12-inch cone driver that enables even more power output. This subwoofer is capable of 200 watts of continuous power with a dynamic output of up to 400 watts, and users note that it is easily capable of shaking a room when the gain is cranked. Impressive for a subwoofer at this modest price point, users also note that there is very little distortion when the gain is cranked over 50%. However, as is the case for all of the subwoofers under $500 we reviewed, it is worth noting that the bass is not as rich as on higher-end subwoofers. In addition, note that this subwoofer is significantly larger than the R-10SW and will take up more space in your room, as well as interact with your room’s acoustics differently.
One important specification that stayed the same between this subwoofer and the R-10SW, unfortunately, is the relatively narrow frequency response. As for the smaller subwoofer, there is a noticeable frequency gap between this subwoofer and the mid-frequency speakers you have attached to your sound system. While this might not be an issue for movies, users noticed it during music playback, even in spite of the low-pass crossover filter and phase control built into the subwoofer.
Despite the overall quality of this speaker, Klipsch only offers a two-year warranty.
More features: patented BIC “Venturi” vent, Dolby Pro Logic and Dolby Digital/DTS inputs
Users rave not only about the sound quality from this powered subwoofer from BIC America, but also about the company’s customer service. In addition to sporting a full five-year warranty on par with that from Polk Audio, users consistently remark that BIC America was extremely responsive to customer questions throughout the setup process.
The subwoofer itself is not especially powerful at only 150 watts, but the 475 watts of dynamic power put it on par with significantly more expensive subwoofers. The 12-inch driver is injection molded to provide consistency between units and keep the sound quality high. Plus, in contrast to most other sub-$500 subwoofers that boast that level of dynamic power, this subwoofer has a wide frequency response ranging from 25-200 Hz. Together, this leaves users very impressed with the sound quality and the feeling that the subwoofer is more powerful than most 5.1 surround sound theaters actually need – which is not a bad thing to have. The biggest downside to the power is that when the volume is turned up past 50% gain, the subwoofer can actually generate rumbles that reach your neighbor’s home.
A nice addition to this subwoofer is the patented “Venturi” vent in the rear, which greatly reduces noise from the port found on other inexpensive subwoofers. In addition, the subwoofer comes with input ports for both Dolby Pro Logic and Dolby Digital/DTS systems so that you can use this subwoofer with a wide variety of inputs.
More features: powerful 10″ copper-spun front-firing woofer, line/LFE inputs
Users rave about this small but powerful subwoofer from Klipsch, which produces far more sound than most people think when they first look at it. The subwoofer is only rated for 150 watts of continuous power, but boasts 300 watts of dynamic power and is controlled by a fully digital amplifier that helps reduce the noise at higher gains. Many people who purchased this subwoofer have also used Klipsch’s 15-inch subwoofer and note with surprise that this subwoofer is nearly as loud and can easily fill a large room with bass as part of a 5.1 surround sound system. The secret is in part the copper-spun front-firing 10” cone driver, which amplifies sound far more than traditional inexpensive drivers.
The cost of this power and sound quality is that the frequency response of this subwoofer is relatively limited. Without an additional, higher-end subwoofer in the same audio setup, you will lose all bass deeper than about 32 Hz. While the low pass crossover and phase control built into the subwoofer helps to alleviate the gap between the bass and your mid-frequency speakers, expect some gap in the sound at the upper end of this subwoofer’s 120 Hz maximum.
Another minor, but important advantage to this subwoofer is that it has both line and LFE inputs. This ensures that your new subwoofer will be compatible with both your existing audio receiver and a new audio receiver if you need to replace it.
More features: 10-inch polymer-composite dynamic-balance cone driver, laser-based Klippel measurement technology
This small subwoofer from Polk Audio is designed specifically to fill in the bass on a subwoofer-less surround sound system or to replace a noisy stock subwoofer that came with your new surround sound system. Although the subwoofer provides only 50 watts of continuous power, the ability to jump to 100 watts of power dynamically allows this subwoofer to be noticeably louder than many of its competitors. However, users note that compared to more expensive 50-watt subwoofers this unit can get muddied more easily and the deterioration of sound quality at high volumes is one of the major deficits of this subwoofer. Nevertheless, users still feel that this subwoofer is one of the best available for the price – and the low price tag also makes it possible to add multiple of these subwoofers into your sound system for more booming bass.
The lowest frequencies on this subwoofer are unfortunately very clipped since the subwoofer has a minimum frequency of 40 Hz. In addition, expect a sizable gap in frequencies between this and your other speakers since the maximum frequency that it can output is 160 Hz. However, the 10-inch composite cone driver provides relatively high fidelity playback within that frequency range, in part thanks to the laser-based Klippel measurement technology that helps improve linearity.
Like for the more expensive PSW505 model subwoofer, Polk Audio offers a five-year warranty to protect your investment in this subwoofer.
This compact and inexpensive subwoofer from Yamaha – one of the most renowned names in audio – provides excellent value for the price. Although the subwoofer only puts out 50 watts of power with no dynamic boost, users felt that the volume was plenty loud for small and moderate sized rooms in a 5.1 surround sound system setup. More important, users noted that the noise and muddying of the bass was relatively limited as the volume was turned up towards the maximum, which is impressive in a speaker at this low price point.
In addition, this subwoofer provides one of the widest frequency ranges we found at this price point, from 28–200 Hz, which means that it can cover almost all of the input low frequencies while blending nicely with your mid-frequency speakers. Yamaha further improved the sound quality of this subwoofer by designing a twisted flare port on the side of the unit, which reduces noise compared to a conventional slotted rear port.
Despite all these impressive features, note that this is still a relatively inexpensive subwoofer that lacks the feel and sound of higher-end subwoofers. Users noted in particular that you can hear, rather than feel, this subwoofer when standing next to it. Yamaha also offers only a two-year limited warranty, compared to the five-year warranty found on the similarly priced Polk Audio PSW10.
More features: advanced YST II Technology, Twisted Flare Port
This small but powerful speaker from Yamaha looks similar to the NS-SW050BL, but it differs in a few important ways. The main difference is the 10-inch cone, upgraded from the eight-inch driver in the smaller subwoofer, that allows for an increased dynamic power output of up to 100 watts. Of course, with the slightly larger cone, the size of the subwoofer itself is also somewhat larger. Otherwise, the subwoofer is largely similar and users loved many of the same features, including the wide frequency response that is relatively unparalleled among subwoofers at this low price point.
One thing to note is that this subwoofer lacks a low-pass crossover filter, so even with the improved frequency response you will notice a gap between the bass and mid-frequencies unless your audio receiver has a crossover filter built into it. If this is something you do not have, it may be worth looking for a subwoofer with a filter. Otherwise, users appreciated the clear sound quality on this subwoofer at moderate gains, again noting that it gets muddy towards the high end of its power output. However, the noise is kept down by the inclusion of a twisted flare side port, as opposed to the standard rear slotted port found on most subwoofers in this price range.
Yamaha again offers only a two-year warranty on this subwoofer, although users did not notice any issues over years of use.
More features: BASH amplifier, high-power magnet, adjustable crossover & volume controls
The Bic Acoustech PL-200 II has 1000 watts dynamic peak output and 250 watts RMS continuous output, making this a powerful subwoofer. It has 22hz to 200Hz frequency response, as well as adjustable crossover and volume controls. This subwoofer has a state-of-the-art BASH amplifier and is a front-firing 12-inch long-throw powered unit with long excursion surround sound.
Users stated that it reaches deep, clean bass notes with an ability to be delicate when needed, though others claimed that it’s not the best choice if you’re looking for a subwoofer that can handle accuracy in bass response.
The Bic Acoustech PL-200 II comes with a spectacular 8-year warranty, making it a great choice for those customers who are looking for a subwoofer with a long lifespan, or for one with warranty options in case of accident, though it’s important to note that it doesn’t come with its own cord so the consumer would need to provide the required RCA cable. However, everyone agreed that it’s a subwoofer with great sound. It weighs a little over 43 pounds, making it a touch heavy, but not so heavy that most people couldn’t move it when necessary. And it is very large, so space in your home and where to store this subwoofer could be an issue for some users.
Finally, many users stated this subwoofer really shines when used in a home theater, though it is perfectly fine for music as well.
The SVS SB-1000 subwoofer gives a surprising level of power for the price. It is towards the top end of the budget when looking for the best powered subwoofer under $500, but it justifies the price. The crossover is 50–160 Hz with a total frequency response of 24–260 Hz, so it is really taking care of the low rumble of music or in a home theater system.
A 12-inch cone means it isn’t the smallest product out there, but this is needed for the pumping bass provided.
300W RMS means that the cone can cope with having 300W of power pumped through it. This is an incredible level of volume that most bassheads will adore. The look of the product is simple, and quality is assured with a 5-year limited warranty, something that is even more impressive when you consider the inbuilt amp.
What we liked: The very best thing about this is the clarity offered in the bass frequencies. A lot of products on the list have a huge level of power, 300W RMS is not unusual, but to have such a clear and high-fidelity sound to go with this power is a huge bonus.
What could be better: Ideally, this sub could cost a little less. It’s not overly expensive, but it does push that $500 budget, so might be a bit pricey for some home theater systems. While it isn’t the most expensive sub, there are cheaper options if you are willing to sacrifice some clarity.
We’ve named the Definitive Technology ProSub 800 Powered Subwoofer the best model with adjustable feet. If you are new to buying subwoofers then you might well think this is a fairly irrelevant feature, but if you are looking for the best home theater subwoofer under $500 and want something that can stand freely near your screen or other speakers, this is a great option.
It has 2-by-8-inch cones, a different design to some of the other subs on the list. The peak output is 600W, which is pretty generous, but a 300W RMS is what you will probably be running this sub at more of the time.
Where the crossover is set is up to you, with 40–150 Hz being possible for this subwoofer.
The sub comes with a variety of different connections, so it is easy to hook it up to whatever sound system you are running.
What we liked: The adjustable feet really make a huge difference. Not only do they mean that you can have a sub that looks fantastic, but adjustable feet also mean a stable cone and level standing of the sub, which reduces the chance of any unwanted buzz or distortion occurring. There is a musical reason to adjustable feet! If you are using this sub on an uneven floor, you can get it perfectly level for perfect sound.
What could be better: Some people do not like the 2-by-8-inch design and thinks it lacks some of the “boom” required. A 14-inch cone might be preferable. It’s all a matter of personal preference, but some would say the power doesn’t translate quite as well into a big, room-filling sound.
Many people are familiar with the Klipsch name and the Klipsch R-120SW Subwoofer lives up to their brand expectations.
This has a lot of controls, making it a good option for music and home theater options. If you want something that you can put in a room, and it can fire heavy bass no matter where you are sitting, this could be the option for you.
The frequency response is suitable for music or movies, and the crossover is variable so you can set the low-pass to the level you want.
There’s a five-year warranty overall, with two years of this covering the electronics. The build-quality is clear. The high excursion spun-copper Imp woofer cone is one of the most impressive elements and the copper design actually looks great, too.
What we liked: The projection of the sound from this speaker, it doesn’t really matter where in the room it sits, the cone manages to project the audio for a better experience whether you are listening to music or just trying to create a bigger and better cinematic experience. The cone design is another big plus; “Injection Molded Graphite (IMG) woofer cones are exceptionally light while being extremely rigid” is taken from the description of the product.
What could be better: Though this is a well-made model in terms of the electrics inside, some users have found that there is a little buzz at certain frequencies or higher volumes. This could be due to the fact that it has quite a thin MDF frame. In an ideal world, for the money spent, different materials might be a better option. Generally, though, this is not a problem for the vast majority of people.
This sort of product is the reason why Klipsch has such a huge reputation in the world of audio and subwoofers especially. A wireless sub has a lot of obvious benefits for playing from multiple audio sources and not having to cope with extra connections and wires.
This has an RMS of 150W, which is fine for most home setups, but it is nowhere near the most powerful option on our list. The 300W peak power is high enough for most home audio.
Of course, being wireless, you can put this anywhere and not have to worry about it. Many people take advantage of this by placing the sub higher up than they otherwise would.
It is easy to connect this to most audio systems, too, which makes for another big positive.
The frequency response is 32–120 Hz, great for bass, and on top of this, the variable low-pass filter means you can adjust the crossover.
What we liked: Obviously, the wireless technology is the main benefit of this model. No more worrying about where you are putting your wires, and the 2.4GHz Wireless Hi-Fi Pre-Paired Transmitter is reliable and connects with most devices with relative ease.
What could be better: The MDF build is arguably the curse of the Klipsch product once again, as there are some examples of rumble or even distortion. Ideally, you need to use this with an all-Klipsch system to ensure that the wireless functionality reliably works.
Size does matter. There is no reason that you cannot have a powerful subwoofer even if space is at a premium, and the Yamaha YST-FSW150 YST II Down-Firing Active Subwoofer is one of the best for those worried about the dimensions. It’s just 5.9 inches high, which is great for an apartment or small space.
The brand is another thing in the favor of this model! Pretty much everyone has heard of Yamaha and you know you can rely on their quality.
There isn’t a controllable crossover, but the frequency response is 30-150 Hz. On top of this, the RMS output is 75W, which is not massive, but this is because of the small size of the design. If you want something bigger then you will probably get a louder, more powerful sound, but for an average living room, this is suitable.
There’s a one-year manufacturer warranty, which doesn’t quite stack up when compared to some of the other options on this list.
What we liked: The size is a huge plus point! Naturally, it comes with compromises, and you shouldn’t go for this if you have endless space and want the loudest sound you can achieve. However, if you are looking for something that will go well in a TV cabinet, for instance, the Yamaha might give you the compact subwoofer under $500 you desire.
What could be better: We can’t really criticize the power. Though this is not one of the more powerful models on the list, it is just down to the size. The one-year warranty is one of the real downsides, and this simply doesn’t stack up against some of the other models which give up to 8 years of protection.
Your subwoofer inevitably forms a part of the decor in your home, and this means that it is important to think about style and looks. The Audioengine S8 looks fantastic, with a minimalist design suitable for pretty much any home you can imagine.
This model can be used as a part of an Audioengine system or with other brands of speakers. It makes use of the clever downfiring method to give a crisp and clear bass sound. Inputs are simple RCA and mini jacks, but this isn’t the only way you can get audio playing through this sub, as a wireless adapter is also available.
The design has a hand-finished look with a cabinet at the very front of the sub. It’s versatile and sounds good with music as well as in a home theater. 125W of RMS is plenty for most home systems.
The perfect cube design means this option is 11.25 x 11.25 x 11.25 inches.
What we liked: The way this sub looks is the main thing that drew us in. An ugly-looking speaker system messes with your decor, but this modern and minimalist sub not only provides you with great audio, it fits in a modern “smart home” look.
What could be better: This is a bit of an “all-rounder” and as such it doesn’t excel at either home theater or music, it is a solid 7 out of 10 for both. Ideally, slightly higher fidelity and a wireless function built in would make this the ideal subwoofer.
If size isn’t a huge consideration, the Acoustic Audio PSW-15 Down Firing Powered Subwoofer could be ideal for you. It has a lot to like, and the 15-inch cone makes it ideal for giving a big, beefy bass sound. The 600W peak output is fairly high and a reliable 250W RMS is another big benefit.
Naturally, it’s a little large due to the 15-inch cone, but that doesn’t mean it should be ignored. You might have the space for it.
This has a crossover which can be set between 40 and 140 Hz.
There is a one-year limited warranty on the Acoustic Audio model, and one brilliant added benefit is the fact that it has a natural wood finish, meaning it looks good in a variety of home decors.
What we liked: The big cone allows you to really feel the bass, with frequency response all the way down to 22 Hz. The cone also produces loud volumes, and the 250W RMS allows you to keep pumping the audio through this sub the whole time.
What could be better: There’s a lot to like, but a few disadvantages too. For many people, the one-year warranty will be off-putting. This is a cheaper sub, so there is an element of getting what you pay for. Of course, the size is a consideration, too. For some people, this subwoofer will simply be a bit too big.
Now that you know more about our eight favorite subwoofers under $500, how do you discriminate among them to choose the subwoofer that is right for you? In our buying guide, we’ll cover some of the common terminology that is used to describe subwoofers and explain how the different technical specifications relate to the sound quality you’ll receive. Our Frequently Asked Questions section will then answer some of the most common questions we encounter from first-time subwoofer buyers to make finding the right subwoofer for your needs as easy as possible.
Subwoofers run up into the thousands of dollars for a single unit at the high end, so is it really worth investing in a subwoofer under $500? The answer depends largely on your budget and your need for unparalleled sound quality. In general, for subwoofers that cost less than around $3,000, the more money that you can spend on your subwoofer the more significant the impact of the unit on your overall sound system will be. There are numerous technical differences between subwoofers under $500 and those costing several thousand dollars, but the end result is that subwoofers under $500 tend to have muddier, less accurate bass output than their high-end counterparts.
That said, for most people building a home theater or sound system for the first time, upgrading from no subwoofer or a stock subwoofer that came with a 5.1 surround sound system to a subwoofer in the $500 price range will make a huge difference. Especially as audio technology is improving and manufacturing is becoming cheaper, subwoofers in this price range are dramatically improving, and there are now many subwoofers around the $500 price range that even audiophiles are taking note of.
How do you find those subwoofers under $500 that are worth a second look? The answer is in the technical specifications, which helpfully compare how different subwoofers will perform. In this section, we’ll cover some of the most important technical specifications that describe subwoofers and some of the other important features to consider when investing in a subwoofer.
The power output of a subwoofer is one of the most important details to look at, since it directly relates to the volume that a subwoofer can produce. While a more powerful subwoofer is not necessarily louder – you can control the volume – the power output describes the maximum possible volume. In general, a more powerful subwoofer like the 300-watt Polk Audio PSW505 will produce better sound quality when playing at room volume, in the middle of its power range, than a less powerful 50-watt subwoofer, of which there are many under $500, that is maxed out at room volume.
The frequency response describes the range of frequencies, measured in Hertz (Hz), that a subwoofer can play. Since your subwoofer is typically the only speaker in your sound system capable of playing bass frequencies, having a relatively broad frequency response is important to avoid having some bass frequencies input from your audio being muddied or left out of your output sound altogether. Among subwoofers under $500, less powerful subwoofers like the BIC America F12 and Bic Acoustech PL-200 II boast the widest frequency responses – from 22 and 25 to 200 Hz – while more powerful subwoofers tend to have narrower frequency responses.
Crossover is another technical term you should learn about. The crossover can be thought of as where the subwoofer “takes over” from the other speakers, and where the sound starts to roll off. Each set of speakers is responsible for its own frequencies this way, leaving the sub to handle the bass for the best effects. Many of the models on this list have a range and allow you to choose the crossover. The SVS SB-1000 subwoofer lets you set the crossover to anywhere between 50 Hz and 160 Hz for the best possible results.
When setting the crossover, make sure you don’t end up with a gap in the audio where no speaker is accounting for those frequencies.
The cone is the part of the subwoofer that moves in response to the input audio signal to push air and actually produce sound. Because bass signals are relatively long wavelengths, a large cone is required to push a lot of air over a longer distance to produce the low-frequency sounds. Thus, a larger cone, on the order of 12 inches as in the Bic America F12, Klipsch R-12SW, and Polk Audio PSW505, will typically produce better sound quality. However, vibrations in the cone itself can also introduce noise that muddy the bass, so cone size alone cannot specify the overall quality of a subwoofer.
There are different ways of replicating the bass frequencies. Downfiring and front-firing are the two main ones you will see. Downfiring subs “aim” the bass frequencies toward the floor to give more of a deep punch and rumble. These are very good for home theater applications. Front-firing are more of a straightforward sound.
What does the cone of the sub, and the electronics, come encased in? The enclosure is important for a few reasons. It needs to look good, but more importantly it needs to provide you with a stable enclosure so you don’t get loads of buzzing or distorting of the audio because of the fact that the design is not coping with the vibrations.
Most of the subwoofers on our list are good when it comes to compatibility, but you need to check that they work with the specific speaker system you want to set them up with. Some of the wireless subwoofers create a bit more difficulty when it comes to setting up a full-system, and sometimes staying in the same brand can be the solution. For example, the Klipsch R-10SWi 10″ wireless subwoofer works best with other wireless speakers in the same brand.
When it comes to subwoofers, larger is usually better – a larger subwoofer typically means that it hosts a larger cone and has higher power output. However, if you are placing your subwoofer in a small room or in a tight space, it is worth checking on the exact dimensions of the subwoofer you are interested in relative to the space you have. In general, it is better to place your subwoofer correctly within your sound system – which takes some moving the subwoofer around your room to find where the room acoustics are best – than to opt for a larger subwoofer.
Even under $500, a subwoofer is a significant investment, and you want to be sure that you will be protected against manufacturer defects. Most subwoofers under $500 come with a two-year limited warranty, but several manufacturers including Polk Audio and BIC America offer more substantial five-year warranties that ensure your subwoofer will last for years to come.
Some subwoofers come with special audio technologies that are designed to improve the sound quality beyond what the technical specifications alone would suggest they are capable of. For example, the BIC America F12 comes with BIC’s patented “Venturi” vent, which eliminates port noise to improve audio quality. These technologies vary greatly between manufacturers, but keep an eye out for them as they can improve sound quality without altering the fundamentals of the subwoofer itself.
Naturally, the subwoofers on our list are all under the $500 mark at the time of writing, but there is a lot of variation within this price point. Some of the more affordable options are actually under $200, and some cheap subs can often do a very good job for music or theater, as long as they are used correctly.
Although all of the subwoofers that we reviewed are serious contenders for your home theater or for listening to music, the three that stood out most to us were the Polk Audio PSW505, the Klipsch R-12SW, and the BIC America F12 The Polk Audio and BIC America subwoofers both come with five-year warranties, which immediately signals that these manufacturers stand behind their audio products. Meanwhile, all of these subwoofers have minimum output frequencies below 30 Hz, which means you can get the true lows out of your movies and music. Although the Klipsch and Polk Audio subwoofers had limited high frequency responses, all three units were able to work well in surround sound systems thanks to the inclusion of a low-pass crossover filter. Overall, we felt that the Polk Audio PSW505 was the all-around best subwoofer under $500 thanks to its booming 300 watts of continuous power and 460 watts of dynamic power and relatively strong sound quality at high volumes.