Best Inexpensive Subwoofer



SVS, HSU, Outlaw Audio, Aperion are some of the current manufacturers of fairly inexpensive subs.

I'd like to get a consensus on what AGon'ers think is the best of these subs.
worldwide
Hsu has always been good, I have two pair of older ones. Haven't used others.
DIY your own.
I'm using an Outlaw Audio sub for my Home Theater with satisfaction..
JohnK, is that cost effective? Nowadays there are a lot of great subs for $300-$400.
SVS was pointed out to me a while back, as well as HSU, in the bang for the buck arena of subs.
HSU works for me. It even plays nicely w/magnepan. I went to HSU HQ and even got a discount w/no shipping!
Dayton Titanic from Parts Express. Does not go super low but is quick and tuneful.
I with Entrope, I have the 10' Titanic and for the money especially for 2 channel music , it is hard to beat.
Never heard anything that was as good as the PSB Alpha subzero. For the price that is. Less than $300 new.
As far as manufacturers go either Hsu or SVS seem to be very reputable companies. I like that some of the SVS subs have 2-channel bass management, as well as, balanced connections. I also like that SVS employs a local workforce. I use the SVS SB12-Plus in my office system and I'm quite pleased with it.
Maybe it's my imagination, but we seem to be living in the golden age of subwoofers. They're getting better, smaller and cheaper! Hsu and SVS come up a lot, but AudioAdvisor.com also offers a ton of inexpensive subs from reputable manufacturers. I don't know their subs, but Energy usually makes a decent product. Their 8" model is $100. A pair of Velodyne SPLR 8" will produce bass about as well as any speaker I've ever encountered (I use 2 in my system with the Velo SMS controller) and now costs $600 per. There are probably 2 dozen choices between those price points.

My first pair of high end speakers was the Kef Corelli (ca. mid 1970s). I tried adding an M&K sub, but never got it to work right. Later I tried that sub with the ProAc Tablette. Again, no luck. Today, the Velodyne/Ohm combo I'm using works brilliantly. Sub integration is damn near perfect. Total cost for the Ohms ($1800) SPLRs ($1200) and SMS-1 ($600) is $3600. I'd be surprised to find a (non-sub) system at any price that can produce significantly better bass in my room. IMHO, the economics of high end loudspeakers are really being transformed by these developments.

Marty

PS The SMS-1 allows seamless integration of subs/mains. I've used analyzers before, but this one integrates PEQ and active x-over in a way that is uniquely effective IME. It's a truly amazing tool.
www.rythmikaudio.com hands down IMO
Maybe it's my imagination, but we seem to be living in the golden age of subwoofers. IMHO, the economics of high end loudspeakers are really being transformed by these developments.

I agree things are getting incredibly cheap now that most everything is made in China but I am not sure that the sound is all that good on these cheap subs. The physics of LF sound reproduction determines that a good subwoofer that has meaningful output at 20 Hz, a good transient response and less than 1% harmonic distortion will remain large and rather expensive compared to a regular speaker that lacks LF extension.
Partsexpress has a Hsu designed subwoofer for 199.00. No conflicts of interest and haven't heard it but struck me as a gret deal.

http://www.parts-express.com/pe/showdetl.cfm?Partnumber=309-175

They also have a Dayton 8" sub for 75.00.
Shadome

I understand the skepticism - total bass output from a sealed volume + given radiating surface is certainly limited by physics. I just don't think that this limitation has been the practical problem.

I have a radiating area just under that of a 12" sub + two small enclosures + high power/long excursions. The total output from that combo is more than sufficient for my largeish ( app. 6,000 cu ft.) space even at the highest spls I'd personally require. It is powerful, clean, punchy and -to my knowledge - obeys the laws of physics. It is also nearly, but not quite, ruler flat (in room) to 25hz at typical listening levels

Presumably the audible distortions associated with that combo of box volume, radiating area and excursion have been significantly reduced due to better drivers, more rigid boxes, and more powerful amps. Real world performance is getting closer to theoretical limits. That's why I don't think that the laws of physics were ever the real limitation. I imagine that there's plenty of room for further improvement which will likely come primarily in the form of even smaller boxes rather than greater output or reduced distortion since those parameters have already been (IMHO) adequately addressed for (all but the largest) rooms out there by the better subs on the market. While I am certain that many people will disagree with that statement, that has been my experience.

The other real improvement has come in the area of integration. Modern devices provide room analysis + PEQ + a flexible crossover, allowing far better integration of subs to mains.

IMHO, the result has been eye (ear?) opening. I'd say the performance I'm getting from 25hz to 150hz would be difficult to improve, given the ultimate limits of my ability to discern improvements in this area beyond this level. Of course, I'll acknowledge that, if you heard the system, it's certainly possible that you might reach a different conclusion.

Marty
I am not saying these amazing bargains do not sound great and punchy - I am just pointing out that reproducing 20Hz at reasonable SPL without copious amounts of distortion is nigh impossible from a small device -it is usually tough to achieve even with several large subs.
Epiksubwoofers.com

Problem solved. ;)
Martykl said, " It is also nearly, but not quite, ruler flat (in room) to 25hz at typical listening levels"

I say, that sounds fantastic, and how do you know this? Did you use a program such as Room EQ Wizard or some such program or test signals from a CD or LP?

Ruler flat is good, but I believe that by 25hz you need to be about 6-8 db up. So if you are "flat" at 25 hz, you are actually 6-8 db down!

Bob
Bob,

I've used 3 different room measurement systems. By far, the Velodyne SMS-1 yields the best, most consistent, and to my ear (although I'm comfortable making such judgements only from above 60ish hz) most accurate results. Many people would agree that 5db or so in rise is useful in the deepest bass. "Not quite" ruler flat means a gentle rise below 50hz to app +2 or 3db at 25 hz. With organ music (my test for this region), the gentler rise "feels" better TO ME than what you suggest at my normal listening level. Again, I'd be the first to acknowledge that others might side with you on this one.

Marty
have you considered used? i recently picked up a Velodyne HGS-15x Ultra II very reasonably, and have been extremely impressed with it's performance. it's the first sub i've owned, but i demoed Martin Logan, REL, and the newer Velo's and i don't feel the older Velo is wanting for much.

-Scott
I would like to buy a Vandersteen 2WQ, but the in-line crossover won't work with my speakers because they are active with a built-in preamp.

The Vandersteen crossover is designed to go in between a preamp/power amp.

The Vandersteen seems to be more for music than a lot of newer HT subs.
my speakers because they are active with a built-in preamp.

What speakers are you using? I'm not familiar with any with a builtin preamp.

Regarding the Vandy sub... Richard Vandersteen told me years ago that he suggested using them in pairs.
A pair of Velodyne SPLR 8" will produce bass about as well as any speaker I've ever encountered (I use 2 in my system with the Velo SMS controller) and now costs $600 per.

Here's the measurements of the Velodyne SPL800R. Note that the distortion is through the roof: 18% at 40Hz at 95dB.

Velodyne makes excellent products and the founder has always been concerned about distortion, but there's no getting around the physics of an 8" driver.

Here's the measurements for the SPL15R. Note the improvement: <2% at 40Hz at 95dB.

Here's what $600 from SVS gets you PB12-NSD: 2% at 40Hz at 95dB.

I do agree that the SMS-1 is a great product. SVS will have a competing product using Audyssey.
AVI ADM9.1's

http://www.avihifi.com/
Bob,

I'm using a PAIR of SPLR 8" subs ($600 per) to generate total output somewhat higher than 95 db max. There are too many variables for me to comfortably calculate an equivalent between my room and the tests you linked to, but I'm very confident that my results include distortion equivalent to the much lower output levels (they got 2% at 80db 40hz in the test) they acheived using a single sub.

The real point of the SPLR 8" vs the SPLR 15" is that the same vendor wants $1600 for the latter. Three smaller 8" subs offer just under the total radiating are of the single 15" sub (if my math is right) and my guess is that distortion levels are slightly (i.e. proportionately)higher.

You pay a $200 premium for very nearly the same performance (more accurately, slightly inferior distortion per given spl) and greatly increased placement flexibility which, in the end, may very likely allow the 3 smaller subs to outperform the larger one.

I don't know the SVS sub, but there's no denying that this is great performance for the money. In the right room, I imagine that it's hard to beat. But don't underestimate the value of placement flexibility, especially if your room is a tough one.

Marty

PS - I've read many of your posts to other threads, supporting the large woofer side of the argument. They always seem well thought out and clearly stated. I don't know how you feel about multiple small subs to effect the same radiating surface as a single large sub. I'm sure that I have less experience than you do - this post reults from a single month of very intensive work with the 2 SPLR 8s and the SMS-1. I'd love to hear your take on a pair 8" subs vs a single 11" sub of similar design.
http://www.hsuresearch.com/products/uls15.html

HSU has a wireless (RF) sub out now. The convenience factor is too good to pass up, as well as being a sealed design for more accurate bass.

This is probably the one I'll go with.
>The real point of the SPLR 8" vs the SPLR 15" is that the same vendor wants $1600 for the latter. Three smaller 8" subs offer just under the total radiating are of the single 15" sub (if my math is right) and my guess is that distortion levels are slightly (i.e. proportionately)higher.

You're interested in displacement not surface area.

Displacement is the product of surface area (maybe 200 cm^2 and change for cone + 1/3 of the surround on the 8" driver versus 800 cm^2 for a 15" driver; meaning one 15" driver has a 12dB output advantage or you need 4 to equal it) and excursion where the geometry of a smaller driver imposes limits. You might get 12mm of travel with the voice coil completely in the magnetic gap on an 8" driver (Tang Band's 8" sub-woofer) and 23mm on a modern 15" driver (like the AE15 bringing he total to nearly 18dB more output from one 15" driver with 8 small sub-woofers needed to equal it.
Marty, I think it's well accepted (from the Harman multi-sub paper) that multiple subs have advantages besides increased output -- placement flexibility, as you stated, to get a smooth response over a wide area. I'm a fan of clean sound so I'm in the biggest box - biggest woofer you can afford camp. Multipoint digital PEQ is likely limiting the multisub advantage though.

I've used an 8" M&K (K-9) sub in my office (12' x 16' x 9')system for several years. I recently replaced it with an SVS SB12-Plus. It's become clear since then that the little 8" guy was working really hard on certain material.

So I think a reasonable plan would be to start with at least a 12" sub and add another one as funds allow.
Worldwide, your speakers are somewhat similar to my JBL 4328s. I don't know why, but I never considered them containing a preamp.

I didn't find a manual for your speakers. Can you explain the back panel of the left speaker?
Looks like Hsu has a potential winner on their hands with the ULS-15.
Yes, they appear to be very similar. Meridian also makes an active bookshelf speaker with digital inputs now.

My ADM9.1's have:

1) one analog (RCA L/R) input
2) two digital (optical/Toslink) inputs
3) one analog subwoofer output (RCA)
4) one analog slave output (RCA) which connects to the right
speaker.

The remote IR receiver is above the port on the left speaker.

The speakers do everything an amp/preamp will do via remote control.

I use both digital inputs, one from my DVD Player and one from my Satellite Receiver/DVR.

The speakers are outstanding.

Drew & Bob,

Thanks for the thoughtful responses. I'm aware that displacement is the relevant measure, but I assumed that a smaller driver would have the benefits of lower mass - usually key to acceleration. Evidently motor considerations are more critical here - makes some sense. I'll have to learn a bit more about the physics of these devices. I can say, pretty unequivocally, that from A1 on up through the next 2 octaves I'm getting phenomenal results right now. It may be that my listening levels are insufficcient to tax the 8" subs into audible distress (at least audible to me!)

BTW The PEq has 2 functions:

1) A boost at 20hz followed by some cut a bit higher up (differs one sub to the other, but in both cases allows effective response to 25hz). I detect no distortion on organ tones around this frequency, but others may be able to hear what I can't. Defeating the PEq essentially removes this info from the music.

2) Smoothing at/around the x-over frequency. This has been the most critical element of the excellent performance I'm getting. Defeating the PEq yields instantly audible deterioration.

Marty
Worldwide, thanks for the explanation. I was guessing that the slave output was analog, but not sure.
I can say, pretty unequivocally, that from A1 on up through the next 2 octaves I'm getting phenomenal results right now. It may be that my listening levels are insufficcient to tax the 8" subs into audible distress (at least audible to me!)

It's hard to discern something that's missing when it's missing. :-) Without dropping either SPLR12s or 15s in place of the 8s, I'd guess it'd be tough to say how well the 8s are doing. But all that really matters is that you're happy with the sound.
Bob,

Just curious - Do you know if the cylindrical SVS subs perform on a par with the equivalent model box units? They might work logistically and the SVS money back deal would allow me to test your hypothesis ;-) ! I'm afraid the box models just wouldn't fit. As wonderful as the SPLR experience has been, I must admit you've picqued my curiosity.

Marty

BTW - One reason I bought the pair of SPLRs was that - if they proved unsatisfactory in my 2 channel set-up (and I really suspected that that would be the case) , one would end up behind my digital piano and the other in a pretty low rent (the sub being more a "no rent" model) 5 channel set-up in my family room - as supplied by the builder. Obviously, subs are here to stay in my music room, but I have some flexibility as to precisely which subs.

The piano and family room situations still exist. If the SVS proves audibly superior to the SPLRs, I can keep 'em and relocate the Velodynes. If not, the SPLRs stay and the SVS can go back.
I purchased an SVS PB12NSD a few months ago on the advice of Bob Reynolds. I'll thank him again. I called and talked to the SVS guys and gave them some room dimensions and told them what my current budget was. They hooked me up and 4 days later a new sub was at my door. With some help from a friend, setting it up was smooth, and it's sound is awesome. I will admit I don't have much experience with subs, but the ones I heard that were better than the SVS were 3 times the price. Also, I mocked up cardboard in the dimensions of the different subs I was looking at to check to see if it would fit in the different locations I could place it.
Sprink, I'm glad the PB12NSD is working out well for you. I've been very impressed with SVS's customer support and company in general. You have a great idea of making cardboard models to verify the size before buying!
Marty, based on the measurements here: http://www.avtalk.co.uk/forum/index.php?t=msg&th=14971&start=0&rid=0&SQ=0 I'd say they are comparable (look at the PC13 vs PB13).

The SB12-Plus (sealed box design, 12" driver) that I use in my office is basically a 14" cube. Is that too big for your situation?

The PC12-NSD looks like a hell of a deal.
Bob,

I believe that a pair of 12+ subs could be accomodated in my room. They're certainly smaller than the NSD cylinders! I was only focused on the NSDs because you linked to some attention getting performance tests. Have you seen similar data for the 12+? There are enough variations between models that it's difficult to intuit how your sealed 12" performs vs any of the subs tested at avtalk.

Marty

PS - I hope it goes without saying that your assistance here has been enormously appreciated.
Ive always been impressed with B&W subs for music...somewhat lean...but that is Brit bass...and far outweighs the fart bass one encounters in cheaper subs...
Marty,

Here's another subwoofer measurement site: http://www.hometheatershack.com/forums/subwoofer-tests/6015-index-subwoofer-tests-manufacturer-model.html

You'll see that the smaller box (plus not being ported) definitely hampers the performance of the SB12-Plus. But it fairs pretty well against the SPLR8. Being sealed the group delay looks good. Compare the power compression and distortion graphs.

Marty, I'm glad to be of any help. I believe it was a post by Shadorne long ago that listed the subwoofer measurement web sites. They've been very useful to me, but not everyone cares for objective measurements the way I do.
Bob,

Thanks again. If I do this, I might as well dive in for the cylinders to get as big a perfomance delta as possible. I'm really, really curious as to whether I'll hear a difference at the spls in my room vs the essentially anechoic test conditions. If I'm gonna test the theory, I want the best test I can find!

Marty
...within the limitations of my room!
just for the record the B&W subs I mentioned were sealed designs...