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Best subwoofers: deep bass for music and movies

Best Subwoofers Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best subwoofers you can buy in 2021.

Who doesn't like bass? Whether you have a stereo system or a home cinema system, there's a lot to be said for bringing a subwoofer to the party. 

It's not just all-action movies and dancefloor classics that rely on bass to sound their best, low frequencies can add tension and drama to more subtle scenes and songs. And a dedicated bass speaker is often the best way to do it. 

Read on for our pick of the best subwoofers for stereo and surround sound systems, and think about treating home cinema at this time when you'll be using it most.

(Image credit: Future)

1. Q Acoustics QB12

Upgrade your 3000i or Concept 5.1 package.

Specifications
Dimensions: 40 x 40 x 45 cm (hwd)
Drivers: 1x 300mm (12in) Paper-Kevlar, Aluminum cone long-throw
Power output: 400 watts
Weight: 21.5kg
Reasons to buy
+Punchy and powerful+Doesn’t impose sonically+Well integrated
Reasons to avoid
-Not easily accommodated

The QB12 smashes through the action like a steam train, hitting you right in the stomach and taking your whole body along with it. It isn’t just brute force, though: it’s precise, detailed and really rather dynamic.

There are three things to consider before you get your wallet out to buy a QB12 subwoofer: space, your budget and your neighbours. Because if you’re in the market for a plus-sized Q Acoustics surround speaker package, or aiming to upgrade the low-end response in your current home cinema set-up, those are the only things standing in your way.

Read the full review: Q Acoustics QB12

(Image credit: B&W)

2. B&W PV1D

The most recent model in the unbeatable dynasty.

Specifications
Dimensions: 34 x 27 x 26 cm (hwd)
Drivers: 2x 200mm (8in) Paper-Kevlar, Aluminum cone long-throw
Power output: 400 watts
Weight: 87kg
Reasons to buy
+Smart design+Excellent precision and agility+Deep, punchy bass
Reasons to avoid
-Not cheap

The Bowers & Wilkins PV1D is the successor to B&W’s multi-Award-winning PV1, the ‘D’ denoting a digital upgrade that lets you fine-tune the sub with a wide range of EQ options.

The PV1D’s drive units (2 x 20cm) and amplification (400W) have been tweaked too, and the result, says the company, is a sub with all the speed and agility of its predecessor plus considerable additional bass extension.

In use it’s deeply impressive: the PV1D maintains control at crashing volumes, while delivering ample detail, punch and attack. Precision is paramount, and you really feel the big wallops.

Read the full review: B&W PV1D

(Image credit: B&W)

3. B&W ASW610

The B&W ASW610 sounds bigger than it looks and more expensive than its price-tag.

Specifications
Dimensions: 31 x 31 x 35 cm (hwd)
Drivers: 250mm (10 in) paper / Aramid fibre cone long-throw
Power output: 200 watts
Weight: 12.5kg
Reasons to buy
+Well-extended bass for its size+Good finish+Small and well-equipped
Reasons to avoid
-Nothing of note

This sub's diminutive form disguises a formidably powerful and terrifically dynamic design, its 200w amplifier controlling the excursions of its 25cm Kevlar/paper drive unit in impressive style.

There's depth, drive and authority to belie its size, with a brilliant blend of power and musicality. It can deliver bass with subtlety and speed, making it a genuine all-rounder when it comes to delivering solid bass as part of a hi-fi or home cinema.

Read the full review: B&W ASW610

(Image credit: Velodyne)

4. Velodyne SPL-1000 Ultra

If you want a small but powerful subwoofer there are few better options.

Specifications
Dimensions: 34 x 33 x 39 cm (hwd)
Drivers: 10in forward firing, 8in piston diameter
Power output: 1200 watts
Weight: 20kg
Reasons to buy
+Masses of quality bass from a compact cabinet+Good features+Fine build and finish
Reasons to avoid
-Nothing of note

Velodyne’s SPL-1000 Ultra delivers a mass of bass scarcely believable from a sealed 34cm cube. It has both line and speaker level inputs, remote control and offers four preset modes to optimise performance to the source material.

This is a subwoofer that’s fast and agile enough to convince with music, while still having the sort of muscle required to make the most of the heavy-hitting, large-scale film scenes.

Read the full review: Velodyne SPL-1000 Ultra

(Image credit: Sonos)

5. Sonos Sub

This slim, wireless subwoofer is a solid addition to a Sonos music or cinema system.

Specifications
Dimensions: 39 x 40 x 16 (hwd)
Drivers: 2 x powered drivers
Power output: n/a
Weight: 16kg
Reasons to buy
+Versatile placement+Simple set-up+Integrates well
Reasons to avoid
-A little expensive-Not the punchiest

The addition of a sub to the wireless multi-room specialist’s range showed the company cared about sound, not least home cinema sound, and perhaps recognised the slight weakness of its small-but-effective One and Play:5 systems.

It's large and fairly minimal but we're impressed by what it can do. Similar sonic characteristics ensure the Sub integrates well with the company's other wireless speakers, and the extra weight, power and scale is obvious. With music, bass lines are controlled nicely, albeit a little on the fat side. Flick the Sub on and off, and the differences in dynamics are apparent. 

Read the full review: Sonos Sub

What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, New York and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.


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