Want to Blast Powerful Bass - Top 5 Best Compact Subwoofers
In this time of the global pandemic, when theaters are closed and entertainment options have become awfully limited, what we have in our homes is often the only fun we get.
This would sound pretty grim if home entertainment systems haven't become truly monstrous over the last couple of years. These days, even the average family can afford a rock-solid home theater with all the 4K goodness the tech world has to offer.
The only things missing from this picture are the best compact subwoofers that can turn even the smallest room into an immersive cinema venue. Let's take a look at the five most popular units on the market and see which one deserves your money the most.
In a hurry? After 26 Hours of Research, We Recommend:
Klipsch R-120SW Subwoofer
Why it is better?
Last Updated: October 2023
By Barry Allen: This article has been updated to reflect the most accurate information regarding best compact subwoofers available for those who are interested in upgrading their sound setup in limited space. The best 5 available have changed, and information has been added to assist individuals in finding the best compact subwoofers currently available on the market. The FAQ has also been updated.
Best Compact Subwoofers – Comparison Table
19.2 x 14 x 16.5 inches
200 Watts RMS/400 Watts Peak
29 hertz – 120 hertz +/- 3 dB
up to 116 dB
Definitive Technology ProSub 800
15.8 x 10.4 x 12.9 inches
300 Watts RMS/600 Watts Peak
20 Hz – 150 Hz
High Pass Crossover: Non Variable 6 dB/octave
Polk Audio PSW10 10" Powered Subwoofer
16.2 x 14 x 14.4 inches
50 Watts RMS/150 Watts Peak
40 – 160 Hz
Sonos Sub (Gen 3)
15.28 x 6.18 x 15.80 inches
240 Watts peak
25 - 110 Hz
BIC America F12 12-Inch
17 x 14.8 x 17 inches
150 Watts RMS/475 Watts Peak
25Hz - 200Hz
Top 5 Best Compact Subwoofers Money Can Buy
So, these were our thoughts about the five subwoofers we tested in this roundup. Now, lets' break them down in more detail and see where do our ratings come from.
Our Rating: 92/100
Klipsch is a company that has never been know for overly intricate or premium products. Well, not to the extent of some of its competitors in the form of Bose or other famous brands.
But, in this case, the simplicity works strongly in favor of this subwoofer. What this product sets out to do it does with ease and grace and easily tops even some much more expensive rivals.
As we mentioned in the introduction, Klipsch R-120SW is a product that looks and feels very simplistic. But, there is a lot of beauty to be found in such a design approach.
The streamlined case is pretty-much style-agnostic and fits all imaginable settings, and the materials feel give an impression they can sustain a lot of abuse before falling apart. The only thing that truly stands out is the copper-like grill, and we like it. Classy and functional in the same package.
Let's take a look now at the back of the cabinet where all the controls and ports are hidden. Here, things look pretty good and well-spaced. The only real complaint we have is that the connectivity options are limited to legacy RCA ports, which feel somewhat limiting in 2020.
Fortunately, when it comes to sheer performance, Klipsch R-120SW doesn't make similar mistakes. Coming packed with a frequency range of 29Hz - 120Hz and power handling sitting firmly at 200W/400W (RMS power/peak power), the woofer has everything laid out for greatness.
And, when you power up the unit, you will see this promise fulfilled.
The inclusion of Injection Molden Graphite (IMG) in the cabinet effectively eliminates the distortion, and low pass crossover helps this subwoofer easily fit all sorts of sound system setups. What's most important, the sound you get is precise, loud, and punchy.
Our Rating: 90/100
Definitive Technology is a brand that still has to work very hard to earn the reputation of some other competitors on the list.
But, the compact subwoofer market is becoming very competitive - new, exciting products are emerging with each passing second, and no brands are protected from this onslaught.
If we are to judge Definitive Technology by its very own ProSub 800, we can say this challenger will rattle a lot of cages.
At first glance, ProSub 800 looks horribly unsuspicious. The 8-inch speaker diameter sits firmly in the compact subwoofer market range, and the design is really nothing to write home about.
But, on the other hand, everything here feels familiar, reliable, and well-crafted. This impression is largely helped by the fact that the overall build quality is pretty good so the subwoofer packs surprisingly strong durability - especially when we take into consideration the price tag.
So, although the subwoofer doesn't score any major points in the visual department, the 8-inch body doesn't look bad either and holds up very well.
As for the connectivity options, the subwoofer has everything covered - the wide range of speaker level and line-level inputs and outputs makes sure you'll be able to hook up the product no matter what device you have at home.
As we mentioned above, this 8-inch subwoofer is definitely not a visual stunner. But, the product more than makes up for this when it comes to the actual performance.
You see, with its 300 watts RMS and 600 Watts peak power, the speakers produce a teeth-shattering bass and all of that from a small 8-inch body that easily fits any kind of room or setting. The fact that these speakers are powered, and you don't have to use an additional amplifier comes as a cherry on top of the cake.
But, calling this 300 Watts subwoofer perfect would be a bit too far-fetched. For instance, the crossover adjustment lets a lot of mid-bass through the sub. Also, we have noticed some slight sound distortions in the long run.
Polk Audio PSW 10-Inch is a true testament to all the wondrous things you can accomplish even if you are working on a meager budget.
Although Polk is no stranger to low-end market segments, clocking the subwoofer at a century-mark takes some guts.
Well, we are happy to report that Polk managed to pull off something wonderful here.
The best way to describe the design of Polk Audio PSW10 is functional. Sure, the cabinet may give away a somewhat cheap impression (perfectly understandable), but we can't say the streamlined and clean-cut black surfaces are not entirely off-putting.
On the contrary, in this case, the subdued design works in favor of the subwoofer.
The build quality is not that shabby, either. The materials are far from the best on the market, but they are, for the most part, resonance-free, and what's even more important, well-put-together. So, expect to squeeze more than a couple of years of good use out of this one.
The connectivity options are also good. The combination of RCA and spring terminals provides all the necessary line-level inputs and outputs you can wish for. Therefore, you will be able to easily hook up the subwoofer in the basic home theater setup.
In terms of performance, we can easily sum the subwoofer up by saying that it does a more than admirable job in small and medium rooms but really fails to impress in larger spaces. But, that is something to expect with only 50 Watts of RMS and 100 Watts of peak power to play with.
The other limiting factor of this subwoofer comes in the form of a bass response range that covers the frequencies between 40Hz and 160Hz. We would like to see the lower end of this spectrum sitting closer to 20Hz.
But, the output you get is precise, consistent, and very accurate. So, you should get a kick out of it, as long as you know what you are buying.
Are you tired of cumbersome cables spread around your room and want a beautiful wireless piece of tech that will blow the roof off your room?
Well, if that's the case, Sonos Sub Generation 3 might just be the perfect compact subwoofer for you. But, let us not get ahead of ourselves.
Sonos Sub Generation 3 is an advanced piece of audio equipment, and the manufacturer made sure you get this impression at first glance.
With its trendy minimalistic design, sleek black cabinet, and curved sculptural shape, the subwoofer simply screams next-gen, and we adore it because of that. But, all these efforts would be in vain if the build quality wasn't on top of the game as well. Fortunately, that's not the case, and the product feels as sturdy as wireless subwoofers go.
Now, let us briefly cover the connectivity options.
Here, the manufacturer made the interesting choice to put all the eggs into the wireless basket. That is perfectly understandable since most of the modern home theater setups heavily rely on this form of connection. But, we would still like to have more options to choose from.
On the other hand, you do get seamless Alexa integration and an option to integrate the subwoofer into a smart home setup, which is pretty cool.
In terms of the very performance, Sonos Sub Gen 3 does everything a compact powered speaker should be able to do and much more.
For instance, the frequency response range of this beauty goes as low as 25Hz, which is on par with the rest of the subwoofers in this range.
But, the manufacturer made sure to continue to build upon this solid foundation and threw in features like two-force canceling drivers and self-tuning software (it adjust the settings to the acoustics of the room), which elevates the performance even higher.
The result is an excellent sound quality without any traces of distortion.
Our Rating: 80/100
And for the very end, we saved something different. On this list, we had 8-inch subwoofers, and we had 10-inch subwoofers.
Now, it's time to go to the far end of the compact subwoofer spectrum and see what's there in store for people with more room on disposal.
When it comes to the design, BIC America F12 uses the old proverb "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." As we've seen from the compact subwoofer coming from Klipsch, that doesn't have to be all that bad. But, we can't deny that the mentioned subwoofer also looked far classier.
In this case, the materials, the design, and the build quality can be better described as functional. But, keeping in kind the price of these subwoofers, that isn't too bad.
Just don't expect to impress anyone with this one. It works as a part of your average home theater setup, and that's enough.
Fortunately, all imaginable connectivity options are there. All the line-level inputs for Dolby Pro Logic and Dolby Digital/DTS are there, so you will be able to use the subwoofer in any setup that can cross your mind.
Now, let's see how these subwoofers perform when you put them to use. Here, things sound very solid. The bass you get out of the speakers is deep and satisfying. The subwoofer is able to go as low as 25Hz (25Hz - 200Hz), and the crossover does a great job at picking up the lower tones.
But, we can't escape the feeling that the unit is still a bit underpowered. Namely, these compact subwoofers pack an excellent sensitivity of as much as 90dB, which is great. But, the 150-Watt RMS power handling simply doesn't provide enough juice to play with.
So, the bass is deep and precise but can come off a bit muted. For a subwoofer of this size, we expected a bit more.
Things you should consider before buying a compact subwoofer
And now that we had a good opportunity to take a look at the top five products competing for the title of the best compact subwoofers on the market, let us quickly go through some criteria we used to sort them out.
Also, learning more about compact subwoofers will definitely help you find your ideal match even if you don't agree with our choices.
So, without further ado, here a couple of things to consider to find the absolute best subwoofer on the market.
Type of the subwoofer
All compact subwoofers can be roughly divided into two major groups:
- Compact passive subwoofer - Passive subwoofers are powered by the external amp, much like all other passive speakers in your system. Keep in mind that if you are going to use one of these units for your home theater system, the amp should be placed between the subwoofer and the preamp outputs.
- Compact powered subwoofer - This is the most common type of compact subwoofers you can find in the stores. Since it has a built-in amplifier, a compact powered subwoofer is very easy to connect and requires no additional equipment.
Power handling capabilities
The power handling capabilities of all commercially available subwoofers are described with two basic specs.
- RMS power - Describes the power a subwoofer can handle continuously.
- Peak power - Describes the power bursts a subwoofer can handle during limited periods of time.
As you can probably guess, the higher these numbers are, the better.
Of course, as important as power is, the lewer of power your subwoofers can handle at any given moment is not what makes or breaks their sound quality.
The other spec you should take into serious consideration is the subwoofers' sensitivity, or in other words, the output level they are able to produce per power invested. The efficiency/sensitivity is measured in decibels (dB), and you should try to get as many of them as possible.
Every subwoofer unit has a limit on how deep the bass tones can go. Of course, since deep tones are this product's bread and butter, you should try to go as low as possible. How low? Well, some of the commercially available units are able to hit the frequency of 20Hz, but you should get great performance even with 30 Hz at your disposal.
By this, we don't mean exclusively about the connectivity with other speakers but different household devices, as well.
In terms of connectivity with other speakers, we have to mention that subwoofer on its own isn't capable of delivering stellar sound quality. The best way to use a subwoofer unit is in some surround sound system (two subwoofers plus five speakers).
But, in order to make sure you will be able to do this, you will need to carefully read the specifications or simply look for some of the speaker bundles.
As for the second consideration, you should do your best to cover as many ports as possible. Aside from standard mentions like Smart TVs, game consoles, and media streamers, you should also look for some more novel connectivity options like wireless Bluetooth connection.
When setting up the sound system, you want your subwoofer to have a perfect overlap with other speakers. This can be easily accomplished with a proper subwoofer crossover.
Crossovers can be best described as electronic circuits that re-route the low frequencies to the subwoofers and leave higher frequencies to the main sound system. The best subwoofers have a default crossover frequency of 100Hz and an option to adjust the numbers according to your current needs.
Wired or wireless
This one depends entirely on your priorities and preferences. For instance, a complex sound system involves quite a lot of different units. Connecting all of them with cables can create quite a lot of mess, especially in the smaller rooms.
On the other hand, the wired connection is always far more reliable and effectively eliminates lost transfer and quality drops.
Best Compact Subwoofers - FAQ
What is the best compact subwoofer?
The opinions about this may be split, but as far as we are concerned, the title of the best compact subwoofer easily goes to Klipsch R-120SW. The speakers look nice, produce very satisfying bass, they are loud enough to cover your average room and don't cost a fortune. Throw all these things into the mix, and you will get one of the best if not the best subwoofer in this product range.
If you, on the other hand, are looking for a wireless variety, we have to give a shoutout to Sonos Sub (Gen 3). The bass is incredible, the sound crisp, and the design is a killer.
Are compact subwoofers good?
The short answer would be - yes. Due to their limited size, they will inevitably produce less noise than other, more substantial speakers you can find on the market. But, they are more than enough to blow off the roof of smaller and medium rooms, which makes them perfect for home theater systems.
If you can live with this, better picks will provide you get deep, booming bass and precise, crisp sound. What more could you ask for.
What is the smallest subwoofer?
These days, subwoofers are made in all shapes and sizes. However, if you want to get sufficiently deep bass and reasonable sound quality, you shouldn't go below the size of 8 inches. Well, not unless you are strictly limited by the available space.
In our opinion, the size of 10 inches provides the ideal bass-size balance.
What are the best sounding subwoofers?
If we are talking about the compact subwoofer range, we say Klipsch R-120SW. The subwoofer simply checks all the important marks and produces one deep, satisfying bass. Also, the sound quality is great, while the price is more than affordable. All in all, these speakers get nothing but recommendations from us.
Do smaller subwoofers sound better?
Small subwoofers are better for musicians and audiophiles who prioritize greater frequency response from the sub. Although larger subwoofers might outdo smaller with the depth of low-frequency range, smaller subwoofers are better for music as they have a higher frequency range for a greater range of sound.
After it's all said and done, we recommend:
Klipsch R-120SW Subwoofer
Why it is better?
We hope this short breakdown gave you some general idea of who's who in the world of compact subwoofer speakers. Fully enjoying the home theater requires a deep, punchy bass. But, the living rooms have only so much available space. The 5 speakers we presented above will be able to provide you with great bass, even on a smaller scale.