Best Subwoofer Under 500 - Affordable Home Theater Subwoofers
If you’re after the genuine “cinema experience,” you know that sound is an integral part of it. And that’s precisely why adding a quality subwoofer might be a smart move. It brings those low-end frequencies and makes a world of difference in overall sound quality, too.
A good subwoofer makes everything come to life, full of volume and depth.
What I’m trying to say is that the best subwoofer under $500 is an indispensable part of any audio setup. But how do you know which one’s the best? And what can you expect from a subwoofer in the $500 price range?
Stick around and find out!
In a hurry? The test winner after 32 hours of research:
Last Updated: May 1, 2020
By Barry Allen: This article has been updated to reflect the most accurate information regarding best subwoofers under $500 available for those who are interested in enhancing the low tones & rumbling in their car or room. The best 5 available have changed, and information has been added to assist individuals in finding the best subwoofers under 500 currently available on the market. The FAQ has also been updated.
Best Subwoofers under $500 - Comparison Table
Product SVS PB12-NSD
18 – 150 Hz
Klipsch R-12SW Subwoofer
29 – 120 Hz
25 – 200 Hz
29 – 120 Hz
Definitive Technology ProSub 1000
18 – 150 Hz
How to Choose the Best Subwoofer under $500 for Home Theater: Buyer’s Guide
The real audio power of any home theater or surround sound system comes from the low-end punch. When you feel that rumble in your chest, know that that’s the deep bass doing its thing.
Ask anyone how to pick the best subwoofer, and they’ll probably tell you something along the lines of:
“Go with the biggest, most powerful subwoofer you can afford.”
That sounds simple enough, right? But I’m afraid that the real answer is a bit more complicated than that.
So, I put together this buyer's guide to share some tips on how to pick the best subwoofer under $500 with you!
Here’s everything you need to know!
The first thing you’ll have to consider when shopping for a subwoofer is the size – and for two important reasons:
Not only does the size of the subwoofer determine its ability to move more air but plays a role in its placement inside your home, as well.
You’ve probably heard it all before, but the consensus with subwoofers is that the larger the subwoofer driver’s surface area, the deeper the audio that it will produce. This aspect of its performance will be indicated by the subwoofer’s frequency response range, measured in Hertz.
And when you put it like that, it’s somewhat tempting to get the biggest size subwoofer you can get for under $500 and call it a day. But as I said, it’s a bit more complicated than that – and bigger doesn’t always mean better.
Instead, focus on getting what works for you size-wise – something that will fit right in with your existing surround sound system, and the space you have available.
For instance, if you have small satellites or bookshelf speakers, or you’re looking for a subwoofer for your bedroom, 8-inch or 10-inch drivers should be more than enough.
If you’re teaming your subwoofer up with a pair of large floor-standing speakers, and you need it to be able to fill a large, open space with deep bass, a 12-inch woofer should be a better match.
Any discussion about subwoofers will typically revolve around two specifications – power ratings and driver sizes. And since I already talked about subwoofer sizes, it’s time to take a look at power.
So, how much power do you genuinely need from a subwoofer? And more importantly, how much can you expect to get out of subwoofers under $500?
If you’re sticking to the price range under $500, you’ll notice that a lot of the options you’ll come across will be powered subwoofers – units that come with amplifiers already built-in. You can surely get a good product in this price range - you just need to be careful when picking.
But in terms of sheer power, I’m afraid that there’s no cut-and-dry answer I could give you:
The higher the amplifier’s power ratings, the more impactful and powerful the bass. Still, this is far from being the only factor that determines the subwoofer’s performance.
Bass – unlike higher-end frequencies – requires a lot of energy. So, yes, you should try and get as much power as you can for the money.
However, avoid going over the $500 budget limit for the sake of getting slightly higher numbers on the power-handling ratings. Oh, and ignore peak power altogether:
Peak power of 700 watts might sound flashy on paper but very rarely plays a role in the real-life performance of the subwoofer; on the other hand, it affects the price significantly.
Here are a few more things to pay attention to when browsing the market in search of the best subwoofers under $500:
• Frequency range, especially its lower limit, which should dip as close to 20 Hz – the lowest frequency our ears can detect – as possible.
• Don’t go for the boom, because that’s not what a good subwoofer sounds like – the idea is to get a realistic and accurate reproduction of the lower end, and not just poor-quality thumping noise.
• Placement is crucial for a subwoofer. Even the best subwoofers under $500 will sound lousy if you don’t find the right spot for them.
Best Subwoofer under $500 Reviews
So, what are your options when it comes to the best subwoofers under $500 for watching movies, listening to music, and maybe playing an occasional game?
Well, I have a few suggestions that won’t break that $500 budget limit –keep on reading and you’ll see what I have in store for you!
1. SVS PB12-NSD
- BEST OVERALL -
Our Rating: 92/100
I powered it up, and a thought crossed my mind almost instantly:
“Oh, so that’s what’s been missing in my life!”
It was then and there than I knew that I had to introduce you to the SVS PB12-NSD because it’s the best powered subwoofer in its price range. (No wonder it was highly recommended everywhere)
It’s a well-balanced powerhouse that will blend into any room – and any existing system – making for a perfect low-frequency foundation to music, gaming, and watching movies.
It’s probably silly of me to expect from a subwoofer to look nice, but I couldn’t help but notice that the only stylish touch on the entire SVS subwoofer was the curved metal grille. Other than the black ash woodgrain finish, that’s about it in terms of design.
I’m not complaining, though, because the PB12-NSD is all about form following function, from the massive, 21 x 17 x 22 inch cabinet – which, by the way, weighs a jaw-dropping 66 pounds – down to the smallest details.
The front panel houses both the 12-inch woofer and the high-flow, four-inch bass port. And in the back, I found flexible – although basic – setup options and a few essential digital bass management features, including adjustable crossover, gain, and phase control knobs.
I learned to love this no-nonsense approach to design, though, because I found that it more than made up for it in functionality.
Everything about this subwoofer is geared toward bringing you a "real cinema experience" – and for a price less than $500, too. At the core of its room-filling bass performance is a built-in amp rated at 400 watts of continuous power.
When they designed this baby, they decided to forego a BASH amplifier in favor of the so-called Sledge. I don’t mind the switch, because it still pushes out insane amounts of bass. It will give you all the bass you ever wanted – and then some. Simply said, it performs like higher-priced subs.
Seriously, you’re going to feel like there’s a herd of elephants running through the room. (I've even tested playing these types of sounds - imagine that audio experience!)
The frequency response range of 18 to 150 Hz is nothing short of impressive, either.
From the deep bass of music to the rumble of movie scenes, this SVS subwoofer delivered a sound that was rich and articulate, with pinpoint precision – and well-synchronized with the rest of the system, too.
More importantly, the bass sounds tuneful and defined – and it never failed to make my whole body vibrate, head to toe. When you listen to it, you'll know!
Our Rating: 88/100
Although the R-12SW is now considered an older and relatively outdated option on Amazon, there’s one thing about it that will never go out of style – high-quality audio. It delivers earth-shattering lows, and it still holds the title of one of the most popular and capable Klipsch subwoofers in the Reference line.
Plus, if you’re searching for a subwoofer that can pack plenty of punch but won’t break the bank, you can never go wrong with Klipsch!
The 16 x 14 x 18.5 cabinet, boasting the signature black-and-copper look, is finished off with black, brushed polymer veneers, which give it a sleek and subtle vibe. I do think that it would be a shame to leave the grille on, though.
Once removed, it uncovers a jaw-dropping 12-inch, spun-copper woofer driver – the large, shiny cone instantly grabs your attention with its dominating presence.
Half the time, I wasn’t even able – or willing – to look away!
The back panel looks a bit barren, although it still covers all the standard necessities of a high-caliber subwoofer. That’s where the bass port is located, as well.
You’ll find a low-pass and volume level knobs and a phase switch for fine-tuning the sound to your liking, and a power switch with automatic signal sensing. In terms of connectivity, it offers compatibility with most receivers with its line/LFE inputs.
The reason why the R-12SW doesn’t seem to go out of style is, of course, its unmatched performance:
The audio it delivers is every bit as breathtaking as its design.
Rigid, yet lightweight, the driver is backed up by an all-digital amplifier rated at 200 watts RMS. The two work together to provide a low-frequency punch that’s clean, tight, and concise at all listening levels. Great quality.
“More boom, less effort,” as Klipsch would put it.
It moves insane amounts of air and sounds massive, going deep and loud enough to blow your mind.
The frequency response range goes down to 29 Hz, which is decent enough, but much like the rest of the Reference line, it struggles with a somewhat low “response ceiling” of 120 Hz. I don’t think that this will be a problem, though – it still blends in with the high and mid-range sounds nicely.
Our Rating: 87/100
You don’t get to be a world-renowned company without having a solid product line-up. The secret to their success, I believe, is in their willingness to embrace – and develop – new technologies and systems.
That’s why I have so much respect for Yamaha – and its products, too.
The Yamaha NS-SW300PN subwoofer is a good case in point here, as it incorporates some innovative – and, might I add, surprisingly useful – technologies in its design.
Much like the rest of the NS-SW series devices, it boasts an elegant-looking, high-gloss, piano black finish and the signature curved front panel. That’s where you’ll find a power switch and a volume control knob.
Another recognizable part of its design is the side-firing Twisted Flare Port, specific to Yamaha subwoofers. It’s there to ensure smooth and efficient airflow, which should lead to more accurate, distortion-free bass.
Under the grille – which, by the way, isn’t removable – sits a 10-inch woofer, which utilizes square, rather than round, wire to improve the driver’s efficiency further.
On the back, you’ll find input and output options, as well as extensive controls, including the Bass Action Selector System – an equalizer switch that lets you choose between two modes, Music or Movies.
The NS-SW300PN is a relatively compact subwoofer, measuring 13.75 x 14.4 x 16.5 inches, but still, the weight of 39.7 pounds gives it a rather hefty feel.
You’re often told that a subwoofer has to be large to produce low bass frequencies. However, Yamaha manages to extract much more bass from its compact stature than one might expect, thanks to one smart trick – the Advanced YST II circuit.
That, in turn, allowed the subwoofer’s frequency range to drop as low as 20 Hertz – and go up to 160 Hz – which is an insane frequency response range for a subwoofer of its size.
That’s all backed by an integrated, high-efficiency, PWM digital amplifier rated at 250 watts RMS, and a dual feedback circuit that further reduces distortion.
The result, as you can probably imagine, is tight and full low-end reproduction with lots of definition to it, and exceptional overall audio clarity. The position of the B.A.S.S. switch made a considerable difference here, too.
Our Rating: 86/100
Another Klipsch subwoofer I had the opportunity of testing when putting together this round-up of the best subwoofers under $500 was the Klipsch R-120SW.
Much like its older brother, the R-12SW, this home theater subwoofer is engineered to deliver a serious punch – way above its weight range – and at a very competitive price, too.
If you have some budgetary constraints and you’d like to know more, be sure to read the rest of this review!
The R-120SW seems very neutral-looking until you remove the grille and uncover a large, 12-inch, spun-copper IMG woofer sitting smack in the middle of the front panel. At times, it almost feels like it’s staring you down. By the way, this model is the only one on today's roundup that is firing down.
The fact that it measures 16.5 x 14 x 19.2 inches and weighs 30 pounds only further increases that feeling that the subwoofer is dominating the room. It boasts reinforced MDF construction, which – other than the reduced costs – ensures the reduction of vibrations:
Fewer vibrations mean less audible coloration and an overall improvement in audio accuracy.
The back panel’s layout is pretty clean-looking but includes a rear-firing bass reflex port, and a complete set of subwoofer controls and connections for easy integration into an existing surround sound system.
The included low-pass and gain control knobs, and the phase switch, allow you to play around with the settings and fine-tune it for optimal sound performance.
Every part of its design, no matter how seemingly unimportant, points toward one purpose – and that’s bringing wall-shaking, bone-rattling bass to your favorite movie scenes and songs.
With 200 watts of power coming from the built-in, all-digital amplifier – 400 watts if we’re talking peak performance – and a frequency response range of 29 to 120 Hertz, it’s punching way above its weight.
It adds a staggering amount of hard-hitting, deep bass to the sound in all applications. However, the home theater is where it truly shines, bringing insanely loud, thundering bass, and at the same time, excellent synchronization with the rest of the system.
Movies virtually come to life with this one.
It’s a tad bit more expensive than the previously discussed R-12SW, but it still offers a competitive price-to-value ratio.
5. Definitive Technology ProSub 1000 - Stay Away
Our Rating: 80/100
I’ve had a few people bring up the Polk Audio PSW108 in random conversations about pocket-friendly subwoofer options, which sparked quite a bit of curiosity on my part. And let me tell you something:
What an underwhelming experience that was!
It’s not that there’s something inherently inferior and unsatisfactory about it – it does a decent enough job. Still, it’s not nearly as impressive or impactful as others made it out to be, and that’s what kept bugging me about it.
First off, this was not a love at first sight. I did, however, learn to appreciate the cabinet's monocoque construction, fused by polymer adhesive.
The ProSub 1000 certainly has a solid, hefty feel to it, but considering that it measures 12 x 17.8 x 14.4 inches, and weighs a little over 30 pounds, this shouldn’t come as a surprise.
The subwoofer is fitted with a 10-inch, front-firing woofer – covered by a detachable grille – and side-mounted volume control. Upon closure inspection, I discovered that there’s a 10-inch down-firing low bass radiator on the bottom of the cabinet, too.
The back panel is home to high-level outputs and inputs, and a single LFE output port. Also, there’s a variable low-pass crossover knob, selectable from 40 to 150 Hertz.
The force behind the ProSub 1000 is an integrated Infinite Power Source MOSFET amplifier, rated at 300 watts RMS. Another notable mention here is the frequency response, which covers a range from 18 Hz to 150 Hz.
After putting these specs to the test in a home theater and gaming setting, I can say that it got a lot it right.
But while it did make an impact, it didn’t leave an impression:
It veered out of control on several occasions, compromising some of the tightness and clarity along the way. Furthermore, I never got it to produce that bone-rattling, crazy loud bass. All it did was fill out the lower end that my speakers weren’t able to reproduce – nothing more, nothing less.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m not bashing Definitive Technology here. Still, this one failed to deliver on quite a few promises, and, to be honest, there are far better options available under $500 than the ProSub 1000.
With the best subwoofer under $500, you’re entering a price range where a lot can be expected both in terms of performance and design. And while my true vote goes to the SVS PB12-NSD due to its unmatched sound quality and overall performance, you’re free to pick whichever one you like the most.
Each subwoofer on this list would make a worthy addition to your audio setup.
Still, if you’re interested in something a bit more budget-friendly, go check out my round-up of the best subwoofers under $200!