When setting up a home theatre or serious music system in your home, you can leave out the bass and get away with it. But adding a quality subwoofer to your audio system makes all the difference in the ability to bring out the low frequencies and improve the overall sound quality. While there are dozens of companies making subwoofers that push the limits of audio quality, fortunately you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to significantly improve your audio system. While these budget subwoofers will never offer the same drive sizes and bass volumes as higher-end subwoofers, the best subwoofer under €500 can make a huge difference to the quality of your audio.
To determine which subwoofers under £500 offer the best quality for the price, we looked at a number of features that define the bass output of a subwoofer. We looked at power output, which controls the maximum volume a subwoofer can deliver, and frequency response, which describes the range of frequencies a subwoofer can reproduce. We also looked at cone size, which determines how much air the subwoofer can move with each vibration and thus affects the sound quality.
We spent dozens of hours reading the technical specifications and customer reviews of the best subwoofers under £500 on the market today. The result is a list of our eight favourite subwoofers that offer exceptional audio quality at a reasonable price. The table below highlights our choices, and read on for detailed reviews of each subwoofer, with pros and cons. Our buying guide and Frequently Asked Questions section cover everything you need to know about choosing the right subwoofer for your needs and budget. Finally, we summarise our three favourite subwoofers under £500 on the market today.
Polk Audio PSW505
Ask anyone who has used this Polk Audio subwoofer, and they will tell you that it is by far the best subwoofer for the price, full stop. Many users say they have bought several, either to install two subwoofers in a 7.1 surround sound system or to use them in multiple rooms.
One feature that sets this subwoofer apart for its 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 that they rarely turn the gain above 60%, which leaves plenty of volume while operating in this sub’s sweet spot.
The downside of 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 midrange speakers. In addition, users note that the rear port design is susceptible to noise, which can be quite noticeable at high gains.
That said, the subwoofer also has an adjustable low-pass filter system to reduce noise and improve harmonization with other speakers in your audio system. While the subwoofer is excellent at producing booming vibrations when watching movies, it also has the responsiveness to provide good sound quality for music playback.
What’s more, Polk Audio offers one of the longest warranties on its inexpensive subwoofers – five years. So you can be sure that this subwoofer will last at least as long as the rest of your audio system.
- 300W continuous, 460W dynamic
- 23Hz – 160Hz
- 12 inch
- 16-1/8 ;(H) x 15-1/8″ ;(W) x 18-3/16″ ;(D) inches.
- Limited to 5 years
This powerful subwoofer from Klipsch shares much of its design with the same manufacturer’s R-10SW, but features a 12-inch extended cone driver that allows for even more power output. This subwoofer is capable of delivering 200 watts of continuous power with a dynamic output of up to 400 watts, and users note that it is easily able to shake a room when the gain is increased. Impressive for a subwoofer at this modest price, users also note that there is very little distortion when the gain is increased by more than 50%. However, as with all subwoofers under $500 that we reviewed, it’s worth noting that the bass is not as rich as on higher-end subwoofers. Also, note that this subwoofer is significantly larger than the R-10SW and will take up more space in your room, while interacting differently with your room acoustics.
One important specification that has remained the same between this subwoofer and the R-10SW, unfortunately, is the relatively narrow frequency response. As with the smaller subwoofer, there is a noticeable frequency gap between this subwoofer and the midrange speakers you have attached to your sound system. While this is not a problem for movies, users have noticed it during music playback, even with the subwoofer’s built-in low-pass filter and phase control.
Despite the overall quality of this speaker, Klipsch only offers a two-year warranty.
- 200W continuous, 400W dynamic
- 29-120 Hz
- 12 inch
- 14 x 18.5 x 16 inches
- Limited to 2 years
- Line/LFE inputs, low pass filter and phase control.
BIC America F12
Users rave not only about the sound quality of this BIC America powered subwoofer, but also about the company’s customer service. In addition to having a full five-year warranty equivalent to Polk Audio’s, users regularly remark that BIC America has been extremely responsive to customer questions throughout the installation process.
The subwoofer itself is not particularly powerful at only 150 watts, but the 475 watts of dynamic power puts it on par with much more expensive subwoofers. The 12-inch driver is injection moulded to ensure consistency between units and maintain high sound quality. Also, unlike most other subwoofers under $500 that boast this level of dynamic power, this subwoofer has a wide frequency response ranging from 25 to 200 Hz. Users are therefore very impressed with the sound quality and feel that the subwoofer is more powerful than most 5.1 surround sound theatres require, which is not a bad thing. The biggest drawback to this power is that when the volume is turned up beyond 50% gain, the subwoofer can generate rumbles that reach your neighbour’s house.
A nice addition to this subwoofer is the patented “Venturi” port on the back, which greatly reduces the port noise found on other cheap subwoofers. In addition, the subwoofer has input ports for Dolby Pro Logic and Dolby Digital/DTS, allowing you to use this subwoofer with a wide variety of inputs.
- 150W continuous, 475W dynamic
- 25-200 Hz
- 12 inch
- 15 (W) x 17 ;(H) x 18-1/4 ;(D)
- Limited to 5 years
- BIC patented “Venturi” ventilation, Dolby Pro Logic and Dolby Digital/DTS inputs
Users are full of praise for 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 at 150 watts continuous, but boasts 300 watts of dynamic power and is controlled by an all-digital amplifier that helps reduce noise to higher gains. Many people who have purchased this subwoofer have also used Klipsch’s 15-inch subwoofer and are surprised to find that this subwoofer is almost as powerful and can easily fill a large room with bass as part of a 5.1 surround sound system. Part of the secret is the 10-inch copper-wired cone driver in the front, which amplifies the sound far more than traditional cheap speakers.
The cost of this power and sound quality is that the frequency response of this subwoofer is relatively limited. Without another higher-end subwoofer in the same audio configuration, you will lose all bass deeper than about 32 Hz. Although the subwoofer’s built-in low-pass filter and phase control help to mitigate the gap between the bass and your midrange speakers, expect some gap in the sound at the upper end of this subwoofer’s 120 Hz maximum.
Another minor but important advantage of this subwoofer is that it has both line and LFE inputs. This ensures that your new subwoofer will be compatible with both your current audio receiver and a new audio receiver if you need to replace it.
- Power rating
- 32-120 Hz
- 10 inches
- 14 (H) x 12.5 ;(W) x 15.7 ;(L) inches
- Limited to 2 years
- powerful 10″ front firing copper woofer, line/LFE inputs.
Polk Audio PSW10
This small subwoofer from Polk Audio is designed specifically to supplement the bass of a surround sound system without a subwoofer, or to replace a noisy subwoofer that came with your new surround sound system. Although the subwoofer only provides 50 watts of continuous power, the ability to upgrade to 100 watts of dynamic power allows this subwoofer to be significantly louder than many of its competitors. However, users note that, compared to more expensive 50 watt subwoofers, this unit can be muddied more easily and deterioration in sound quality at high volumes is one of the main shortcomings of this subwoofer. Nevertheless, users still find this subwoofer to be one of the best available for the price – and the low price also allows you to add several of these subwoofers to your audio system for more powerful bass.
The lowest frequencies of this subwoofer are unfortunately very clipped since the minimum frequency of the subwoofer is 40 Hz. In addition, you should expect a fairly large frequency gap between this subwoofer and your other speakers as the maximum frequency it can emit is 160 Hz. However, the 10-inch composite cone driver provides relatively accurate playback in this frequency range, partly thanks to the laser-based Klippel measurement technology that helps improve linearity.
As with the more expensive PSW505 model, Polk Audio offers a five-year warranty to protect your investment in this subwoofer.
- 50W continuous, 100W dynamic
- 40 Hz – 160Hz
- 10 inch
- 16.2 x 14 x 14.4 inches
- Limited to 5 years
- Dynamically balanced 10-inch polymer composite cone driver with laser-based Klippel measurement technology.
This compact and inexpensive subwoofer from Yamaha – one of the most renowned names in audio – offers excellent value for money. Although the subwoofer provides only 50 watts of power without dynamic boost, users found the volume to be loud enough for small to medium-sized rooms in a 5.1 surround sound system configuration. More importantly, users noted that noise and bass interference were relatively limited when the volume was turned up, which is impressive for a speaker at this price point.
In addition, this subwoofer offers one of the widest frequency ranges we’ve found at this price point, from 28-200Hz, meaning it can cover almost any low input frequency while blending nicely with your midrange speakers. Yamaha has further improved the sound quality of this subwoofer by designing a twisted port on the side of the unit, which reduces noise compared to a conventional split rear port.
Despite all these impressive features, note that this is still a relatively cheap subwoofer that lacks the feel and sound of high-end subwoofers. In particular, users have noted that you can hear, rather than feel, this subwoofer when standing next to it. Yamaha also only offers a two-year limited warranty, whereas the similarly priced Polk Audio PSW10 has a five-year warranty.
- 50W (100 Hz, 5 ohms, 10% THD)
- 28-200 Hz
- 8 inch
- 11-1/2 x 11-1/2 x 13-3/8 inches
- 2 years on parts and labour
- Yamaha Active Servo Technology II, twisted torch port.
This small but powerful speaker from Yamaha is similar to the NS-SW050BL, but differs in a few important ways. The main difference is the 10-inch cone, an improvement over the 8-inch driver in the small subwoofer, which increases the dynamic power output to 100 watts. Of course, with a slightly larger cone, the size of the subwoofer itself is also slightly larger. Otherwise, the subwoofer is largely similar and users enjoyed many of the same features, including the extended frequency response which is relatively unmatched among subwoofers at this price point.
One thing to note is that this subwoofer doesn’t have a low-pass filter, so even with the improved frequency response, you’ll notice a gap between the low and mid-range frequencies unless your audio receiver has a built-in filter. If you don’t have one, it may be worth looking for a subwoofer with a crossover. Otherwise, users enjoyed the clear sound quality of this subwoofer at moderate gains, again noting that it gets muddy towards the high end of its power output. However, noise is limited by the inclusion of a twisted side port, as opposed to the standard slotted rear port found on most subwoofers in this price range.
Again, Yamaha only offers a two-year warranty on this subwoofer, although users have not noticed any problems over the years of use.
- 50W (100 Hz, 5 ohms, 10% THD), 100W dynamic
- 25-180 Hz
- 10 inch
- 13-7/8 x 13-7/8 x 16-1/8 inches
- Limited to 2 years
- Advanced YST II technology, twisted flare port.
Bic Acoustech PL-200 II
The Bic Acoustech PL-200 II has a dynamic peak power of 1000 watts and a continuous power of 250 watts RMS, making it a powerful subwoofer. It has a frequency response of 22hz to 200Hz, as well as adjustable crossover and volume controls. This subwoofer features a state-of-the-art BASH amplifier and a 12-inch long-throw, long-excursion amplified unit with surround sound.
Users have said that it achieves deep, clean bass notes with an ability to be delicate when needed, although others have said that it is not the best choice if you are looking for a subwoofer that can handle precision in bass response.
The Bic Acoustech PL-200 II comes with a spectacular 8 year warranty, making it an excellent choice for customers looking for a subwoofer with a long life, or one with warranty options in case of accidents, although it is important to note that it does not come with its own cord, so the consumer will have to provide the necessary RCA cable. However, everyone agrees that this is a great sounding subwoofer. It weighs just over 43 pounds, which makes it a bit heavy, but not so heavy that most people can’t move it if necessary. And because it is so large, space in your home and where to store this subwoofer could be an issue for some users.
Finally, many users have said that this subwoofer really shines when used in a home cinema, although it is perfectly suitable for music as well.
- 250W continuous, 1000W dynamic
- 22 – 200 Hz
- 12 inch
- 11.6 x 12.5 x 47 inches
- Limited to 8 years
- BASH amplifier, high power magnet, crossover & adjustable; volume controls
What can you expect from a subwoofer under $550?
Subwoofers can cost thousands of pounds for a single unit at the top end of the market, so is it really worth investing in a subwoofer under €500? The answer largely depends on your budget and your need for unrivalled sound quality. In general, for subwoofers costing less than about €3,000, the more money you can spend on your subwoofer, the greater the impact the unit will have on your overall audio system. There are many technical differences between subwoofers costing less than €500 and those costing several thousand, but the bottom line is that subwoofers costing less than €500 tend to have a muddier and less accurate bass output than their high-end counterparts.
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Features to consider before buying
How do you find subwoofers under £500 that are worth a second look? The answer lies in the technical specifications, which allow you to compare the performance of different subwoofers. 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, as it is directly related 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, such as the 300 watt Polk Audio PSW505, will produce better sound when used at room volume, in the middle of its power range, than a less powerful 50 watt subwoofer, of which there are many models at less than £500, which is used at maximum room volume.
Frequency response describes the range of frequencies, measured in Hertz (Hz), that a subwoofer can play. Since your subwoofer is usually the only speaker in your sound system capable of playing low frequencies, it is important to have a relatively wide frequency response to avoid having some of the low frequencies in your audio input muddied or completely excluded from your output sound. Among subwoofers under €500, less powerful subwoofers like the BIC America F12 and Bic Acoustech PL-200 II have the broadest frequency responses – from 22 and 25 to 200 Hz – while more powerful subwoofers tend to have narrower frequency responses.
The cone is the part of the subwoofer that moves in response to the input audio signal to push the air and actually produce the sound. Since bass signals have relatively long wavelengths, a large cone is needed 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 generally produce better sound quality. However, vibrations in the cone itself can also introduce noise that muddies the bass, so the size of the cone alone cannot determine the overall quality of a subwoofer.
When it comes to subwoofers, the bigger the better. A larger subwoofer usually means it has a wider cone and higher power output. However, if you are placing your subwoofer in a small room or space, it is worth checking the exact dimensions of the subwoofer you are interested in against the space you have available. In general, it is better to place your subwoofer correctly in your audio system – which requires moving the subwoofer around your room to find the best acoustics – than to opt for a larger subwoofer.
Even at less than £500, a subwoofer is a significant investment and you want to be sure you are protected against manufacturing 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.
Some subwoofers are equipped with special audio technologies designed to improve sound quality beyond what the technical specifications alone suggest. For example, the BIC America F12 features BIC’s patented “Venturi” port, which eliminates port noise to improve sound quality. These technologies vary greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer, but stay tuned as they can improve sound quality without changing the fundamentals of the subwoofer itself.
Although all the subwoofers we reviewed are serious contenders for your home cinema or music listening, the three that stood out the most were the Polk Audio PSW505, the Klipsch R-12SW and the BIC America F12. Both the Polk Audio and BIC America subwoofers come with a five-year warranty, which immediately indicates that these manufacturers stand behind their audio products. In addition, all of these subwoofers have minimum output frequencies of less than 30 Hz, which means you can get the real bass out of your movies and music. Although the Klipsch and Polk Audio subwoofers have limited high-frequency responses, all three units were able to perform well in surround sound systems thanks to the inclusion of a low-pass filter. Overall, we found the Polk Audio PSW505 to be the best subwoofer at under €500 thanks to its 300 watts of continuous power and 460 watts of dynamic power and its relatively good sound quality at high volumes.