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How to Select Subwoofer for Home Theater?

Updated: Oct 7, 2021

Buying speakers is easy as you can differentiate between the sound that you hear. But what about the woofers? As you cannot hear them, but can only FEEL them.

They are the most difficult to select while shopping for home theater systems. There are so many questions that come in mind when we talk about woofers -

Ported vs Sealed woofer.

How to select the size of the woofer?

What is the best or ideal placement of the woofer?

Best Subwoofers for Home Theater!

I am going to help you with a 5 Step systematic approach on selecting subwoofer -

1. Size of the Woofer –

Now, one of the most important things that you should figure out is the size of the driver. Generally, woofers start from 8” driver to 12” driver for home theater applications. You might get tempted to buy the biggest woofer that fits in your budget. But guess what, that’s not completely true. The frequency response of the woofer which is measured in Hertz determines the depth of the play of the woofer. And what we need to consider is which woofer can blend with your system for creating an immersive listening experience.

For instance, if you are buying satellite of bookshelf speaker, an 8” or 10” subwoofer will pair nicely with them. That’s why we see lot of HTiBs or 5.1 Box packages of speakers having 8” or 10” woofer. On the other hand, when you are buying big-floorstanding speaker a 12” subwoofer can be the perfect balance for the system.

Another important factor that you have to consider while buying woofer is the area of the room. If you are placing it in a small bedroom or media room, then smaller size woofer can do a job great. But if its an open area with large space like a living room, then look no further beyond a large woofer as it has to move that much of air to deliver more bass.

2. How Much is too Much?

Active woofers have in-built amplifier which produces the bass and it is connected to the AV Receiver using an audio cable for taking input signals. BTW, you can check our video on active vs passive woofers here. Now, the power of this in-built amplifier is measured in RMS and the continuous power has to be checked in the specs sheet of the woofer as Peak Power has no real value in terms of constant woofer performance. The power of the required bass can also be determined based on your content consumption. For instance if you are more of an action movie buff, then you shall need a high power woofer. Similarly, if games, music, documentaries and regular TV is your primary consumption then even a low power woofer can do the job significantly well.

3. Sealed vs Ported woofer?

There are two types of woofers in the hi-fi home theater market.

  • Sealed Woofer – These woofers are generally identified when you fail to see any air vent or hole in the woofer. These woofers have quick response as they are not dependent on the air movement. These are also supposedly tighter and more accurate in performance. These woofers can be used when you do not wish to get a rattling or an earthquake kind of feeling, and want only the punch with low power. Best suited to complement the treble lovers in movies and music.

  • Ported Woofer – These are type two in the woofers, and are meant for generating powerful bass as they have air vents of bass ports which helps in reinforcing the low bass output. These woofers are typically larger in size compared to the sealed ones due to these air holes and often recommended by us to people who love high bass and want that shake or vibration feeling while enjoying their movies or music.

None of the above are clear winners in terms of audio experience but your choice should solely be based on your content and requirements.

4. What are Passive Radiators?

Many woofers now-a-days have these additional passive radiators apart from active drivers. I have observed these passive radiators more in the sealed ones as they do not have room for bigger amplification and yet want to generate more bass. These passive radiators start moving while the active drivers start firing and due to this activity, more and more air is pushed in the atmosphere creating more bass.

5. Placement and Quantity of woofer?

Frequencies lesser than 150Hz are generally omnidirectional as they do not deliver any sound but only delivers the low frequency effects or bass. So, placement of the woofer is very tricky and you should consider your area, viewing position and based on all this, the appropriate location can be finalized. Also, having multiple woofers helps in the experience as you can cover larger seating areas with them.

If you have more queries on the woofer, or need a personalized recommendation then do not forget to use the T20 service as you can talk to me and my team for one-on-one shopping advice. You can also use expertise of me and my certified project managers who can guide you with tips for AV Receiver calibration and settings for best outputs from your woofers.


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