Music enthusiasts understand there are levels to sound. You can find thousands of average stereo speakers on the market. But if you want authentic bass, nothing beats a powered subwoofer.
Subwoofers may be passive or powered: the passive subwoofer has an external amp, while powered subwoofers (also known as active subwoofers) have a built-in amp that drives up the bass and is easy to install.
There’s growing discord within the audiophile community that powered subwoofers aren’t built to handle the intricate depth, nuance, and detail of various music genres. However, it’s our considered opinion this isn’t the rule for all powered subs.
The very best of powered subwoofers will elevate your listening experience in ways no other music equipment can. Many speakers quit at around 50Hz, denying you the richness and depth of authentic bass tones.
But an excellent active subwoofer will dive deep down to 30Hz and lower, ensuring you enjoy the lowest notes at the very limits of human hearing. Powered subwoofers also have excellent sound fidelity, delivering a bass precisely as delivered by the original creator.
Even the most enthusiastic audiophile can find it challenging to choose suitable audio equipment. Fortunately, we’ve taken the time to compile a list of the best powered subwoofers available.
The 10 Best Powered Subwoofers in 2022
Our curated powered subwoofer selections below are the best in their class. They will provide you with the most authentic bass tones to satisfy your musical cravings.
1. JBL GT-BassPro12 – Best For Quality Sound
Let’s be clear. JBL is arguably the most recognized brand in the audio world. The US-based company consistently creates audio masterpieces that titillate the ears, and the JBL GT-BassPro12 is no different.
- Reasonable price for a JBL
- Compact design
- Incredible bass
- Easy to install
- Slightly on the heavy side
- Not as powerful as other products
The equipment sports an inbuilt 150 wattage amplifier for premium bass and delivers massive power. The subwoofer is compact and easy to install, with a powerful sound that kicks you in the guts.
JBL equipment often costs a king’s ransom, but this subwoofer has a reasonable price. The subwoofer is more than decent, and when paired with the high-quality amp, you’re looking at a match made in heaven.
The compact size belies its power. The output quality is as good – if not better – as any premium product in the market. It’s excellent for upgrading your car audio system, and the remote allows you to adjust the bass on the go.
The active subwoofer is fantastic for all music genres, but especially hip hop and rock for that heavy thump. The bass is strong enough to give you a blast inside your car, without vibrating other vehicles around you or buzzing off the neighbors.
Interestingly, the sound is exceptional after first-time use but gets even better once you’ve broken it in. It’s housed in premium aluminum material for quality sound in any condition. Moreover, the Slipstream Port ensures high output without distortion.
It also comes with many features that allow you to customize the bass to your taste. That said, the product falls a little short on power and is slightly on the heavy side.
2. Rockville SS8P – Best for Under-seat Installation
The Rockville SS8P is one active subwoofer that comes with all the accessories. It features a squarish design that makes it easy to fit under your seat with clean wiring for a simple installation.
Additionally, the subwoofer has high-quality inputs that make it easy to install on a factory or aftermarket audio system. You can install the SS8P even if you don’t have preamp outputs on your system.
Let’s not forget the intuitive turn-on circuit that automatically powers the subwoofer after sending the audio signal. This customer-centric product encourages neat wiring with all the inputs and outputs in one space for clutter-free and more straightforward wiring.
However, the standout feature on this powered subwoofer is the in-built 400-watt amp that provides some of the most consistent and cleanest lows you’ll ever hear. The bass is adjustable, allowing you to go from crisp low tones to banging and booming thumps!
The SSP8 upgrades the depth of your bass and makes each ride more enjoyable than the first. The housing is built from cast aluminum to keep things cool in all conditions. The adjustable sensitivity ensures you increase/decrease the output to your taste.
It is compact and lightweight at 9.5lbs which makes it shocking for the depth of bass it delivers. It may heat up when in use for extended periods, but it’s a small price to pay for premium equipment that is 1/3 the price of the competition.
3. Polk Audio PSW10 – Best for Home
Unlike other powered subwoofers built for vehicles, the Polk PSW10 is crafted for home entertainment. It’s not optimized for your car’s audio set up but it’s an excellent choice for home audio. The design allows the subwoofer to retain stability even when the volume is max.
Additionally, the price is unbeatable for the quality it offers with premium materials that provide distortion-free bass at the lowest frequencies. You’ll love how easy the equipment integrates with other audio systems, allowing you to quickly upgrade your home entertainment.
The audio sphere is well aware of PolkAudio as a brand that provides premium sound at an affordable price, and the PSW10 is cut from similar cloth. It’s made from MDF material with a metallic silver color that blends well into your home surroundings with the controls at the back of the equipment.
The subwoofer picks up upon receiving the audio signal and will stay on for 15 minutes before switching off to save you power costs. The equipment doesn’t have a magnetic shield, but this doesn’t reduce the sound quality.
However, you might experience distortion if you place the equipment close to a CRT (cathode-ray tube) display. But the active subwoofer doesn’t affect more modern plasma, LCD, and LED-type displays. The bass is crisp and clear without being overwhelming, and it’s not boomy or disturbing.
That said, this subwoofer performs well for movies, music, and FSP games and delivers enough power for a small or medium-sized room. The accessories include a removable grill which gives it an aggressive look.
4. Kenwood KSC-SW11 – Best Enclosed Subwoofer
The KSC-SW11 is a sleek subwoofer with a 75-watt RMS output. Of course, it doesn’t provide as much bass as its rivals with the limited power, but it’s the ideal choice for audiophiles who don’t require the deepest bass but want more options when fitting into a vehicle.
- Fits in the smallest spaces
- Intuitive, sleek design
- Has all the accessories
- Lower audio quality at max levels
- Not so easy to install
You can place this powered subwoofer in your trunk or under the seat. Despite its small, sleek size, the Kenwood subwoofer provides a bass that’s more than a match for large trunk-fitting subwoofers.
The equipment is encased in an aluminum housing to dampen distortion and reduce rattling with the whole unit, and it’s designed to perform without an external amp. It comes with a remote to assist with volume level and low-pass crossover to customize your bass sound with ease.
This active subwoofer is especially suitable for smaller vehicles that lack space for an external amplifier or for vehicle owners who prioritize their cargo space. However, this unit doesn’t provide an all-in-one solution for your music. It naturally only helps to improve the bass in your car’s bass.
Kenwood provides all the accessories required for the installation, including mounting brackets, signal, and power wires for easy installation – something that DIY newbies will appreciate – but the installation guide is unfortunately not so helpful. This subwoofer will bring your music and movies to life without getting you pulled over because of a noise violation.
This product may not deliver that thumping boom we’ve come to love with powered subwoofers, but it provides a depth of sound you can never replicate with your car’s stock equipment.
5. BIC Acoustech PL-200 II Subwoofer – Most Powerful Active Subwoofer
Don’t let the price faze you: this subwoofer is one of the best in its class, with an incredible 1000 watts maximum output and 250 watts of RMS (root mean squared) power. The frequency range starts from 21-200HZ (hertz) with a bass depth that ensures you pick up the lowest frequencies possible for the human ear.
This active subwoofer is built for home sound systems and it’s not optimized for car audio – it comes in a sleek, boxy design that isn’t out of place in your living room.
As with most audio equipment, it doesn’t suit many true audiophiles. However, suppose you’re looking to improve your audio and get something high quality in return. In that case, this product will be worth your while.
It is nigh on impossible to get a powered subwoofer with similar quality and at the same price range. The quality of the construction is top-notch with flared dual forward-facing ports.
Inside this subwoofer is a powerful 12″ driver and ports that allow the equipment to decrease turbulence and distortion. The controls and connection ports are situated at the back, and it’s easy to set up.
BIC also includes an installation manual that ensures you connect all the RCA wiring correctly if you find it challenging. One thing you’d love is the ease of selecting the best bass, especially when similar products fall apart when pushed to the limit.
The powered subwoofer rolls off sharply at the 20-30hz range with a little bit of oomph within 50-70hz. Distortion and noise are reduced to almost non-existent levels. While it struggles to shine at 30hz and lower, the quality of the overall product handles this flaw excellently well.
The active subwoofer is also fantastic for FLAC files but struggles to replicate that depth and precision for mp3s of lesser quality. Suppose you want equipment to elevate your movie experience. In that case, the PL-200 II will give you that deep rolling bass for a cinema-like feel.
6. MTX Audio RT8PT Universal – Best for Small Vehicles
This powered subwoofer is barely 8″ and still packs a powerful punch for its size. The MTV Audio RT8PT is the latest in a line of high-quality subwoofers by MTX Audio. It has a tube-shaped design that makes it easy to place in any vehicle space.
The enclosure features 120 watts of RMS power and comes with RCA wires for easy connectivity. The durable and lightweight polypropylene material is perfect for air movement for a fantastic output.
The subwoofer works reasonably well for low-end, ensuring you pick up bass instruments like the kick drums and electric bass guitar. Installation is a breeze without the need to hire a professional.
That said, hardcore audiophiles may require something more premium, but MTX’s RT8PT is an excellent buy for music enthusiasts starting their journey towards car audio.
It is also an ideal gift for people who enjoy music but are still stuck on stock options in the car. The subwoofer is bundled with the 120-watt amp and a carpeted, vented enclosure – and it doesn’t cost a fortune to purchase.
While the equipment tends to heat up during extended use, it comes with heat protection to prevent damage, and the stylish enclosure will be right at home with your vehicle’s furnishings.
7. Sonos Sub Gen 3 – Smartest Active Subwoofer
The Sonos Sub Gen 3 is the priciest equipment on this list, and for a good reason. The Sub Gen 3 is an improvement on the Sub Gen 2. The California-based sound company is renowned for top-of-the-line premium audio products with an appealing aesthetic design.
This equipment is the Tesla of subwoofers and pairs excellently well with Sonos products’ ecosystem. Interestingly, the Sub Gen 3 doesn’t have a performance advantage over the Sub Gen 2, and you can get that for $100 less.
However, it has updated hardware and delivers that heart-pounding soul-shaking bass without noise or distortion. Simply put, this is an overpowered subwoofer with all the bells and whistles, including ethernet and high-speed WiFi.
The design is the sleekest yet and a real conversation starter once you display it proudly in your home. The Sub Gen 3 features a force-canceling concept that eliminates the slightest rattle at the highest volume – not that you’d ever need to turn it up to max with all that power.
Additionally, it’s a dual-powered subwoofer with two separate amplifiers. This latest edition has a faster processor and more significant internal memory to ensure more performance gains via updates.
The active subwoofer can detect the lowest frequencies at 25hz, just a little above what the human ear can catch. It’s an intelligent subwoofer that comes with an app for easy customization.
Installation is the easiest yet and once you plug it on the power socket, simply use the app to pair it with the Sonos speaker of your choice.
It’s worth mentioning the importance of setting the crossover point correctly. If you set the Sub Gen 3 right, you can blend your speakers with your subwoofer with the mids and highs outputting in the speakers and the lows coming from the subwoofer.
And this is where the equipment shines. Since it pairs perfectly well with other Sonos products, the app can detect the crossover point, saving you the stress of doing it yourself.
This powered subwoofer will top the list if it pairs with any other audio system. Unfortunately, the manufacturer only allows it to work with similar Sonos offerings. People who buy active subwoofers are likely to have different audio equipment on hand that serves specific purposes.
If that’s the case for you, you’re better off looking somewhere else. Moreover, the equipment is seriously expensive. Getting a full range of Sonos audio equipment to complement the Sub Gen 3 can set you back thousands of dollars. That said, it’s worth its weight in value and an amazing piece of audio equipment.
8. Yamaha 8 100W Powered Subwoofer – Best for Budget
Yamaha is the number one musical instrument manufacturer globally. It comes as no surprise the company leverages its experience to craft one of the finest specimens of a subwoofer on the market. It’s another great option for home audio setups, and it isn’t built for car sound systems.
The NS-SW050 incorporates Yamaha’s Active Servo Technology to deliver that extra tight bass and pristine sound. The equipment has a Twisted Flare Port to enhance airflow and create a smoother listening experience.
Rather than spend $600+ on the Paradigm, the NS-SW050 can provide similar performance for a fraction of the cost. While the 100-watt power won’t cut it for some, it’s exceptionally reasonable for the price.
It’s also worth mentioning that the core function of a powered subwoofer isn’t to give you the thumping boom but to take charge of the lowest frequencies while your primary speakers deliver the highs and mids. The NS-SW050 truly delivers on that expectation.
It’s also an advantage because the equipment is lightweight, easy to move around the house, and has ports located on the side instead of at the bottom like most of the competition. It isn’t as sleek as many products on the list, but the black wood finish gives the equipment a decent look.
This subwoofer may not hit the lowest lows. However, the product aims to complement other existing systems and not be the centerpiece.
9. KICKER 11HS8 – Most Durable Active Subwoofer
KICKER isn’t as famous as many of the products on this list. Still, its anonymity doesn’t detract from an exceptional piece of hardware. The 8″ power subwoofer packs more punch than many 10″ on the market and fits almost any type of vehicle.
The subwoofer is compact and easily fits under the seat. However, you can keep it anywhere due to the small-seal enclosure that improves its compact profile.
The KICKER 11HS8 won’t turn heads at a traffic stop with just 150 watts of RMS power. That’s standard for a smaller 8-inch subwoofer though, and you’ll get extraordinary lows that add further depth to your in-car entertainment.
Moreover, the Kicker is easy to set up, and the volume and amplifier controls are simple to adjust. The entire package ships with RCA wires and other accessories necessary for connecting the unit to a battery source.
The manufacturer includes everything to save cost and forestall unnecessary purchases. But what’s impressive about this small sub is the kick! It’s not called the “Kicker’ for nothing with an incredible bass that makes your hairs stand on end.
The Hi/Low Switch allows you to customize to your taste. You can increase or decrease the bass boost from 0 – +6dB or let it automatically adjust. The aim is to customize the bass on the fly depending on the genre or type of music.
Let’s not forget the wired remote that helps you adjust the settings without constantly reaching under the seat to turn the dials. The KICKER is easy to install without calling a professional, and the overall design is user-friendly.
That said, it’s slightly pricey, which is a turn-off for most people but still worth the cost of purchase.
10. Klipsch Reference R-112SW – Best Value
This list won’t be complete without the Klipsch Reference R-112SW. Klipsch is a household name in the audio sphere. This 12″ powered subwoofer calls in the calvary for movies, music, and any other type of entertainment you desire from your home audio set up.
It consists of a 300W RMS and 600W raw power between 24-125hz. It provides that deep rumble bass that rattles the windows without noise or distortion. The powered sub comes with RCA inputs and has features that include Variable Phase Control and Low Pass Crossover.
Unfortunately, many users underestimate the power of this monster only to find it overpowers their living space – this is a hefty subwoofer for those who want loud bass at home. The 12″ copper driver gives it a distinctive look and is protected by a sturdy MDF cabinet with a beautiful black finish that enhances the design and provides exceptional support.
You’ll find a large slot-port around the front, and this feature aims to dampen the noise. The result? Ultra-low frequencies with excellent placement. That said, this subwoofer costs around two times the closest competitor’s price even though it has about 20%-30% more performance.
For many audiophiles, that’s worth spending extra. The subwoofer front is clean and devoid of clutter, with the controls and dials conveniently located at the back. Klipsch also produces other lines of audio, and purchasing all together will give your home that clean aesthetic retro feel.
Interestingly the equipment can ship with a wireless subwoofer kit that allows you to use the powered sub anywhere in the home.
One potential drawback is that the driver is anodized aluminum, not spun copper. However, the material still gives it a stunning look with a bass that hits the lowest notes without even trying.
The Buyer’s Guide to Choosing Right Powered Subwoofer
A powered subwoofer is an excellent addition to your vehicle or home. However, even the most consummate audiophile can choose the wrong equipment. Here’s the breakdown of the vital information required to buy the most suitable powered subwoofer for your listening pleasure.
What is a Powered Subwoofer?
The main distinguishing feature of a powered subwoofer (also known as an active subwoofer) is that it comes with a built-in amplifier. By including an optimized amplifier, you get the perfect setup and easy installation.
A powered subwoofer is a subwoofer type with all the necessary features required to boost the low-frequency sound to the human ear. It’s simpler to install compared to the passive subwoofer requiring just one cable connection from the equipment to the receiver.
While passive subwoofers must use an external amplifier to function. However, powered subwoofers depend on their built-in amplifier to bring out the bass.
Sealed vs. Ported Powered Subwoofers
Powered subwoofers can have a ported or sealed enclosure. A recurring question amongst audiophiles is whether to opt for a sealed or ported subwoofer.
A sealed powered subwoofer has a closed-off cabinet to prevent air from escaping in or out. This setup plays a critical role in the sound quality, aesthetics, and even playback levels.
Sealed subwoofers have the edge in sound quality because of the exceptional accuracy of the frequency response. A sealed active subwoofer works better for vehicles due to its sleek, compact design.
Ported subs have multiple air vents to boost the low-frequency output. Consequently, the bass is more profound than what you’d get with a sealed enclosure where both have similar ratings.
In sum, if you want the type of bass you get at an IMAX theater, a ported subwoofer is what you need. Ported subwoofers work best in the home due to their size and the type of bass it produces.
Wireless or Wired Powered Subwoofers
Technology makes life more effortless and convenient, including for powered subwoofers. Let’s take a look at the benefits and drawbacks of both technologies.
The most significant advantage of a wireless sub is portability. You can move the equipment wherever you want without worrying about wire clutter. Moreover, rodents and other small critters can gnaw off cables, essentially ruining the bass quality.
Additionally, wireless powered subs connect seamlessly with Bluetooth and WiFi technology allowing you more options to enjoy your entertainment.
That said, wireless subwoofers don’t have the same sound quality as the wired version, and the quality tends to deteriorate when you increase the volume. Wireless subs often have a “closed-loop,” working only with other wireless products within the same brand.
And if it’s car audio you’re looking at, wireless subs are still pretty uncommon. For adding powerful bass to your vehicle’s sound system, be prepared to wire it in.
Interestingly, many audiophiles prefer wired subwoofers because of the ability to tweak the entire audio system to their taste. Wired subs are more customizable and let you hone in on personalized, perfected bass.
Although wireless subwoofers are easier to set up, wiring a powered sub to your home or vehicle doesn’t require professional installation. That said, the obvious drawback is the wires which can clutter your car or home.
Other Factors to Consider
Now you know the benefits and drawbacks of the powered subwoofer types, let’s consider other factors.
We often hear, “it’s not the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” Unfortunately, this doesn’t hold true for powered subwoofers where it’s safe to say that size matters.
Subwoofers are usually 8 inches, 10 inches, 12 inches, or 15 inches and home sound systems can go even larger. For a smaller vehicle, 8” and 10” subs can offer a great upgrade, but if you want bass that you can turn up to 11 then bigger is better: the larger the equipment, the better the performance and power.
Power is at the heart of a powered sub performance, and it’s critical to know the wattage rating. These are measured two ways: by peak power and RMS. Subwoofers with a higher wattage often provide a more powerful bass output. For instance, a 1000 watt powered sub will outperform 100 watts powered equipment.
Peak power refers to the maximum power the sub is capable of handling at any given moment without blowing. It’s important for power surges, but you’ll rarely put a subwoofer to the test at peak power.
RMS power refers to the amount of power the subwoofer can handle continuously and it’s a more accurate representation of an active subwoofer’s capabilities. With more RMS power you’ll be able to crank the volume and still get top-quality bass. You can get by with 150 watts of RMS power on smaller subs for car audio, but home setups can go beyond 300 watts.
Let’s back up a bit to remember we are talking about powered subwoofers. Therefore the frequency range you should be most interested in is the lower figure. It would be best if you had equipment that could dive to the very depths of the bass.
Your other audio equipment can pick up anything above 120hz. For instance, 20hz to 400hz is better than 40hz to 500hz because it can detect sound frequencies almost inaudible to the human ear.
A powered subwoofer is an excellent solution for upgrading your home or car entertainment.
No matter what size or type you opt for, it’s almost a cinch to elevate your listening experience. The built-in amp provides a unique bass experience without taking up space in your vehicle or home.
Powered subwoofers remain the subwoofer of choice because they’re easy to set up and don’t require additional components to use.
The products on this list represent the very best in the audio sphere and will provide excellent value for your listening pleasure.
No matter which of the powered subwoofers above you choose, you will be able to take your music to the next level and enjoy your favorite songs like never before.