5 Best Powered Subwoofers Under $500 for 2020

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shadyJ

Speaker of the House
In this article, we examine what we think are the best subwoofer choices for five-hundred dollars. Five-hundred dollars can get you something far superior to entry-level, but it doesn't get the best that can be had, so trade-offs are inevitable. All loudspeaker design, including subwoofer design, carries trade-offs, and we try to determine which models make the best compromises for their targeted use. Different situations call for different subwoofers, and we look at what we think might be the best choices for those applications. We will try to briefly explain why we think our selections can do well for their intended use. So let’s now take a look at what seems to be the better options out there in this price range.

READ: The Five Best Powered Subwoofers for Under $500 for 2020
 
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Tachead7075

Audioholic
Thanks for the review Shady.

I'm surprised the Monolith made the list as I have heard there have been a lot failures and troubles with QC and warranty support. Also, it is heavy because it's box is made of HDF vs the acoustically superior MDF(a poor design decision that likely was done solely to trick uninformed customers into thinking its specs were better then the competition).

And, a Polk Audio Subwoofer made the list? I guess there are only so many options in this price bracket as Polk are definitely not known for making good subs. I wonder how it compares to the PB-1000, I'm guessing the SVS destroys it but, maybe Polk's are improving?

Also, surprised the Paradigm Defiance V Series never made the list as they are supposed to be good performers for the money and you get BT App control, wireless capability, and ARC built in.

Why no Hsu or Rythmik? The VTF-2 MK5 and L12 can likely both be had for sub $500 with discounts less shipping(will likely spank most of the list too I bet). I guess the list was based on MSRP?
 
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shadyJ

Speaker of the House
If this was $39 bucks less would it have made the list and if so which would have been bumped out of the Top 5?

That VTF-2 mk5 is basically a $600 subwoofer when shipping is factored in. If I had included it, I don't think it would bump any off the list. It would be a higher performer, but it is a much larger subwoofer, and that is the trade-off. All loudspeaker design is a matter of trade-offs, and each of these subs bring their own strengths and weaknesses depending on where the manufacturer decided those trade-off would be.
 
S

shadyJ

Speaker of the House
Thanks for the review Shady.

I'm surprised the Monolith made the list as I have heard there have been a lot failures and troubles with QC and warranty support. Also, it is heavy because it's box is made of HDF vs the acoustically superior MDF(a poor design decision that likely was done solely to trick uninformed customers into thinking its specs were better then the competition).

And, a Polk Audio Subwoofer made the list? I guess there are only so many options in this price bracket as Polk are definitely not known for making good subs. I wonder how it compares to the PB-1000, I'm guessing the SVS destroys it but, maybe Polk's are improving?

Also, surprised the Paradigm Defiance V Series never made the list as they are supposed to be good performers for the money and you get BT App control, wireless capability, and ARC built in.

Why no Hsu or Rythmik? The VTF-2 MK5 and L12 can likely both be had for sub $500 with discounts less shipping(will likely spank most of the list too I bet). I guess the list was based on MSRP?
The Monolith is a really good sub. I don't know about QC issues, but I don't have access to failure rate data, and no one else on the internet does either. The problem with it is that customer support for an item like this is a bit more cumbersome through Monoprice than other smaller manufacturers. So you may end up hearing about issues from it more since owners may be resorting to social media more as their support experience isn't as fluid as it would be with a less rigorous support process. We don't really know, and I don't trust social media users would be able to give the issue a fair or accurate assessment.

As for the Polk, I don't know how good it really is. When Erin ran CEA-2010 tests on some budget subs, the Polk PSW10 outperformed all the other subs except the Elac sub, and it was the cheapest one there. My feeling is that the HTS-12 is probably very competent above 30Hz.

The Paradigm Defiance subs are pretty good in general, but the one that would have qualified for this list, the Defiance V8, would simply have been just totally dwarfed by these others. I don't think it really competes well at its MSRP. I love the Defiance X series, but I can't recommend the V8.

The Hsu and Rythmik subs are too expensive. They rightly belong in the list from this article and shouldn't be included among subs from the present article.
 
T

Tachead7075

Audioholic
The Monolith is a really good sub. I don't know about QC issues, but I don't have access to failure rate data, and no one else on the internet does either. The problem with it is that customer support for an item like this is a bit more cumbersome through Monoprice than other smaller manufacturers. So you may end up hearing about issues from it more since owners may be resorting to social media more as their support experience isn't as fluid as it would be with a less rigorous support process. We don't really know, and I don't trust social media users would be able to give the issue a fair or accurate assessment.

As for the Polk, I don't know how good it really is. When Erin ran CEA-2010 tests on some budget subs, the Polk PSW10 outperformed all the other subs except the Elac sub, and it was the cheapest one there. My feeling is that the HTS-12 is probably very competent above 30Hz.

The Paradigm Defiance subs are pretty good in general, but the one that would have qualified for this list, the Defiance V8, would simply have been just totally dwarfed by these others. I don't think it really competes well at its MSRP. I love the Defiance X series, but I can't recommend the V8.

The Hsu and Rythmik subs are too expensive. They rightly belong in the list from this article and shouldn't be included among subs from the present article.
Roger.

10-4, was just surprised as Polk subs usually get mediocre reviews and are harshly recommended against on many forums as there is almost certainly better(performance anyway) for similar money.

How do you figure? You guys must pay a lot more then we do up here in Canada. The V12 is $699Cad here MSRP($523US) and frequently drops 20% on Paradigms site($418US). It is also easy to get 15-20% off at any Paradigm dealer I would imagine. That puts it easily in the sub $500US range even with tax up here.

I too am quite happy with the X Series(I own 2 x X12's).

Roger, just figured they were pretty close and could be had for sub $500 with the right sale or discount.
 
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lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Seriously, I have no life.
. Also, it is heavy because it's box is made of HDF vs the acoustically superior MDF(a poor design decision that likely was done solely to trick uninformed customers into thinking its specs were better then the competition).
What makes MDF inherently better than HDF?
 
S

shadyJ

Speaker of the House
Roger.

10-4, was just surprised as Polk subs usually get mediocre reviews and are harshly recommended against on many forums as there is almost certainly better(performance anyway) for similar money.

How do you figure? You guys must pay a lot more then we do up here in Canada. The V12 is $699Cad here MSRP($523US) and frequently drops 20% on Paradigms site($418US). It is also easy to get 15-20% off at any Paradigm dealer I would imagine. That puts it easily in the sub $500US range even with tax up here.

I too am quite happy with the X Series(I own 2 x X12's).

Roger, just figured they were pretty close and could be had for sub $500 with the right sale or discount.
I have to go by MSRP in these things. The MSRP for the V12 is $699. I can't use sale prices either.

The Defiance X12 is a killer sub for sure. I would be happy if I had a pair of X12s too! That must be a bangin' system!
 
lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Seriously, I have no life.
It's acoustic properties mainly I believe. HDF is stronger, more stable, and much heavier(probably why Monoprice uses it).
What are those acoustic properties, tho? Lower resonance or something that could be a problem with a sub? I've seen a few discussions for speaker building that don't come to such a conclusion that somehow mdf is superior, but hdf is also harder to find and more expensive so probably just not a top choice. Personally I like baltic birch for diy over either. I'd think Claridy took the material used in consideration in their design in any case. @shadyJ got any info on this subject?
 
S

shadyJ

Speaker of the House
MDF is softer and is theoretically better damped than HDF. However, I doubt that there is a practical difference in audio performance. HDF is certainly tougher. It may be less susceptible to moisture problems as well. Either one is fine as an enclosure material.
 
T

Tachead7075

Audioholic
I have to go by MSRP in these things. The MSRP for the V12 is $699. I can't use sale prices either.

The Defiance X12 is a killer sub for sure. I would be happy if I had a pair of X12s too! That must be a bangin' system!
$699 Canadian dollars. That's $523US. Isn't your review in US dollars? Or, do you guys pay $699US down there? 10-4 on the no sale prices but, Paradigm actually drops the MSRP if you watch(the X12 is at $1299 now and MSRP is $1649).

Yes, they thump pretty good. Watched "Midway" the other night and actually had to turn them down lol. I was going to go with 2 x PB-2000 Pros but, got these for quite a bit cheaper at a local dealer in sealed box. I'm happy with my decision and will try SVS next time...
 
3db

3db

Audioholic Overlord
When I was looking at replacing my PSB sub and I looked at that SVS and the Rythmik LV12-R. After reading J-Mans review, I went with Rythmik and never looked back.
 
T

Tachead7075

Audioholic
What are those acoustic properties, tho? Lower resonance or something that could be a problem with a sub? I've seen a few discussions for speaker building that don't come to such a conclusion that somehow mdf is superior, but hdf is also harder to find and more expensive so probably just not a top choice. Personally I like baltic birch for diy over either. I'd think Claridy took the material used in consideration in their design in any case. @shadyJ got any info on this subject?
No idea, I'm not a monitor engineer/designer and read why many years ago(my memory isn't as great as it used to be). You will have to do some research. There is a reason why almost all speaker/sub companies(including some of the highest end) choose MDF or HDF though. HDF is inferior in a speaker application.

I would not use solid wood if I were you as it will almost certainly degrade performance vs MDF. There is a reason why wood veneer is used over MDF and it isn't just cost. Solid real wood has varying densities, knots, moisture content, etc. that all increase variance from sample to sample. This will make the sound vary between each monitor. You want a solid, uniform material...
 
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Tachead7075

Audioholic
MDF is softer and is theoretically better damped than HDF. However, I doubt that there is a practical difference in audio performance. HDF is certainly tougher. It may be less susceptible to moisture problems as well. Either one is fine as an enclosure material.
But, top speaker designers and builders, no matter the price point, almost always choose MDF. Monoprice is the only one I know of using HDF and the popular opinion is they did it to make their subs heavier and to use as a selling feature to those who are not aware that MDF is a better material for this application.
 
lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Seriously, I have no life.
No idea, I'm not a monitor engineer/designer and read why many years ago(my memory isn't as great as it used to be). You will have to do some research. There is a reason why almost all speaker/sub companies(including some of the highest end) choose MDF or HDF though. HDF is inferior in a speaker application.

I would not use solid wood if I were you as it will almost certainly degrade performance vs MDF. There is a reason why wood veneer is used over MDF and it isn't just cost. Solid real wood has varying densities, knots, moisture content, etc. that all increase variance from sample to sample. This will make the sound vary between each monitor. You want a solid, uniform material...
Who said anything about solid wood? That's clearly not a good choice. Baltic birch ply on the other hand is widely used and has advantages over mdf/hdf. I did do some reading, didn't support your statement thus I questioned it. Always open to more, so if you have something to support your position, please post it. I'd say mdf is widely available and relatively inexpensive as being one of its greater attributes for both professional and diy builds, aside from properties that make it useful in speaker construction.
 
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Tachead7075

Audioholic
Who said anything about solid wood? That's clearly not a good choice. Baltic birch ply on the other hand is widely used and has advantages over mdf/hdf. I did do some reading, didn't support your statement thus I questioned it. Always open to more, so if you have something to support your position, please post it. I'd say mdf is widely available and relatively inexpensive as being one of its greater attributes for both professional and diy builds, aside from properties that make it useful in speaker construction.
I know nothing of using plywood for this application but, plywood is also riddled with knots and voids(depending on quality level of course) and also has varying moisture content. This also should make it inferior for this application(at least the sound side anyway) and hurt consistency from monitor to monitor. I suspect the only advantages are strength and moisture resistance but, I could be wrong. Why don't you shoot Dennis Murphy or someone a line and see what they say. My knowledge is trades based and not audio specific so, I would just be doing your research for you.

Oh and HDF and other materials are widely available too. I'm pretty sure when a company is trying to build the best speakers they can, price of the box material is the least of their worries.
 
lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Seriously, I have no life.
I know nothing of using plywood for this application but, plywood is also riddled with knots and voids(depending on quality level of course). This also should make it inferior for this application(at least the sound side anyway) and hurt consistency from monitor to monitor. I suspect the only advantages are strength and moisture resistance but, I could be wrong. Why don't you shoot Dennis Murphy or someone a line and see what they say. My knowledge is trades based and not audio specific so, I Wii ld just be doing your research for you.
Baltic birch ply (the real stuff at least) has advantages in consistency/lack of voids, weight, strength, sawdust issues....sub/speaker builders at the top end like JTR and Funk use Baltic Birch ply....
 
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Tachead7075

Audioholic
Baltic birch ply (the real stuff at least) has advantages in consistency/lack of voids, weight, strength, sawdust issues....sub builders at the top end like JTR and Funk use Baltic Birch ply....
Consistancy advantages over other plywood maybe, not MDF. I have never seen a plywood with a more uniform consistency throughout vs MDF and I have been working with wood professionally for over 20 years in various fields. It is not possible as plywood is basically a bunch of veneers glued together(look up how veneer is made). Now, strength and weight I can see. Sawdust too as MDF is awful stuff to work with(I will probably die early due to the amount I have inhaled). Now you have me interested. I may have to email Funk and see why they choose what they do...
 

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