Interesting observations on budget subwoofers.

KEW

KEW

Audioholic Overlord
Often, we get people looking for advice on a system with a total budget of $1,000, or even $5-600.
In those cases, it is a bit of a stretch to recommend the kind of subs that Audioholics are likely to.
Reviews of these inexpensive subs are generally limited to buyers who throw up a quick video bragging on their new sub without any measurements or even reference to what other subs they may have heard in the past.
ShadyJ has recently reviewed some inexpensive speakers, so it may be in the future of AH to review inexpensive subwoofers. However, in the meantime I will rely on Brent Butterworth's shootout/review for Wirecutter:
https://thewirecutter.com/reviews/best-budget-subwoofer/

I have no idea if Wirecutter's reviews not performed by Brent Butterworth are as well executed, so don't consider this a blanket recommendation! Brent, however has reviewed a ton of subwoofers and speakers over the years and also is a performing musician, so has an impressive awareness of what live music should sound like.

Comments:
1. This is not an AH review! - The market for these articles is not audio geeks (which is part of why I wanted to start this thread - because at first glance you might assume it to be a simple survey of budget subwoofers giving a nod to the vendors that gave them the most money in advertising dollars). I'm not sure he even mentions that he performs CEA measurements of these subs in the write-up! It is only after you get well into the article that you see a chart of his CEA measurements for some of the more popular models that you find this out! (At least that was the case with my scan of the article). But my point is, from our perspective (as "Audioholics"),at first/casual glance, I don't think there is much to attract our attention/approval (of the review)! They are not written for us, but rather, for the guy who has decided to get a system (for his TV or whatever) and just wants to know what to buy - he doesn't want to have to learn about the details, just wants to buy something good for the money and especially avoid stuff that he might later regret as being crappy!
2. The Dayton Audio SUB1500 is not as good as you would expect! - This article gets updated as new subs are evaluated. In the previous version, the Monoprice 12" sub (model 9723) was top recommendation (over the 15" Dayton). Based on this, I had assumed the Monoprice better than the SUB1200 (which was not evaluated at that time - I think it was sold out). However, in this latest installment, they reviewed the SUB1200 and it beat out the 12" Monoprice as a more capable sub! In this new installment thay say this about the SUB1500:
The SUB-1200 puts out an impressive amount of deep bass for its price. It’s easy to hear and even easier to measure. The sub put out an average of 114.8 dB in the mid bass and 102.0 dB in the low bass. This is 1.1 dB less and 2.7 dB more, respectively, than our previous top pick, the Monoprice 9723. Surprisingly, the SUB-1200’s average output is almost the same as Dayton Audio’s larger, more expensive SUB-1500, the differences falling within the specified ±1 dB range of error for this measurement. That’s impressive.
Of all the budget subs we’ve tested, the SUB-1200 delivers the best blend of definition and tunefulness in the upper and mid bass, as well as couch-shaking power in the low bass.
It is good to see this because I think the SUB1200 is the budget sub most often recommended here. Also, I really appreciate his mention of "definition and tunefulness" because, although it is a subjective comment, I am not sure where we would realize that from objective measurements (ideas?).
But, more to the point, given the added cost and space required, we should probably take the SUB1500 off of the "recommend" list!
3. The SUB1200 is impressively capable as a music sub! - It will not win approval for providing the ultimate in LFE, but does offer an impressive CEA rating of 101.7dB at 25Hz before it runs out of steam (dropping quickly to 91.5 at 20Hz)!
4. Dayton Audio seems to be the brand to beat! - It is noteworthy that Dayton won the second choice as well with their 10" low profile subwoofer!
 
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snakeeyes

Audioholic Ninja
I’d rather recommend saving a little more money. I see purchasing a mediocre sub as a waste of hard earned money.
 
KEW

KEW

Audioholic Overlord
I’d rather recommend saving a little more money. I see purchasing a mediocre sub as a waste of hard earned money.
A fair point, but you have to understand the needs of the buyer.
1. For a young person starting a family, the prospect of saving to spend more may not be realistic. Certainly, if they have the money, $150 does not represent the point of diminishing returns!
2. I am very familiar with the SUB1200 (used as a pair) and it is actually a decent sounding subwoofer. For a subwoofer to go with Pioneer BS-22's or the Sony Core bookshelf speakers, it does a wonderful job of filling in the bass and I feel is a very good match - not a compromise at all! Obviously, for a very high SQ speaker like your Canton Ventos, the SUB1200 would lack in matching them for clean detail, but the Canton Ventos are not an inexpensive speaker (esp. MSRP - A4L gets an exceptional deal clearing out their closeouts that I don't believe is available in their home country of Germany)! It is not a boomy or one-note sub and if you look at the CEA graph, you can see it has a pretty nice shape.
3. If you get the chance to listen to one of these, take it! I suspect your impressions come from either other (less capable) budget subs or, perhaps an equivalent sub where no effort was made to set it up properly!
4. If you are talking for HT use, you have a better point!

Sure better is better if you have the coin, but I am not alone in considering this a useful subwoofer. Two other people who know subs - ShadyJ has recommended it a time or two ... and from Jman's review:
Conclusion
The Dayton Audio SUB-1200 is a 'bottom line' subwoofer -- meaning the people who are most likely to purchase one are interested in the price, first and foremost -- so I'll skip directly to my bottom line (as in what I think about it); buy one. Better yet, buy two. At this price you can almost certainly afford a pair. How is it even possible for a company to sell something with an amp, driver and enclosure for less than $130 and still make a profit? Usually it's a piece of junk, that's how. Dayton Audio has managed to hit that price point alright, but without the last bit; the SUB-1200 is not a piece of junk. Quite the contrary actually. Forced to describe the SUB-1200 using a single word it would absolutely have to be "value". It's often said DIY (Do It Yourself) is the least expensive way to get a good subwoofer. In a lot of instances I would concur, but not in this case. I don't believe anyone could build something capable of doing what the SUB-1200 can for the same price. If you're on a tight budget, and can do without the very lowest octave of bass, this is the subwoofer to own.
 
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S

shadyJ

Speaker of the House
Often, we get people looking for advice on a system with a total budget of $1,000, or even $5-600.
In those cases, it is a bit of a stretch to recommend the kind of subs that Audioholics are likely to.
Reviews of these inexpensive subs are generally limited to buyers who throw up a quick video bragging on their new sub without any measurements or even reference to what other subs they may have heard in the past.
ShadyJ has recently reviewed some inexpensive speakers, so it may be in the future of AH to review inexpensive subwoofers. However, in the meantime I will rely on Brent Butterworth's shootout/review for Wirecutter:
https://thewirecutter.com/reviews/best-budget-subwoofer/

I have no idea if Wirecutter's reviews not performed by Brent Butterworth are as well executed, so don't consider this a blanket recommendation! Brent, however has reviewed a ton of subwoofers and speakers over the years and also is a performing musician, so has an impressive awareness of what live music should sound like.

Comments:
1. This is not an AH review! - The market for these articles is not audio geeks (which is part of why I wanted to start this thread - because at first glance you might assume it to be a simple survey of budget subwoofers giving a nod to the vendors that gave them the most money in advertising dollars). I'm not sure he even mentions that he performs CEA measurements of these subs in the write-up! It is only after you get well into the article that you see a chart of his CEA measurements for some of the more popular models that you find this out! (At least that was the case with my scan of the article). But my point is, from our perspective (as "Audioholics"),at first/casual glance, I don't think there is much to attract our attention/approval! They are not written for us, but rather, for the guy who has decided to get a system (for his TV or whatever) and just wants to know what to buy - he doesn't want to have to learn about the details, just wants to buy something good for the money and especially avoid stuff that he might later regret as being crappy!
2. The Dayton Audio SUB1500 is not as good as you would expect! - This article gets updated as new subs are evaluated. In the previous version, the Monoprice 12" sub (model 9723) was top recommendation (over the 15" Dayton). Based on this, I had assumed the Monoprice better than the SUB1200 (which was not evaluated at that time - I think it was sold out). However, in this latest installment, they reviewed the SUB1200 and it beat out the 12" Monoprice as a more capable sub! In this new installment thay say this about the SUB1500:

It is good to see this because I think the SUB1200 is the budget sub most often recommended here. Also, I really appreciate his mention of "definition and tunefulness" because, although it is a subjective comment, I am not sure where we would realize that from objective measurements (ideas?).
But, more to the point, given the added cost and space required, we should probably take the SUB1500 off of the "recommend" list!
3. The SUB1200 is impressively capable as a music sub! - It will not win approval for providing the ultimate in LFE, but does offer an impressive CEA rating of 101.7dB at 25Hz before it runs out of steam (dropping quickly to 91.5 at 20Hz)!
4. Dayton Audio seems to be the brand to beat! - It is noteworthy that Dayton won the second choice as well with their 10" low profile subwoofer!
This is good stuff Kurt. One problem with covering really cheap stuff is that people in the market for really cheap audio gear don't typically do a lot of homework on what to buy before pulling the trigger. This is why we didn't get a big response from those cheap speaker reviews. The people who do research about what to buy before pulling the trigger are normally looking at higher priced items. It's possible that we could review a very inexpensive sub someday, but there isn't anything planned at the moment.

Regarding the Dayton SUB1500 vs the SUB1200, it's hard to imagine that the 1500 would be a lesser performer. It has a larger cone, larger enclosure, presumably a larger port, and more amplifier power. The only possible reason that I can see the 1500 somehow underperforming against the 1200 is that if they are using the same motor but that the increased moving assembly mass and airload are just too much for that motor.
 
S

shadyJ

Speaker of the House
It is not a boomy or one-note sub and if you look at the CEA graph, you can see it has a pretty nice shape.
One note about this is that maximum burst output isn't usually reflective of the sub's nominal response shape. I would expect that to be especially true of a budget sub like the 1200.
 
KEW

KEW

Audioholic Overlord
Regarding the Dayton SUB1500 vs the SUB1200, it's hard to imagine that the 1500 would be a lesser performer. It has a larger cone, larger enclosure, presumably a larger port, and more amplifier power. The only possible reason that I can see the 1500 somehow underperforming against the 1200 is that if they are using the same motor but that the increased moving assembly mass and airload are just too much for that motor.
I remember reading the article before the SUB1200 entered the picture. Both Brent and the other guy (he has a guy and a gal who give their opinions for subjective evaluation) preferred the sound of the Monoprice sub outright over the SUB1500 (I wish I could remember what aspect of sound they did not like). The girl did prefer the sound of the SUB1500 over the Monoprice, but when she considered size and cost went with the Monoprice.

On reviewing inexpensive subs, as Snakeeyes indicates, that is not really the target market for a group like the AH forums. However, we do get enough guys who come on here just long enough to ask and get a recommendation, then they are in the wind. I suspect your inexpensive speaker reviews do see a fair amount of readership from people who would never bother to go through registration, but not sure how that is reflected in AH's economic model.
 
KEW

KEW

Audioholic Overlord
One note about this is that maximum burst output isn't usually reflective of the sub's nominal response shape. I would expect that to be especially true of a budget sub like the 1200.
Thanks for the correction!
Unfortunately Jman measured the FR before he knew how to combine the port and driver response into a single curve:
 
Trell

Trell

Senior Audioholic
Obviously, for a very high SQ speaker like your (snakeeyes) Canton Ventos, the SUB1200 would lack in matching them for clean detail, but the Canton Ventos are not an inexpensive speaker (esp. MSRP - A4L gets an exceptional deal clearing out their closeouts that I don't believe is available in their home country of Germany)!
I like my Canton Ventos too :)

Canton refreshes the Vento series about every three years and then the outgoing model can be had at steep discount when ordering from Germany (I live in EU), though through contacting dealer one can get discount on MRSP for current models as well. That is how I got 30% off my new Vento 886.2 floorstanders :)

The Vento 896.2 (current model) in cherry is a good deal on A4L compared to Germany prices, compared to MRSP, while the Vento 896 (previous model) not so much.
 
KEW

KEW

Audioholic Overlord
I like my Canton Ventos too :)

Canton refreshes the Vento series about every three years and then the outgoing model can be had at steep discount when ordering from Germany (I live in EU), though through contacting dealer one can get discount on MRSP for current models as well. That is how I got 30% off my new Vento 886.2 floorstanders :)

The Vento 896.2 (current model) in cherry is a good deal on A4L compared to Germany prices, compared to MRSP, while the Vento 896 (previous model) not so much.
I got a pair of Vento 820.2 for $600 during a sale A4L had on Canton speakers!
 
S

shadyJ

Speaker of the House
Thanks for the correction!
Unfortunately Jman measured the FR before he knew how to combine the port and driver response into a single curve:
The only reliable way to get a low-frequency response when the port and driver are mounted on different sides of a subwoofer is to use a far-field groundplane measurement. Even two-meters might not be enough distance to really capture that if the port is on the opposite side. Close proximity testing of drivers can be useful in looking at an individuals driver's behavior, or port, but you can't really sum it up, especially when the port is using the ground to help load the bass frequencies.
 
KEW

KEW

Audioholic Overlord
The only reliable way to get a low-frequency response when the port and driver are mounted on different sides of a subwoofer is to use a far-field groundplane measurement. Even two-meters might not be enough distance to really capture that if the port is on the opposite side. Close proximity testing of drivers can be useful in looking at an individuals driver's behavior, or port, but you can't really sum it up, especially when the port is using the ground to help load the bass frequencies.
I don't know how accurate it is, but here is a measurement (SVS PB1000) later, after he figured out how to combine the measurements into a single plot. Pretty sure the aggregate response is calculated by the software, but don't know where the mics needed to be placed or if Jman had to input distance between port and driver, etc.


These measurements were taken using XTZ Room Analyzer II Pro. The unit was indoors, physically positioned in the center of my listening room with the microphone just a few inches from the center of the driver's dust cap (cyan line). Additional measurements were taken with the tip of the microphone pointed at the center of the port (yellow line). The combined response is the green line.
 
S

snakeeyes

Audioholic Ninja
My mind works different I suppose. I would share living expenses, ride the bus, and eat ramen noodles rather than compromise. :)
 
ryanosaur

ryanosaur

Audioholic Ninja
My mind works different I suppose. I would share living expenses, ride the bus, and eat ramen noodles rather than compromise. :)
Me-thinkst you set too low of a bar, dear Snake. I would aim for a different approach:
Have your cake and eat it, too! :p
 
lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Seriously, I have no life.
My mind works different I suppose. I would share living expenses, ride the bus, and eat ramen noodles rather than compromise. :)
I like the way you think but this is murica land of the debt! :) Many can't resist having even cheap lesser stuff just to have the stuff...
 
kystorm

kystorm

Audioholic
Seems kinda odd that a speaker manufacturor hasnt come along 1 upping the dayton, as that sucker has been around a few years. Guess they figure it'd be hard to build something better at that price point.
 
Pogre

Pogre

Audioholic Warlord
I recommended this Monoprice 12/150 watt sub to a friend (based on comments here) who would not have even considered buying a sub, but for the price. I was pretty impressed with the sound quality for what it is. He lives in a townhouse with no neighbors on the other side of his wall. Basically a large apartment over a garage. That little sub did a pretty good job pressurizing his room and sounded good doing it. I was (my friend too) pleasantly surprised at the results after we did a setup. It even managed to rattle the walls a little. I don't think he'll go sans-subwoofer again, lol.

He wouldn't have gotten anything without a little prodding from me and the low price. In fact I don't see him upgrading because cheapskate, lol. He was pretty happy with his new toy tho.
 
KEW

KEW

Audioholic Overlord
I recommended this Monoprice 12/150 watt sub to a friend (based on comments here) who would not have even considered buying a sub, but for the price. I was pretty impressed with the sound quality for what it is. He lives in a townhouse with no neighbors on the other side of his wall. Basically a large apartment over a garage. That little sub did a pretty good job pressurizing his room and sounded good doing it. I was (my friend too) pleasantly surprised at the results after we did a setup. It even managed to rattle the walls a little. I don't think he'll go sans-subwoofer again, lol.

He wouldn't have gotten anything without a little prodding from me and the low price. In fact I don't see him upgrading because cheapskate, lol. He was pretty happy with his new toy tho.
Yep, that is the subwoofer Brent Butterworth was recommending before he got a hold of a SUB1200 to test. I expect it is pretty close to the SUB1200, but the SUB1200 is, apparently, better!

I am not recommending this sub to we audio obsessed folk, but I really try to respect the budget of those who ask for advice, and one (or two) of these subs with a pair of Sony CS5's is a pretty good sounding 2.1 (or 2.2) for ~$300 (or $450)!
 
lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Seriously, I have no life.
If this does go forward I think you'd need to include subs from the speaker folk like Klipsch, DefTec, Polk, Yamaha, Sony etc, too as they are relatively big sellers.
 
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shadyJ

Speaker of the House
One problem that budget subs can face is that the port tuning frequencies must necessarily be rather high. There is normally a lot of group delay around port tuning since port output lags about 1 cycle behind driver output. Not a problem when the port tuning is 20 Hz where human ability to hear is very poor, but move up just one octave and our hearing improves substantially. So group delay would be a lot more problematic at higher frequencies. Many of these budget subs are tuned to frequencies above 30 Hz, and the higher the port tuning, the more likely time domain issues could become audible and intrusive.
 
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panteragstk

panteragstk

Audioholic Ninja
If we consider budget subs to include subs that go on sale, I love my little JBL 550p, but $190 is not MSRP.
 

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