So you’ve got your pair of studio monitors, and although you love the flat, accurate sound, you sometimes get that itch for a little bass rumbling. If you’re at all like me, you use your monitors not only for mixing and mastering but for general use as well. If I have my friends over, I like to bust out my monitors and play some tunes on my computer (I mean, they’re the only speakers I have besides my wireless speakers, but those aren’t as powerful). Although the sound quality of my monitors is pure and flat, sometimes the environment just asks for some more bass, especially if you want to simply bump some of your favorite songs. You’re able to work with this by buying a separate studio subwoofer to go alongside your speakers in your studio. Today we give you an in-depth guide of the best studio subwoofers in the market today to help you achieve this.
What is a subwoofer?
Most of you know, but to give a quick refresher, a subwoofer is basically a dedicated competent to reproducing those low-frequencies of a piece of music, or in our own words, the beloved bass. Subwoofers are used in a lot of instances, or basically in any setting which asks for a better sound quality that just having merely two speakers. We see them in cars (I have a 10″ in my trunk), movie theaters, and in our case, music studios (at times).
When mixing or mastering music, it isn’t necessarily recommended to have a subwoofer on while you’re trying to find the most accurate mixes of your frequencies. This is because the bass will be a lot more prominent and could throw off your mix and it won’t be genuine for your listeners. This is of course, only our opinion. We do like to turn it off and on through out making music and mixing since we’re ambivalent in how we like to compare and contrast our sounds. Actually, once we’re about to get a song mastered, we listen to it in the studio, with subwoofers, in the car, with random earbuds, downstairs in our living room, and more.
Aside from your own music, if you’re in the mood to simply listen to music or bump your favorite song and want some bass to add-on to the bump, you can grab one of these. It’s worth it because you’ve already invested a pretty penny in your monitors, so why buy an entire new pair of speakers if you’re in the mood for some leisurely listening? A blessing about these studio subwoofers is the fact that you can merely turn them on or off with the push of a button for whatever mood you may be in, perfect for either trying to get that exact sound for mixes or if you merely want to listen to a jam.
Installing your studio subwoofer
If you’re adding a subwoofer to your two speakers and you’re building a home recording studio, this is called a 2.1 audio setup. A big question I first had was, “do I need to buy the same brand or type of subwoofer to match my studio monitors?” The answer is no. You’re able to mix and match however you please, for example I use the Yamaha HS8 monitors with a KRK sub just because I liked the KRK a little better in terms of power but the HS8 monitors have a better sound.
It’s pretty straight forward when hooking up your sub. If you have an input available, you can plug it in directly to your audio interface. Otherwise, you can also connect them directly to your studio monitors. Here’s a good video on how to connect your subwoofer to reference monitors.
How to pick your sub
- Your budget. This is always the most important aspect of the shopping adventure, so keep this in mind first to choose a subwoofer that fits your budget.
- Driver Size. How big do you want it? With subs, bigger is better. However, also keep into consideration the driver quality, as an 8″ woofer with a steel grille is better than a 10″ cheap make.
- Power. The wattage gives us an idea of how much power or thump it will give. The bigger the wattage count, the more power a sub can have. The average watt size of a studio subwoofer is around the mid-100’s.
- Preferred brand. We all have our beloved brand loyalty, so if you have personal experience with the build and longevity of a brand we recommend sticking with your experience, otherwise as stated previously, feel free to switch it up and mix and match brands and models if you please.
- Built-in cabinet or raw subwoofer? There are a lot of studio subwoofers out there that come just as the component, but you’ll have to grab a cabinet and install it yourself. We didn’t bother to list these, but just keep in mind that this route is out there.
Our picks for best studio subwoofers
We did a lot of research and asking around for what the best studio subwoofer actually is. We went with a model from each price point to give an options and threw in a few more we thought were worth taking a look at. Remember to take the few questions we’ve provided into consideration when making your choice. Let us know which one you went with in the comments!
Polk Audio PSW10
- Driver size: 10″ (Composite Polymer Cone)
- Watts: 50
- Frequency response: 35 Hz – 200 Hz
- Dimensions: 14 x 14.38 x 16.12 (WxHxD)
- Weight: 26 lbs
- Non-resonant (decreases echo) all-MDF (medium-density fibreboard)
- Klippel measurement technology (laser-based)
- Intelligent amplifier
- Colors: Black/silver, cherry/silver
- 5 year manufacturer warranty
This is one of the highest rated subwoofers out there, and it’s very affordable if you’re on a budget. It’s not really a big name brand within the music equipment industry, so if you don’t care much about name (I’m one of these people, a bit of a brand snob) you can go with this. It’s a bit more tailored towards ‘home theater systems’ and what not, but I’ve heard of some pairing these up with some popular studio monitors, such as some Studiophiles or other budget-friendly speakers. The driver size is decent at 10″ and the watts a bit low at 50, but it has a very nice wooden all-MDF make. This helps give the woofer cabinet density to decrease echos, vibration and increase overall strength. The wattage is feasible in terms of budget-friendly subwoofers and some of the tech included in this is surprisingly powerful (the Klipper measurement gives it voice coil alignment and suspension). The Polk Audio PSW10 is a solid choice for a sub to add on to your studio if you want to save some money.
Cerwin Vega XD8s
- Driver size: 8″ (High SPL with steel grill)
- Watts: 80
- Weight: 18.5 lbs
- Frequency Response: 35Hz – 255Hz
- Dimensions: 17.5″ x 7″ x 14.5″ (HxWxD)
- Comes with desktop remote
- Magnetic shielding
- Volume knob for output matching
- Crossover selection switch
- Polarity switch
Although this driver size is about 2″ less than the Polk Audio, don’t let that fool you into thinking it isn’t as powerful because they’re a lot better quality. They’re high quality SPL (which helps with the sound pressure level for better overall quality, despite the small driver size). They’ve also got a more functional sub here because they offer some switches that aren’t available on a lot of other subs within it’s price point – the crossover switch helps with matching to your monitors, the polarity switch with alignment and a volume knob to give you some control over how bassy you’re feeling. Lastly, this thing has a decent wattage at 80 for the price, so you’ve got a decently powerful subwoofer here. The Cerwin Vega XD8s is an affordable and rugged studio subwoofer to take a look at.
- Driver size: 10″ (glass aramid composite)
- Watts: 120
- Weight: 39 lbs
- Stereo XLR and TRS connection
- Stereo balanced TRS outputs
- All-wood cabinets
- Adjustable 40Hz to 180Hz crossover
- Rubber feet to absorb vibration
- Soft-mesh grille cloth
- Polarity switch (0 to 180 degrees)
Mackie is a name we personally love and have had a lot of positive experiences when it comes to their gear. This particular sub is a well-made one, come with some better quality drivers than previously listed (glass composite), and are at an expected size of 10″. The watts start to increase as you go with higher priced subs, so this 120-watts is around the middle in terms of comparisons with other models in the market. What’s especially good about this subwoofer is the polarity switch and the XLR and TRS ports. The low ends sound great with this, very deep and clear. The all-wood cabinets give it a stable build, so if you’re grabbing this it’s an investment and it’ll do your wallet good for quite a few years if you can take care of it (don’t just set it on the ground, keep a bit elevated to decrease dust collection). The Mackie MR10Smk3 studio subwoofer is a solid choice.
- Driver size: 10″ (High-Excursion, Down-Firing)
- Watts: 200 (Class D)
- Weight: 35 lbs
- Dimensions: 17.5″ x 15.5″ x 15″
- Low frequency extension of 27 Hz
- JBL slip stream port
- Extended Low Frequency (XLF) setting
- 113 dB peak output
- Balanced ins and outs (XLR and 1/4″ for ins) (XLR for outs)
- Selectable input sensitivity
- Volume control
- Three crossover settings
We love this because of the JBL name as they’ve been consistent in bringing quality, extremely powerful products to the equipment game for years now. This particular subwoofer is one of the most powerful, coming in at 200 watts with very nicely made 10″ drivers. This thing can rumble. On the sub you get some custom switches too — volume, input sensitivity, and three crossover settings. The ‘Slip Stream’ port is JBL’s name for their port design, which they state to help with the deep and dynamic bass response for the drivers — it works very well alongside the XLF setting (tuning). A bit of extra pizzazz here in terms of some of the technology they’ve got on it, such as the crossover settings not being needed if you don’t use an outboard crossover. Other than that, if you want one of the higher-end models of subwoofers that’s still relatively affordable, take a look at the JBL LSR310S studio subwoofer for a premium product.
- Driver size: 10″ (glass-aramid)
- Watts: 225
- Frequency response: 34Hz – 50Hz to 130Hz Variable
- Weight: 40 lbs
- Dimensions: 15″ x 14″ x 16″ (HxWxD)
- Protective steel front grill
- Power LED visual
- Bypass foot-switch
- Integrated crossover
- Inputs: Stereo RCA, stereo balanced TRS and XLR
- Black vinyl wrap finish
A lot of people out there swear by only KRK models for studio monitors and this sub, so if you want something that comes with some advocates this is the one to look at. It’s got the second most wattage (peak) that we’ve listed here in this article coming in at 150 (enough power, trust me). The sound pressure level is great with a 113 dB peak and the frequency response goes as low as 34 Hz (not as low as some others, but not too big of a problem). The drivers are the beloved 10″ size and are made of some very high quality aramid composite. We’d go with this if you want to save a few bucks as compared to the M-Audio’s we list next, all but a some watts of power. It comes with footswitch just like the M-Audio sub, which we think is a great plus. The KRK K10S is one of the best studio subwoofers available in the market, giving us a bunch of power and an extremely solid build that will last you a very long time. You get around 10+ years of backed up positive reviews of this as it’s been around since the early 2000’s. You can’t fix what isn’t broken. KRK has a great reputation for a reason.
- Driver size: 10″ (fiberglass/paper composite)
- Watts: 240
- Weight: 55 lbs (this thing is huge)
- Dimensions: 15.5″ x 13″ x 17.25″ (HxWxD)
- 50-200Hz crossover
- Bypass foot-switch
- Bass-reflex port
- Phase switch
- Adjustable gain
- Over-temperature protection
- Removable grill and feet
M-Audio gear is one of our favorites when it comes studio monitors, and we’ve used their BX Carbon monitors before and have been very pleased with the overall quality they bring. This particular studio subwoofer is one of the most powerful ones you can buy, coming in at a whopping 240 watts of power! The drivers are also a comfortable 10″ made of fiberglass and composite with some very tight sounding bass coming out of it. Not to mention there’s a nifty little pedal to turn it off and on, great for your ever changing bass moods if you’re in the middle of mixing and want that extra rumble for reference. We recommend going with the M-Audio SBX10 studio subwoofer if you’re looking for the most powerful model available today. This is a giant. Read our full M-Audio SBX10 subwoofer review for more info.
- Driver size: 8″ (cone)
- Frequency response: 22Hz – 150Hz
- Watts: 150
- Dimensions: 11.8″ x 13.8″ x 15.3″ (WxHxD)
- Weight: 28 lbs
- MDF cabinet
- Switches: Phase, low-cut
- Control: Low and high cut
- Bass-reflex type shape
The HS8 studio monitors are what we currently rock and are some of the most powerful studio monitors out there. This is the subwoofer that can go alongside their popular monitors, and if you’re able to drop the cash, you’ve got one of the best sound systems available for studios today. Yamaha brings us a very deep and clear bass sound with this sub. Although it’s up there in terms of price, you’re getting a compact, solid build and powerful (at 150 watts) studio subwoofer here. It isn’t necessarily as high in terms of wattage as compared to the M-Audio previously spoken about, but the quality is a biter better as the driver make is quite solid. The subwoofer rattles, so if you’re looking for something that can make the walls shake, this is one to look at. A con is just the price, as some have stated it’s a bit overpriced due to the Yamaha name. But I like buying a brand that I know I can trust, so it is what it is. The Yamaha HS8S is one of the best studio subwoofers out there.