As you start to cross the $1,000 threshold you start to get a number of options for subwoofer performance and value. Subwoofers in the $1,000 – $5,000 price range will tend to give you larger woofers, better amplification, deeper and tighter bass, and include multiple input options (balanced and unbalanced), and get you to a real sweet spot between price and performance. Most subwoofers in this category will tend to be made locally in the home country of the manufacturer–USA, Canada, Great Britain, etc. Build quality, engineering, and materials are all top-notch including those models made overseas in China.
If you are serious about your audio and home theater performance and cannot afford the best of the best subwoofers that are out there (the over $5,000 category), then this is the ideal target range for your best bang for the buck.
Sure, you can spend more than $5,000 and go up yet another level in performance but if I had a choice, I’d prefer spending that extra money on better left and right front speakers.
These subs will finally start to do justice to the delicacies and weight that bass notes in music require in addition to the brute force and impact for LFE movie channels. For those fortunate enough to be shopping in this category and for those aspiring to own subs in this select group, here’s my shortlist sorted by price from most to least expensive:
Best Subwoofers $5,000 and Under
|REL Gibraltar G-1 Subwoofer|
REL Acoustics Gibraltar G-1 (MSRP $4,499)
For years, REL has been the go-to-brand of subwoofers for audiophiles. In fact, some audiophiles will go so far to tell you that REL subs are the most musical subs on the market. Nevertheless, as good as REL’s reputation has been, some have shied away from using them for home theater or high-end multipurpose music and theater environments. REL’s certainly changing that opinion with their Gibraltar subwoofers. Deliberately conjuring up images of the massive monolithic limestone rock, the Gibraltar G-1 doesn’t’ disappoint. It features a 12″ long-throw carbon-fiber driver driven by a conservatively-rated 600W amplifier that will play down to 15 Hz (-6db). And this isn’t your run of the mill Class-D amplification. REL has chosen to go with a Class A/B amplifier to power the Gibraltar series. Offering all the musical magic REL has been known for while adding the bass extension to play the deepest organ notes and the slam to please home theater enthusiasts, the REL Gibraltar G1 should be at the top of anyone’s list to audition.
|JL Fathom f113 Subwoofer|
JL Fathom f113 (MSRP $4,300)
The Fathom line ushered in the age of JL Audio’s domination of the subwoofer world. I’ve never seen so may high-end dealers drop other brands in favor of JL Audio subs. The Fathom f113 builds upon the legacy of the Fathom line. By being on this list, you know that this is one of my favorite subwoofers under $5,000. Its fit, finish and build quality are without equal and the Fathom f113’s performance is also at the top of the charts. If you want to truly replicate the best movie theater experience in your home, then put in a pair of Fathom 113s and prepare to be blown away. The f113’s 2,500W of raw power brings thunderous, brute-force performance. If you haven’t heard this subwoofer, then you need to make an urgent appointment for an audition.
|MartinLogan Balanced Force 212 Subwoofer|
MartinLogan Balanced Force 212 (MSRP $3,995)
MartinLogan has done it again. The Balanced Force 212 features two 12″ aluminum cone diaphragms driven by dual 850W amplifiers for a total of 3400W peaks. The oppositional 12″ diaphragms will play down to 18Hz +/- 3dB and cancel out distortion caused by cabinet vibrations. The optional MartinLogan Perfect Bass Kit (sold separately) is one of the true gems of the room correction world and will fine-tune the bass to your room. The one-two punch of the Balanced Force 212’s incredible performance and Perfect Bass Kit integration makes this subwoofer an unbelievable performer worthy of inclusion in any discussion of best subs.
|JL Fathom f110 subwoofer|
JL Fathom f110 (MSRP $2,600)
|Paradigm Sub 12 Subwoofer|
Paradigm Sub 12 (MSRP 2,499)
If you’re looking for something more modest than the Paradigm Sub 15’s price tag and size but don’t want to compromise an iota in performance or the deep octave reaches of the world’s great organs, then the Paradigm Sub 12 may be your answer. The Sub 12 features a single high-excursion driver with a built-in Ultra-Class D amplifiers. Like it’s larger sibling the Sub 15, this baby is all about performance and control. The power output of the Sub 12 is identical the Sub 15. The Ultra-Class D amplifiers are capable of producing a continuous 1,700W (from dual 850 watt amps) while thrusting out 3,400W peaks. Low frequency extension is rated to go down to an awesome 16Hz. The Sub 12 comes in a number of gorgeous wood finishes to fit into any decor. And, like it’s larger sibling, the Sub 12, comes ready to work seamlessly with Paradigms optional Perfect Bass Kit (PBK). If you have a high-end two-channel system without room correction or with inferior room correction, the PBK will root out any room anomalies affecting the awesome potential of this sub in your room.
|SVS SB13-Ultra Subwoofer|
SVS SB13-Ultra (MSRP $1,599)
The Rocky Balboa of the subwoofer world. The SB13-Ultra subwoofer has no right to sound as awesome as it does at its price point. If you think you need to spend thousands for dominant subwoofer performance, then the SB13-Ultra will disabuse you of that misperception. In fact, the SB13-Ultra will likely cure you permanently of the subwoofer upgrade itch. Without breaking a sweat, the SB13-Ultra will compete with and even beat out other subwoofers costing 2x – 3x its price. Build quality is exceptional. A 13-inch woofer and 3” voice coil are powered by a DSP-controlled 1000W Sledge STA-1000D amplifier that’s capable of 3600W peaks. With a 45-day in-home, no risk trial, you can try out the SB-13 in your own setup. If you’re looking for champion performer then you’ve found your sub. The SB13-Ultra is probably the best price/performance value in subwoofers, period. How much did I like the SB13-Ultra subwoofer? I purchased the demo pair after my review. I dare you to try them in your home for the risk-free 45 day trial. You won’t send them back.