Subwoofers are an awesome way to add powerful and deep bass you can feel to your sound system. But subs are not just about brute force, they let you fine-tune the quality of your system’s bass response. Get the displacement you need to achieve your deepest bass desires with these powerful 15″ (and 16″) subwoofers!
Creating deep bass is basic physics, this is, in essence, an air pump, the more air you move the more bass you create, and the air is surprisingly heavy, so it takes a large driver and a powerful motor to dig deep and get loud.
Typically, 15-inch subwoofers pack a serious punch. You can go larger, there are options at 18″, 24″ and even larger. But 15″ (and for the sake of this article also 16″) subs get the job done and then some. For most applications, you can get everything you need from 15″ models, especially if you build a system with dual or quad subs.
Subwoofer Designs: Sealed, Dual-Opposed, Ported & Passive Radiator
Although there are more than four types of subwoofers, these are the most commonly seen varieties:
Sealed: The most basic type of subwoofer design. It’s essentially just a driver in a sealed box with an amplifier to power it. However, appearances can be deceiving; modern sealed subwoofers use DSP programming to tailor the response and output of the driver, as well as how it interacts with the amplifier, in order to maximize the output as well as the fidelity that this type can achieve.
Sealed subwoofers are typically smaller and a little lower priced versus ported with the same driver and amp (from the same brand). However, ported models at comparable price points, despite being larger, tend to provide more output near the port tuning frequency, so you get more decibels per dollar.
Dual-opposed: In this type of subwoofer design, two of the same driver are placed at opposite ends of the cabinet. As a result, “force cancellation” occurs, in which the momentum of each subwoofer driver cancels out the other. As a result, dual-opposed subwoofer designs are notably free of any driver-induced vibration.
A dual opposed design allows for a small enclosure with a relatively large amount of driver surface area. Consequently, the output is greater than that of a single driver in a similarly sized cabinet. The only catch is that overcoming the pressure differential in such a small enclosure requires a lot of power, so you’re paying for a beefier amp as well as two active drivers. This is a relatively uncommon design, but it is very effective and likely represents the best way to make an extremely compact subwoofer that still performs well.
Ported: A ported sub increases output near the tuning frequency by using one or more tuned ports. Although this necessitates a larger cabinet for a given driver size, from a cost-benefit standpoint, the extra output is usually deemed worthwhile, at least in installations where there is room to spare.
Because ported subwoofers are the most common type, there are a plethora of models to choose from. The most important thing to know about corded subwoofers is that they typically roll off very steeply below the port tuning frequency, as opposed to sealed subs, which roll off more gradually.
Passive Radiator: Passive radiators are similar to tuned ports in many ways. The passive radiator is a driver that is housed in the same cabinet as the active driver but does not have a motor structure. Instead, the diaphragm of the passive radiator is tuned by its weight and size in relation to the main driver.
The disadvantage of a passive radiator is that it is more expensive than a tuned port, but the advantage is that it is immune to port distortion sounds, which can be an issue with some ported designs.
Product Overview – Best 15-Inch Subwoofer
There is no such thing as a “Best” subwoofer, but there are subwoofers that are the best for a given application, or budget, or usually some combination of the two. And in some cases, two, three or even four “lesser” subs could easily be as good or better an investment than a single larger and costlier subwoofer. But, if you are shopping for a 15-inch sub, it means you are getting very serious about bass, so this list skews toward performance while keeping a close eye on the price/performance ratio the selections offer.
So take the term “best” with a grain of salt and instead think about what you wish to achieve with your subwoofer system. Do you want to play super deep? Loud? Both? In a large room? Is infrasonic “you can’t hear it but you can feel it” bass important to you? In this list, you’ll find options that’ll help get you to your goal.
- Best of the Best – Monoprice Monolith 16-inch THX Ultra Subwoofer
- Best Ported Extreme – SVS PB16-Ultra Subwoofer
- Best Sealed Extreme – SVS SB16-Ultra Subwoofer
- Best Room Correction – Paradigm Defiance X15
- Best Passive Radiator – Definitive Technology Descend DN15
- Best Stylish Sub – Klipsch SPL-150 15″ Subwoofer
- Best on a Budget – Dayton Audio 15” Powered Subwoofer