In 1964 Raymon Dones, of El Cerrito, California, patented the first subwoofer designed for a home stereo system. Amazingly this early subwoofer went all the way down to 15 Hz! Strangely, the best 12-inch subwoofer for home theater on sale today can only go a little lower!
However, the many technological advances in the electronics field mean that today’s home theater subwoofers are better in every other way, giving superb bass reproduction that was impossible back in 1964.
And prices have come down too. Now, you can pick up a reasonable sub for under $200. However, if you’re serious about your bass, then you’re going to need something better than a bargain-basement bass box, which is why I’ve reviewed the 10 best 12-inch subwoofers for home theater for all wallets and sound systems.
- Why do you need a subwoofer for your home theater?
- Why do you need a 12-inch subwoofer for your home theater?
- How do you choose the best 12-inch subwoofer for your home theater?
- 1. Best 12-inch subwoofer for home theater for under $200 (that still does the job): Monoprice 9723
- 2. Best 12-inch subwoofer for home theater overall (maximum bass for the buck): Klipsch R-120SW
- 3. Most powerful 12-inch subwoofer for home theater: SVS PB2000 Pro
- 4. Best 12-inch subwoofer for low bass for home theater: BIC Acoustech Elite Series PL-300
- 5. Most unique 12-inch subwoofer for home theater: SVS PC-2000 Pro
- 6. Best wireless 12-inch subwoofer for home theater: Klipsch R-12SWi
- 7. Best compact 12-inch subwoofer for home theater: Polk Audio HTS 12
- 8. Best wall-mounted 12-inch subwoofer for your home theater: JBL Control 321CS
- 9. Best low-profile 12-inch subwoofer for your home theater: Monoprice SSW-12
- 10. Best 12-inch subwoofer for your home theater (if money is no object): Axiom Epicenter EP800 DSP
Why do you need a subwoofer for your home theater?
Do you love rock music? Or dance? Or even classical?
Can you imagine going to a live concert and listening to your favorite rock band without the bass guitarist? Or going to a club and dancing to the DJ’s mixes with no kicking bassline? Or listening to your favorite symphony orchestra without the cellos and double basses?
It’s the same when you listen to music, or watch a movie on your home theater. Something’s missing. You see, a subwoofer basically does two things:
- It allows the other speakers to do what they’re designed for – to take care of the mids to highs.
- It does what it’s designed for – to take care of the lows. All the way down to a level that you might not even be able to hear – but you’ll feel!
Why do you need a 12-inch subwoofer for your home theater?
Obviously like all speakers, subwoofers come in different sizes – 8, 10, and 12 are the most common. The bigger they are the more air they can physically move. However, this comes at a price. The bigger they are, the slower they are to respond. So, if all you ever listen to is music or movie soundtracks with short, sharp bass kick drums, you might actually want to go for a smaller subwoofer – say 8 or 10 inches.
For the majority of people, however, it’s too much of a luxury to buy more than one subwoofer. Usually, it has to double up for all types of music and movies. In this instance, a 12-inch subwoofer will give you those deep, gut-wrenching frequencies, while still being responsive enough to pump out crisp bass kicks.
How do you choose the best 12-inch subwoofer for your home theater?
Subwoofers might just look like a simple box with one outsized speaker cone, but there is actually more to them than meets the eye.
Size: monster vs. compact.
Subwoofers come in varying sizes. The speaker cone may be the same size (12-inches) but the enclosures they are mounted in vary.
Compartment: freestanding vs. wall/shallow mounted.
Most subwoofers are freestanding. However, to save space, or if you just prefer the aesthetic, you can buy wall-mounted, shallow-mounted or low-profile ones that you can slide in tight spaces or under chairs. The downside is that you may have to sacrifice a little sound quality.
Firing: down vs. front.
In essence, down-firing subs take advantage of the floor to increase the depth of the sound. Think your typical rumbling base in an epic movie scene. Front-firing subs provide more punchy bass, needed for faster-moving music like you get in battle scenes for instance. Some subs are front-firing, with down-firing passive radiators to try and provide the best of both worlds.
Power: powered vs. passive.
Powered (sometimes called ‘active’) subwoofers have an amplifier built into the enclosure that provides the power to operate the speaker. Passive subwoofers require a matching amplifier. Many home stereo and theater setups will have a pre-amp (labeled Sub Pre-Out, Sub Out, or LFE Out or similar) which means you can connect a powered subwoofer. Otherwise, you may have to buy a separate amplifier and connect the subwoofer to that.
Connections: wired vs. wireless.
With the advent of wireless technology such as Bluetooth, wireless subwoofers have become more common. Remember though, you’ll still need to connect your wireless subwoofer to the mains if it’s powered, and to an amp if it isn’t.
Enclosures: sealed vs. ported.
Sealed enclosures tend to offer more punchy bass as the air is trapped within the enclosure. However, they also require more power. Ported enclosures allow the air to move freely and are more suited to ‘raw’ music such as rock.
Coils: single vs. dual.
The wires wrapped around the speaker coil can be either single or dual. Single coils are cheaper to make but aren’t as compatible with as many amplifiers as dual coils. If the subwoofer is powered, then the manufacturer has already taken care of the problem for you.
Power Handling: RMS vs peak.
Manufacturers love quoting ‘Peak Power’ rather than RMS (Root Mean Square) because it’s a bigger number! However, subwoofers can only output peak power for short periods. Most of the time, they operate at RMS only, so this is the figure to watch out for.
Sensitivity: too little vs. too much.
The greater the sensitivity of a subwoofer, the more volume it can put out for the same amount of power. And as the whole point of a subwoofer is to pump out those super-low frequencies, it would seem to make sense, the greater the sensitivity, the better. The trouble is, a subwoofer can be too sensitive, leading to a muddied sound. Somewhere between 80-99 dB is great, with the sweet spot being around 90 dB.
Number: mono vs. stereo.
Most people are used to seeing just one subwoofer in a home stereo or theater setup. This is because low frequencies are, for all intents and purposes, omni-directional. However, two can make sense for larger rooms or for those with a certain configuration. Normally, however, one 12-inch subwoofer is more than adequate.
That’s a lot to think of when choosing your subwoofer. This is why I’ve saved you the time (and trouble) by taking these factors into consideration when recommending my top 10 best 12-inch subwoofers for home theater in 2021…
1. Best 12-inch subwoofer for home theater for under $200 (that still does the job): Monoprice 9723
What do I like about the Monoprice 9723?
- It has multiple connection options, so no matter what home theater setup you have, it will fit right in.
- The internal battery has a 9-hour life, giving you a whole day’s use.
- It can transmit to not one, but two, Bluetooth receivers at the same time.
What don’t I like about the Monoprice 9723?
- It needs to be cranked up to really shine.
- When cranked up it can sometimes buzz.
How well is the Monoprice 9723 built and designed?
Even though Monoprice has established itself as the budget option for home theater subs, the build quality is surprisingly good. And you don’t just get a cone in a box either. The 9723 includes a fully-adjustable low-pass crossover filter as well as gain and frequency controls. This means you can set up your bass to complement your speakers. There’s also a function that puts the sub into power-saving standby mode if there’s no audio input signal detected after 2 minutes. You can disable this, so the unit is automatically switched on whenever the power to it is on. And, amazingly for such an inexpensive unit, the splitter has an operating range of 30 feet.
Size: 17 x 17 x 16 ⅞ inches.
Weight: 41.7 lbs
What does the Monoprice 9723 sound like?
Overall Sound: For such a budget sub, the sound is truly amazing. The bass is deeper and richer than many models costing twice as much as the 9723. How they manage to produce such depth of sound for the money is a mystery.
RMS power: 150 Watts.
Peak power: 200 Watts.
Frequency Range: 50 ~ 250 Hz (+/- 3db).
Driver: The driver is front-firing and is covered by a black cloth grille. There’s also a 3 ½ inch sound port positioned underneath the enclosure.
How do you connect the Monoprice 9723 to your home theater setup?
Like everything else to do with the 9723, you get a lot more than you pay for. There are multiple inputs which means it will hook up to your home theater no matter what sort you have (5.1 or higher). There are high-level inputs and a set of right/left line level inputs. Also included is an RCA Y cable, useful if you are using an amplifier with a single mono subwoofer line-level output. The line level outputs can also be used to daisy chain more subwoofers to provide more bass! And at the price, why not have two?
Is the Monoprice 9723 right for you?
If you are looking for the best budget subwoofer for your home theater, or home stereo, setup that delivers deep, rich bass that shames some units twice the price, then the 9723 is definitely for you.
2. Best 12-inch subwoofer for home theater overall (maximum bass for the buck): Klipsch R-120SW
What do I like about the Klipsch R-120SW?
- The whole unit is well-built.
- The sound is superb.
What don’t I like about the Klipsch R-120SW?
- Nothing. For the price, it can’t be faulted.
How well is the Klipsch R-120SW built and designed?
Like all Klipsch subs, the R-120SW is solidly built from quality reinforced MDF. There’s gain, low-pass crossover, and phase controls so you can easily adjust the power and depth of the unit to fit in with your speakers.
Color: Black with a copper cone.
Size: 19.2 x 14 x 16.5 inches.
Weight: 31 lbs.
What does the Klipsch R-120SW sound like?
Overall sound: The R-120SW manages to deliver deep, sonorous bass that’s still crisp and clear when needed, thanks partly to its excellent all-digital 200 watt amplifier.
RMS power: 200 Watts.
Peak power: 400 Watts.
Frequency Range: 29Hz ~120Hz (+/- 3db).
Driver: The front-firing, spun-copper, injection-molded graphite cone is extremely light while still being rigid.
How do you connect the Klipsch R-120SW to your home theater setup?
The R-120SW includes line level and LFE RCA inputs which allows it to connect with ease to most home theater setups.
Is the Klipsch R-120SW right for you?
If you want a budget sub that’s just a little classier than the Monoprice 9723, the Klipsch R-120SW fits the bill nicely. For the money, it’s hard to find a sub capable of producing such great sound quality.
3. Most powerful 12-inch subwoofer for home theater: SVS PB2000 Pro
What do I like about the SVS PB-2000 Pro?
- It’s hugely powerful.
- The SVS subwoofer app makes setting up and controlling the sub a breeze.
What don’t I like about the SVS PB-2000 Pro?
- The price isn’t far short of $1000, but it’s a lot of sub for the money.
How well is the SVS PB-2000 Pro built and designed?
The PB-2000 is massively built with a double-thickness MDF front baffle and internal bracing. Inside, the components are top-class. Everything about this sub is impressive, including the ‘intelligent control interface’ with LED display and backlit touch controls that include:
- EQ filters (3).
- Low-pass crossover.
- Phase control.
There’s also a power on/off, auto standby, and a remote trigger to turn the sub on or off from another unit. The PB-2000 Pro also comes with a sophisticated smartphone app that controls, among other things:
- DSP functions.
- Custom presets.
Color: Black Ash with a fabric grille.
Size: 20.9 x 17.3 x 23.6 inches.
What does the SVS PB-2000 Pro sound like?
Overall Sound: Epic is the only way to describe the sheer power the PB-2000 Pro can put out. Over 128 dBs of staggeringly deep, yet accurate bass. The Sledge STA-550D amplifier with fully discrete MOSFET output helps make the PB-2000 Pro sound quality exceptional as well as gut-wrenchingly powerful.
RMS power: 550 Watts.
Peak power: 1500 Watts.
Frequency Range: 16Hz ~ 290Hz (+/- 3db) .
Driver: Front-firing 12 inch high-excursion SVS driver with dual ferrite magnet motor and dual 3-inch ports.
How do you connect the SVS PB-2000 Pro to your home theater setup?
The PB-2000 comes with RCA and 12V trigger inputs.
Is the SVS PB-2000 Pro right for you?
There are many more expensive subwoofers on the market, but for most people, the SVS PB-2000 Pro is enough to turn their home theater setup into something truly spectacular. To my mind, it’s the best home theater subwoofer under $1000.
4. Best 12-inch subwoofer for low bass for home theater: BIC Acoustech Elite Series PL-300
What do I like about the BIC Acoustech Elite Series PL-300?
- Just how low this monster can go!
- The ‘Bass Boost’ feature. Okay, I know on a sub a bass boost is really a gimmick, but I’m shallow.
What don’t I like about the BIC Acoustech Elite Series PL-300?
- You need to mess around with the port plug to get the lowest sounds – okay, I’m idle as well as shallow.
How well is the BIC Acoustech Elite Series PL-300 built and designed?
The PL-300 is made from robust, internally braced vibration-free MDF. It comes in a wood-grain cabinet with hand-rubbed black lacquer top and bottom and those 3 signature ports at the front. Features include:
- Bass boost.
- Max output.
- Adjustable crossover (by-passable when using a digital receiver).
- Volume control.
- Phase switch.
- Auto On/Off with LED indicator.
- Automatic signal sensing.
Size: 18 x 15 x 18 ¾ inches.
Weight: 48 lbs.
What does the BIC Acoustech Elite Series PL-300 sound like?
Overall Sound: Powered by a BASH amplifier, the PL-300 is insanely deep. By placing the provided port plug in the center port and turning on the ‘bass boost’ function, this beast will go all the way down to 15 Hz. You can feel the bass as much as hear it. To get punchier bass that is still deep, simply remove the central port plug and turn on the ‘max power’ feature.
RMS power: 350 Watts.
Peak power: 1400 Watts.
Frequency Range: 15Hz ~ 200Hz (+/- 3db).
Driver: Heavy Duty Long-Throw poly-injected woofer with high power magnet and high excursion surround. Front-firing with tri-tuned flared front ports and port plug.
How do you connect the BIC Acoustech Elite Series PL-300 to your home theater setup?
Dolby Pro Logic & Dolby Digital/DTS LFE sub inputs are included along with a voltage switch.
Is the BIC Acoustech Elite Series PL-300 right for you?
If you are looking for the deepest, most powerful subwoofer you can get without paying silly money, then the BIC Acoustech Elite Series PL-300 is definitely a top contender.
5. Most unique 12-inch subwoofer for home theater: SVS PC-2000 Pro
What do I like about the SVS PC-2000 Pro?
- Its space-saving cylindrical shape.
What don’t I like about the SVS PC-2000 Pro?
- The price. It’s only a little shy of $1000.
How well is the SVS PC-2000 Pro built and designed?
The PC-2000 Pro includes SVS’s SoundPath Subwoofer Isolation System and, like the PB-2000 Pro, the PC-2000 Pro comes with a smartphone app that controls, among other things:
- DSP functions.
- Custom presets.
Color: Piano gloss.
Size: 34.3 x 16.6 (diameter) inches.
Weight: 47.4 lbs.
What does the SVS PC-2000 Pro sound like?
Overall Sound: The Sledge STA–550D amplifier which includes a discrete MOSFET output and a sophisticated 50Mhz High-Resolution Analog Devices DSP, kicks out over 128 dB of rich bass that goes all the way down to feeling rather than hearing.
RMS power: 550 Watts.
Peak power: 1500 Watts.
Frequency Range: 16Hz ~ 290 Hz (+/- 3db).
Driver: Down-firing high-excursion SVS driver with dual ferrite magnet motor.
How do you connect the SVS PC-2000 Pro to your home theater setup?
The PC-2000 Pro includes RCA and 12V trigger inputs.
Is the SVS PC-2000 Pro right for you?
If you’re looking for a unique-looking sub that can do everything most regular top-end subs can do, and more, then the PC-2000 Pro is a good choice.
6. Best wireless 12-inch subwoofer for home theater: Klipsch R-12SWi
What do I like about the Klipsch R-12SWi?
- Obviously, the fact that it’s wireless. I loath cables!
- The all-digital amplifier.
What don’t I like about the Klipsch R-12SWi?
- It can sometimes thump when pushed.
How well is the Klipsch R-12SWi built and designed?
All Klipsch products are well-built and the R-12SWi is no exception. Made from tough MDF with a brushed polymer veneer finish, it has the signature Klipsch copper coil. It also includes gain, low-pass crossover, and phase controls.
Size:18.5 x 14 x 16 inches.
Weight: 37.4 lbs.
What does the Klipsch R-12SWi sound like?
Overall Sound: Like the R-120SW, the R-12SWi, sounds rich and deep, but not muddy. There’s still plenty of kick to the lower end when watching movies or playing music.
Driver: Front-firing, spun-copper injection-molded graphite woofer.
RMS power: 200 Watts.
Peak power: 400 Watts.
Frequency Range: 29Hz ~ 120Hz (+/- 3db).
How do you connect the Klipsch R-12SWi to your home theater setup?
The R-12SWi comes with a 2.4Ghz wireless hi-fi pre-paired transmitter. Simply connect the transmitter to the subwoofer or LFE out on your receiver and you’re good to go. The R-12SWi also includes line/LFE Inputs.
Is the Klipsch R-12SWi right for you?
If you’re in the market for a mid-priced wireless sub that’s a cinch to set up and sounds great into the bargain, the Klipsch 12-SWi should be at the top of your shopping list.
7. Best compact 12-inch subwoofer for home theater: Polk Audio HTS 12
What do I like about the Polk Audio HTS 12?
- Its compact, rounded design.
- Its clean, crisp sound.
What don’t I like about the Polk Audio HTS 12?
- It can lack a little presence at the real low end.
How well is the Polk Audio HTS 12 built and designed?
For the money, the HTS 12 is robustly designed and nicely styled. It comes with multiple controls for:
- Low-pass filter.
- Phase switch.
It also includes a trigger for fast and easy on/off power switching.
Color: Washed black walnut.
Size: 16 x 14 x 16 inches.
Weight: 49.9 lbs.
What does the Polk Audio HTS 12 sound like?
Overall Sound: The 200 Watt class D amplifier pumps out enough power for most medium-sized rooms, while the overall sound is crisp and clear, rather than dark and rumbling. For many home theater setups, this will be the perfect compromise.
Driver: Front-firing long-throw woofer with Polk’s proprietary Power Port and Dynamic Balance Technology.
RMS power: 200 Watts.
Peak power: 400 Watts.
Frequency Range: 28Hz ~ 120Hz.(+/- 3db)
How do you connect the Polk Audio HTS 12 to your home theater setup?
The HTS 12 comes with LFE & stereo line-level inputs.
Is the Polk Audio HS 12 right for you?
If space is at a premium and you need an all-round sub with a reasonable price ticket that sounds good no matter what you ask of it, then the HTS 12 is a great choice.
8. Best wall-mounted 12-inch subwoofer for your home theater: JBL Control 321CS
What do I like about the JBL Control 321CS?
- It’s easy to install.
- Its excellent high-quality sound.
What don’t I like about the JBL Control 321CS?
- It’s a little pricey.
How well is the JBL Control 321CS built and designed?
Obviously, being a wall or ceiling mounted sub, the JBL Control 321CS has no enclosure. JBL products, however, are known for their quality construction and the 321CS is made from high-quality components.
Color: Black with optional grille.
Size (ceiling cut out): 14.9 x 14.9 inches.
Weight: 17 lbs.
What does the JBL Control 321CS sound like?
Overall Sound: The Control 321CS gives warm, full bass. It’s not quite as deep as some of the enclosed subs on the list, but that’s to be expected.
Driver: Kevlar-reinforced woofer with 3-inch voice-coil cone with medium-format compression driver.
RMS power: 400 Watts.
Peak power: 1000 Watts.
Frequency Range: 30Hz ~ 4.5 kHz (+/- 3db)
How do you connect the JBL Control 321CS to your home theater setup?
The movable multi-pin locking connector, with secure screw-down terminals, allows for pre-wiring the input wires for easy installation.
Is the JBL Control 321CS right for you?
If you’re tight on space or just want a wall-mounted or ceiling-mounted setup, the JBL 321CS is a good all-rounder from a well-known label.
9. Best low-profile 12-inch subwoofer for your home theater: Monoprice SSW-12
What do I like about the Monoprice SSW-12?
- Its space-saving design. You can slide it under a chair, behind the TV stand, or under the sofa. You can even hang it on the wall!
- Its bargain price.
What don’t I like about the Monoprice SSW-12?
- It can be rather boomy.
How well is the Monoprice SSW-12 built and designed?
Even though the Monoprice speakers and subs are budget products, they are still built to a reasonable standard. The SSW-12 includes features such as volume control and low-pass filter.
Size: 29.9 x 7 x 19.7 inches.
Weight: 2.74 lbs.
What does the Monoprice SSW-12 sound like?
Overall Sound: Despite its budget price, the SSW-12 doesn’t produce a budget sound. Apart from that tendency to boom, the sound-quality is quite incredible in a space-saving sub
for under $200. Like the Monoprice 9723, the SSW-12 can outperform low-profile subwoofers that cost twice the amount.
Driver: 12″ Driver in a ported, bass-reflex enclosure.
RMS power: 150 Watts.
Peak power: 400 Watts.
Frequency Range: 20Hz ~ 150Hz (-10dB).
How do you connect the Monoprice SSW-12 to your home theater setup?
The SSW-12 includes line-level RCA and speaker level inputs.
Is the Monoprice SSW-12 right for you?
If you’re looking for a sub that will fit into a small space but you still want decent bass at a bargain price, the Monoprice SSW-12 is a winner.
10. Best 12-inch subwoofer for your home theater (if money is no object): Axiom Epicenter EP800 DSP
What do I like about the Axiom Epicenter EP800 DSP?
- Goes down to 12 Hz!!
- Looks beautiful.
What don’t I like about the Axiom Epicenter EP800 DSP?
- The price – almost as staggering as the sound!
How well is the Axiom Epicenter EP800 DSP built and designed?
Everything about the Epicenter EP800 DSP is EPIC! The cabinet is massively constructed and beautifully finished, while inside there is not one, but two 12-inch drivers. Other features include:
- XLF intelligent digital signal processing.
- Adjustable phase control.
- Adjustable crossover.
- Output level control.
There are a staggering 2,082 possible combinations of finishes available including the grille which can be made in 3 different metals and 6 colors!
- Boston Cherry.
- Black Oak.
- Mansfield Beech.
- Light Maple.
Customers also have a choice of 6 real-wood veneers, 6 stains, 16 vinyl, and 3 gloss finishes.
Size: 18 x 15 x 45.5 inches.
Weight: 110 lbs.
What does the Axiom Epicenter EP800 DSP sound like?
Overall Sound: It might be a cliche, but the only word that does the sound of this bass justice is ‘earthquake’. In fact, I’m not sure its lowest frequencies aren’t lower than most seismic tremors. But it’s not just a rumbling beast from the deep. The Epicenter EP800 DSP can deliver crisp, punchy bass-kicks to your solar plexus as well. There really is nothing else like it around.
Driver: Two long-throw dual-voice coil aluminum drivers.
RMS power: 800 Watts.
Peak power: 1600 Watts.
Frequency Range: 12Hz ~ 150Hz (+/-3 dB) /13Hz ~ 150Hz (+/-1 dB).
How do you connect the Axiom Epicenter EP800 DSP to your home theater setup?
The Epicenter EP800 DSP has speaker-level inputs and balanced XLR input and output. The balanced XLR input doubles as an RCA input, and Axiom provides an adapter for a standard RCA interconnect to be plugged in.
Is the Axiom Epicenter EP800 DSP right for you?
If you have several thousand dollars to spare and want the ultimate subwoofer for your home theater, then you need to check out the Axion Epicenter EP800 DSP. It may seem a lot of money, but in reality, the EP800 outperforms subs at almost twice the price.
What is the best brand of subwoofer for home theater?
This is really subjective as one audiophile might rave about one brand, whereas another will slate the same brand mercilessly. So, which 12-inch subwoofer is the best? In general, brands like Klipsch, SVS, and BIC are considered some of the best.
What is the best 12-inch subwoofer on the market?
This falls to personal taste and depends on what sort of bass you are interested in. So, what is the best subwoofer for home theater? If you want crisp, punchy bass you might want to consider a front-firing sub with a sealed enclosure.
What is the best subwoofer for sound quality?
Which home theater has the best bass?
As with all things audio related, it depends on your budget and what sort of bass you are looking for – deep and thunderous or crisp and punchy. Also it depends on whether you want a 5.1 home theater with 12 inch subwoofer, or a higher setup like a 7.1. Either way, my choice would be the fantastic Klipsch 7.2.2 Reference Premiere Home Theater System with Marantz SR7013 9.2-Channel AV Receiver. The setup includes not one, but TWO Klipsch R-120SW 12-inch Subwoofers.
Which is the best subwoofer for music only?
Most people use their setups for movies and music, but if you’re looking for the best 12-inch subwoofer for home audio only, then you can’t go far wrong with any of the SVS range. I particularly recommend the SVS SB-2000 or the more powerful SVS PB-2000 Pro.
Are Velodyne subwoofers any good?
Velodyne is a well-known brand that makes very good subs. Velodyne only narrowly missed making my top 10, one of the main reasons being that their 12-inch subs are often unavailable on top retailers like Amazon. Here’s a link to similar 12-inch subs.