Most of us work on two-way active speakers which include a tweeter and a low/midrange driver anywhere between 5″ and 8″ in size. Many of the larger popular speakers have impressive low-end extension, but even then, they lack the power of a proper subwoofer. Converting your stereo monitoring situation into a “2.1” arrangement reveals what’s happening way down low, and can help us make critical mix decisions. Even in small home studios, the best studio subwoofer for the space can provide a lot of important information about the low-end of a mix.
Why Subwoofers Are Useful in the Studio
Any bass-heavy style of music benefits from having a sub available. It tells us what’s “going on” down there, even if those frequencies won’t be reproduced by the majority of consumer listening devices. We can make better informed choices about frequencies to emphasize or frequencies to cut to shape the overall low-end impression that’s right for the song.
Subs are also very important for post-production work in film or TV. Oftentimes movies and shows rely on big sub drops or explosive booms to bring emotional power to a scene. If we can’t hear or feel what’s happening with our sub frequencies, then we can’t accurately mix them for the most impact — in post-production, or in music.
What to Look for in Your Studio Subwoofers
A few important features to look for in studio subwoofers are crossover frequency, total frequency response, and the speaker size and power rating.
The crossover frequency is at which point the sub takes over for the main monitors. This is important, because if it’s too high, then the sub will making the low-mids boomy; if it’s too low, then the regular low frequencies above the subs will sound thin.
A subwoofer isn’t going to have a full-range frequency response like a monitor would. That isn’t its purpose. What you’d want to look for is how low it can go, and how flat or hyped the frequency response is. It’s a good idea to understand that for any monitor, really, so you can make accurate mix moves.
Speaker size and power rating equate to how loud and how low a sub can go. We’d recommend a minimum of 8″ for the home studio, though 10″ and 12″ would be even better without completely overpowering the room. Also, make sure the power rating and overall loudness is right for you. As a rule of thumb, you wouldn’t want a big, powerful woofer running at low, or sub-optimal levels. It can make the low-end reproduction less accurate. So you want just the right volume and power for your home studio.
What Are the Best Studio Subwoofer Options for Music Production?
Yamaha’s HS series is one of the most popular in affordable studio monitoring. The HS8S is a complementary 8″ subwoofer extending down to 22 Hz with 150W of power. It also has high- and low-cut switches at selectable frequencies to dial in the right blend between subwoofer and regular monitors.
The JBL LSR310S is a 10″ subwoofer with a selectable crossover frequency and frequency response that goes down to 27 Hz. What’s really cool about this sub is that JBL built in a proprietary “Slip Stream” bass port so you can monitor sub frequencies accurately at low levels.
The KRK S10.4 is a powerful 10″ subwoofer for the home studio. It offers a switchable crossover between 60 and 90 Hz for just the right adjustment, as well as a total frequency range of 27 to 156 Hz. KRK built in 160W of Class D for plenty of juice and more than adequate amplification.
Subwoofers can be pricey, especially if you’re on the fence about adding one to your monitoring. Monoprice provides an affordable solution to studio subwoofers with all of the same features and power as more expensive units. This 10″ sub ranges from 20 to 150 Hz with 200W of amplification for all home studio needs.
ADAM Audio’s Sub8 is a premium 8.5″ powered subwoofer specifically designed and optimized for smaller studio spaces. It reproduces bass frequencies powerfully and clearly down to 28 Hz, with selectable input volume and crossover frequencies via the two large knobs on the face of the speaker. You can also change those parameters using a wireless remote.
Rockville put a lot of R&D into their 10″ subwoofer to make it the best it could at an amazing price. It pumps out bass frequencies between 34 and 150 Hz with a selectable 50 to 150 Hz crossover. The AMP10W even comes in a few different finishes to suit your studio’s decor, too.
We’ve liked the PreSonus Eris series for a long time as one of the most affordable entries into high-quality studio monitoring. This sub itself goes for $200, but for just $350, you can invest in an entire 2.1 studio monitoring setup for your home studio. Features include a continuously variable input gain knob for setting the right level for your room, as well as a continuously variable low-pass filter between 50 and 130 Hz to tame resonances.
The Temblor T10 is a bigger, more powerful sub than the Eris. In terms of features it’s somewhat similar to the Eris, with continuously variable gain and low-pass filter frequencies. But the 10″ speaker cranks out power down to 20 Hz at 250W for ample low-end extension and rumble for your productions.
Finally, we have the Mackie MRS10. This 10″ subwoofer provides a frequency response of 35 to 180 Hz, with a selectable crossover from 40 to 180 Hz. It has 120W of power, which is more than enough for a home studio to hear and feel every bit of punch from the lowest frequencies in a production.
10. Neumann KH 750
Neumann may be best known for microphones, but their monitors and subwoofers pack a hefty punch as well. This is a project studio-friendly 10″ sub running from 18 to 300 Hz. Its primary purpose is to decrease the low-end extension of your main monitors, increase their maximum SPL, and decrease their distortion levels. The goal is to let the subwoofer do the low-end lifting.
The Focal Sub One is a compact 8″ powered subwoofer. It has a frequency response of 32 to 120 Hz to take some of the pressure off of your main speakers. Focal makes incredibly high-quality stuff, and this would be the perfect home or project studio addition to convert your 2.0 setup into a 2.1.
The RCF AYRA is designed to integrate into its own ecosystem, though it’s versatile enough to be at home in any existing configuration. It puts out a powerful 300W RMS and scales extends down to 30 Hz up to 120 Hz. The PRO10 is also competitively priced and would make a nice new addition to virtually any studio.