Recommended Components 2022 Edition Subwoofers



JL Audio CR-1: $3500
The CR-1 crossover has continuously variable high- and low-pass filters built around two banks of precision Linkwitz-Riley filters that can be set for 12 or 24dB/octave via. Front panel switch. Upon encountering the CR-1, LG "wondered where it had been all [his] life;" he's been using it ever since. "It's beautifully made, sonically transparent, performs a critical role in the optimal setup of subwoofrs, and has ergonomic bypass and mute functions that let you immediately hear the sonic iprovements of good bass management." (Vol.39 No.11 WWW)

JL Audio Fathom f110v2-GLOSS: $4000
This relatively small—16" × 13" × 17"—impeccably finished, powered, sealed-box subwoofer uses a 10" cone woofer and a 1.1kW class-D amplifier. The low-pass filter's turnover frequency can be set between 30Hz and 130Hz with 12dB or 24dB/octave slopes. There is no high-pass filter, but the latest, multiband version of JL's Digital Automatic Room Optimization (D.A.R.O.) processor is included (a microphone is supplied), which KR found impressively useful. Driving multiple JL subs from the LFE output of his multichannel server, KR perceived more solidity and definition in the pedal tones with an organ recording and an expanded dynamic scale. For listening in stereo, where an LFE output was not available, KR used JL Audio's CR-1 Active Subwoofer Crossover and decided that its bass management was subjectively more satisfying than simply having a subwoofer playing the LFE channel on multichannel music recordings. "The JL f110v2 is a mighty mite of a sub, conceding little to its larger brothers," he concluded. (Vol.43 No.8 WWW)

MartinLogan BalancedForce 212: $4,499.99/each
The two 12" aluminum-cone woofers of the 212 are mounted on opposite sides of their enclosure and operated in opposition to one another—an approach for which MartinLogan has coined the term BalancedForce. Power comes courtesy an internal pair of 850W class-D MOSFET amplifiers, themselves addressed with a choice of balanced and unbalanced connectors for left-channel, right-channel, and LFE (low-frequency effects) operation. Controls include continuously variable knobs for level, low-pass filter (30–80Hz), and phase (0–270°), plus an On/Off switch with a third choice for power-saving Auto mode, which detects an incoming signal and powers up the system accordingly. JI used two 140lb BalancedForce 212s with his own MartinLogan Prodigy loudspeakers, and was impressed with the results—especially with the newly remastered Led Zep catalog: "Kick drum and bass were tuneful and heavy … yet there was no sense of bloat or bass 'effect,' and the tonal balance from top to bottom just felt right and real." The only performance negative: the audible clacking of the system in Auto mode. Perfect Bass Kit costs $100. (Vol.37 No.10 WWW)

SVS SB-3000: $1099.99 in Black Ash finish; $1199.99 in Piano Gloss Black finish
The new SB-3000 is 37lb lighter, a few cubic inches smaller, and $600 cheaper than the model it replaces in the SVS line—the SB13-Ultra—and while its built-in class-D amp is also slightly less powerful (800W vs 1000W), the new model is specified to reach even lower, extending to 18Hz instead of "just" 20Hz. The SB-3000's newly designed 13" driver sports an aluminum cone and boasts a new 2" split voice-coil. Wireless (Bluetooth) control of the subwoofer is made possible via SVS's smartphone app, which LG describes as "user-friendly"; wireless connection to one's music system requires the addition of the SVS SoundPath Wireless Audio Adapter Kit ($119.99). LG noted that the SB-3000 was "quicker to set up" than another recent sub and praised its bass performance for being "massive, powerful, and weighty" while preserving subtle details. His conclusion: "an outstanding choice for small to moderate-sized rooms." (Vol.42 No.9)

SVS SB16-Ultra: $2299.99
Just as a big dog needs a big leash, a big woofer cone needs a big voice-coil, if only to prevent the cone from flexing and the coil from shifting in its gap. So in designing their SB16-Ultra powered subwoofer, SVS equipped its 16" driver with an 8" edge-wound voice-coil—a coil so wide that it runs outside the driver's four big toroidal magnets. Indeed, SVS says that the SB16-Ultra's voice-coil is, to date, the largest used in a commercial subwoofer. (The driver as a whole weighs 63.9lb, almost precisely the average birth weight of a Holstein calf.) Joining all that bigness is a 1500W class-D amplifier, a computerized bass-management system that, like the SB16-Ultra's basic controls, is operated from a Bluetooth-friendly smartphone app, and an "uncluttered" rear panel that, according to reviewer LG, includes both unbalanced (RCA) and balanced (XLR) inputs and outputs. LG was also impressed by the 122lb SB16-Ultra's relative ease of installation, praising in particular its "smart" packaging, its four-page quick-start manual—and Merlin, SVS's online setup guide, which offers loudspeaker-specific recommendations for filter settings and the like. LG wrote that, after optimizing its setup, "it was clear that a single SB16-Ultra could produce more than enough bass extension and slam in my large listening room." (Vol.40 No.12 WWW)


JL Audio E-Sub e110: $2100 in Gloss, $1900 in Ash
One step down from JL Audio's Fathom series is the Florida company's E-Sub line, the entry-level model of which is the e110 in black ash finish. (Add $200 for gloss black.) The self-powered (specced at 1200W RMS) e110 sports a 10" driver and pairs of RCA inputs and outputs. With the sub's crossover engaged, the output jacks provide a 24dB/octave, Linkwitz-Riley–filtered high-pass signal; when the crossover is defeated, they provide a buffered version of the same signal that appears on the e110's input jacks. Controls include level, filter defeat, filter frequency, polarity, and variable phase; the e110's specified frequency response is 25116Hz, ±1.5dB (3dB at 23Hz). KR, who relied on Audyssey and Dirac Live software for EQ chores, found that, in his room, "useful response was maintained to below 15Hz. Pretty impressive for a pair of 10" drivers!" And although, as KR observed, "two 10" subs couldn't 'load' the room" as his larger subs did, the E-Subs offered "deep, powerful bass." (Vol.39 No.9 WWW)

KEF KC62: $1499.99
This minuscule—10" × 10" × 10"—powered subwoofer weighs 30.9lb and uses KEF's unique force-canceling, bipolar Uni-Core drive-unit, which has two opposed 6.5" diaphragms with concentrically sleeved voice-coils sharing a common magnetic pole-piece. The aluminum enclosure acts as the heatsink for the internal amplification and the KC62 includes line-level (RCA) and speaker-level inputs (Phoenix connector) and a variable (40Hz–120Hz) high-pass–filtered line-level (RCA) output. There are five DSP room-placement profiles: Room (for positioning away from walls); Wall (for next to a wall but not in a corner); Corner; Cabinet (near a corner, inside a cabinet); and Apartment (which reduces the level of the KC62's lowest frequencies). With Falcon's "Gold Badge" LS3/5as, HR noted that after some experimentation with settings and placement, as well as extending the minimonitors' low frequencies, the KC62 improved the speakers' midrange presence and spaciousness in ways that made it easier for him to look into the sound-space and stay focused on performances. "Instruments and voices sounded bigger, more physical, and easier to 'see' with the KC62 engaged." He also achieved excellent results with Magnepan .7s and KEF LS50s and concluded that the KC62 "took an already great speaker and made it greater. Isn't that what a subwoofer is supposed to do?" Class rating reflects limited output power. (Vol.44 No.6 WWW)

MartinLogan Dynamo 800X: $849.99/each for sub $$$; SWT-X adds $199.99
In 2018, MartinLogan introduced optional wireless connections for their subwoofers: a move that eliminated the need for typically long, costly interconnect runs. Soon thereafter, Larry Greenhill borrowed the next-to-smallest model in the company's new subwoofer line, the Dynamo 800X ($799.95 without wireless connectivity, $999.90 with). Boasting a 10" polypropylene woofer and a built-in, 300W, class-D amplifier, the roughly cubical (13.7") Dynamo 800X weighs 30lb, and its removable feet can be arranged to accommodate front- or downfiring installations. Comparing wired vs wireless connection, LG could hear "no differences in levels of background noise or bass power, or in pace, rhythm, pitch definition, solidity, or tightness"—nor did he experience any dropouts. In LG's experience, the Dynamo 800X is outperformed by other subs in terms of bass extension, bass dynamics, and even pitch definition, but those alternatives are all considerably larger/heavier and more expensive, leaving the Dynamo 800X a comparably high-value recommendation. (Vol.42 No.2 WWW)

SVS 3000 Micro: $899.99
At 10.9" × 11.7" × 10.7" and weighing in at 26.7lb the 3000 Micro is similar in size and weight to the KEF KC62. It features two opposing 8" aluminum-cone drivers equipped with dual-ferrite magnets and powered by a 800W Sledge STA-800D2 class-D power amplifier. A Bluetooth smartphone app (Apple iOS and Android) and a control panel on the subwoofer's side plate both allow volume, low-pass frequency (30–200Hz), phase (in single-degree increments), polarity, room-gain compensation, and crossover slope (6, 12, 18, or 24dB/octave) to be adjusted. There is also a DSP-powered parametric equalizer, which allows users to create and save as many as three custom EQ settings. With the Falcon Gold Badge speakers, HR set the 3000 Micro's low-pass filter to 68Hz and the level to –29dB, at which point "bass-register piano notes snapped into full-textured focus. … [M]y system's octave-to-octave tonal balance seemed ideal. Bass and lower midrange exhibited a satisfyingly pure harmonic structure. Plus, all the bass sounds appeared to be coming from the LS3/5a's, not the sub." HR found that in his relatively small room, "the SVS's dual 8" cones projected their energy with more ease and flow than the 6.5" KEF KC62 cones had." However, he felt that more expensive KEF KC62s had better pitch definition, pace, and timing than the 3000 Micro. "The KEF's tone seemed slightly more correct, and it danced with slightly greater precision," he wrote, adding "but it was close." HR also had successes integrating the SVS subwoofer with Harbeth M30.2s and Magnepan .7s, concluding that "everything about my first SVS subwoofer experience pointed to a manufacturer that specializes in 'well and thoroughly conceived' subwoofer experiences." (Vol.44 No.8 WWW)

donnrut's picture

Not a single disc player reviewed under $4 thou??? Come on. I don't drive a Porsche Taycan or a Lambo. I have a $7 thou turntable rig assembled over several years of upgrades. My SACD player died 5 years ago, and now, I am in the market for $500 or $1000 disc player. I'll stream eventually but I have listened to my CDs, tossed out the bad ones and have maybe 200 that are well engineered/mastered, about 50 SACDs. I want S'phile to help me get a decent player. There are maybe half a dozen newish models.

johnnythunder1's picture

been doing a little research. The Hegel (discontinued) was 5k. The Bryston is 3+k. Ive had my eye on a Rotel CD 11 Tribute. It's like $600 and gets very good reviews.

AndyT2050's picture

I have a Rega Research Apollo Cd Player. Beautiful sound, nice design in my opinion. Not too expensive

moinau's picture

Nothing in the 500 to 1000$ range SACD player, although this Arcam might interest you.
Arcam CDS50

Ulfilas's picture

There is one recommended in the integrated amps category:

I have one myself, and grateful for the recommendation I am.

rlo's picture

Can you please bring back the links on the mobile page that let you jump to the relevant recommended component page? This has been missing for the last few. It’s quite annoying to have to switch to desktop theme to be able to go directly to the page I want (e.g. loudspeakers, amplifiers etc)

Jonti's picture

I've had mine for about 18 months and still have a sense of quiet awe every time I listen to/through it.

Tube-rolling can also yield excellent results. I have switched to NOS Mullards, which work a treat by (to my EAR) thickening the syrup and stirring the pot in such a way that the ends and edges of trailing sounds glisten, firing off from a weightier centre. (The stock EAR-stamped tubes were fine, just different: lighter-sounding, I think; I assume Tim would have approved the use of NOS Mullards given his views on the quality of many new tubes doing the rounds.)

Just for the benefit of any readers thinking about rolling those tubes, here's some extra instruction I received from an engineer at EAR Yoshino on how to go about it:

"Remove the top cover by removing four screws on the bottom of the unit. The jumper plug is located on the left side of smaller power supply circuit board labeled ECC83 and 13D16. The default position for the jumper is 13D16 with standard 13D16 valves fitted. If ECC83 valves are fitted then move the jumper one position to the right in the ECC83. position."

And finally, on the subject of MM/MC carts, I think it's fair to say (as correctly reflected in its rating here) that the Phono Box gives a solid platform to MC carts but really excels with MM/MIs. Try it with a London Decca!

[Edited version of post on Herb's original review]

hesson11's picture

The comments under the heading "Harbeth P3ESR XD" seem to imply that the XD version is identical to the 40th Anniversary edition, which Herb reviewed. Is that, in fact, the indisputable truth? I don't believe I've ever seen any official word that this is, in fact, the case.