The Best PA Subwoofers - Powered / Active

The Highest Rated Powered PA Subwoofers

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Subwoofers are important in sound reinforcement to not only reproduce the low end in a large physical space, but also to reduce stress on the main speakers or line arrays. Allocating the large movements of low frequencies to a separate unit also lets the mains vibrate more freely, making the midrange woofers sound more accurate with less distortion. This results in more headroom and clarity.

Subwoofers aren't all built the same. It takes great R&D to engineer enclosures and chambers for the best low frequency reproduction. Poorly designed subwoofers have a peak that is too narrow and focused on one frequency. This results in only a select range of notes resonating. Well-engineered chambers can reproduce a broader "Q", resulting in a more even frequency response. This 2022.10 edition presents the highest rated subs on the market.

The Best PA Subwoofers - 2022.10

Author & Contributors

Raphael PulgarRaphael Pulgar

I've been an audio engineer for 20 years specializing in rock and metal recordings, and also I play guitar and produce original music for my band and other content creators.

Budget Option - Under $500

Behringer Eurolive B1200D-PRO

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 900+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$349
Behringer Eurolive B1200D-PRO 500W Powered Subwoofer
At publication time this was the Highest Rated PA Subwoofer Under $500.

Cons

  • Too small for larger venues

Pros

  • Good power to price value
  • Excellent for small jazz/acoustic venues
  • Portable size
  • Decent filtering options

Budget speakers usually have corners cut on materials, build quality and speaker quality. The Behringer Eurolive B1200D-PRO doesn't suffer from cheaping out despite its affordability.

It's spec'ed with a Class-D amplifier with a long-excursion 12" woofer that puts out a respectable 500W of power with a max SPL of 122dB. This efficiency also means longer running times with little risk of overheating. The internal limiter also protects the woofer from going beyond operating limits as well as protecting ears from sudden jumps in volume.

For pairing with other speakers, the B1200D-PRO also includes an active stereo crossover for outputting a high pass filtered signals to them. A high cut control lets you fine tune the sub with nearly any setup.

The B1200D-PRO is notably loud for its size. At 12", it's not the largest subwoofer but it does a good job of filling in the energy in small to medium venues. Having a smaller sub also means tighter sound in smaller environments where a large sub might introduce unwanted resonance. Jazz and acoustic bars benefit the most from its compact size and tight sound.

This is also where its limitations are evident. While it's able to do EDM, larger clubs will find the push inadequate.

The Behringer Eurolive B1200D-PRO is an excellent choice for small to medium venues that don't need too much thump and acknowledge that more bass isn't always beneficial. Jazz, acoustic, indie and other bass-light genres still need some reinforcement on the low end and the B1200D-PRO does an excellent job at its price point.

Specifications

  • Frequency Response: 30Hz-132Hz (-10dB)
  • Crossover: 140Hz
  • Max SPL: 130dB
  • Power Rating: 600W RMS
  • Drivers: 1 x 18"
  • Input Connectors: 2 x XLR
  • Output Connectors: 4 x XLR
  • Polarity: Not Specified
  • Enclosure Material: 15mm Plywood
  • Dimensions: 26.5" x 22.6" x 22.8"
  • Weight: 82 lbs.

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
YouTube HappyRider Reviews 90/100
Gearspace Peter Z 82/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Under $1000

Mackie Thump18S

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 425+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$850
Mackie Thump18 18" Powered PA Subwoofer - 1200W
At publication time this was the Highest Rated PA Subwoofer Under $1000.

Cons

  • Early units had thermal issues

Pros

  • Compact size for easy transport
  • Well-tuned cabinet with even frequency response
  • Pairs well with different speakers

The Mackie Thump18S is a reasonably priced but powerful subwoofer. A frequency range 30Hz to 132Hz makes it versatile enough to integrate with main speakers of various sizes.

Power is provided by a 600-watt RMS Class D amplifier while stereo full range and high pass outputs round out the ins and outs of the sub.

A pole enables mounting your main monitors directly on top of the unit.

The Thump18S is a well-tuned subwoofer that has a surprisingly low number of overtones, this keeps the low frequencies clean and clear. Tuned cabinets like these are usually seen higher up in the price range.

While it's not the biggest of units, it still outputs a respectable amount of volume. The size is perfect for those looking for a portable solution without sacrificing volume.

Early runs had a few problems with the thermal protection system, but this has since been addressed. Still, it's better to buy new to avoid possibly getting a faulty unit.

The Mackie Thump 18S goes beyond its price point with clear and punchy bass, compact size and versatile pairing with different types of speakers.

Specifications

  • Frequency Response: 30Hz-132Hz (-10dB)
  • Crossover: 140Hz
  • Max SPL: 130dB
  • Power Rating: 600W RMS
  • Drivers: 1 x 18"
  • Input Connectors: 2 x XLR
  • Output Connectors: 4 x XLR
  • Polarity: Not Specified
  • Enclosure Material: 15mm Plywood
  • Dimensions: 26.5" x 22.6" x 22.8"
  • Weight: 82 lbs.

Rating Source Highlight

Website Source *Rating Value
YouTube expert island 90/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

The Highest Rated PA Subwoofers

Here are the market favorite powered PA subwoofers that you can buy today.

Electro-Voice EKX-18SP

97
GEARANK

97 out of 100. Incorporating 400+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$1499
Electro-Voice EKX-18SP 1300W Powered PA Subwoofer

Cons

  • Lack of casters slightly hinders transportability

Pros

  • Light for the size
  • Fast transient response great for rock and metal
  • DSP enables quick matching with other speakers
  • Cardioid Control Technology helps directionality

The Electro-Voice EKX-18SP gets good ratings thanks to its big 18" woofer and 1300W amplifier and its most interesting feature is its Cardioid Control Technology which focuses sound projection on to the audience while reducing stage noise.

It also comes with built-in DSP (Digital Signal Processing) that allows for quick setup and matching, be it with your other speakers or the venue it is employed in.

And it is relatively light considering that it comes with an 18" LF Driver.

Not all 18" subs are made the same. It has a large cone with a big excursion range. This means that to get a balanced sound, an enclosure needs to be engineered around it that has the right amount of airflow. Rock and Metal genres are surprisingly more demanding of a good sub in my experience as they have faster transients and require more careful balancing with the bass guitar. The EKX-18SP has a fast transient response for the woofer size, which makes it great for the aforementioned genres' rapid double pedal styles.

One thing to note however is that it doesn't come with casters so that might be a dealbreaker if you're looking for something a bit more easily transportable.

Having said all that, the EKX-18SP is a serious sub that will fit most musical and event applications. It excels in band-centric applications where transient response is usually favored over raw power.

Specifications

  • Frequency Response: 35Hz to 180Hz (-10dB)
  • Crossover: Adjustable (80Hz, 100Hz, 120Hz, 150Hz)
  • Max SPL: 134 dB
  • Power Rating: 1300 Watts Peak
  • Drivers: 1 x 18" EVS-18C subwoofer
  • Input Connectors: 2 x XLR-1/4" Combo
  • Output Connectors: 2 x XLR
  • Polarity: Not Specified
  • Enclosure Material: 15mm Wood
  • Dimensions: 20.4" x 23.8" x 24"
  • Weight: 72.3 lbs

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
YouTube DJ Andrew Yates 90/100
Sound On Sound Mike Crofts 94/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

QSC KS118

97
GEARANK

97 out of 100. Incorporating 275+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$2000
QSC KS118 3600W 18" Powered Subwoofer

Cons

  • Slightly on the heavy side at 104lbs

Pros

  • Pairs well with various speakers
  • Deep mode excellent for EDM
  • DSP with scenes great for variety across different events

This subwoofer is meant for loud use in medium to big venues, housing an 18" driver that is powered by a 3,600W amplifier.

Built-in DSP expands the functionality of the KS118, allowing for adjustable crossover and save-able scenes that can be used to conveniently tweak the subwoofer to match the venue and event requirements.

Another interesting feature is the selectable Deep mode, that further enhances low-end, ideal for electronic musicians, DJs and more. This means that you can switch to a more natural sounding subwoofer, or a deep sounding one, all in one package.

All these are housed inside a cabinet made of 15mm birch wood, with built-in rolling casters.

With these specs, the sound quality is close to what you can get to premium or custom. With the switchable modes, the versatility of the KS118 is unmatched at this price point. This makes it an excellent choice for rentals where events and venues vary.

It helps a lot that QSC is one of the more popular brands in sound reinforcement so it's quite likely that you'd get it to match with other QSC speakers. The KS118 also synergizes well with other brands thanks to the DSP, which allows adjustments of various settings to calibrate them to nearly any setup.

The KS118 suffers from the same problem as most subwoofers in its class which is the weight. While it's a given that subs are heavy, at 104lbs, the KS118 is on the heftier end of the spectrum and would benefit from casters.

If you've had good experience with QSC loudspeakers, and you have the budget, then this is your best pick. If not, then the KS118 will easily turn you into a fan of the brand.

Specifications

  • Frequency Response: 41Hz-98Hz (-6 dB)
  • Crossover: Variable
  • Max SPL: 136 dB SPL @ 1m
  • Power Rating: 3600W Peak Class D
  • Drivers: 18"
  • Input Connectors: 2 x XLR-1/4" combo
  • Output Connectors: 2 x XLR
  • Polarity: Not Specified
  • Enclosure Material: 15 mm Birch Plywood
  • Dimensions: 25.2" x 20.5" x 30.9"
  • Weight: 104 lbs.

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
Sound On Sound Mike Crofts 98/100
Church Production Magazine Loren Alldrin 96/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

JBL SRX828SP

99
GEARANK

99 out of 100. Incorporating 150+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$2465
JBL SRX828SP
At publication time this was the Highest Rated Powered PA Subwoofer.

Cons

  • Not the best for portable setups

Pros

  • Amazing low-end headroom
  • Easily fills larger venues with its 2 18" woofers
  • App-controlled DSP great for setup

The JBL SRX828SP takes conventional 18" subwoofer design up a notch by incorporating two 18" drivers into a single subwoofer.

This allows the sub to have very high Max SPL, in fact it has the highest Max SPL rating in this guide.

The two 18" woofers are driven by a 2000W Drivecore amplifier from Crown, housed in a thick 18mm plywood cabinet.

Contrasting its traditional wooden cabinet is its built-in DSP with HiQnet, which allows you to control the subwoofer via iOS and Android apps.

As if one wasn't enough, having two 18" woofers not only allows for the higher SPL, but it offers more dispersion. Although sub frequencies are omnidirectional, having more dispersion on this spectrum lets you have a more even response for the entire sound system instead of bloating the low end and inevitably developing intense standing waves. Standing waves happen when low frequencies bounce around the room and either cancel themselves out or become twice as loud. Having two woofers operating at a lower, but more balanced volume results in less of this phenomenon happening.

Of course, if you want it to go loud, it can go really loud as well.

The natural downside of having dual 18" speakers is bulk and weight, so if you're looking for a portable carry-on subwoofer, this is not for you. If you want a deep sounding sub with a lot of power and volume for your venue, this is the one to pick. Rentals might not benefit from the tradeoff of portability for power, however.

Specifications

  • Frequency Response: 29 Hz to 150 Hz (-10 dB)
  • Crossover: 80 Hz
  • Max SPL: 141 dB
  • Power Rating: 2000 Watts Peak - 1500 Watts Continuous
  • Drivers: 2 x 18"
  • Input Connectors: 2 x XLR/TRS
  • Output Connectors: 2 x XLR
  • Polarity: Not specified
  • Enclosure Material: 18 mm Plywood
  • Dimensions: 22.57" x 47.42" x 26.79"
  • Weight: 145 lbs (65.9 kg)

Rating Source Highlight

Website Source *Rating Value
YouTube Eric Favilla 96/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Check out this video for more information about the SRX Connect app:

Things to Consider When Buying a PA Subwoofer

How Will You Integrate Subs Into Your PA System?

There are several ways of adding subs into your system. One of the simplest is to create a sub-mix on your mixing console where you send the kick drum and bass to the Aux output and then connect that to your powered subwoofer. Other options include running your subwoofers in parallel to your main PA speakers if your subs have high pass filters. In more complex setups you will use a crossover unit to split the frequencies before sending the signal to your subs. It's beyond the scope of this guide to provide comprehensive information on integrating subwoofers so here is an article you might find useful: Using a Powered Subwoofer to Augment Your Existing PA

Your Type of Music & Driver Size

Acoustic performers and folk style bands will find the smaller 12" drivers provide all the bottom end they need, but if you perform bass heavy styles then you'll need larger drivers that are capable of moving a lot more air - this is particularly true for EDM style DJs.

Use as Stage Monitors

Many drummers and sometimes bass players use a subwoofer in addition to a standard stage monitor in order to get a full punchy bottom end on stage.

Portability

Generally speaking, subwoofers aren't entirely portable friendly, being an extra speaker that you have to lug around. But for many, the added effort, space requirements and weight of subs are justified by the sound they produce. Still, it will be wise to weigh your low-frequency needs versus your convenience and mobility. If you're a solo performer with no one to help you carry your gear, then go for lighter subs, or maybe no subs at all. Even with bulky subwoofers, you may want to look for mobility features like built-in rolling casters.

Best PA Subwoofer Selection Methodology

The first edition was published in 2016 and the current edition was published on October 25, 2022.

For this edition, we looked at the powered PA subs you can readily buy in the USA, resulting in a short list of 40 of the most popular and highly rated powered PA subs - you can see them in the Music Gear Database. We then gathered and analyzed the most recent data from customer and expert reviews, forum discussions and feedback, all of which totaled to over 7,300 sources - a 9% increase over the previous edition. All of these data were then fed into the Gearank Algorithm to produce rating scores out of 100 which we used to rank the subwoofers according to actual market sentiment and we selected the highest rated options to recommend above. For more information about our methods see How Gearank Works.

About the Author and Contributors

Here are the key people and sources involved in this guide's production - click on linked names for information about their music industry backgrounds.

Lead Author & Researcher

Raphael PulgarRaphael Pulgar

I've been an audio engineer for 20 years specializing in rock and metal recordings, and also I play guitar and produce original music for my band and other content creators.

In my experience of doing live sound, the best venues are the ones with a good subwoofer that pairs well with both the mains and the venue. Sub selection is dependent on the purpose: Is it for a rental, rehearsal, or venue? How large is the space? These things are what influence how I calibrate venue sound. It's always better to err on the side of too much power than too little, but the tradeoff there is size and portability. The selections in this guide cover a wide range of use cases so I recommend getting acquainted with your intended purpose while reading through the guide.

Contributors

Alden Acosta: Product research.
Jason Horton: Supplemental writing, Editing and Illustrating.

Media

Main/Top Image: By Gearank.com using photographs of the QSC KS118 and Electro-Voice EKX-18SP.

All videos have been embedded in accordance with YouTube's Terms of Service.

The individual product images were sourced from websites, promotional materials or supporting documentation provided by their respective manufacturers.

Comments

I have to correct you on your

I have to correct you on your comment. A 5kW amplifier does not draw 32A. Amplifiers first store energy in capacitor banks, then release that energy (through a DC power supply) through transistors to the speaker. Look up "average power draw" on your amplifier's specs. Then look up "inrush current.". The inrush is the most likely reason a breaker would trip, especially if turning on multiple amps at the same time.

Curious how the TurboSound

Curious how the TurboSound IQ15B and IQ18B stack up compared to the others. Can they be included?

When we were doing the

When we were doing the research for this guide it was clear that none of the Turbosound iQ range were rated highly enough to be included in this guide so they didn't make it past the initial screening process.

There have been more ratings published over the last couple months so I re-checked and the situation hasn't changed much except that the Turbosound iQ18B now has a higher Gearank score then it did back then, but still not high enough to be included in this guide, although I did add it to our public music gear database today.

You can see all the Turbosound products in the database here.

I should point out that the purpose of Gearank.com is not to list every piece of music gear out there, instead we focus on highly rated gear that have a realistic potential to be included in our Music Gear Guides.

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