There is a distinction to be made between attempting to pressurize a space to a specific pressure level and achieving good bass performance within a specific listening area. And you’re probably here because you’re wondering about the perfect subwoofer size for room.
When looking for a suitable subwoofer for your room size, factors such as room volume and concept, subwoofer size, power output, frequency range, and explosiveness must all be considered. The goal is not to have the cleanest bass possible; rather, the goal is to have the best bass possible for you.
There are too many variables for this to be an exact science, so no one has developed a general rule of thumb for subwoofer by room size. However, our test results should be useful in determining how much output you need in your room to meet reference levels.
We hope that the methodology we used to define subwoofer room size capability will be useful as a subwoofer room size calculator for an end-user trying to decide which subwoofer is best for their listening space. These are “rule of thumb” calculations that will allow you to make quick decisions based on a few numbers. Let’s get started!
HOW TO DETERMINE ROOM SIZE AND HOW DID WE CATEGORIZE ROOMS?
Cubic feet are a much more useful measurement for room size when discussing subwoofers than square feet. A 2515 room with a 10-foot ceiling may be more manageable to drive than a 2010 room with a 30-foot ceiling. If your room opens up into another room, the volume (in cubic feet) of that additional room must also be considered.
Cubic feet (ft^3) = length (ft) × width (ft) × height (ft)
We’ll be using cubic feet in this article, so if you’re using meters, divide the number of cubic feet by 35.3 to get cubic meters.
Example: 1000 ft^3 = 28.3 m^3
When compared to dedicated listening spaces such as concert arenas or commercial movie theaters, most rooms are considered small. The goal for a small listening space, however, is no less important than the goal for a large listening space.
We want to be able to reach reference levels with minimal distortion or compression. The louder the speaker or subwoofer must be to reach reference levels, the larger the room.
Based on feedback from industry audio pros, we’ve divided room sizes into five categories that appear to be the most appropriate.
- Extra-small: under 1200 ft^3
- Small: 1200 – 2000 ft^3
- Medium: 2000 – 4000 ft^3
- Large: 4000 – 6000 ft^3
- Extra-large: over 6000 ft^3
Subwoofer Room Size Calculator (Table)
Recommended subwoofer specs by room size:
|Room size (cubic feet)||Under 1200||1200-2000||2000 – 4000||4000 – 6000||Over 6000|
|Number of Subwoofers||1||2||2||2||4|
|Subwoofer Size||12″||10″||12″ (x2)||15″(x2)||13″(x4)|
|Wattage (RMS)||325W||400W (x2)||550W (x2)||800W (x2)||800W (x4)|
|Frequency Response||20-270Hz||19-270Hz (x2)||16-290Hz (x2)||18-270Hz (x2)||18-270Hz (x4)|
|Max Acoustic Output||116dB||118dB (x2)||128db (x2)||124db (x2)||125db (x4)|
|Subwoofer Example||SVS SB-1000||MartinLogan Dynamo 800||SVS PB-2000 Pro||REL Acoustics HT/1508||SVS SB-3000|
EXTRA-SMALL ROOM (UNDER 1200 CUBIC FEET)
If your room is small – less than 1200 cubic feet – your listening position is likely to be only about 8.5 feet from the TV. You can’t go wrong with subwoofers in that small space, whether you’re looking for one for gaming, listening to music, or watching movies.
Sealed subwoofers are the way to go in this situation. With that in mind, the SVS SB-1000 is your best option (Amazon link). You can also consider other subwoofers in the same price range, such as the RSL Speedwoofer. Because of its small size, the SB-1000 could eventually support dual subwoofers.
With this room size, you’re probably less concerned with ultra-low bass and more concerned with sound quality and the subwoofer’s compatibility with the rest of the speakers. Similarly, for less than $300, you can get a budget-friendly Jamo C912 and have the subwoofer sink into the space rather than producing earth-shaking bass.
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SMALL ROOM (1200 – 2000 CUBIC FEET)
A pair of sealed subs in a space of 1200 – 2000 cubic feet would produce excellent results. With just my PC12+ in sealed mode, I can pressurize a room that size. If you’re on a tight budget, a pair of Klipsch 12″ is hard to beat.
If you’re not on a tight budget, a pair of MartinLogan Dynamo 10’s would be ideal. Even when trying hard, it appears that the MartinLogan subs have the least amount of reported chuffing. Several of my colleagues who have tested the MartinLogan have stated that it is the best 10′′ sub they have heard in terms of extension/low distortion, as well as the most difficult to chuff.
All ported subs will chuff at some point if not properly set up or pushed to their limits. I’m not sure you’d see any benefits from purchasing more powerful subs in this room size, and it could even have some drawbacks, such as possible port noise.
A pair of HSU VTF3, VTF15, or one of the 15′′ PSA subs, for example, would have plenty of headroom, and I doubt you’d ever get either to chuff if the placement is solid and the response at the listening position is maximized.
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MEDIUM ROOM (2000 – 4000 CUBIC FEET)
When my friend bought a house with his own decent-sized man cave (approximately 15 by 14 by 12 feet), he was completely free to do acoustic treatments, install bass traps, and get new subs.
He wanted to get multiple music and movie subscriptions. He also wanted the setup to be capable of producing decent levels at frequencies as low as 20 Hz. Also, he didn’t know much about subs and preferred the sealed variant over the ported variant due to its smaller size.
I suggested two decent ported SVS PB-2000 Pro 12′′ subs that can play deep while also smoothing out the frequency response better than a single large sub in a well-treated room. Get dual Rythmik F12 sealed subs if you want sealed subs for the form factor.
They have a frequency response of 20Hz at -1dB (14Hz at -2dB; the SB16 has a frequency response of 16Hz at -6dB), but they are also expensive due to their massive output and internal DSP.
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LARGE ROOM (4000 – 6000 CUBIC FEET)
To begin with, if you want crazy bass, you’ll need a lot of subs to pressurize a room larger than 4,000 cubic feet. Second, with such a large room, you should consider room dimensions in terms of bass modes.
For example, if your room is square and the height is evenly divisible by the other dimensions, you can expect a lot of variation with boomy spots and dead spots all over the place. That means you’ll need at least two really good subs to get a reasonably even response around the listening area.
If you’re on a tight budget, avoid pressurizing the entire room and instead opt for a nearfield approach, which will be a less expensive way of making your bottom jiggle. If your room is normally shaped and you’re not on a tight budget, a pair of 15″ REL Acoustics HT/1508 Predator speakers would be ideal.
Concentrate on the best-performing, largest subwoofer you can afford for the most bang for your buck. It’s not the biggest cheap sub, but it’s the biggest great sub. I’d rather have a pair of 13″ SVS or HSU speakers than a 15″ Klipsch. “Big” is important, but “great” is far more important.
EXTRA-LARGE ROOM (OVER 6000 CUBIC FEET)
I also have a large living room (approximately 2535 square feet) with 12-foot ceilings (an open floor plan is excellent for us but terrible for listening to music and home theater). If you enjoy deep bass and prefer frequencies below 20 Hz, quad subwoofers may be the way to go to manage the room modes.
Two is good, four is fantastic. I currently own a pair of SB16 Ultra speakers that cost around $4500, but I wouldn’t recommend them for a room this large.
Four SVS 13″ SB-3000s are available for around $4500. You could add a miniDSP 2x4HD and calibration mic for an additional $350. Then you’d optimize each subwoofer individually, better than anything your receiver can do.
WHAT MATTERS MOST WHEN DECIDING WHAT SUBWOOFER FOR YOUR ROOM SIZE?
Almost every subwoofer you’ll see is active, which means it has its own internal amplifier rather than relying on an external amplifier. Your subwoofer’s beating heart is the internal amplifier that powers the speaker driver.
2. Frequency Range
Every sound has a frequency, no matter how high or low it is. Hertz (Hz) is a unit of frequency, and knowing frequency is essential for subs. Bass notes have a low frequency, so a subwoofer capable of reaching the lowest possible frequency is, by definition, an excellent subwoofer.
When it comes to choosing a larger or smaller subwoofer for your room, the main difference is explosiveness. And it isn’t the same across brands. You won’t necessarily get more explosiveness if you upgrade from a 10-inch to a 12-inch subwoofer because some labels are more explosive than others.
It is our hope that the methodology we used to determine the room size capability of subwoofers will serve as a useful general rule of thumb for an end user trying to decide which model is best for their listening space.
There are obviously too many variables to make this an exact science, but our test data should be useful in determining how much output you need in your room to meet reference levels.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can a subwoofer be too big for a room?
There is no such thing as ‘too many’ subs. Low frequencies are the foundation of sound and, when used correctly, can add a new dimension of size to the sound field.
Do I need a subwoofer in a small room?
A subwoofer is arguably more important in a small room because modes are more likely to be closer together and deeper than in a larger room with more “stuff.” If you can properly/optimally position a subwoofer in the room, you should have much flatter bass response.
How do you match a subwoofer to a room size?
The larger your subwoofer, the more space you’ll need around it. A 12-inch subwoofer requires 1.25 cubic feet of volume space.
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