REL T5/REL R-218
Fast and tight, yet tonally supple, with well-defined timbres, these mini-subs are also remarkably potent for a single 8" driver (the T5) or a single downward-firing 10” (the Class D amp-equipped R-218). The sumptuous highgloss lacquered enclosures house inputs for high-level Neutrik Speakon (cable included), plus low-level RCA and LFE inputs. Pocket classics both.
JL Audio Fathom f112/f113
These two subs—identical except for woofer size (12" vs. 13.5") and amplifier power (1500W vs. 2500W)—raise the bar in subwoofer performance with their unlikely combination of brute-force power and tonal and dynamic finesse. Capable of delivering high SPLs at very low frequencies without strain, the Fathoms are equally adept at resolving the pitches, dynamics, and tone colors of an acoustic bass. Reference-quality performance at a reasonable price.
REL Gibraltar G1
The powered G1 draws so little attention to itself that it may be the ideal subwoofer for those who heretofore have shunned subs. Sporting a 12" long-throw carbon-fiber driver driven by a 600W amplifier, it offers substantial gains in low-end extension and impact, even when mated with full-range loudspeakers, and improves soundstaging performance by replicating more of the hall.
Paradigm Ref Sig Series SUB 2
The Paradigm Sub 2 may be one of the few subwoofers that can be properly mated with planar loudspeakers. Its lightning-fast ability to project front, rear, and sideways means that it is simply impossible to detect where it is positioned. The SUB 2 features what Paradigm calls Vibration-Canceling Design Architecture, and the design clearly delivers the goods. The hexagonal cabinet can make it hard to install, but once in place the Sub 2 can deliver a crushing 112dB at 10Hz.
JL Audio Gotham g213
This subwoofer delivers the ultimate in bass power and extension, all with perfect pitch definition and unflappable stability. With proper setup—a non-intuitive process best left to the dealer—the Gotham also won’t interfere with main speaker purity. The Gotham has zero overhang, thickness, and bloat, unlike most subwoofers. Note that JL recommends deploying the Gotham in stereo pairs.
Wilson Audio Thor’s Hammer
$21,500 (Controller/Crossover, $3800)
The Hammer more than lives up to its name. This magnificent 700-pound subwoofer can deliver shattering blows in the bass region. But its most notable feature is its ability to disappear and profoundly increase the size and scale of the music. The Thor has no passive crossover network and no equalization. So external amplifiers and active crossovers are required to operate it. A pair of Thors run in stereo will offer ultimate performance.