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Friday
Mar172017

Podcast #783: In Wall Subwoofers

We recently received an email from Jim in Carlsbad CA asking why there weren’t many reviews of in wall subwoofers. This got us thinking about it. It seems reasonable because how many reviewers are going to commit to ripping a hole in their drywall to test out something that they are going to have to give back when they are done? So how do you make an educated decision?

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In Wall Subwoofers

We recently received an email from Jim in Carlsbad CA asking why there weren’t many reviews of in wall subwoofers. This got us thinking about it. It seems reasonable because how many reviewers are going to commit to ripping a hole in their drywall to test out something that they are going to have to give back when they are done? So how do you make an educated decision?

This is one of the situations that you may have to rely on other members of the audio community who are not professional reviewers. Whether it be AVS Forum, Amazon customer reviews, or one of dozens of consumer sites people love to share their experience. The trick is how to separate truth from BS.

A general rule of thumb we use when looking at consumer reviews is that 10% of the reviewers hate everything and 10% are too easy on any given product. So they typically cancel out. If you get 80% good ratings then you are looking at something that is a good product. We use this rule for anything we buy online. By the way, most in wall subwoofers are passive so your receiver will need an amplifier available to drive it. If you don’t have an available amp you will need to factor one into the cost.

Before we look at some in wall options let’s look at some of the pros and cons of going this route. Most of these are the same for in wall speakers as well.

Pros:  

  • Space - Since these are mounted in wall they do not take up space and thus are easier to fit in with any decor. They typically have high spouse acceptance factor as well.
  • Increased Gain - Mounting in the wall will use the space between the studs as an enclosure to extend the bass.

Cons:

  • Installation - If you are not handy cutting into drywall you will need to hire someone to install the subwoofer increasing the overall cost.
  • Amplification - In wall subwoofers will require an external amplifier. Since most receiver do not amplify the subwoofer output you’ll need to buy a separate one increasing the overall cost.
  • Fewer Upgrade options - once you get your subwoofer installed you are pretty much committed. Unless you can find another model that is the same dimensions. It's not like you swap out subwoofers all the time but you may upgrade in a few years. In wall makes that upgrade more difficult.
  • Calibration - You have heard of the subwoofer crawl right? You won’t easily be able to find the right spot for your subwoofer. Since the cavity of the wall is used to extend the bass no SPL measurements will be the same as those taken when the subwoofer is in it's final location. If the position is more important you will have to take other measure to get the audio just right.

Here are three in-wall subwoofers that have received an 80% or greater favorable rating by consumers:

In the low price category we have the Aria In Wall Subwoofer 10 Inch Passive 200W max $30 (Monoprice). Monoprice does not even try to pretend this is a subwoofer replacement but more of a “bridge” to help offset the frequency gap of compact speakers. But at $30 it may be perfect for casual listening. The subwoofer gets 4.5 out of 5 stars from 39 reviewers. The biggest complaint is that it's installation instructions are not clear.

Specifications

  • Impedance - 8 ohms
  • Frequency Response - 35 Hz to 3.0 kHz
  • Power Handling Capacity - 100 watts nominal / 200 watts max
  • Woofer - 10" Non-press Cone Woofer
  • Sensitivity - 88dB ±2dB (1.0m/2.0V)
  • Cut-out Dimensions - 10.6 x 10.6"
  • Overall Dimensions - 11.9" x 11.9"
  • Mounting Depth - 3.6”

 

Our mid price subwoofer is the Klipsch Architectural RW-5802 300 W RMS Woofer $499. This one rated 5 stars but from only 4 users. The RW-5802 sits in an enclosed cabinet that should make it easier to install and reduce vibration and sound in adjacent rooms.  

Specifications

  • Dual 8 (30.5cm) front-firing, cerametallic cone, cast aluminum frame driver woofer
  • Sealed integrated enclosure for maximum installation flexibility
  • 45-140Hz Frequency Response
  • 90dB Sensitivity at 1-Watt 1m
  • Dimensions - Height 20.8 x Width 11.8 x Depth 3.7

 

Our high end in wall subwoofer is the Definitive Technology In-Wall Sub 10/10 $800. This is also an enclosed cabinet which makes installation easier. It scores a perfect 5 stars from all three reviewers!

Specifications

  • Outer Dimensions: 15-1/2" W x 21" H
  • Cut-out Size: 14-3/8" W x 3-13/16" D x 19-7/8" H
  • Frequency Response: 16 Hz – 200 Hz
  • Nominal Impedance: 4 ohms
  • Driver Complement: One 10" Long-Excursion Woofer coupled to a 10" Infrasonic Radiator
  • Enclosure: Non-resonant Sealed Medite
  • Weight: 30 lbs.

 

In doing research we also discovered the Theater Solutions SUB8S 250 Watt Surround Sound HD Home Theater Slim Powered Active Subwoofer $98. It's not an in wall subwoofer but it is pretty cool nonetheless. It only measures 4 and ¾ inches high so it can be placed under a lot of furniture. It also comes with a wall mount that allows for it to easily be attached to a wall. Just be sure to buy 90 degree adapters for your RCA cables. So it's kind of the best of both worlds. It's not huge so think small family room. It's rated 4 stars by 112 users so it seems like a good bet. Especially for something that costs less than $100.

Specifications

  • 8" high efficiency low frequency front firing subwoofer
  • 100 Watts RMS and 250 Watts Max in cabinet amplifier with a frequency response of 35 Hz - 150 Hz
  • High Level L/R Input and Output spring terminals and L/R RCA Inputs
  • Built-in Auto Shut Off
  • RCA Cable, "Y" RCA Adapter and full instructions included




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Reader Comments (1)

Hey, guys - what about IB subwoofers? This is where I thought you were going to go when I saw the name of the podcast.

I've been fascinated with them for years, and almost got the aesthetics/finance committee to go for it. Basically, you need a large (hopefully, unoccupied) air space like an attic or basement that can be the "box" for the subwoofer. Super low bass, high output. Yes please!

I ended up "settling" on an SVS subwoofer that I'm quite happy with. Still, some day I'd like to take the plunge!

More links:

Cult of the Infinitely Baffled
Example project

March 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGregory Meece

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