Subwoofers: Ported or sealed?

I read that sealed subwoofers are better for music- tighter and more accurate.  And that the ported ones tend to offer more output.  Yet it seems to me most speakers, including cost no object models, are ported.  Can someone shed some light on the matter?    


@ghdprentice wrote:

Home theater is completely different… you want to rattle your windows. But for 2 channel audio it is really easy to do more damage than good and detailed discussions about sub woofer output bring up concerns of over use of subs.

Output and getting it right is really the least of it, I find. I agree many have their sub(s) dialed in too hot, because when they got subs they also want to hear them, and that's when it becomes a nuisance for any serious listening -  even with movie playback. Indeed, some home theaters have the subs dialed in ridiculously loud for effect, and to me it just becomes a load of huff and puffing mess that's all over the area. You don't hear that at most cinemas, I might add - at least here they got subs that don't sound as if they're trying that hard. 

Conversely there can also be the problem of a lack of proper LF-fullness, because a bass reproduction too conspicuous, colored, strained or otherwise will sometimes be negatively gained away so to hide its flaws. If on the other hand a sub sports low distortion (even at high SPL's), plenty of headroom and less of a distinctive mark you can dial back up the gain for more proper fullness and presence in the presentation. Maybe that's why with my previous, low eff. sealed subs that I had to add 4-5dB more gain with movie playback so to have proper impact, whereas with my current, higher efficiency subs I leave the gain where it is and being the same for both music and movies, and it's not for lack of impact and sheer visceral force with movies to be sure, nor the lack of a nuanced, natural and layered presentation with music. 

I currently have no subs in my main system, while there are two B&W 800 series subs in our home theater. While I consider putting a couple (Sonus Faber) subs into my system… I am enjoying the complete coherence across the audio spectrum. True, they only go to 28hz… but they sound fantastic.

Only 28Hz? Honest extension down to 28Hz is quite deep, and with added room gain they may more closely see into the low 20's. However, it's more about how those lower octaves are being reproduced than extension per se, and for that a pair of subs - properly implemented - may be a blessing to help augment this region more fully. Why not try out those B&W subs you already have, instead implemented with your main music rig, and see how that pans out? If nothing else to get a rudimentary bearing here. 



I actually had 4 B&W subs. Two for my audio system and two for my home theater. After I got these speakers I got rid of them. First I was very happy with the bass and coherence and I was liking less stuff taking up space.

@ghdprentice wrote:

I actually had 4 B&W subs. Two for my audio system and two for my home theater. After I got these speakers I got rid of them. First I was very happy with the bass and coherence and I was liking less stuff taking up space.

Well then no need to toss around with subs - not even the Sonus Faber iteration, I gather. I'd always go for a pair of subs, but then again I go about it actively and treat the mains + subs as a single speaker system per channel in different boxes, high-passing the mains as well.

My home office is ~13' x 13'. I've had 3 or 4 subs here:

  1. The only ported one was an 8" NHT model. I must say, it perfectly matched the NHT powered mains. Overall, this system didn't go that low or loud, but the manufacturer's design (ported sub + sealed mains) worked perfectly.
  2. But when I redirected to a series of passive desktop monitors, I had to get aftermarket subs. The first was the 12" sealed SVS SB-1000. Much bang for the money, but not the last word in resolution or bass note texture.
  3. The 2nd sub is the current one, the JLAubio e110, a powerful sealed 10" model. It's the best of the 3, ideally matched to the room.

So I conclude that for larger subs in this room, sealed is the way to go. I've made the same conclusion for passive 2-ways: sealed designs work better, sound better, and excite fewer room notes/sonic anomalies. I also just love the quality of low bass notes from a sealed speaker. There's a punch and truthfullness I just don't hear from ported designs.