One year, five years, or fifty years? Not really!
But what is the perfect number when it comes to thinking about how long a subwoofer should last? Well, for this particular question, there is no one-size-fits-all answer.
As a Hi-Fi enthusiast and from experience, subs usually live the shortest compared to other types of speakers. The lifespan of a subwoofer is determined by a lot of factors but before I dive into the answer, let’s do a quick overview of what a subwoofer is.
The name subwoofer could be linked to the deep barks made by big dogs. Woof is an onomatopoeic English word for barks. Hence, the name subwoofer is used to term speakers that produce low-pitched sound (tweeters for high pitch sounds).
A subwoofer (also called a sub, bass speaker, or a woofer) is a type of speaker with drivers that produce low frequencies. Typically, they produce sounds with frequencies between 50Hz to 1000Hz.
A subwoofer is primarily used to boost the lowest frequencies of the sound you are producing such as the sound of a bass vocalist, bass drums, pipe organs, bass guitar, and deep movie sounds. Subs are popular for car stereo, home theatres, and professional use.
Asides from accidents, children, feet, lightning strikes, and other unforeseen circumstances, the lifespan of a subwoofer are determined by two main factors. The first factor is the brand of the subwoofer you are using which determines the type of the subwoofer, the material used in making it, and the power rating of the subwoofer. The second factor is you. yes! you. The life expectancy of your sub is also determined by how you use it and the conditions it is being subjected to.
Let’s take “you” as the first factor
The condition in which you use your sub determines the lifespan. There are unlimited ways you could get the best performance out of your subwoofer. Not all of those ways, however, are good for your subwoofer. The level you push your sub to would determine how long it will live. You can’t keep pushing your sub to the limit(or beyond its recommended rating) very often and expect it to function very long.
Every type of subwoofer has a temperature range and keeping your sub within that range ensures your sub does not break down before time. Damp room not only affects the performance, but also affects the life span of both the materials and the electronics of the sub-woofer.
The brand of your subwoofer as the second factor
The variables include the build quality, parts used, screen, driver orientation, and design. You and I both know that quality parts will last longer than substandard parts. Your subwoofer may come with Santoprene, foam, or rubber. These all have different properties and life spans. Foam, for instance, is lighter and does not last as long as rubber which is a bit heavier. Santoprene TPV, a vulcanized polymer, is similar to rubber but can last longer in harsher conditions.
The parts used by the subwoofer manufacturers also determine how long the subwoofer is going to last.
Another thing to note is the design of your subwoofer. Different manufacturers use different designs for different purposes. This often determines the specific use of the sub. Though all sub vibrates, some subs are designed to handle the vibrations better than others. Those that handle it better tend to last longer.
The design of the speaker also slightly impacts how long the speaker would last. Speakers with a screen (either metal or plastic) usually last longer as they are protected from external damages. Your subwoofer orientation also does matter. Naturally, you can expect no difference in the forward-firing and a downward-firing sub if they are used as intended, however, do not use a downward-firing sub as a front-firing sub. This will not only ruin the sound profile but also significantly reduce the lifespan of the sub.
There are many brands of subwoofers out there with different characteristics and lifespans that are worth mentioning:
1. Polk Audio PSW111 8″ Powered Subwoofer
The is arguably one of the best-selling subwoofers, the Polk Audio PSW111 8″ Powered Subwoofer is perfect for its price. It is the best value-for-money subwoofer you can buy. There is a more expensive subwoofer with better sound quality but, for this price, this is certainly the best subwoofer you can buy for your home. Even when pitched against the more expensive subs, it holds to its own in sound production. It is tight, punchy, and makes you feel the sound even at a modest volume.
Other great subwoofers from Polk Audio are Polk Audio PSW505 12” Powered Subwoofer which is great for home theatres and Polk Audio PSW10 10″ Powered Subwoofer” Subwoofer which produces great bass despite its small size.
2. Klipsch R-12SW Subwoofer
For just two hundred dollars, you get a four hundred watt amplifier that is powerful, loud, and puts out impressive bass. It is loud and accurately projects the low-frequency sounds. Now, this is a sweet deal.
Asides from Polk Audio and Klipsch, other great subwoofer manufacturers are SVS, Sonos, Monoprice, Acoustic Audio by Goldwood, Bose, JBL, Vizio, and Yamaha Audio.
So, back to the question, how long should the subwoofer last?
Let me show you why this is a complicated question to answer and I will give you an answer after the explanation.
I have owned and used a couple of subwoofers. I have tested, maintained, repaired dozens of subwoofers, and I have seen a lot of subs used for a long time. I will also share how long some of the subs have been in use.
My paradigm PW2200 sub has been in use for well over eleven years. Meanwhile, a friend of mine blew his PW2200(purchased the same day) in less than two years of use (18 months and 11 days to be exact).
Another friend had a JL Audio that is still in service. He bought it weeks after I bought my PW2200. He also has a Yamaha sub which his brother used for more than seven years before he started using it. He has used it for twelve years and it is still working perfectly.
Other subs that I know their history and have interacted with: Velodyne F1500 has been working for the last eighteen years, M&K V75 which has been in use for twenty-one years, HSU STF-1 has been in use for 5 years before it stopped working, KLH sub which has been in use for sixteen years.
I could go on and on with the list of the subwoofers but to make things easy and short, the range of the life span is usually between 4 to 22 years (from the poll of 50 people I have taken)
As you can see, the operational lifespan of the subwoofers varies a lot. One thing I have come to realize from my years of experience and interaction with a subwoofer is that a good sub-woofer should last for about 7 years and a great sub-woofer should last for about 15 years under regular usage. However, there are things you could do to potentially prolong the lifespan of your sub-woofer. These are:
- Place your subwoofer correctly:
You may not always have this in mind but the audio you hear is not all about the speakers but also the effects of the room. If your speakers are correctly placed and oriented, it will reduce the need to crank them up or overuse them.
- Set up correctly:
You should also put your setup into mind. Follow the instructions of the manufacturer to get the most out of your subwoofer. A deviation from this can reduce the lifespan of the sub significantly.
A common cause of a short lifespan is overpowering your subwoofer. Every sub has its power rating. Exceeding that rating is a sure way to kill your sub. It may not happen overnight (though it sometimes does) but it will certainly reduce the life expectancy gradually.
- Eliminate distortion and clipping:
The main reason you have that cooked-up voice is either distortion, clipping, or both. You can prevent this by setting your amplifier correctly to match the volts provided.
- Use a ventilated box:
Heat is usually generated in the subwoofer box. If you build the sub yourself, you have to account for heat dissipation. This is not usually a problem for ready-made sub except you do not position the box in a ventilated place.
- Take care of your subwoofer:
Maintenance is key to ensuring your sub lasts very long. You must clean and service the sub regularly. Tune the subwoofer (the crossover, the gain, and phase switch) and set the volume correctly till it sounds great to you.
Trust you must have learned a thing or two about the life span of a subwoofer and I am sure you have enough information to get yourself started. And if you already have a sub, you now know how to make it last longer. Good luck!