Looking for a subwoofer to amplify and enhance those lower frequencies for your home theater system?
Make sure you take a look at the Klipsch R-12SW and the R-120SW. Both offer high-fidelity sound and quality for a budget below the $1000 mark.
Before you read further, though, you should know that these subwoofers are primarily aimed at consumer enthusiasts and home-theater system owners.
If you are a music producer looking for something for your studio, we suggest you check out the Yamaha HS8 or KRK S8.4 instead.
The Klipsch R-12SW and the R-120SW essentially come with near-identical features. This includes frequency response and amplifier power. But the Klipsch R-120SW is a newer model and a little pricier. It also comes with a new look with copper screws and sounds minimally tighter and crisper. The Klipsch R-12SW looks essentially the same, albeit sans visible copper screws. It’s also been discontinued, so you'll have to be quick to grab some of the last models online!
Let’s have a closer look at both now.
The Klipsch R-12SW comes with a sleek design that will look equally at home amidst modern minimalist decor as it will in a more conservative setting. Housed inside an MDF cabinet finished off with black polymer, a copper-spun front-firing woofer is covered by a black cloth grille that comes off easily. So you can actually choose between two different looks to suit your tastes: one black, another golden.
An LED indicator on the front switches lights up when switched on. This gives it a bit of a techy look which some like and others find disturbing. A quick DIY hack for the latter is a strip of black duct tape over it for a pitch-black atmospheric setting to enhance your home theater experience.
Dimensions: 14×18.5×16 inches
Driver Diameter: 12 inches
Sound Output Direction: Front
Equally sleek and versatile, the Klipsch R-120SW comes with (IMF) (injection-molded graphite) woofer cones that give you distortion-free, smooth bass, even while being extra light and hard. Like its sibling, it's front-firing as well. The MDF construction on the cabinet ensures protection against moisture and scratches. It's also easy maintenance since dust isn't easily visible, unlike the gloss finish on some speakers. The cloth grille is similar to that of the R-12SW. It comes with an LED indicator as well.
Dimensions: 19.2×14×16.5 inches
Driver Diameter: 12 inches
Sound Output Direction: Front
Here are some tips on where to place your subwoofers.
Let me tell you something right off the bat.
The sound quality performance you'll end up getting from a speaker will always depend on your room acoustics - particularly room dimensions and speaker positions.
The impact of the combination of these two is actually so strong that in most cases, it doesn't even make sense to utter a single word on sound quality without speaking of them.
This is also why it's not unusual to see completely different reviews of the same speaker.
In one case the speaker might be placed in a sweet spot inside the room and hence the user might be satisfied. In other cases the same speaker might be ill placed and hence user might even have returned it.
The point most people miss here is that it mostly isn't even about the engineering behind the speaker itself. It's about where you place the speaker inside which room.
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So, in order to solve this problem, I've partnered with an Acoustics and Audio Engineering PhD and created Soundton - a simple, 2D, browser accessible online speaker placement calculator.
With Soundton, now there's a way to figure the sound quality of most speakers before you buy them.
Read more about its working principles at soundton.com.
The end colormap provides you the locations with the best (green) and worst (red) acoustics.
ASAP Science also made a video on the loudest and quietest rooms in the world. A mind blowing example of the importance of acoustics (play time adjusted video below).
Other parameters such as the age/materials of the building, the furniture & carpets in place, etc can and will, of course, have an effect on room acoustics, too. But it's much less compared to other parameters mentioned above.
Also, while you're at it, blast my Hidden Electronic Gems list to test the speakers:
The sound on both these subwoofers gives you a very authentic home-theater, cinematheque experience. The basses are crystal clear, free of any distortion, and consistent even at louder volumes that can shake your room. The IMF woofer cones have a lot to do with this.
That being said, the Klipsch R-120SW gives you a bit more flexibility. The consistency of the sound is less affected by its positioning in the room. Subwoofers exude the longest of soundwaves which tend to get a little muddy and lumpy if the acoustics of your room isn’t optimized for music per se. This is where the Klipsch R-120SW shows some improvement from its predecessor. The difference, though, while not irrelevant, is minimal.
These are identical on both subwoofers.
Minimum frequency response: 29 Hz
Maximum frequency response: 120 Hz
Amplifier power: 400 Watts
RMS power: 200 Watts
Sensitivity: 116.0 dB
Also check out the complete specifications of R-12SW.
Again, both speakers come with identical features in this department as well (Stereo RCA/LFE Preamp-level inputs). These can be used to connect it to your amplifier. No speaker-level inputs or outputs are included.
The Klipsch R-120SW costs $461 (please check your local dealer for details). As mentioned earlier, Klipsch R-12SW has been discontinued, so you’ll have to try your luck for the last available pieces or second-hand buys. Both of which will be cheaper. While there is no official pricing, you’ll usually find one for around $249.
In conclusion, this is how the Klipsch R-12SW and R-120SW stack up against each other:
- Design: Tie
- Sound: Klipsch R-120SW wins
- Connectivity: Tie
- Price: Klipsch R-12SW wins