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Dayton Audio SUB-1500 Subwoofer Review - Dual 15s for $500?!?

by September 05, 2023
Dayton SUB-1500

Dayton SUB-1500

  • Product Name: SUB-1500
  • Manufacturer: Dayton Audio
  • Performance Rating: StarStarStarStarhalf-star
  • Value Rating: StarStarStarStarStar
  • Review Date: September 05, 2023 00:05
  • MSRP: $ 260/each
  • Power output: 150 Watts RMS
  • Frequency response: 23-140 Hz
  • Box design: Ported
  • Woofer: 15”
  • Inputs: RCA line level & speaker level
  • Outputs: Speaker level
  • Crossover frequency control: Continuously variable from 40 Hz to 140 Hz @ 12 dB/octave
  • Phase switch: 0/180 degrees
  • Power requirements: 120VAC, 60 Hz


  • Massive mid-bass output
  • Smooth in-room response, with good placement
  • Low distortion
  • Can defeat bass localization
  • Low cost


  • Little output below 30Hz
  • Deep bass clarity somewhat lacking


Audioholics recently reviewed a spate of $500 subwoofers (see our round-up here: The Best $500 Powered Subwoofers for 2023), and in the conclusion, we listed some potential alternatives to the featured subs of that article. The only alternative we listed there that we hadn’t reviewed was a pair of Dayton Audio SUB-1500s. Dayton Audio is a manufacturer of a wide variety of audio products from individual loudspeaker and electrical components to turnkey electronics and finished loudspeakers for every type of audio application. Based on the specs as well as our experience with past Dayton Audio products, we guessed that a pair of these budget subs would be a formidable option for those who are shopping in the $500 price range. Today, we set out to see for ourselves whether that guess was a good one in our review of a pair of Dayton Audio SUB-1500s. How do these stack up against the $500 subs that we have already taken an in-depth look at? How does one SUB-1500 perform, and how does that stack up into a set of duals? Are there qualitative shortcomings of a single budget sub that will hold a set of duals back from achieving the performance of a more expensive unit? Let’s now dig in to find out…

Packing and Appearance

SUB1500 packing

The SUB-1500s arrived in double-boxed packing which is very unexpected at this low price point. Inside the boxes, there are two large polyethylene foam pieces sandwiching the top and bottom of the subs. The subs are wrapped in a plastic bag to protect them against moisture and scuffs. Overall, the packing is very good for the cost of these units. Since they are not very heavy, they should be adequately protected against normal shipping abuse.


SUB1500 pair grilles2

SUB1500 pair5

Once unpacked, we are met with two nice but fairly conventional-looking subwoofers. They are not ugly but not gorgeous either, just standard subwoofer appearance. They use a matte black textured vinyl finish that does look a tad plasticky but it does not scuff easily nor leave fingerprints easily. There are grilles that hide the cones, but they do not cover the entire front baffle like most sub grilles. Without the grilles, we get a look at the woofers, which are treated paper cones with an inverted dustcap and a beefy half-roll surround. I think the subs look rather plain with the grilles on, but without the grilles, they have more character and look like they mean business. The overall shapes of the subs are cubes with just a bit over 19” of side lengths. One aspect that does a lot to soften their appearance is some rounding of the vertical edges; that is a nice touch and helps to make them less boxy looking. I like the simplicity of the design, and that will go a long way toward making them fit in a wide range of rooms.

Design Analysis

SUB1500 driver

The SUB-1500 is not a terribly complex subwoofer, and it couldn’t be at its pricing. SUB1500 amp panelDayton Audio specs this as a 15” subwoofer, and the driver really does measure 15” from the edge of the frame. Most subwoofer manufacturers spec their driver diameters like this, although some are a bit more conservative and spec their driver diameters at the mid-section of the surround. The cone looks to be made from treated paper and has an inverted polypropylene dustcap in the center. It attaches to the frame via a large 1 1/2” surround and a 6 ½” diameter Nomex spider. These suspension components are attached to a stamped steel frame. The motor is not monstrous and uses a 13/16” thick slug that is 5 ¾” in diameter. That doesn’t really tell us how much flux it sends through the gap, which is what matters the most. Since this is not a super high-excursion driver (indeed, Dayton Audio specs it at Xmax at 7.5mm), I would imagine that the magnetic strength is sufficient. The backplate is slightly bumped out, and venting is done through the pole piece.

One advantage of a driver like this is that it should have fairly low inductance. It has a 2 ¼” diameter voice coil and probably not a ton of copper, so it won’t generate as much of an induced counter-current that can diminish the upper-end bandwidth and cause an increase in even-order harmonic distortion components.

It is powered by a 150-watt RMS amplifier. While that might not seem like a lot compared to some of the multi-kilowatt sub amps we have seen around here, the driver’s sensitivity is rated at 91.9dB, so that should be plenty of power to make it thump. The controls are simple: there is a 0-180 degree phase switch, an auto-on/off power switch, a gain knob, and a 40Hz-140Hz crossover knob. Connectivity is comprised of a pair of RCA inputs and a pair of speaker-level inputs as well as a pair of speaker-level outputs. I am not sure how many people still use speaker-level connectivity on subwoofers, and I feel like Dayton Audio could have jettisoned that feature to save on manufacturing costs without any loss of sales.

SUB1500 interior   SUB1500 bottom

The SUB-1500 uses an MDF enclosure with a bottom-mounted port. The port has a 7 1/4” length and 3” diameter and is flared on both ends. The feet are some tall plastic cones that would certainly give the port enough clearance to move air. The front baffle is 1 ½” thick with additional thickness for the driver mounting, and the side panels are ¾” thick. Bracing is just two corner braces at each internal edge. There is some acoustic stuffing lining the side walls but not a lot.

There is opportunity here for some significant improvement for owners who are willing to modify their sub and void the warranty. It would be easy and cheap to add some cross-bracing and a lot more acoustic stuffing. The cabinet can be made a lot stronger by just adding a few rods at the midsections of the panels. And adding masses of acoustic stuffing can have the effect of making the enclosure act larger through isothermal absorption. This is when the fibrous materials of the acoustic stuffing act like a heatsink and absorb the acoustic energy thereby increasing the compressibility of the air inside the enclosure. The stock form of the subwoofer is probably adequate, and I am not sure how much these structural improvements would bring, but they would not take much time, effort, or money to do.

The SUB-1500 is not the heaviest-duty build we have ever seen and is a fairly basic design, but when its pricing is considered, it looks like it could be a serious bargain. I think the key to its success is driver sensitivity and behavior as well as enclosure inertness. If the driver is truly 91.9dB sensitive as the specs state, then this sub could really put out a lot of bang for the buck. The output must be controlled too; it doesn’t matter if the sub has a lot of output if it only occurs in a very narrow frequency range. There is also a risk of the enclosure panels having audible vibrations that could infringe upon the sound, but it’s hard to say how much of a factor that is without testing and, most importantly, listening.

The Advantages of Two Subs Versus One

So why get two subwoofers rather than just one? The main answer to that question has to do with how room acoustics affect low-frequency sound waves. Audioholics has many articles that deal with this issue such as Early Reflections and Bass for Small Room Acoustics, Listening Room Acoustics: Room Modes and Standing Bass, and History of Multi-Sub and Sound Field Management for Small Room Acoustics. For those not inclined to pour over these somewhat technical articles, the short version is that the wavelengths of low-frequency soundwaves are much larger than normal domestic room dimensions, and to complete the wave cycle, the sound waves double back into the room. When the sound waves overlap on themselves, they can cause large peaks and cancellations in the room response, so some bass frequencies will be very loud and others will be very weak. A good way to hear this for yourself is to walk around your room while playing a pink noise tone on your subwoofer and notice the changing tonality from different areas of the room. One of the best tools we have to fight this effect, at least for subwoofer-band frequencies, is the use of a multiple subwoofer system to even out these peaks and dips in the response by averaging out the room modes per sound source. Let’s take a quick look at how that can work by using the two SUB-1500s in my own room:

SUB1500 in room responses 

The above graph shows the individual responses of the SUB-1500s in my room (the green and blue curves) and then the response of both subs measured simultaneously (the gold curve). The individual responses are what happens when I place the subs in the front left and right corners of my room. As we can see, the individual responses are rather erratic with the green curve generating a peak at 49Hz and a null at 62Hz and the blue curve creating a massive null at 46Hz followed by a massive peak at 53Hz. On their own, these peaks and dips can be audible. The peaks can be tamed with equalization, but the nulls cannot, but we can address the nulls with a multiple subwoofer solution.

SUB1500 pair7The gold curve shows how both subs can average out the response for a relatively flat curve before any equalization. It still shows a peak at 54Hz followed by a dip at 62Hz, but these are now relatively minor deviations from the baseline response with about 3dB magnitudes. Equalization can flatten that response out even further, and since there are two subs in play, the equalization will be more consistent and predictable. Multiple subwoofer systems also make the response more consistent across seating positions over the room, and since equalization doesn’t need to change as much, its effects will also be more consistent across different listening positions over the room as well. This isn’t just a few abstract plots on a graph; this constitutes an audible improvement as well. This is why we at Audioholics always advise a multi-sub setup wherever possible.

Another advantage of multiple subs is that they can defeat the localization that a single sub can sometimes have. Many readers may have had the experience of listening to a sound system with a subwoofer, and the subwoofer’s sound made it obvious where its location is. There can be a few reasons for this, and using a lower crossover frequency may not always be the solution to this problem. By anchoring all of the lower bass to one location, a localized subwoofer can screw up the soundstage by tilting it toward the subwoofer. Using multiple subs can rectify this by counterbalancing the source of low-frequency sound thereby creating an even and uniform soundstage.

Listening Sessions

The receiver used was a Marantz AV7705. The crossover was set to 80Hz. The speakers used were some PSB Synchrony B600 bookshelf speakers powered by a Monoprice Monolith 5x200-watt amplifier. The SUB-1500 subwoofers were set up to yield a reasonably flat response without equalization (see above graph). As always, I will note here that since room acoustics have a huge effect on low frequencies, the way these subwoofers sound in my room at my listening position is not necessarily going to be the way they sound anywhere else for anyone else, so readers would do well to keep that in mind, and not just for this subwoofer in this review but for any subwoofer in any review.

Music Listening

For an album of acoustic music that dips into subwoofer-band frequencies, I selected a new release titled “As We Speak,” a collaboration of Bela Fleck, Edgar Meyer, Rakesh Chaurasia, and Zakir Hussain. Each of these gentlemen is a master of their respective instruments: Fleck for the banjo, Chaurasia for the bansuri flute, Meyer for the upright bass, and Hussain for the tabla. While the banjo and bansuri flute does not really dig into deep bass, the upright bass definitely does and so does the tabla. Meyer and Hussain’s play on this album makes it a terrific demonstration of a sound system’s ability to reproduce low-frequency pitch and texture. I streamed this recording from Qobuz in a 24-bit/96kHz resolution.

The upright bass playing was a mixture of plucking and bowing. Some tracks, like “Rickety Karma,” were mostly plucked bass playing, and here we get a good look at the SUB-1500’s ability to deal with transients. I didn’t notice any specific lagginess or overhang here. The tabla shared much of the low-frequency content on this album too, but since it has an unusual attack that doesn’t peak right away, it wasn’t as easy to hear any lag if there was any. However, through the SUB-1500, I could discern the different pitches created by the baya bass drum of the two tablas drums. Likewise, the pitch definition of the upright bass was good as well. A good level of texture of the bowed playing was evident as well, and this could be heard clearly at the start of track 8, “Pashto.” It’s hard to say how much of this texture was from the subs or the speakers, but at least we can say that the sub wasn’t getting in the way by smearing the sound. The SUB-1500s had enough extension that I didn’t sense any missing low end at all from this music, not that I would have expected this kind of music to have extremely deep bass. I didn’t have any complaints about the SUB-1500 for the reproduction of the music of “As We Speak,” pretty impressive for subs that only cost $260 each!

As We Speak   Back Organ Works 1

The SUB-1500s captured the bass of this instrument nicely and had a smooth blend with the speakers.

As always, I bring a pipe organ recording into my evaluation of a subwoofer since it is one of the only instruments that can bring true power into the lowest octave of human hearing. Toward this end, I selected “Bach Organ Works, Vol. 1.” There are a lot of pipe organ albums featuring the music of Bach, but what makes this one special is that it is performed on a newly built organ that was made specifically for the compositions of Bach. The Contius Organ in St. Micheal’s Church in Leuven, Belgium was designed to recreate the organs of Heinrich Andreas Contius, an 18th-century organ builder whose designs were lauded by and frequently played on by Bach. However, none of Contius’ organs have survived over the centuries. A huge amount of research and effort was conducted in an effort to replicate the design and sound of Contius’ organs, and this album demonstrates the results; an organ made to sound the same as when Bach had performed on them.

While there are deep frequencies on this album, the organ music here isn’t blaring with gut-wrenching bass, and the SUB-1500s managed to make the bass a presence without overdoing it or under-doing it. The Contius Organ is old-fashioned (quite literally) and doesn’t have huge, earth-shaking 64’ pipes, but it does have some low-frequency muscle that must have been pretty awe-inspiring back in the 18th century and still sounds terrific. The SUB-1500s captured the bass of this instrument nicely and had a smooth blend with the speakers. As Bach compositions, the notation could be quite complex, even in the lower registers, and I couldn’t be sure how much of it was the speakers and how much the subs were doing, so I turned off the speaker amp to get a sense of the subs’ load. It was interesting to hear what they were doing and what they weren't doing. Almost all of the overtones were entirely absent, yet there were fundamentals and subtle subharmonics that were unexpected and not obvious when the whole spectrum was being reproduced. Again, the SUB-1500s had zero problems with pitch definition. While the low-frequency extension of the SUB-1500s seemed to be sufficient for this album, in-room sine-wave sweeps indicated that these subs were losing strength below 30Hz, so pipe organ aficionados should keep that in mind if considering these. They don’t quite make the stretch to the massive 16Hz notes of the larger pipe organs and probably won’t do justice to that lowest octave. However, the SUB-1500 does well for typical organs (or even atypical ones like the Contius) that don’t have gigantic pipes.

the SUB-1500s were able to render their understated menace with a good resolution.

One neoclassical album that I found on Qobuz that dwells in deep bass is Alex Mason’s 2018 release “The Exorcist.” Much like the title signifies, this album sounds like the score for a horror film. It is mostly created with orchestral instruments but mixes in some electronic atmospherics, and it all adds up to a dark and foreboding sound. Mason (a Russian whose real name is closer to Alexey Maslov) mixes gothic elements with more contemporary composition for an elaborate and nerve-racking sound. He paints a vivid picture with music alone and conjures the drama and emotions from horror movies without the need for imagery or a standard narrative.

Much of the bass on this album comes from the traditional orchestral instruments that produce low frequencies such as bass violin, tuba, piano, and kettle drums, and the SUB-1500s captured the sound of them all. With so many bass-producing elements, the sub could be kept quite busy, but the instruments were all kept at a simmer for a sustained tension, and the bass was rarely pushed to the limits. “Reunion is a great example of low-key bass, where the stringed section seethes threateningly but never reaches a boil, and the SUB-1500s were able to render their understated menace with a good resolution. Some tracks used low-frequency synths for atmosphere, such as “Cold Contact,” which has a subtle rumble beneath a primeval percussive sound, and the minutiae of these sounds were not lost on the SUB-1500s either.

I do think there might have been some very deep bass in this album that the SUB-1500s weren’t quite catching, and they can’t quite match the subterranean feel of subs that have more power in the lowest octave. This would be skirting infrasonic bass, and there just isn’t much gas in the tank for these subs at that point- not that I would expect as much, given the specs and pricing of the SUB-1500s. There is no surprise that these can’t match the deep bass potency of larger and more expensive subs, and I would liken their extension to that of a sizable tower speaker. Most tower speakers are tuned from 30Hz to 40Hz, which is enough extension to cover almost all acoustic music and the majority of synthetically generated music. They sound full, as do these subwoofers, but for those of us who frequently listen to music extremes, as I do for these subwoofer reviews, there is a subsonic element that heightens the realism that is missing. I don’t want to overstate the importance of this near-infrasonic range, and by far, the most important frequency bands lay above 30Hz which the SUB-1500s have no trouble with. These are not miracle workers in deep bass, but they are very competent subwoofers.

The Exorcist     Black Heart Communion

For something to see what the SUB-1500s can do when pushed hard, I selected “Black Heart Communion” by Shades. We have seen Shades in Audioholics’ subwoofer reviews before with his brutal and brilliant 2018 dubstep album “In Praise of Darkness,” and I decided to explore his other releases. “Black Heart Communion” is a 2019 EP with some of the dankest bass ever recorded. It digs low and hits hard, and it beautifully shows Shades’ talent for low-frequency sound design. At a high enough level, the heavy-duty bass here will be sure to stress any subwoofer. Some subwoofers would crumble with this kind of content but others thrive, so I set out to see which camp the SUB-1500s fall in.

These are not miracle workers in deep bass, but they are very competent subwoofers.

The use of heavy bass gets off to an early start at the beginning of track 1 with a massive reverberating bell, and the SUB-1500s give it an epic feel. Track 2 kicks it up a notch when the bass drops and it turns into one of the fattest basslines in electronic music. It sounded glorious on the SUB-1500s, truly immense. Subsequent tracks matched the huge sound of track 2. In fact, on track 4, the title track “Black Heart Communion,” I heard some clacking sound that I thought was one of the subs, seeing as how they do not have digital signal processing to set hard limits on the power that can be sent to the driver. After some investigation, it turns out to be the woofer for the PSB Synchrony B600, so the SUB-1500s turned out to have a wider dynamic range than these $2,800/pair bookshelf speakers. And that is not a criticism against the B600s but rather praise for the SUB-1500s, because I was not sending the speakers a ‘common sense’ signal; I was slamming them with 200 watts of power at loudness levels no sane person would endure. The SUB-1500s had a real tactile punch, and they really shined with this music at these volume levels. Basslines buzzed my seat and kick drums thumped my chest. Much more expensive subs are not able to achieve this sound. While I did reach the limit of the subs’ dynamic range here, it roughly coincided with my personal limits as well, and it was truly loud. The SUB-1500s killed it in electronic bass music, and if that is the kind of content you enjoy, and you have around a $500 budget, I really cannot think of a better choice after hearing what they did on “Black Heart Communion.”

Movie Watching

A movie I had not yet seen but which promised deep bass was the 2011 underwater thriller “Sanctum.” This movie is about a team of divers on an expedition to explore an underwater cave network. When a tropical storm forces them to take refuge in the cave system and cuts off their entrance route, they must survive the crisis and find another way out of the cave labyrinth. A major storm plus a water-bound setting means that this big-budget movie (produced by James Cameron, no less) should have tons of content to get a subwoofer’s cone moving. 

“Sanctum” delivered what it advertised as a tense fight for survival in an underwater cave network, and the SUB-1500 subwoofer pair helped to make this adventure more realistic and intense. The first moments of intense bass hit when the cave started to flood with the onset of a typhoon. Torrents of water gushed through the tunnels, and the crashing flood waters roared with menace on the subs. The rumble of impromptu waterfalls through the cave network was given a tactile dimension with the SUB-1500s. The crisis forces our main characters to escape through underwater tunnels, and the burbling and gurgling of the characters’ struggles when submerged were violently relayed through the subs. David Hirshfelder’s orchestral score added to the drama as well as the LFE load since it was replete with kettle drums and low-pitched brass. Again, there was probably some very deep bass left out, but I never heard the subs strain attempting to reproduce frequencies below their comfort zone. While “Sanctum” isn’t vying for Oscars as a rich human drama, I appreciated how straightforward and uncomplicated it was, and I also appreciated having a potent subwoofer system on hand to give it a more visceral feel.   

Sanctum   Kids vs Aliens

Another movie that looked to have a lot of fun LFE is the newer 2022 release “Kids vs. Aliens.” This horror-comedy is directed by Jason Eisener who made the great faux-exploitation “Hobo with a Shotgun” as well as the wonderful YouTube splatter comedy short “Treevenge.” “Kids vs. Aliens” is about two feuding siblings who throw a major house party, but their party gets crashed by some hostile aliens. Eisener has always pushed the boundaries of bad taste and blood-letting but has done so with a sense of fun and creativity. I had not yet seen “Kids vs. Aliens,” but I suspected that it would be a lot of fun, especially with a capable sound system on tap.

“Kids vs. Aliens” was just as nuts as I expected, and the SUB-1500s helped it to be the roller-coaster that was doubtlessly intended. The arrival of the aliens was announced by a deeply pitched horn, a parody of the 2005 “War of the Worlds” pods rising scene, and my seat shuddered from being pummeled by sound waves. Our main characters are captured and taken into the alien spaceship, and the deep hum of the craft and the guttural growls of the aliens were given a corporeal aspect thanks to the enthusiastic playback by the subs. Action scenes mostly consist of humans running away from aliens, so there wasn’t much bass, at least until the ‘grand finale.’ Much of the low-frequency content was provided by the music score by Andrew Gordon MacPherson who used 80s-inspired synthwave for scenes focused on the kids and orchestral music for scenes focused on the aliens. The SUB-1500s gave bass for both a meaty foundation, and the synth bassline and electronic percussion really shined with the subs. This highly vulgar yet goofy movie was a lot of fun, and the dual SUB-1500 was a great match for it.

About the author:

James Larson is Audioholics' primary loudspeaker and subwoofer reviewer on account of his deep knowledge of loudspeaker functioning and performance and also his overall enthusiasm toward moving the state of audio science forward.

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