If you love that deep bass sound, a simple pair of subwoofers will take your car’s audio capability to a new level. But which, among the hundreds of options on the market today, is the right one for you? Finding the perfect one for you can be tricky with so many options. Here’s a guide to take the guesswork out of your search for the perfect car subwoofer tailored toward you.
Buying Guide for the Best Car Subwoofers
Why buy a car subwoofer?
The reason to buy subwoofers is if you want that intense bass and sub-bass sound that they produce, the sound the speakers your car came with can’t. Subwoofers reduce distortion, that horrible sound that comes out when your speakers reproduce low-frequence bass when you turn up the volume. Turn the volume up, and it just gets worse. That’s because your car speakers can’t move enough air to reproduce powerful bass tones. If you follow a specific artist, you may have been missing certain details in their music with your factory car stereo.
What should you look for in a car subwoofer?
- Size: The bigger the subwoofer, the better the bass. So go for the biggest you can while taking the space you have to work with. The largest on the market are 18-inch. If you have the space and the money, go for the largest because they reproduce the lowest frequencies, even at high volumes. Keep in mind that larger subwoofers are difficult to install; even the installation requires ample space. Fifteen-inch subwoofers fit well in average-size cars, and they’re the most popular.
- Power: Like size, the higher the RMS or root mean square, the more powerful the sound. For subwoofers, the RMS power is the average output it can run over time without compromising sound quality. Pay attention to peak power as well. Peak-watt rating identifies the highest power level the subwoofer can handle in a short burst without blowing. You need to consider the amp you’re working with too. Look for a subwoofer with an RMS that matches the RMS of the amp or is less powerful than the amp.
- Sensitivity: Subwoofers with high sound pressure levels (SPL) require less power to produce high volumes. The sensitivity of a subwoofer is how much power the sub needs to produce a given volume. And this sensitivity is expressed as a sound pressure level (SPL) number. Subs with high SPL ratings are more sensitive, so they don’t require as much power to produce high volumes as subs with low SPL ratings. You’ll want a high-sensitivity sub if you have an underpowered amp or head unit.
Which is best: sealed or ported enclosures?
It’s subjective. Enclosures, or boxes, hold the subwoofer; sealed subwoofer enclosures are airtight. Sealed enclosures are ideal for music that requires punctuated and accurate bass. They produce a less boomy, crisper sound thanks to the interior shock-absorbing, sealed environment. Another bonus: they’re smaller and fit most vehicles. Ported boxes feature a vent, or port, to capture a low bass as the air flows in and out of the port. They deliver greater power than enclosed boxes and are perfect for hard music like heavy metal. So you get deeper bass but sacrifice space, as ported enclosures are larger. Other enclosures include bandpass boxes and free-air subwoofers, which rely on your car as its enclosure.
Our Picks for the Best Car Subwoofers
Dual Electronics IllumiNITE
This car subwoofer features an incredible design, stellar bass quality, and a unique cooling system.
Pros: The Dual Electronics IllumiNITE features dual digitally-optimized 12-inch subwoofers that provide accurate bass at up to 1,100 watts of peak power and a Ventilated Control Circuitry System that ensures system coolness. The bandpass enclosure houses both subwoofers, one chamber sealed and the other ported, so the sound waves come out through the ported side and are extra loud in terms of a narrow frequency range. This design also sports a high-quality, in-line carpet that eliminates most of the enclosure movement. For a high-quality audio experience at a great price, this subwoofer must be heard to be believed.
Cons: They’re fairly heavy at 58 pounds and large at 30 x 14.4 x 14.4 inches—not ideal for small cars.
Bottom Line: The IllumiNITE brushed aluminum subwoofers offer a great sound and visual experience. The blue LED light bounces off the subwoofer cones. With mirrors on either side of the carpeted enclosure, you’re in for a surreal experience.
BOSS Audio Systems 8 Inch Car Subwoofer
This subwoofer features a robust design and is easily mounted for added convenience.
Pros: This BOSS Audio Systems Car Subwoofer features robust, durable construction and impressive bass, especially with its budget price tag. This subwoofer is capable of higher temperatures and fatigue thanks to its hi-temp voice coil. Also, it features an impressive stamped basket that allows for a clear output with minimum distortion. This is excellent for those seeking a compact car subwoofer solution capable of great-sounding bass.
Cons: It’s not the loudest of speakers, and it doesn’t come with installation kits.
Bottom Line: BOSS has a solid reputation in the sound system industry, and these car subwoofers prove no different. They’re good quality at a reasonable price and are easy to install.
Rockville 10 Powered Car Subwoofer
This subwoofer sports impressive bass performance and an under-seat design that is perfect for cars with minimal space.
Pros: The Rockville Powered Car Subwoofer features 800-watt peak performance and 200-watt RMS in an attractive, space-saving design perfect for under-seat use. It also sports a wealth of user controls, including volume level controls, subsonic filters, and bass boosts. The built-in amplifier also works well, helping you get the most out of the 10-inch subwoofer. This is for you for an easy-to-install subwoofer-amp combo that will fit in most cars.
Cons: Some users found them too large to fit their car.
Bottom Line: These subwoofers get applause for performance, quality parts, and good looks. You kind of have to have it all if you’re audacious enough to buy subwoofers, right? They might as well look great too.
Pros: The MTX Magnum Dual Enclosure/Amp Combo features aviation-grade carpet and large rubber subwoofer surrounds. It’s tuned for high performance during higher output. This 800-watt subwoofer system comes with various buying options perfect for those seeking an all-in-one solution to their car subwoofer needs. It also sports an incredibly designed subwoofer with an impressively vented enclosure design for premium bass that will outperform competitors at its price range.
Cons: The MTX Magnum works well if you want to be polite and not disturb neighboring cars at stop lights. But if you want boom, this may not be the product for you.
Bottom Line: Most combo options are worth looking at, right? Well, it’s true for the MTX Magnum Dual Enclosure/Amp Combo, especially if you’re just getting into woofers. The enclosure looks nice, is compact, and produces great bass.
Skar Audio SDR-12 D4 Subwoofer
This free-air, 1,200-watt subwoofer with a red Nomex spider suspension and high roll foam surround offers a bit of class.
Pros: Meet the most powerful subwoofer we’ve seen; the Skar SDR-12 D4 has a max power rating of 1,200 watts and an RMS of 600 watts. That’s a lot of power. As a free-air system or infinite baffle subwoofer, it saves space and delivers a flat frequency response. Your car’s trunk acts as the enclosure, isolating the sound from the back of the speaker. The 2.5-inch, four-layer high-temperature copper voice coil is attached, and the advanced airflow cooling design keeps the ferrite motor running cool. Attached to the coil is a red Nomex spider suspension system, a feature that allows the subwoofer better control than free-air operating systems.
Cons: It’s sold as a single set instead of a pair, which may disappoint some.
Bottom Line: This subwoofer will please even the biggest bass lovers, as its high roll foam surround impressive low-frequency bass response. Though it’s got a ton of power, the engine runs smoothly, and the whole system stays cool.
As a deep bass enthusiast, you know you have to take audio systems seriously. Your choice of subwoofers can make or break your sound, so browse with vigilance. Once you’ve found the right woofers for you, install them and enjoy!