A Guide to Selecting a Car Subwoofer
A car subwoofer is a specialized loudspeaker designed to reproduce low-frequency bass sounds in a car audio system. It is responsible for producing deep, powerful, and resonant bass notes that enhance the overall audio experience in a vehicle. It works in tandem with other speakers, such as the woofer and tweeter. Subwoofers handle low-frequency sound reproduction, typically ranging from around 20 Hz to 200 Hz. These frequencies are responsible for the thumping impact in music genres such as hip-hop, electronic, and rock, as well as the low rumble in movie soundtracks.
You’ll hook up a subwoofer to an amplifier, or to your car stereo system's dedicated subwoofer channel. The amplifier provides the necessary power to drive the subwoofer and reproduce the low-frequency signals accurately. Additionally, subwoofers may require a separate enclosure (box) to ensure proper acoustic performance and to control the movement of air and soundwaves.
We’ll look at the features of the car subwoofers in the Best Reviews Guide list. Not only will they enhance the sound quality in your car. They’ll also divide up some of the workload from the other speakers, and increase their longevity as well!
What’s so important about adding a subwoofer speaker?
The addition of a car subwoofer to an audio system enhances the depth, impact, and overall balance of the sound. It adds a tactile dimension to music, making the bass more pronounced and immersive. But it’s not just about sound quality inside your car. Subwoofers can also help relieve the main speakers from reproducing low frequencies, allowing them to focus on midrange and high-frequency sounds, resulting in clearer and more detailed audio reproduction.
Types of Car Subwoofers
There are several types of car subwoofers available in the market, each designed to cater to different audio preferences and installation requirements. Firstly, we can distinguish between passive and powered subwoofers:
Passive Subwoofers: These will need an external amplifier to work. They’ll be less expensive, but you’ll also have the task of matching the passive subwoofer to the correct amplifier. An example is the Rockville RMW8P 8" 800w Shallow Car Subwoofer.
Rockville RMW8P 8" 800w Shallow Car Subwoofer
Powered Subwoofers: Powered subwoofers are self-contained units that include both the subwoofer driver and an integrated amplifier in a single enclosure. They are convenient for those who want to add bass to their car audio system without the need for multiple components. Powered subwoofers are often compact and can be installed in various locations within the vehicle. An example is the Rockville 10” Slim Low Profile Active Powered Car Subwoofer.
Rockville 10” Slim Low Profile Active Powered Car Subwoofer
We can also distinguish between the type of mount that the subwoofer requires. There are enclosed, shallow-mount, and free-air mounts:
Enclosed Subwoofers: Enclosed subwoofers come pre-mounted in a specially designed enclosure, which can be a sealed or ported box. These pre-built enclosures are designed to optimize the subwoofer's performance and make installation more convenient. Enclosed subwoofers are available in different configurations, such as single or dual subs, and are usually easier to install than component subwoofers. An example is the Rockford Fosgate Punch 12” Amplified Subwoofer.
Rockford Fosgate Punch 12” Amplified Subwoofer
Shallow-Mount Subwoofers: Shallow-mount subwoofers are designed for installations where space is limited, such as in compact cars or vehicles with limited trunk space. These subwoofers feature a slim design and require less mounting depth while still delivering decent bass performance. An example is the Pioneer 10” Shallow-Mount Pre-Loaded Enclosure Subwoofer.
Pioneer 10” Shallow-Mount Pre-Loaded Enclosure Subwoofer
Free-Air Subwoofers: Free-air subwoofers are designed to work without an enclosure. They are mounted in a rear deck or a panel in the vehicle, utilizing the trunk space as an enclosure. Free-air subwoofers require careful installation and tuning to ensure optimal performance. An example is the Kicker 10” 350 W Marine Boat Subwoofer.
Kicker 10” 350 W Marine Boat Subwoofer
When choosing a car subwoofer, consider factors such as the available space in your vehicle, desired bass output, power handling capabilities, and compatibility with your existing audio system. It's also important to select a subwoofer that matches the power output and specifications of your amplifier or head unit to ensure proper performance and prevent damage to the equipment.
What reviewers say
We went over some customers’ impressions of the car subwoofer that they bought:
Where to install the subwoofer: The installation location of a subwoofer in a vehicle depends on various factors, including the available space, desired audio performance, and personal preferences. Here are some common locations for installing a subwoofer in a car:
Trunk: The trunk is a popular location for installing a subwoofer, especially in larger vehicles with spacious trunk areas. The subwoofer can be mounted in a custom-built enclosure or a pre-fabricated enclosure designed for the specific subwoofer model. The trunk installation provides ample space for larger subwoofers and allows for optimal bass performance.
Rear Deck: Some vehicles have a rear deck or shelf behind the rear seats. This area can be utilized for installing a subwoofer. In such cases, a custom enclosure or a shallow-mount subwoofer designed for limited depth may be used. Rear deck installations can provide good bass output and may also offer a visually pleasing integration with the vehicle's interior.
Under Seat: If trunk or cargo space is limited, under-seat installations can be a viable option. There are subwoofers specifically designed to fit under the seats of many vehicles. These compact subwoofers provide a space-saving solution while still delivering decent bass performance.
Kick Panels or Door Panels: Some car audio enthusiasts choose to integrate subwoofers into the kick panels (located at the sides of the footwells) or door panels. This requires custom fabrication work and can provide a more seamless and hidden installation. However, it may require sacrificing foot space or modifying the door panel structure.
Here are some tips and features to help you decide on which subwoofer to purchase:
Low impedance: You’d prefer a speaker with low impedance. That will allow the audio amplifier to deliver more power to the speakers. Power output is determined by Ohm's law, where power equals the square of the current multiplied by the resistance (Power = Current^2 * Resistance). With a lower impedance, the current flowing through the speaker is higher for the same voltage. As a result, the speaker can receive more power from the amplifier, leading to increased volume levels and improved overall efficiency.
Compatible amplifier: It’s important to get a subwoofer that matches its amplifier, for maximum efficiency. Many audio amplifiers are designed to handle low-impedance loads effectively. Using speakers with low impedance ensures that the speakers and amplifier are matched appropriately, allowing the amplifier to deliver its full potential power. In mismatched setups, where higher-impedance speakers are connected to an amplifier not designed for them, the amplifier may not be able to produce its rated power, resulting in reduced performance.
RMS power of a speaker: The RMS power of a speaker refers to the continuous power handling capacity of the speaker. RMS stands for "Root Mean Square," which is a mathematical term used to calculate the average power output of an electrical signal. It’s provided in the units of Watts, which indicates the amount of power the speaker can handle continuously without being damaged or experiencing significant distortion. A high RMS means that the speaker is able to handle sustained power levels over an extended period. When choosing an amplifier or matching speakers with an amplifier, it is important to ensure that the amplifier's power output matches or is within the RMS power handling capacity of the speakers. Mismatches can lead to underpowering or overpowering the speakers, potentially causing distortion, reduced performance, or even damage to the speaker components.
We looked at some features of car subwoofer speakers, and the options available. What you actually choose will depend on the space available inside your vehicle, the power handling capacity, the type of speaker enclosure is best for you, and more. Consider these factors before deciding on the subwoofer that best fits your needs and delivers the desired bass performance.