While most finicky music enthusiasts that envy loud sound systems are not great fans of free air subwoofers, most car manufacturers of quality in-car sound systems – including Lexus, who is technically the best at crafting premium OE car audio systems – prefer incorporating these subs and for good reason. Generally speaking, these subs compromise of an enclosure with a boot volume, rather than the conventional design where the system consists of a separated tuned box.
The upside of free air subs is that they are quite easy to install and besides this, they are ideal for sedans where a “tight bass” approach isn’t necessarily the best path to take. They have flaws, though, and the main one is that they aren’t designed to deliver heart-throbbing bass as is the case with competition grade subs for instance. However, if clean bass lines are your main goal, it is worth noting that free air subwoofers are the neatest since sliced bread.
Table of contents
- The Best 8 Inch Free Air Subwoofers
- The Best 10 Inch Free Air Subwoofers
- The Best 12 Inch Free Air Subwoofers
- The Best 15 Inch Free Air Subwoofers
What is a free air subwoofer and what should you know?
Before looking at the options you have when it comes to free air subs, it is worth noting that they are designed differently from other subwoofers. In short, a sub designed for a sealed enclosure, for instance, bears some distinctive characteristics as is the case with subs designed to perform optimally in ported enclosures. The same applies for free air subs where you will have to use specific drivers designed for the sole purpose of powering these babies.
In a nutshell, these car speakers don’t incorporate the usual super floppy suspension and this basically means that a free air subwoofer should be stiffer than other models. That aside, there are a number of amazing subs designed to deliver neat and precise low frequencies. To help you get the ideal free air sub, we subjected a number of top brands to some thorough tests and here is what we came up with.
The Best 8 Inch Free Air Subs
Our Pick: Kicker Comp 07C84 4-Ohm 8 Inch
The Kicker is one of the most versatile brands, and you can tell from the sheer fact that they virtually have a speaker in every category. Similar to all their other speakers and subs, the Comp 07C84 will provide adequate punch without thumping your wallet. It is quite a catch owed to a plethora of factors ranging from an impressive 30 – 500 Hz frequency response, to 200 watt RMS power handling and 100 watts peak power. That’s not the best part, though. This sub can perform in free air applications just as well as it can in sealed and ported enclosures. Therefore, if you are looking for a do-it-all sub to serve you in myriad applications, it would be in your best interest to check out the Comp 07C84.
Kicker decided to throw in the exclusive Spiralead tinsel-lead technology for enhanced durability. In short, this Kicker 8″ subwoofer simply won’t cave into any abuse you throw at it.
Runner-Up: JL Audio Evolution ZR Series Component Midwoofer 8″ ZR800-CW
The main edge free air subs have over the rest is that they simply make any music genre sound supreme. JL Audio has mastered this craft, and the ZR800-CW just goes to prove this fact. With an impedance of 4 Ohms and peak power handling of 225 watts, this sub is certainly no slouch. In addition, the aesthetically pleasing package packs an impressive sensitivity of 87 dB, alongside an RMS of 150 watts, which is arguably among the best in its league. JL Audio, placed due emphasis on the overall design and engineering, with this one. It features a mineral-filled polypropylene cone with Santoprene surround technology to enhance the sound quality further.
On the Budget: Lanzar DCTOA84 Distinct Open Air SVC Distinct Series
Lanzar is not the most popular audio manufacturer there is, but if you have been closely following our reviews, there are a number of great products from the manufacturer. The DCTOA84 is nothing but impressive, to say the least. For a free air subwoofer, it is quite powerful with 160 watts of peak power handling and 80 watts RMS.
It also boasts a sensitivity of 87 dB and the best part is that you need not fret over space issues thanks to a shallow mount depth of 4.06”. The fact that it is the second best 8” free air sub on our review has to count for something.
The Best 10 Inch Free Air Subs
Our Pick: DS18 SLC10S Select Series 10-Inch Single Voice Coil 440 Watts Max
With great sensitivity and frequency response, this is an average subwoofer that is ideal for audiophile beginners. It is easy to install and will not blow your eardrums out as it has a maximum power output of only 440W. Despite this, the quality of the sound that this subwoofer produces has not been compromised and it is a leader among its peers. Equipped with a 10-inch voice coil, this subwoofer is built to play music for many years to come. The design is also stylish and pleasing to the eye, sub-woofer while its size ensures that it can fit in almost every car without any problems.
As mentioned earlier, this is subwoofer that produces great sound. It is not for the experienced audiophiles, but it is highly recommended for the amateurs.
Runner-Up: Kicker CompS 40CWS104 10 Inch Subwoofer
The CompS Series by Kicker is basically one of the manufacturer gems. If you are seeking for a neat 10” free air sub with enough power to deliver heart-throbbing punch and neat bass lines, this is the ideal product to invest and there are solid reasons why. For starters, it boasts of a whopping 600 watts of peak power handling and RMS of 300 watts. Not yet convinced? How about the sufficient 30-500 Hz frequency response range or sensitivity of 86.2 dB? Also, you will only need a mounting depth of 4.35 inches to get the most out of it. The Comp line of products started way back in 1986 and that should tell you just how experienced Kicker is.
On the Budget: BOSS AUDIO Phantom P106DVC 10″ 4200W
This Boss sub-woofer comes with low-frequency sound production which enhances the quality and clarity of your music for an awesome sound. Its peak power is 2100W, which is quite impressive for a 10 inch car sub. Combine that with a poly injected cone and competition style binding posts and you have a winner. With a mounting diameter of 10′ and a depth of 6 1/2 inches, the bass that the Boss subwoofer produces is deep and has great breath-ability functions to prevent the coils from overheating. When combined with a great car stereo and amplifier, this is a speaker that does not need a partner to produce the great sound that you have always yearned for. If pumped too much, this Boss sub-woofer does not have measures in place to withstand the added power and will give in. It is best to keep this speaker within its power limits.
The Best 12 Inch Air Free Subs
Our Pick: Skar Audio ZVX-12v2 12″ 1500 Watt RMS Dual 1 Ohm
The Skar Audio subwoofer is built to withstand rugged musical conditions and is designed to be reliable, powerful and consistent. With a power output of 3000W, this subwoofer comes with a 3-inch high-temperature coil which prevents overheating, while the magnet is huge and its paper cone ensures that your music comes out with awesome surround.
In case you are the type that likes to push musical limits, the Skar Audio will always come through for you without distortions or lower your music quality. Built for everyday use, the paper cone is stitched with strong materials that will ensure many years of service.
Top Of Line: JL Audio 12W7AE-3
If you are into a high profile sound, this is the best free air subwoofer you can get. With a power output of between 400-1000W, this JL subwoofer will provide a great musical experience without too many expectations.
Built with a reinforced spider attachment, and with a cutout diameter of 10-1/2 inches, this is a subwoofer that is designed for durability, thanks to its aluminum alloy frame. The frame is able to ensure that the speaker remains cool while it sits on its cast alloy basket.
Top Of Line: DS18 HOOL12.2D Hooligan 12″ Competition 6,000W
Designed with 4 black aluminum 4 layered voice coils, this is a speaker that packs a lot of punch for a conventional 10″ sub-woofer. The name Hooligan resonates with the amount of power it can produce, which the manufacturer assures is more than a bunch of angry soccer fans. With a quality amplifier, this is a sub-woofer that promises nothing but the boom in your music.
With a peak power of up to 6000W, the cone has been built from fiberglass to add stability and clarity to the bass in the music, as well as durability. This is a high-performance sub for those who prefer extremely loud and powerful music.
The Best 15 Inch Free Air Subs
Our Pick: Power Acoustik MOFO
With Dual Conex spiders and a UV coated foam surround, this is a free air subwoofer that is packed with an amazing punch and a maximum power output of up to 3000W. It comes with an Aluminum reinforced fin coupled with aluminum dust caps. A heat sink is also included to keep the speaker cool which in turn protects the coil and ensures you can enjoy music non-stop without interruptions or worries. The 2.5″ 4 layer coil, is designed to produce a deep and hard bass, with the Nickel plated compression power terminals to take care of uninterrupted power passage from the source to the subwoofer.
Without a custom made speaker cabinet for this subwoofer, you will not be able to enjoy the full potential of the speaker. It does not come with one though, which means added cost to the buyer.
Top Of Line: Orion HCCA152
Orion is a powerhouse when it comes to quality products and the HCAA152 subwoofer is no exception. It comes in a convenient size that will fit in almost every car and works well with all car stereos giving this sub a great level of consistency. The Orion HCAA152 can handle a power output of up to 5000W and measures only 15×14.5×6.5 inches.
The voice coil that comes with this speaker has been built in such a way that it does not overheat no matter how long the music plays, as it is equipped with temperature control abilities. The dual conex spiders loop stitched tinsel leads are also added for added durability.