If you’ve been closely following our series, you probably have a rough idea of the best car speakers in the varying sizes and now, it is time to have a look at arguably the most essential accessory for music enthusiasts – car subwoofers.

We are here to help you get all the information you need to make the right pick, see our top picks in all categories, buying advice, and FAQ below.

Powered/Enclosed

Our Pick

Rockford Fosgate P300-12

Enclosure Type: Sealed
Woofer Size (inches): 12
Width: 20-3/8″
Height: 15″
Depth: 11-3/4″
Frequency Response: 35-200
Power (RMS): 300 watts
Maximum Wattage: 600 watts

The P300-12 represents an “all-in-one” solution from the heart of the Punch family, coupling a 12-inch Punch subwoofer in a custom sealed enclosure and a mighty 300-watt(RMS) amplifier – read the Rockford P300-12 full review.

The system is all-inclusive, meaning all you need to do is run power, ground and signal wire from the source to the box to get the party started.

Bang For The Buck

Pioneer TS-WX1210A

Enclosure Type: Sealed
Woofer Size (inches): 12
Dimensions (L x W x H): 23.50 x 18.20 x 13.90 Inches
Frequency Response: 20Hz to 125Hz
Power (RMS): 350 watts
Maximum Wattage: 1300 watts

If you’re looking for deep, booming bass that shakes the neighborhood as you drive through, the Pioneer TS-WX1210A isn’t that product – after all, this is a single 12-inch self-powered subwoofer system in a sealed, rather shallow trapezoid-shaped enclosure, primarily designed to add some low end to factory systems.

In that regard, the Pioneer excels and offers a good value proposition.

Dual/Enclosed

Our Pick

MTX Audio TNE212D Terminator

Peak Power: 1,200 watts
Power (RMS): 200 – 400 watts
Frequency Response: 37 to 150Hz
Woofer Size: 12-inch
Sensitivity: 86.4dB
Dimensions: 29-5/8-inches wide x 14-inches high x 13-1/2-inches deep

MTX’s TNE212D enclosed subwoofer system adds intense bass to any vehicle courtesy of its dual 12-inch Terminator subs, yielding tight and punchy bass from a rugged sealed enclosure built from medium-density fiberboard – as we explain in full MTX TNE212D review.

What’s more, you can power the system with anywhere from 200 to 400 watts RMS (1,200 watts peak), with the enclosure being perfect for a hatchback or SUV installation.

Underseat

Our Pick

Cerwin Vega VPAS10

Woofer Size (inches): 10
Dimensions: W: 9.6″, D: 13.6″, H: 2.6″
Frequency Response: 75-150 Hz
Power (RMS): 200 watts
Maximum Wattage: 450 watts

This is one of the strongest compact subwoofers that you can get for your car – as expalined in full Cerwin Vega VPAS10 review.

It’ll definitely blow you away with its powerful and deep bass sound, in addition to its nifty adjustable features.

It might be a little on the expensive side, but it’ll prove to be a worthy investment for people who like to hear their bass loud and clear.

Also Great

Alpine PWE-S8

Woofer Size (inches): 8
Dimensions: W: 13.4″, D: 9″, H: 2.9″
Frequency Response: 25-152 Hz
Power (RMS): 120 watts
Maximum Wattage: 240 watts

Fully loaded with an eight-inch driver and 160-watt amplifier, Alpine’s PWE-V80 is an all-in-one powered subwoofer system that can slip right under your vehicle’s front seat.

Beyond stealthy installation possibilities, the PWE’s preamp circuit in its amp has been designed to squeeze smooth frequencies from your music.

This ready-to-rock subwoofer is easy to install, so you can upgrade your sound system – even a factory variant – with just a few simple steps.

Competition Grade

Top Notch

Sundown Audio ZV5 Series

Available Sizes (inches): 10/12/15/18”
Power (RMS): 2000 watts

One of the few manufacturers in all of the car stereo offering a behemoth-sized 18-inch subwoofer, Sundown Audio has unleashed its Z v.5 Series, the second step-up in the company’s “ultra-high-excursion” subfamily.

The company designed the Z v.5 from the ground up to become the new standard in the low-frequency/small ported box subwoofer category in its respective price range.

SPL

Our Pick

Skar Audio ZVXv2 Series

Available Sizes (inches): 8/12/15/18”
Power (RMS): 900 to 1,600 watts
Frequency Response: 40-500Hz to 20-400Hz

Landing a top spot on our Best SPL Subwoofers list is no easy feat, but Skar’s ZVXv2 Series did just that – and even managed to be crowned Our Pick on that roster.

Originally released over two years ago, the Version 2 ZVX Series was redesigned from the ground up to set a new standard in SPL subwoofers and to take a beating for hours on end.

Free Air

Our Pick

Infinity Kappa 1000W

Peak Power: 1,800 watts
Power (RMS): 450 watts
Frequency Response: 25 to 400Hz
Top Mount Depth: Six (6) 5/16-inches
Bottom Mount Depth: Six (6) 5/8-inches
Cutout Diameter or Length: Nine (9)-inches

The Kappa 1000W from Infinity is in its natural habitat whether in a ported or sealed enclosure, with these subs representing a dependable option that feature switchable impedance – so they will fit into any system and handle varying loads of power.

What to Look for When Buying Car Subwoofers

Car subwoofers are basically designed to reproduce bass and handle all low range frequencies that your smaller rear deck speakers struggle with.

Indeed, a quality car subwoofer will make you feel your favorite music, just as much as you hear it and this is the most paramount aspect of a quality audio system. There are a number of quality car subwoofer speakers on the market where you’ll likely bump into the usual culprits such as Pioneer and Kicker.

However, you will have to place a plethora of considerations while in your quest. For instance, while a Pioneer subwoofer may be effective at producing heart-throbbing lows, it lacks efficiency with poor power handling capacity. Here are some tips to help you out when shopping for the best car subwoofer.

Budget

Similar to all other shopping sprees, you have a budget that you want to stick to the right?

That said the main idea, therefore, is to find a quality car subwoofer that strikes the perfect balance of cost efficiency and performance. Contrary to common perception, the highest-priced car subwoofer isn’t necessarily the best out there and on the flip side, the cheapest is not always that bad.

In a nutshell, you can get a subwoofer that complements your needs without having to burn holes in your pocket.

Power Handling

If you seek a speaker that really booms without any resonances to deter the audio quality of your system, it would then be in your best interest to pay attention to the power handling performance of the prospective brand.

In layman’s terms, this basically translates to a woofer’s efficiency. Scrutinize closely the continuous power handling ability which simply reveals how much power the sub can handle for a continuous period without any distortions or damage. In conclusion, the top sub will handle power efficiently regardless of how long it booms.

Sensitivity

While at it, it would be wise to check the sensitivity ratings, which technically indicate the decibel output of a woofer, at one meter using a watt of power.

For instance, a subwoofer packing a sensitivity rating of 90dB requires 100 watts to produce the same output of 96dB sub, using a mere 25 watts. Generally, always keep in mind that a speaker’s sensitivity will work hand-in-hand with power output to achieve a big, high-quality sound.

Size

This is one of the most controversial debates among car speaker enthusiasts – what size produces the loudest sound? As much as this question is valid, it isn’t easy to tell because sometimes, the largest woofers will not facilitate the huge sound you yearn.

However, if your main goal is to find a sub that plays loud and the space in your car isn’t an issue, go for the biggest subwoofers if you can. This, however, doesn’t mean that you should underestimate the smaller brands. In essence, a highly-powered car subwoofer in an ideal enclosure will always pack plenty of punch regardless of how small it may seem.

Enclosure Specifications

For those who don’t have a clue on the importance of a subwoofer box enclosure, it is important to know that the type of enclosure you mount your sub in, will to some extent determine the overall sound produced.

That said there is a plethora of varying box enclosures (our review of 12-inch) and the most ideal for your car should be based on your exact needs.

Bandpass enclosures

These types of enclosures have been specifically designed for the maximum slam. Basically, its design entails a dual-chambered box consisting of a sealed chamber and a ported one.

In such a setting, your sub is mounted in the sealed chamber where the sound waves are then directed towards the port. The sound emerging from the ported sound is extra-loud even though within a narrow range. The aggressive sound produced is categorically ideal for those that enjoy reggae, rap, and hard metal rock.

Ported enclosures

Such boxes pack a vent designed to enhance low-frequency response. This simply means that you get maximum output compared to sealed enclosures, regardless of the set amp wattage.

They indeed produce powerful, heart-throbbing bass than most enclosures, hence making them ideal for heavy metal and rock. You will, however, need to have sufficient space in your car as they tend to be large.

Sealed enclosures

The housing consists of an airtight chamber designed to facilitate powerful bass in unmatched precision. The response is not somewhat boomy but has great power handling. Even though it requires more power than a ported enclosure, it is quite compact and ideal for smaller vehicles.

Nominal Impedance

In your quest, you’ll likely bump into a sub with 4 ohms impedance which is the most common. However, 2 ohm and 8-ohm subwoofers are finding a place in the versatile subwoofer market more so for dual voice coil speakers.

When choosing your ideal sub, it is paramount to match the impedance and power rating to the amplifier in your car, so as to avoid any resonances or distortion.

A number of quality high-end amplifiers are designed to power car subwoofers with an impedance of 2 and 4 ohms meaning it shouldn’t be hard finding one that complements your system.

Voice Coils

Typical car subwoofers come sporting a single-coil design that is slowly becoming outdated going by the latest trends in audiophiles.

Dual voice coils are creeping in and gaining more popularity by the day, more so for car owners that seek flexibility when wiring together their preferred sound system.

In essence, DVC subwoofers pack dual distinct coils – each with its very own connection ports – mounted on a single cylinder which is then connected to a common subwoofer cone.

Different Types and Sizes of Car Subwoofers

Now that you have a basic idea of the features to look out for when shopping around for your ideal car subwoofer, it is also paramount to note that are different types of subs, categorically designed to meet the numerous, varying needs of audiophiles.

In general, subwoofers are available in 8-inch, 10-inch, 12-inch, 15-inch and 18-inch sizes for mobile audio applications.

Also, these products will vary in design, size, price, and quality among other aspects.

Therefore, before having a look at the top brands creating the entire buzz among car owners, let’s delve into the available types of subs so as to make an informed decision eventually, based on your specific needs.

Component

In your quest, you will likely come across component subs which are in fact the most popular out there. Basically, it is just the speaker by itself without an enclosure – which is mandatory for it to perform optimally.

Component subs come in a wide range of sizes, – from the smallest 8-inch sub to the largest 18-inch subwoofer – impedance, voice coil setups, and power.

This, therefore, allows you to choose from an infinite array of choices, so as to pick the most ideal that complements your comprehensive system in the seamless fashion. If you are just making a debut in-car audio systems, going for a component subwoofer would be in your best interest.

Enclosed

If you have set aside a good amount of money for your car’s subwoofer, enclosed subs are definitely the way to go.

Unlike component speakers that come without any form of housing, these subs come sporting a pre-mounted enclosure box (like this 12-inch dual subs) specifically designed to not only accommodate the speaker but also get the most out of its potential.

This, therefore, eliminates the necessary need to buy a separate enclosure (which may not work as well as you would want), or need to design and build one yourself. The downside is that the choice of enclosed subwoofers is limited compared to their component counterparts.

Powered

Are you overwhelmed by the infinite number of subs and amplifiers available on the market and simply want a comprehensive package once and for all? It would then be in your best interest to go for a powered sub.

Basically, a powered sub packs a woofer and inbuilt amplifier in one simple box enclosure meaning you end with only a single piece of audio accessory to install.

The main downside with powered subs is that even though they are effective at producing quality bass lines, they tend to have a smaller amplifier and drivers that may not provide the heart-throbbing bass you may be looking for as a bass head.

Shallow Mount

These products are basically designed to be portably mounted in a shallow space within your car hence not taking up much space; without compromising on the bass performance expected from any woofer worth its salt.

There are a plethora of benefits pegged to installing a shallow mount subwoofer such as its lightweight nature and enhanced portability. Shallow mount subs also allow you to easily remove and install them when a need arises.

However, with the enhanced portability comes a slightly lower performance compared to larger component subs. Also, the fact that they can be easily dislodged makes them highly prone to damage.

Competition

If you are a real bass head that often daydreams about having the loudest car system in the world, it is worth mentioning that competition subs have been specifically designed for you.

Competition subwoofers basically defy all rules and standards by packing immense power, extraordinary bass and a hefty weight that may as well take up all the space in your trunk. As the name implies, they are competition grade speakers designed for use in competitions.

In fact, they come complete with re-cone kits to allow you to fix them just in case they get damaged – which is highly likely in competitions. In short, this is not your ordinary sub even though it can be used for everyday listening.

Under Seat

Under-seat car woofers are becoming common by the day, and this can be attributed to their compact and portable features.

As the name implies, these subs come packing a sizable pre-installed enclosure that fits comfortably beneath your car seats. They are very easy to install, besides the fact that they can be removed in a hurry when a need arises.

However, they are not ideal for those after ground shaking bass as their power and size simply can’t match up to larger component subs.

Car Subwoofers FAQ

On the surface, it may seem as fundamental as throwing a speaker in the corner of your vehicle’s trunk and running power lines to it, but there really is so much more to owning, installing and tweaking a subwoofer.

From understanding the differences between voice coil designs and being able to read wiring diagrams to determine which size is right for you, a plethora of topics regarding subwoofer purchase and ownership exist on an equally diverse number of levels – and we’re going to address some of these by way of some frequently asked questions we receive on a regular basis.

How Do I “Break In” a Subwoofer? Is This Even Necessary?

With the advent of the internet, a whole truckload of information suddenly became available at the flick of a wrist, but not of all of it was necessarily accurate – a trend that continues to this day.

Such is the case with so-called “speaker break-in methods,” a topic hotly debated amongst audiophiles on home hi fi-oriented discussion forums and related sites; indeed, there is a camp which swears by the need to properly “break” speakers in, while another group of enthusiasts feels this approach is nothing but nonsense.

The phenomenon has spread to mobile audio, as well, what with a myriad of enthusiasts falling on both sides of the spectrum; from our perspective, we view the break-in of subwoofers as a natural occurrence: If you’re actually using your speakers, they’re going to eventually “break-in.”

Still, there are some things we can recommend in this area to help your newly-installed sub (or subs) perform better in the long run.

While some brands claim that you can blast their subs as loud as you want out of the box, we wouldn’t recommend it; giving the spider, the cone, the woofer and the rubber surround time to “break-in” is a good idea…and the simplest way to do this is the best, as we see it.

After your sub is set up, play some bass-heavy music for about two hours a day, but at a low or medium volume level – don’t turn that volume knob way up. When your sub is “broken in,” you should experience harder bass hits and components of the sub itself delivering more than you ask of them.

What’s the Difference Between Single and Dual Voice Coil Subwoofers?

Car subwoofers are manufactured with either a single voice coil (SVC) or dual voice coil (DVC), the difference being that the DVC-equipped sub offers more wiring options to better match and take advantage of the amplifier.

What’s important to note is that a dual voice coil sub doesn’t necessarily perform better than the same subwoofer boasting a single voice coil.

Are Subwoofer Wiring Diagrams Difficult to Understand?

This is not an easy question to answer because there are so many options and variables to take into consideration when wiring up a sound system; if you are a novice installer, wiring diagrams will help you discover the best way to wire your subs and amps in the most straightforward fashion…but, like so many other things in life, some diagrams do it better than others.

How Do I Connect a Subwoofer to a Car Stereo Without an Amp?

The best way to go about this is to purchase a self-powered subwoofer (usually sold in an enclosure); the powered sub connects to your stereo the way an amplifier would as opposed to another kind of speaker.

Remove the stereo from the vehicle’s stereo mounting dock to gain access to the outlets on the stereo’s rear panel, then disconnect the stereo wiring from the unit and reconnect it through a wiring harness adapter. The adapter provides the necessary leads and outlets to connect the signal cable and turn-on lead for the powered sub.

These videos on YouTube can give you an idea of how this is done.

What Do I Need to Know About the Varying Subwoofer Sizes?

It all depends on the kind of bass you’re looking to achieve, and how much room you have in your vehicle.

A smaller eight (8)-inch sub is not going to hit as hard as a massive 15-inch model, but what’s important to know here is that just because a large sub may hit harder, it may not necessarily play cleaner – indeed, we’ve tested some small subs that exuded very clean bass notes while experiencing large ones that spit out somewhat “sloppy” bass.

Vincent Talbot

Last update on 2020-01-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API