One of the things that could greatly improve your enjoyment of your car is a good sound system. Road trips and even just cruising through the city can be infinitely more enjoyable if you can hear thumping sounds from the best powered car subwoofers.
However, these things aren’t cheap – or at least, the good ones aren’t. Prices could range from $100 to $300, and even more so it’s not a good idea to just buy one at random. That’s why we created a guide here that includes key things to look out for and the best ones on the market right now.
Table of Contents
- The Powered Subwoofers We Recommend
- Benefits of Installing A Powered Subwoofer
- What To Look For In Powered Subwoofers
The Powered Subwoofers We Recommend
Rockford Fosgate P300-12
RMS: 300 watts
Peak Power: 600 watts
Frequency: 35 – 150 Hz
Impedance: 2 ohm
The Rockford Fosgate is our top overall choice in our list of best powered car subwoofers. It’s a banging all-in-one solution: you just need to run power, ground, and of course, the signal from the source, and you’re good to go.
The Rockford Fosgate P300 (full review) 12 features a 12-inch woofer and sealed enclosure to produce clean, sharp, hard-hitting sound.
It’s cost-effective because it already comes with a built-in woofer, amplifier, and enclosure, so there’s no need to buy each individually. It also saves you the time in dealing with matching wiring and power specs. In fact, it features a closed-loop design right out of the box, for optimal performance between the three components.
Its easy plug and play installation will make even amateurs look like a pro. The exterior is scratch-resistant.
The audio performance of the Fosgate is tight. It has a booming bass sound that fits well in the mix. Another impressive feature is the sheer size of its bass. It is designed to call attention with its ground shattering high power output and built-in EQ boost bass.
The frequency response is a bit disappointing which bottoms only at 35 Hz. A human ear can bottom at 20 Hz while the lowest note on a piano is 27 Hz. Somehow, a 35-Hz bottom for a 12-inch subwoofer such as Fosgate P300 12 does not seem to fit right.
It has a thermal overload and short-circuits features so the minute your subwoofer heats up, it stops working.
Although the Fosgate P300 only has five controls, it is more than enough to control to tune the subwoofer to your preference. The adjustable knob allows you to change the bass levels to your liking.
RMS: 350 watts
Peak Power: 1300 watts
Frequency: 20 – 125 Hz
Impedance: 1 ohm
The Pioneer TS0WX1210A (full review) is our pick for the best in value for powered subwoofers. It has a 12-inch woofer sealed in a carpeted enclosure.
It is rated at 350 watts of RMS, which is quite above average. But, do not let this rating be a consideration in purchasing this subwoofer since it is actually lower than what the subwoofer can actually produce given the hardware in it.
Its 20-amp fuse and 16 gauge power wires make it impossible for the subwoofer to function without melting the wires. To prevent this, Pioneer limits power input at a maximum of 13 amps at 14.4 volts that equates to a third of the specified RMS.
It cannot give you the deepest booming bass that more expensive models can, but you will get bass that has great sound clarity. This is thanks to its high sensitivity rating of 114db and an average frequency of 30Hz, which both are beyond the average that you would want from a subwoofer.
The Pioneer TS0WX1210A comes in a solidly built enclosure with a clean carpet fabric. At its size of 11×20.8×15 inches, it can easily fit cars with limited space without eating up space for cargo. It is even stable enough that you do not have to bolt it down to stay in place.
Bass output can easily be controlled with the remote control knob. You can also adjust LPF, phase control, and bass boost on the subwoofer’s control panel as well.
RMS: 300 watts
Peak Power: 1200 watts
Impedance: 4 ohms
The Rockville RWS12CA is housed in a slim composite pulp cone reinforced with Kevlar. It has a top depth of 4.37 inches and a bottom depth of 6.65 inches so you can easily fit it in your car without taking up much space. You can place it in your trunk or hide it under the back seat. Since it looks quite nice, you can even place it behind the driver’s seat.
If you’re loking for some underseat options see our other review.
It gives a strong and deep bass that you would not expect with how thin it looks. The bass quality and depth are also great for its price range. But, do not expect this sub to give the feel of a subwoofer with a bigger enclosure. Most users find it sounds better if the woofers face forward or towards those listening to the music.
It can be difficult to install it if this is your first time installing a subwoofer in your car. But, with enough familiarity, most would find it easy to install in their vehicle.
The Rockville RWS12CA is a subwoofer for those who would rather not build their own custom box to fit into their vehicles the way they like to. It can easily fit in limited spaces. So, if you are looking to save time and money from a custom subwoofer for your car, you might want to consider this one as an option. For a fraction of the price you would pay for a customized subwoofer, you are getting one with a warranty that is ready to wire and install into your vehicle’s sound system.
Sound Ordnance B-8P
RMS: 80 watts
Peak Power: 1600 watts
Frequency: 46 – 150 Hz
Although it is only an 8-inch subwoofer, it has a bass comparable to subwoofers in the 10 and 12-inch range. It would not rumble your vehicle or win your system sound competitions. But it definitely fills the lower channels of audio coming out of your sound system. It does not even need your head unit to crank the bass up to the maximum for great bass.
This sound quality is credited to the enclosure’s construction material. The Sound Ordnance 8-BP uses a polypropylene cone, stamped steel basket, and treated foam surround.
It is 14 7/8 inches in width and 11 1/8 inches in height. It has a top depth of 10 1/8 inches and a bottom depth of 14 7/8. This small footprint makes it a good subwoofer for hatchbacks or other smaller vehicles, and owners that only have a small allotted space for a subwoofer.
Since it has a built-in amplifier, the Sound Ordnance B-8P is a great subwoofer for those new to customizing their car’s sound system. This also makes it great for those that simply want better bass in their audio since it can work well with a vehicle’s stock system.
JL Audio ACP110LG-TW1
RMS: 400 watts
Frequency: 50 – 200 Hz
Impedance: 0.25 ohms
This is the one you have to get if you want the best powered subwoofer for your car audio system. The JL Audio gives out a powerful bass with 400 watts of RMS rating with a minimum impedance of 0.25 ohms.
The subwoofer comes with its own DCD Class D amplifier. It has a patented concentric tube architecture and floating cone attach method technology. It is enclosed in a rubber-surrounded box measuring at 13.50 inches tall, 21 inches wide, and 6.625 inches deep.
It can deliver bass sounds close to studio-quality despite its small size. The bass quality is clear, clean, and deep. The subwoofer can make you feel the bass and low pitch horns even if you are listening to classical music. If you play hip-hop music with this subwoofer, your car will shake and the sound would not even sound distorted.
You can use it as is by just installing it into your stock audio system. But, it sounds even better with a sound system with a head unit and aftermarket speakers.
Do not let the price of JL Audio ACP110LG-TW1 fool you. It might be half the cost of other high-end subwoofer options in the market. But, it delivers better bass compared to some subwoofers twice its price.
Benefits of Installing A Powered Subwoofer
Your driving and audio experience takes on a new level with the use of the right subwoofer.
Incredible Listening Experience
It can perfectly simulate all the low-frequency notes. It can play music loudly without distortion. It even blends smoothly with full-range speakers.
It gives the sound a feeling of realism and depth that a regular speaker cannot deliver. You can feel the lowest notes and their vibrations, giving you a fuller experience of the sounds.
There are generally two kinds of car subwoofers: (1) passive subwoofers, which are powered by an external amplifier just like the regular speakers and (2) powered subwoofers, which has an amplifier/speaker configuration so both amplifier and subwoofer are housed in the same enclosure and are optimized to produce the best sound together.
Powered subwoofers are easier to install than passive subwoofers because everything comes in a single unit. All you have to do is connect the speakers to the pre-outs of the stereo and then connect the ground and power cables to the fuse box or the battery. There’s no need to worry about matching impedance.
Cheaper than Passive Subwoofers
The thing that makes passive subwoofers expensive is the installation costs. You may need professionals to install them in your car while with powered subwoofers, you only need a screwdriver.
What To Look For In Powered Subwoofers
You’re going to want a subwoofer with plenty of power if you want booming bass. Take a look at the RMS rating of the powered subwoofer you’re considering to buy. RMS measures continuous power output, as opposed to the peak power ratings.
Many audiophiles will tell you that if there’s ever one single spec you should be looking at when buying audio equipment such as speakers, soundbars and subwoofers, it’s the sensitivity. It’s an indicator of how much volume the speaker can produce given a specific amount of power. The higher the sensitivity, the less the power required to produce sound at a specific level.
Many powered subwoofer manufacturers generally do not indicate sensitivity though because they’re trying to tell the market that only the power rating is important. However, power rating can be meaningless if the unit is made by an unreliable manufacturer who equipped the speaker with a poor power supply.
It helps to know the sensitivity rating because the amplifier power rating doesn’t indicate just how loud a subwoofer can play unless you the sensitivity rating of the speaker drivers. Finally, if the amplifier does generate enough power, you wouldn’t know if the speaker driver can handle them if you don’t have the necessary info.
The subwoofer’s frequency range indicates just how low it can play, which is important because you’re buying it for that bass drop. A good frequency range can reproduce sounds evenly. However, note that this is also affected by other variables such as the type of enclosure.
The type of box the speaker is housed in has a significant effect on audio performances. There are numerous types of enclosures (see the 12-inch enclosures we recommend) . The two most commonly used types of the enclosure are the sealed enclosure and the ported/vented enclosure.
Sealed enclosures tend to produce the deepest, most precise sounds. They’re also the smallest so they’re a good choice if space is an issue. It provides high power handling and a smooth roll-off of 12 dB /octave. However, it has lower efficiency compared to other designs. Ported enclosures tend to produce more volume and reduced distortion. However, the roll-off can be steep at 24db/octave.
The design of the voice coil is important. These are coils of wire attached to the peak of the loudspeaker cone, and the current that passes through these provides the movement and vibration that triggers a reaction from the cone that causes the sound waves to be released from the subwoofer. A good voice coil helps produce quality sound.
Impedance is measured in ohms and it refers to the difficulty at which the speaker can be powered. The lower the rating, the more efficient the subwoofer is at allowing electrical signals – which is basically the sound – to pass through.
This is important because amplifiers need to deliver adequate current to the subwoofer and if the power isn’t enough, the sound quality will suffer. Powered subwoofers come with their own amplifiers so you won’t have to worry about this too much. Besides, all of the subwoofers in our best-of list have low impedance ratings.
Last update on 2020-11-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API