How to Choose the Best Car Subwoofer
Life is a mixture of highs and lows, and so are sonic frequencies. Although we can listen to music using regular speakers alright, everything is more awesome if we can feel our chest thump with it. Which is why we need a subwoofer.
But unlike home subwoofers that are generally played in larger areas, a car subwoofer is used in limited space thus requiring more wattage power, which then impacts impedance, driver size, and so on.
Choosing the best car subwoofer that matches your needs doesn’t have to be rocket science. In fact, you can do the shopping yourself even if you're a complete rookie in the audio world.
I have listed down below the steps in handpicking the best sounding car subwoofer plus I have included pro tips to optimize your choices.
What You Need
Aside from the knowledge of your car and audio systems, a measuring tool such as ruler or tape measure is necessary. I prefer the latter because it’s longer; hence, it can measure wider spaces such as the trunk of your car.
You may use your hand, but I highly advise against it. In installing a subwoofer, you need accuracy for a deep, clean bass.
Other than the measuring tool, you also need knowledge about car subwoofers, which I would gladly share with you.
And oh, someone to cheer you up is not a bad idea at all!
Choosing the Best Car Subwoofer
1./ Know Your Driver
Are you merely replacing a factory sub? Then you need a component sub. Here are some car subwoofer specs you have to consider.
Car subwoofers are typically 8 inches, 10 inches, 12 inches, and 15 inches. If you don’t know the size of your car’s original sub driver (how did you get a car in the first place?), use your tape measure to find out.
Obviously, bigger drivers mean more bass but do not underrate the ability of a smaller sub. Once it’s paired with the right amplifier and enclosure, it may be able to hit lows and boom out loud better than you expect.
But if you’re after annoying the cars right next to you (or getting the attention of other people, to say it nicely) at the stoplight, get either a 12 or 15-inch sub. It will make all chests a pounding while waiting for the green light.
Pro tip: For a window-rattling bass without feeling overpowered, get a 12-inch sub in a ported or bandpass enclosure.
B./ Voice Coil
Next is deciding whether to get a single voice coil or a dual one. Performance-wise, these two are not different. One won’t be as loud as the other. However, a DVC has the upper hand in terms of wiring flexibility.
Pro tip: If you are planning to hook up another sub to your amp, get a DVC.
More power means more boom for your sub. But don’t be tricked by the Max power car subwoofer dealers are advertising. Instead, focus on the continuous power it can handle, also labeled the RMS.
For example, if the subwoofer is advertised to have a peak or max power of 1100 W and an RMS of 600 W, this means the sub can still operate even at 1100 W. However, that doesn’t mean it can do so continuously. It merely indicates that 1100 W is the maximum power it can handle before your sub turns into a barbecue.
Pro tip: Don’t forget the power your amp can supply. These two should always match.
D./ Frequency Range
How low a sub can play depends on this factor. But how accurate and how loud it can play the lows depend on the enclosure. In general, subwoofers can play 20-200 Hz although some recommend an optimal frequency range.
Pro tip: Choose a drive with large diameters and high excursion capabilities if you always play music with frequencies nearer to zero.
Low sensitivity means more power required to get the output you want. And more power translates to more chances of heat not being produced as sound. When this happens, overheating transpires.
Pro tip: Find a driver whose sensitivity is from 89 to 95 dB.
Although 4 ohms is the most common impedance for subwoofers, this does not mean it’s better than the 2 or 8 ohms. It still depends on the amplifier that can match up with these numbers.
Pro tip: If you’re planning to hook up more than one subwoofer to your amp, make sure the latter can handle the impedance and power of both subs.
If a replacement subwoofer is the only thing missing, your reading time ends here. Once you have chosen the driver size and the brand, you may install it where it belongs. Bye bye! Otherwise, proceed to number 2.
2./ Find a Space
After choosing the sub size that fits your preferences, the next thing you have to do is find a free space in your car where you’ll put it.
Pro tip: I highly recommend placing your sub under your seat (if you are the driver) so that you can feel every boom and thump.
Using your tape measure again, measure the dimensions of the space under the driver’s seat. Get the height, width, and length.
If you prefer to place it in the trunk, measure the depth, width, and height.
3./ Box It
Now that you know the size of where you are planning to place it, the next step is to find an enclosure that fits the sub driver perfectly and optimizes its ability to thump.
In getting an enclosure, you may choose to build it yourself or buy a pre-made one. Each has its advantage and, of course, disadvantage.
If you really want your sub to reflect you, build your enclosure. But of course, you have to spend a lot of time, effort, and patience. If you don’t have any of these, buy the ready-to-use sub enclosure. But it may take time to find one that matches your taste.
In case you don’t have the time to do the driver-enclosure matching, you may get an enclosed car subwoofer. All you need is to find a matching amp and you’re ready to fire it up.
If getting a separate amp is out of the question due to space limitations, get a powered sub. It has the subwoofer driver, amplifier, enclosure, and what not all in one box. All that’s left for you is to hook it up to the rest of your audio system and you can start seeing your car windows rattle.
Pro tip: Each driver size has its recommended enclosure size. Follow it to the letter. Also, if tight, accurate bass is what you’re after, get a sealed enclosure. If the volume is what matters more, get a ported or bandpass one.
4./ Buy It
For the sake of simplicity, get your money, go to the store and buy your preferred sub. Otherwise, there’s Amazon.
5./ Install It
When your packaged has arrived, read the installation manual and you’re done.
6./ Test It and Enjoy
No description necessary.
Choosing the best car subwoofer is not a matter of life and death (unless it’s your bread and butter). All you need is just some research and the courage to accept that it’s going to be a trial and error, even when it’s not your first time.
But once you get the best subwoofer for your car, the perfect fit, your heart will literally go boom boom powing with it!