A car subwoofer is a type of speaker specifically designed to reproduce low-frequency sound, also known as bass. Subwoofers are typically larger in size compared to other speakers in a car audio system and are designed to enhance the overall listening experience by providing a more dynamic and powerful bass response.
A good car subwoofer can take your listening experience to the next level, adding depth and impact to your music. But with so many options on the market, it can be overwhelming to know where to start.
In this guide, we’ll break down everything you need to know about car subwoofers, starting from understanding how subwoofers works, its parts, sizes, package variations, and how to install and set it up for the best possible sound.
How a Car Subwoofer Works
A speaker’s primary challenge is to accurately reproduce low frequencies (bass). Speakers work by forcing air around to create an audible vibration. It also takes a lot of air movement to recreate the deep, resonant bass notes seen in music.
In order to move this much air, speakers for low frequencies tend to be bulkier and more expensive. Due to constraints of size and budget, many factory-installed car speakers are inadequate for bass reproduction. At greater volumes especially, the speakers distort when trying to recreate the bass frequency, limiting the depth and realism of the music.
Subwoofers are a must if you want your car’s audio system to sound complete. They complement the other speakers in your car by providing the low and deep frequencies that are missing.
Anatomy of a Car Subwoofer
The pieces of a subwoofer include the woofer or driver, the cabinet, cone, surround, magnet, and voice coil. The top and bottom plates, spider, basket, and dust cap round up the subwoofer’s components. These parts work together to make deep, rumbling vibrations.
The cone of a subwoofer is joined to the frame via the surround. In a subwoofer, sound waves are generated via rhythmic movements of the cone and the voice coil.
If your subwoofer has ever made a crackling, staticky, popping sound, it’s because you’ve pushed it beyond its capabilities and blown out its cone.
The result is frequently a torn or separated speaker cone that needs replacing. Subwoofer re-coning is possible, but it’s best left to experts. This is one area where inexpensive subwoofers seem to break down. This is especially common in low-quality subwoofers constructed from inexpensive materials. Mid-range and high-end will at times use high-quality materials for their cones like polypropylene and even kevlar. This sort of material can help your subwoofer last for years.
Car Subwoofer Power Handling
What is meant by “power handling” when discussing car subwoofers is the maximum amount of power (in watts) that the subwoofer can safely handle without being harmed. Using an amplifier or head unit that delivers more power than a subwoofer can handle can harm the subwoofer or cause it to create poor-quality music, therefore this is a crucial consideration when making a subwoofer purchase.
The manufacturer normally lists the subwoofer’s power handling on the product’s specs sheet. To get the most out of your subwoofer, you should pair it with an amplifier or head unit that can handle the same amount of power as the subwoofer.
Matching A Subwoofer to an Amplifier
Subwoofers and amplifiers work best when their aggregate RMS wattage is the same. Mismatched RMS power levels between an amplifier and subwoofer might cause irreparable harm to one or the other.
The impedance of your subwoofer is something that is vital to be aware of when you are wiring them to an amplifier. A typical subwoofer will have an impedance of either a single 2 or 4 ohms or a dual 2 or 4 ohms. This page goes into greater detail on the topic of single vs. dual subwoofers, but to summarize: dual subwoofers have two voice coils and can be wired to accommodate either a low or high impedance. Both 1 and 4-ohm wiring are supported by a dual 2-ohm subwoofer, while 2 and 8-ohm wiring are supported by a dual 4-ohm subwoofer.
Check out AmpliFinder, a tried-and-true amplifier finder tool developed by Sonic Electronix, for quick and simple subwoofer amplification research. Simply enter the brand, model, and quantity of your subwoofers, and the app will recommend the most suitable amplifier for your system.
To guide you in wiring your subwoofer to the right amp, here are subwoofer wiring diagrams that will show you the correct and accurate way to connect your subs to your amplifier, which will greatly aid you in setting up the connection pathways for your two audio devices.
Car Subwoofer Sizes
The four most common subwoofer sizes are 8, 10, 12, and 15 inches. As the size of the subwoofer increases, the sound typically gets louder and offers more bass. Car subwoofers come in different sizes for a few reasons:
The size of the subwoofer should match the size of the space where it will be installed. A larger subwoofer may not fit in certain vehicles or may take up too much space in the trunk or cargo area.
Larger subwoofers can typically handle more power, which means they can produce louder and deeper bass. However, a larger subwoofer may not be necessary if the goal is to simply enhance the bass response in a factory sound system.
Different size subwoofers can have different frequency response ranges. Larger subwoofers tend to have a lower frequency response range, which allows them to produce deeper bass. Smaller subwoofers, on the other hand, may have a higher frequency response range and are better suited for reproducing mid-bass frequencies.
Some people prefer a more pronounced bass, while others may prefer a more subtle bass response. The size of the subwoofer can affect the overall bass output, so choosing the right size can depend on the individual’s preference.
Ultimately, the size of the subwoofer depends on the specific needs and preferences of the listener, as well as the space constraints and power handling capabilities of the vehicle.
Here are all the available subwoofer sizes that you can shop now at Sonic Electronix:
15-inch subwoofers are known for their deep and powerful bass. They are often used in competition car audio systems or in setups that need high volume and high SPL (Sound Pressure Level). Because they are big, they tend to have a low-frequency response range, which makes it easy for them to play deep bass notes.
12″ subwoofers are known for being able to make deep and powerful bass while still being smaller and more compact than 15″ subwoofers. They are a good choice for people who want powerful bass but don’t want to give up too much space in their car. They can be installed in sealed, ported, or bandpass enclosures and fit in most vehicles.
10″ subwoofers are known for being able to make deep, powerful bass while still being lightweight and easy to install in most vehicles. They can be put in sealed, ported, or bandpass enclosures and can fit in most vehicles, even if the space is tight.
8″ subwoofers are known as the standard small woofer. They can normally be found in stock sound systems in cars. Because of the small cone area and weight, it is easy for the magnet to move the assembly resulting in accurate bass reproduction.
While a small subwoofer may seem counterintuitive – these speakers are ideal for any sportsman with a motorcycle or UTV/ATV. They’re also known for better frequency fidelity. Small subs are also popular with custom installers who want more options for organizing their sound stage.
Our website also has other subwoofer sizes such as 13″, 18″, and other large sizes. These subwoofers are built with larger magnets and are designed to handle higher amounts of wattage. Large subwoofer sizes provide a large surface for deeper bass, lower frequency response, and a deeper sound.
Car Subwoofer Package Variations
There are several different package variations of car subwoofers available on the market, including:
A component sub comes without any enclosure and is just the speaker or subwoofer itself. This is a good option for someone looking to custom install or create their own box.
Car Subwoofer Boxes
Car subwoofer boxes, also known as subwoofer enclosures or subwoofer cabinets, are specially designed and built structures that house and protect a car subwoofer. They are designed to optimize the performance of the subwoofer by providing the appropriate airspace and volume for the subwoofer to perform optimally.
- Sealed enclosures: also known as acoustic suspension, are airtight enclosures that provide a tight and accurate bass response. They are relatively easy to build and don’t require any special tuning, but require more power to produce the same sound level as a ported or bandpass enclosure.
- Ported enclosures: also known as bass reflex, use a port or vent to increase the efficiency of the subwoofer, by allowing air to move in and out of the enclosure. They tend to produce louder and deeper bass than sealed enclosures, but require a more complex design and tuning.
- Bandpass enclosures: are a combination of sealed and ported enclosures, and use a sealed inner chamber and a ported outer chamber. They are known for producing the most powerful and deepest bass among the three types but are also the most complex and difficult to build.
Loaded & Powered Subwoofer Enclosures
Loaded and powered subwoofer enclosures are a type of car subwoofer system that combines a subwoofer, amplifier, and enclosure in one unit.
Loaded subwoofer enclosures include a subwoofer pre-installed in an enclosure and are powered by an external amplifier. These enclosures are designed to be easy to install, and are a great option for those who want to add a subwoofer to their car audio system, but don’t have the skills or tools to build their own enclosure or install a separate subwoofer and amplifier.
Powered subwoofer enclosures, also known as “self-powered” or “active” subwoofers, include a subwoofer and an amplifier built into one unit. This means that they don’t require an external amplifier to power them, and are a good option for those who want to add a subwoofer to their car audio system, but don’t have an amplifier to power it. These subwoofers are more compact and easy to install.
Both Loaded and Powered subwoofer enclosures are designed to take up minimal space in the vehicle and are tuned to optimize the subwoofer’s performance. They also come with a variety of mounting options, making them easy to install.
Both non-amplified and amplified boxes with subwoofers are available from Sonic Electronix. Subwoofer amplifiers are included in amplified subwoofer enclosure boxes, and vice versa. With these combo kits, you may save a ton of trunk room, especially if you get angled enclosures that are packed with subwoofers. Subs fit snugly inside these boxes behind the seats of your car.
Custom Fit Subwoofer Boxes
If you want to add a subwoofer to your car audio system but lack the knowledge or resources to build your own enclosure, vehicle-specific or custom-fit subwoofer boxes are a wonderful solution. Since they are made to a particular size and shape, they occupy very little room inside the car and are created to properly match the available area.
These subwoofer boxes can be tweaked to maximize the subwoofer’s performance because they are made with consideration for the particular acoustics of the vehicle. They are also simple to install because they include a choice of mounting options.
Installing a Car Subwoofer in Your Car Audio System
Subwoofers are frequently installed as part of a car’s audio system. Adding a new car subwoofer will not only improve the quality and volume of your car audio but will also give your system the deep frequencies and rumbling bass it needs to really stand out. Knowledge of automotive audio systems in general can help you avoid costly and time-consuming excursions to the auto shop and keep your gear functioning properly.
For a full guide on how to install a car subwoofer into your vehicle, refer to this blog. If you need help installing a car subwoofer in an enclosure, watch the video above!