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Pump Up the Bass with the Best Car Subwoofer

Subwoofers are specially-designed speakers built to handle extra-low frequencies that make up the ’bass' in music. While not strictly necessary for basic bass reproduction, a good subwoofer goes a long way towards adding that extra low-end punch which is lacking in most factory audio systems.

Car subwoofers are normally installed in 'sealed' or 'ported' enclosures, with each enclosure type offering distinctive playback characteristics. Sealed enclosures generally deliver tight, accurate bass hits while ported enclosures specialize in loudness and low frequency response. Check out our list of the best car subwoofers in 2021 and if you’d like to learn more about the different considerations that go into picking a new car subwoofer, check out our buyer’s guide below.

Comparing the Best Car Subwoofers for 2021

Rockford Fosgate Punch Car Subwoofer - Best Car Subwoofer Overall

Rockford Fosgate's popular 'Punch' line continues to earn our recognition, and the P1S4-12 continues the tradition of combining high performance and a budget-friendly price. The P1S4-12 is downright affordable, and can be found online for less than $100. This particular subwoofer is designed to handle 50-250 watts RMS; output is satisfying, but performance will be best when hooked up to a decent amplifier. The Kevlar-reinforced paper cone ensures accurate output, but the design does ultimately restrict performance when you crank the volume. Overall, the P1S4-12 does a great job of upgrading a factory sound system for those who aren't looking to really push their system hard.

Pioneer 12 In. Champion Series PRO Car Subwoofer - Runner Up

Pioneer's TS-W3002D4 Champion Series PRO subwoofer packs a huge amount of punch into a relatively affordable package - especially when compared to similar-performing subwoofers. Putting out 1,000 watts RMS (with a peak of 3,500 watts), there's no question that a sufficiently powerful amplifier will be required to power this subwoofer. The result is powerful, thundering bass and a crisp, tight sound that is free of distortion - even at extremely low frequencies. The dual 4-ohm voice coils allow for flexibility in your setup, making the relatively reasonable price of the TS-WS3002D4 even more of a good value.

JL Audio 10" Single 4 Ohm Car Subwoofer - Honorable Mention

Unless you're planning on attending SPL competitions, the JL Audio 12W3v3-4 is one of the best subwoofers for everyday use. The W3v3 series strikes the perfect balance between bass output and sound quality - the 12W3v3-4 is capable of vibrating windows and mirrors while delivering spot-on low frequency reproduction. The W3v3 subwoofers don't require monster amplifiers for adequate performance - anywhere from 150-500W RMS is enough to extract substantial bass output. The 12W3v3-4 sounds very different when used in a ported box as opposed to a sealed enclosure, so try to get a live demo of the unit before deciding which is right for you.

Rockford Fosgate Car Subwoofer - Consider

Rockford Fosgate's Power subwoofers are commonplace in car audio competition thanks to their over-the-top performance. The T2D412 carries 'serious' styling which emphasizes the sheer bulk rather than attempting to disguise it. This 12-inch subwoofer has a nearly 'square' profile due to its massive magnet. Power handling is substantial - up to 1200 watts RMS to deliver pounding bass that will flex sheetmetal and rattle loose panels apart. Dual voice coils come standard, and the 4-ohm impedance rating enables versatile installations. Rockford Fosgate recommends using the Power T2D412 with either a sealed or ported enclosure - either setup will yield competition-grade output, so choose which one you like best.

Buyer's Guide

Whether in a vehicle or otherwise, subwoofers are dedicated to handling low frequencies. This leaves the rest to the other speakers, allowing each component to handle what it is best at. Regardless of the type of music you like or the volumes at which you listen to it, a good subwoofer can improve the sound quality and overall listening experience. We’ve put together this car subwoofer buyer’s guide to help clarify the process of choosing the right one for your needs.

Types of Subwoofers

Component Subwoofer

A component subwoofer is the speaker itself. This needs to be mounted inside of an enclosure in order to perform properly as well receiving power from an external amplifier. Component subwoofers can range in size, typically from 8-15 inches. They have a wide variety to choose from when it comes to size, impedance, voice coils, and box installation options. If you’re building a custom system, this is the best choice.

Enclosed Subwoofer

This is a car subwoofer that already comes in an enclosure, but still requires an external amplifier for power. Although this limits you when it comes to the number of speaker and box type choices you’ll have, it makes the process just that bit simpler for those who aren’t concerned with building a custom setup.

Powered Subwoofer

A powered subwoofer is essentially a subwoofer kit that comes with everything you need. This is when you purchase a subwoofer that comes in an enclosure with a built-in amplifier. These subwoofers tend to take up very little space in your car, but offer no real options for customization, and won’t always produce the best bass output possible.

Vehicle-Specific Subwoofers

These subwoofers are designed to fit in certain vehicle models, with the idea in mind of saving as much space as possible. They are often designed to fit in a vehicle-specific unused space, allowing them to be installed without intruding much into the interior room. These aren’t always the best choice when you’re looking for the best performance, but it varies from model to model.

Subwoofer Terminology

Enclosure

Subwoofers require an enclosure in order to move air effectively. An enclosure or “box” allows for air pressure to build, creating stronger sound output. There are two main types of enclosures, sealed and ported. Sealed enclosures tend to deliver more precise and accurate bass while ported enclosures are especially good for high volume performance.

Power

The power of a subwoofer is rated in RMS wattage which measures the amount of power the subwoofer can take before risking damage. The idea is to make sure that the RMS wattage rating of the subwoofer and the RMS wattage of your amplifier (measured in terms of how much power the amp can produce) match each other as closely as possible.

For example, if your subwoofer has a rating of 200 watts, your ideal amplifier would have a power output rating of 200 watts. This ensures the safety and longevity of all of your components.

Impedance

Measured in ohms, impedance refers to the resistance of a circuit to the flow of electricity. Most subwoofers are rated at 4 ohms, but 2-ohm, 8-ohm, and others are becoming more popular. Without needing to understand electrical concepts, just keep in mind that like with the power rating, you want the subwoofer and the amplifier to match as closely as possible.

Voice Coils

Voice coils are what make the subwoofer diaphragm actually move, moving air and creating sound. Subwoofers typically have a single voice coil, but dual voice coil subwoofers are increasing in popularity amongst those seeking wiring flexibility for their custom systems.

Frequency Range

Measured in Hz, frequency range tells you what sort of sounds a subwoofer is capable of producing. The most important number to look at is the low end; the lower the number is, the more the subwoofer can do deep bass.

Size

While most people focus primarily on the size of the car subwoofer, it is not the most important factor to consider. However, after considering the type of subwoofer, the enclosure, and the power that you want, size does come into the picture.

When you have the space, bigger is usually better; however, a correctly-installed small subwoofer can add a tremendous performance upgrade. It’s usually much better to stick with a higher quality subwoofer that is smaller, as opposed to getting the largest you can afford/fit into your vehicle.

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