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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.

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. 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.

JL Audio 12W0v3-4 Subwoofer

Though it's difficult to go wrong with any of the subwoofers offered by JL Audio, the 12W0v3-4 manages to present an exceptionally good combination of performance and value. A compact design and 75-300 watts RMS of power handling provide plenty of performance, and the modest power requirements allow the 12W0v3-4 to put out decent bass without taxing your audio system. While this subwoofer isn't going to be the best or the loudest, it offers superb sound quality and is definitely one of the best buys in this price range.

Rockford Fosgate Punch P1 P1S412 12" Car Subwoofer

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.

Alpine SWS-12D4 12" Dual-Voice-Coil 4-Ohm Subwoofer

Alpine has certainly built up a solid reputation with its Type-S line, and the SWS-12D4 is yet another addition that earns its stripes. Trickle-down technologies from the higher-end Type-R models ensure that the SWS-12D4 punches above its weight, and the details can back up the reputation. The Kevlar-reinforced pulp cone is combined with a Santoprene surround for tight, accurate bass, and the dual voice coils are designed to handle up to 500 watts RMS. For the money, the Alpine SWS-12D4 offers amazing performance with practically zero drawbacks.

Kenwood KFC-W3013PS 12" 4 Ohm Performance Series Car Subwoofer

Kenwood has just about dominated the budget subwoofer market for what seems like an eternity, and the KFC-W3013PS is the latest entrant designed to pick up where its predecessors left off. For starters, the polypropylene cone is paired with a rubber surround to deliver substantial bass, and supports extended cone excursion for added punch. Power handling ranges from 50-400 watts RMS, with a peak of 1200 watts. Given the bargain basement pricing, the KFC-W3013PS is an absolute steal.

Polk Audio AA3125-A MM1240 DVC 12-Inch Subwoofer

Polk Audio's Mobile Monitor series represents a delicate balancing act between top-notch performance and budget-friendly pricing. While the MM1240 does tend to lean more towards the pricier side of things, this subwoofer boasts modern materials in its construction that explain the slightly higher price tag. The polymer cone, carbon composite basket, and butyl rubber surround is pure 21st century, and also carries the effect of certifying this subwoofer for marine use. Despite the heavy-duty design, the MM1240 can handle up to 425 watts RMS, and will survive in just about any condition encountered in a daily driver.

JL Audio 12W7AE-3 12" 3-Ohm Component Subwoofer

For the 10th anniversary of the W7 subwoofer, JL Audio marked this important milestone by discontinuing the W7 lineup. In place of the original W7 is the W7AE, which is identical to the 'regular' W7 with the exception of a few cosmetic modifications. The outlandish performance remains - this massive subwoofer is best suited for hardcore bass junkies or for competition use. The 12W7AE is 'overbuilt' for a good reason - this subwoofer boasts over an inch of excursion, combined with more cone surface area than any comparable 12-inch subwoofer. Bass output is tremendous - when placed in a proper enclosure, even a single 12W7AE can drown out most multi-subwoofer setups that competitors offer. All W7AE models require substantial power for best performance - in this case, JL Audio recommends anywhere from 400-1000W RMS.

Rockford Fosgate T2D412 Subwoofer

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.

JL Audio 12" 600W Dual 4-Ohm Car Subwoofer 12W6v3D4

For most enthusiasts, JL Audio's 12W6v3-D4 checks all the right boxes. While the 12-inch JL Audio 12W6v3-D4 might be pricey, excellent performance makes it worth it for those looking to have the best. Though a subwoofer by JL Audio at any price is unlikely to ever be a bad choice, the 12W6v3-D4 combines some of the top performance the brand offers, while the 600 watts RMS (peak 1,200 watts) delivers plenty of punch without requiring too much from your amplifier. The bass output delivers plenty of punch, and overall sound is clear and accurate. Dual 4-ohm voice coils expand your setup options, and the terminal jumper system allows for easy adjustments to the impedance. Although the power needed for this subwoofer is not considered exorbitantly high, a high-powered amplifier is still recommended to extract the most performance possible.

Kicker 12" Solo-Baric L7 Car Subwoofer 4 OHM DVC 11S12L74

With their distinctive square subwoofers, Kicker has built a reputation for providing high performance at any price. The 12-inch Solo-Baric L7 puts out 750 watts RMS, with a a peak of 1,500 watts. The square shape allows the sub to push more air, making the the Solo-Baric L7 capable of hard hitting bass - even for its size. Sound quality is excellent, although the amount of bass detail versus hammering will depend largely on your particular setup. As with any high-powered subwoofer, an amplifier to match will be required to extract the most performance and avoid any potential damage.

Pioneer TS-W3002D4 12 In. Champion Series PRO Subwoofer

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 12W3v3-4 Subwoofer

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 P3D412 Punch P3 12-Inch 500-Watt Subwoofer

Don't confuse this subwoofer for the P3D412 - the '-' indicates an entirely new model. The P3D4-12 is a 12-inch, 4-ohm subwoofer with dual voice coils, and sits at the top of Rockford Fosgate's midrange 'Punch' lineup. This is not a 'competition' subwoofer like the 'Power' models - instead, the focus is on accurate bass reproduction and controlled bass hits. The P3D4-12 manages to sound powerful without excessive boominess, and resists distortion even at louder volumes. Power handling is rated at 600 watts RMS, so be sure to use a powerful mono- or 2-channel amplifier for full effect.

Alpine SWR-12D2 Subwoofer

Alpine's Type-R subwoofers all offer excellent performance, and the SWR-12D2 is no exception. The dual 2-ohm voice coils offer wiring flexibility as your system changes, and power handling ranges from 300-1000 watts RMS, with 500 watts per coil. The SWR-12D2 is a subwoofer that can put out a lot of volume without distortion, while the Santoprene surround keeps everything accurate and controlled. At such a reasonable price, the Alpine SWR-12D2 offers a great combination of punchy bass and affordability.

Focal Access 30 A1 DB Subwoofer

Focal Access 30 A1 DB Subwoofer

Focal has built up its reputation for top-end audio products, no matter the price tag associated with any particular model. The Access 30 A1 DB may represent an 'entry-level' pick from the Focal subwoofer lineup, but this subwoofer is anything but basic. For starters, the cone material is typical Focal: a woven glass-fiber base is paired with a butyl rubber surround to ensure strength and fidelity, even at higher volumes. The basket is specifically tuned to resist unwanted resonance, and the dual 4-ohm voice coils provide added flexibility with wiring. Power handling ranges from 50-250 watts RMS, and bass output is impressive all-around.

Pioneer TS-W3002D2 12 In. Champion Series PRO Subwoofer

Pioneer has simplified its subwoofer offerings, prioritizing solid performance over everything else. While the TS-W3002D2 may not match up with a competition subwoofer, it boasts enough performance on its own to stand out from the crowd. The injection-molded polypropylene cone base is reinforced with basalt and carbon fiber, giving this subwoofer the ability to push out plenty of bass without distortion. The multi-layer surround controls cone movement well, and the dual voice coils can handle up to 1000 watts RMS combined. Given its attractive price tag, the Pioneer TS-W3002D2 is easily one of the gold standards on the market today.

Buyer's Guide

 

Car Subwoofer 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.

Subwoofer Types

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 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.

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 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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