Guide to Choosing a Subwoofer For Your Car

Choosing The Right Subwoofer For Your Car - Guide - Featured Image

Car audio is a bewildering field if you don’t know what you’re looking for.

There’s no clear-cut answer to buying the best subwoofer for your car since there are so many variables and everyone has different requirements.

We’ll round out today with some core factors you should consider if you want the most fitting sub for your needs and your budget.

What To Consider When Choosing A Subwoofer

1. Wattage and Power

Front and center, you need to think about the wattage of the sub you have in mind. Since bass calls for lots of energy, more wattage provides that energy regardless of the volume.

RMS (continuous) power ratings relate to the overall power at a reasonable volume.

Peak (dynamic) power is the loudest your sub will go.

Focus on RMS and look for a subwoofer with a nice, broad wattage range between RMS and peak power while going for as many watts as your budget allows. Following this rule of thumb will yield you a tight, clear sound at whatever volume you choose to crank out your tunes.

A word of warning: Make sure you match the power of the subwoofer to the capability of your amplifier. Shooting for a high RMS value is futile unless the power of your amp matches or outflanks this.

2. Size

Size will always be a determining factor with subwoofers.

As mentioned, to kick out low-frequency sounds, you’ll need plenty of energy. While other elements like the amp powering your driver come into play, size matters with subs.

Smaller subwoofers can still deliver a reasonable sound but for that pulsing low-end bass, shoot for 12” and above.

If your most important metrics are loud and low, buy the biggest sub you can afford that will fit in your car.

With the right enclosure and sufficient power, though, smaller subs are still capable of serving up ample sound.

3. Sensitivity

Subs with high sensitivity ratings need less power to produce the same quantity of sound as you would require with models packing lower sensitivity ratings.

Sensitivity is expressed in terms of an SPL (sound pressure level) number.

When you’re thinking about overall output, sensitivity should not be underestimated.

4. Frequency

Frequency relates to the range of sounds your chosen unit will produce.

In general, you should angle for a sub on the lower end of this scale.

That said, factors such as the enclosure can also shape the sounds that reach your ears so actual results can vary.

5. Ported or Sealed?

  • Ported Subwoofers: These subs promote the free flow of air thanks to openings in the cabinet
  • Sealed Subwoofers: As the name suggests, sealed subs come in enclosed cabinets

Don’t underestimate the role of the enclosure in the overall sound.

Ported subs will give more volume without such a deep bass sound.

For a rich bass with impressive depth and accuracy, sealed enclosures work a treat.

6. Powered or Passive?

Powered subwoofers have inbuilt amps so you save some space while sacrificing some strength of sound, particularly at the lower end. For mid-range frequencies, powered subwoofers are highly effective. Powered subs save you fussing around since you won’t need to concern yourself with matching the properties of the sub and amp.

Passive subwoofers or drivers are basic units within an enclosure. You’ll need an appropriate external amp. Extreme bass calls for more power to reproduce lower frequency sounds. For this reason, you’ll need to ensure your amp is man enough for the job.

7. Materials

The material of both the surrounds and the cone will not only impact upon sound quality but also durability.

Avoid paper cones or urethane surrounds. Most cone material except paper is fit for purpose while rubber surrounds perform strongly.

8. Installation and Placement

Since most vehicles are not equipped with a suitable pre-mount to securely house a subwoofer, you can buy a complete kit which comes with the sub and enclosure along with the mounting brackets.

If you’re practical and creative, you can build your own enclosure from pressed fiberboard.

As with all elements of this buying decision, you need to choose what works best for you. There’s no right or wrong answer.

Backseat placement might give you a true rush of air but this comes at the cost of passenger seating.

Pop your sub in the trunk and you’ll free up passenger seating in the back while losing out on luggage space. Trunk placement can also lead to some muffling of sound but this is certainly not a deal-breaker.

In Conclusion

Getting the best subwoofer for your car is not rocket science but it does demand a little effort and time researching if you want the most effective solution for your needs.

Pay attention to some of the above advice, take a while to do your due diligence and getting the most effective sub should follow naturally.

Pop back soon for more car-related hints along with plenty of unbiased reviews so you can deck out your ride in fine style.

Brett Gordon

The engine behind editing at DigMyRide and the brains behind its build. During the day, Brett is a thirty-something dude from SoCal climbing the corporate ladder, but by night, he spends his time contributing to the online world of automotive tech & trends.