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Car Subwoofer Buying Guide – External and Internal Factors to Choose

You have landed on the right page. We have the ultimate car subwoofer buying guide, which is enough to answer all your queries.

If you are wondering whether you should buy a subwoofer or want to know how to choose a subwoofer for your car, then we have your back. We will be delving into all sorts of buying factors. 

For ease of your understanding, we have divided the article into two portions–external and internal factors. First, we will be looking at the external factors to help you decide what you should really look for and narrow down the list. Then, we will talk about the internal factors to make you familiar with the sub’s specifications and what they mean.

Now, let us dive straight into the External Factors.

Choosing the correct subwoofer for your car is an important choice that can significantly improve your audio experience. In order to achieve that purpose, the sub must first blend with your in-car environment.

These are the things that you will need to decide just by looking at your car and installation space.

Subwoofer Size

Selecting the ideal car subwoofer size for your vehicle is a crucial step in enhancing your audio experience.

Firstly, understand that subwoofers primarily come in sizes ranging from 8 inches to 15 inches. Each size offers distinct advantages and characteristics, and your choice should align with your listening habits and the space available in your car.

Consider Subwoofer Size before you buy

Remember, the larger the subwoofer, the more space it will take up in your car, and the sound it produces will have a deeper and more voluminous bass. On the contrary, smaller subs are more responsive and precise with their sound.

Let’s look into the available choices with a focus on your specific needs and preferences.

8-inch Subwoofers

For music like rock or heavy metal that demands quick, sharp bass, an 8-inch subwoofer is perfect. These subs are compact and offer tight, punchy bass.

10-inch Subwoofers

A 10-inch subwoofer adds depth while maintaining responsiveness. This sub is a good all-rounder, suitable for various genres from pop to rock.

12-inch Subwoofers

The 12-inch subwoofer is a popular choice, balancing responsiveness and deep bass. It's versatile enough for electronic, hip-hop, or jazz, providing rich, immersive bass.

15-inch Subwoofers

A 15-inch subwoofer is for those who love deep, resonant bass, especially in hip-hop, EDM, or R&B. These larger subs produce powerful bass but require more space and might be less snappy than smaller ones.

"It’s not just about fitting the subwoofer itself; you also need to consider the size of the enclosure that it requires. That takes us to our next factor."

Car Subwoofer Boxes and Enclosures

Choosing the right car subwoofer enclosure is crucial for the best audio experience in your vehicle.

Here's a straightforward guide to help you understand the different types of enclosures and which one might be best for you.

Car Subwoofers Boxes and Enclosures

Sealed Enclosures:

These are completely closed boxes that house the subwoofer. The design ensures that the bass sound is clear and precise. If you prefer listening to music where the accuracy of the bass is important, like classical or rock music, sealed enclosures are a good choice. They don't produce the loudest bass, but the quality of the sound is high.

Ported Enclosures:

These have a hole or a port, which allows more air movement. This design makes the bass sound louder and deeper. If you enjoy music genres like hip-hop or electronic dance music, where a strong bass is key, a ported enclosure will suit your needs. Keep in mind that these are larger than sealed enclosures, so you'll need to make sure you have enough space in your car.

Bandpass Enclosures:

They are a bit more complex. They combine the features of sealed and ported enclosures. The subwoofer is enclosed in a box with a sealed section and a ported section. This type of enclosure is great for producing very deep bass. However, it's not as versatile for different types of music. Bandpass enclosures are also quite large and can take up a significant amount of space.

Vehicle-specific Enclosures:

If your car has limited space, you might consider vehicle-specific enclosures. These are designed to fit specific car models and usually fit into smaller spaces like under the seats. They blend well with your car's interior but might not produce as powerful a bass as the larger enclosures.

"Your choice of subwoofer enclosure should be based on the type of music you enjoy, the amount of space available in your car, and the level of bass you're looking for. Each type of enclosure offers a different sound experience, so choose the one that aligns best with your preferences."

Positioning Your Subwoofer in the Car

When you're thinking about where to put your subwoofer, it's like finding the perfect spot in your living room for your favorite chair. You want it to enhance your experience, not be in the way. Here's how you can figure out the best spot:

In the Trunk:

This is a classic choice. Imagine it as the back row in a theater. It fills your car with rich bass, but because it's farther from you, the sound might need a bit more power to be fully appreciated. If you listen to bass-heavy music and want that concert-like feel, this is your go-to spot.

Under the Seat:

If your car is more like a cozy nook than a concert hall, consider tucking your subwoofer under a seat. It's like having a speaker right beside you, giving a more immediate and direct sound experience. But remember, you're working with limited space here, so you'll need a smaller subwoofer.

Custom Locations:

Some people like to get creative, placing their subwoofers in custom spots, like the sides of the car or even the dashboard. Think of this as tailoring your space to fit your style. It requires more work but can give you a unique blend of aesthetics and sound.

Consider Subwoofer Types

After you have decided on the rest of the external factors, you will have to decide the type of sub you would like to have.

As like any other speaker, there are many types of car subwoofers, and it can be tiring to understand their differences. Let's see some basic types of car subs that you might need:

Consider Subwoofer type before you get

1. Passive Subwoofers: These need to be amplified externally. The speaker size and the amplifier's wattage have to match.

2. Active Subwoofers: These require an AC power source and a built-in amplifier, generally recommended for cars because of their power and control.

3. Ported Subwoofers: These are ideal for people who love deep bass since they contain an additional port or hole that lets air escape and contributes to a richer, more resonant bass.

4. Sealed Cabinet Subwoofers: These are often referred to as sealed cabinets because they confine sound inside a sealed enclosure and lack a port or passive radiator.

5. Bandpass Subwoofers: These feature two chambers for precise bass level control within certain frequencies.

6. Horn Loaded Subwoofers: These are known for more directional sound, louder, and are ideal for large areas.

"To your knowledge, these are only the tip of the iceberg, and there is more to know. As it is a lengthy discussion, we recommend you read the "Types of Car Subwoofers – Classified Explanation" once you are done understanding how to buy a subwoofer."

Internal Factors - Know Your Subwoofer’s Specifications

There are a lot of factors that go into a subwoofer, which are the main determinants of how a sub will deliver its performance. These factors do not rely on your vehicle but on your musical taste and sole preference. Let's have a look at them.

Power Handling and Voice Coils

You have to look for a subwoofer with power handling (RMS rating) that matches your amplifier's output. Make sure the amplifier can handle the power while checking the subwoofer power. The higher the sensitivity of the subwoofer, the less power a subwoofer will need to produce the same volume compared to the subwoofer with a lower sensitivity rate.

At the very upper front of a subwoofer's speaker cone is the voice coil. Eithera dual voice coil (DVC) or a single voice coil (SVC) is found in subwoofers. The sole distinction is that there are two coils in a DVC subwoofer, which translates to an additional cable for additional amplifier connection possibilities.

Sensitivity

Sensitivity plays a major role in deciding the power and efficiency of a subwoofer. A subwoofer with more sensitivity will need less power to provide a loud sound. On the other hand, a low sensitivity will make the subwoofer want more power to attain higher volumes. The standard unit measurement of sensitivity is 1 Watt/1 meter.

Sensitivity ratings typically fall between 85 and 92 dB. Anything below 85dB is considered low, and anything above 92dB is considered good. You may think of 88 dB as the standard sensitivity. This means that at 1 watt of power and 1 m distance, you get 88dB sound pressure. With a certain level of amplifier power in your car's audio system, the speaker will sound louder with higher sensitivity.

Sound Pressure Level and Sound Quality

Sound pressure level, the boom in the subwoofer, is significantly easier to measure than sound quality. A louder speaker has a greater sound pressure level. It is usually better to discuss sound quality in a car subwoofer, even though there isn't any precise specification that defines sound quality. By restoring the original sound of the song, a sound quality system seeks to highlight the vocal quality and certain frequencies.

Frequency Range

It is important to consider the cross-frequency, the point at which the subwoofer starts producing higher frequencies than other speakers in the system. Low-frequency subwoofers often work decently in the 40–80 Hz range. For mid-range speakers, a crossover frequency in the range of 80 to 120 Hz is usually ideal. You may select a frequency range of 20 to 120 Hz, depending on your preference for bass, the size of the subwoofer, the acoustics of the car, and the capabilities of the other speakers in the system.

Impedance

Impedance is the amount of electrical resistance the speaker has. The unit of measurement is ohms. The lower the impedance in ohms, the more power the speaker will draw from the amplifier. Most subs have impedance ratings of either 2 or 4 ohms. When utilizing just one or two subs, matching impedance with amps is also really easy.

Yet the more installed subs there are, the harder it gets. You have to make sure that the impedance of the subwoofer matches that of your car's audio system. Typically, 2-ohms, 5-ohms, 8-ohms, and dual voice coil are used for optimal performance.

Wrapping Up

Selecting the right subwoofer involves finding a balance between installation needs, cost, vehicle compatibility and sound quality. Investing in a car subwoofer is an important step for enhancing your car’s audio experience. After following this subwoofer buying guide, we are sure you will make a great choice that improves your driving experience with deep, punchy bass and ultimately raises your enjoyment of music while driving.

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