Every car has a different acoustical landscape. Achieving an excellent car audio experience can be a challenge. If you want the best car audio possible, you need a car subwoofer. The low-end bass within your music is the most difficult frequency range for a speaker to reproduce accurately because of the amount of air the woofer has to move. For example, a 20Hz frequency has a wavelength of 56 feet. Your small car speakers simply aren't capable of reproducing such wavelengths. It doesn't matter what type of car you own – adding a subwoofer is the easiest way to dramatically improve your commute's playlist.
With the best car subwoofers, you feel the music as much as hear it. Your car speakers can better focus on the easier and more detailed midrange and high-range frequencies. You'll think you're at a live concert even when you're flying down the freeway. Pioneer Champion, Infinity Reference and JBL GTO are some of the best car subwoofer brands on the market because they combine high-quality low-end audio with efficient power handling. To learn more, read our articles about car subwoofers.
Car subwoofers are large speakers. Some woofers have diameters ranging from 8 inches to 15 inches. The bigger the subwoofer, the lower the frequency range. However, size doesn't always equate to accurate reproduction. The 10-inch subwoofers and 12-inch subwoofers are the most popular size among car audio enthusiasts because they can easily reach the 20Hz basement of human hearing and don't require as much power as the 15-inch subwoofers.
Adding a car subwoofer to your car audio means you have to pay close attention to the power handling ratings. Subwoofers require much more power to operate than your car speakers do because of the amount of air they have to move. You also need to consider the type of enclosure you want to install it on, because most automobiles don't have a pre-made mount for a subwoofer. The type of enclosure you choose determines the type of bass you hear.
Below are the criteria you'll want to consider when choosing the best car subwoofer.
The best car subwoofers don't just provide bigger bass, they enhance the overall audio. Every song you have on your playlist should sound full and round without overpowering all the other frequencies – your playlist is worthless if you can't hear the vocals over the bass.
Since the subwoofer is designed specifically for the bass frequencies – the punch of the kick drum, the thunder of the bass, the overall fullness and body of the audio – the frequency response should reach as low as possible. The best subwoofers can reach 20Hz, which is as low as a human can hear. Higher frequency responses aren't as important because the car speakers perform these frequencies better.
Power Handling Performance
The most important power-handling rating is sensitivity, which measures a subwoofer's efficiency. Sensitivity ratings indicate the decibel output at one meter from the subwoofer using 1 watt of power. It's important to note that the amount of power needed to produce the same volume decreases by half with every 3dB increase in sensitivity. For example, a sub with 90dB sensitivity would need 100 watts to produce the same decibel output of a 96dB subwoofer using only 25 watts.
The continuous power-handling rating is the next most important feature. This shows how much power a subwoofer can handle for a continuous amount of time without experiencing distortion or damage. The peak power handling indicates the maximum amount of power a subwoofer can handle for short bursts – typically the crescendo of a song. The best car subwoofers can handle a lot of power very efficiently, which equates to window-rattling playlists.
Unlike car speakers, which you can easily install into the mounting brackets in the car, subwoofers require an enclosure box. You can build your own box, customizing it to the contours of your trunk or back seat, or you can buy pre-made enclosures. The type of enclosure you choose determines the type of bass you hear.
A sealed enclosure box is ideal for clear, highly accurate low-end bass with no distortion – the best type of enclosure if you want to hear well-defined bass lines and round low end. A sealed enclosure provides the most accurate audio because the interior air pressure of the enclosure and the outer atmosphere stabilizes the woofer as it moves the air. This stabilization means that the woofer moves as little as possible to create the sound waves, which leads to less distortion. Sealed enclosures require fewer cubic feet but more power.
A ported enclosure is ideal for punchy, thunderous low-end audio. If you want your playlist to sound thick and heavy, a ported enclosure is the way to go. The hole, or port, in the enclosure allows the woofer to move more freely. The woofer can literally punch the air. While it requires less power and sounds bigger than a sealed enclosure, its low-end is inherently distorted, which is ideal for some genres.
Help & Support
The industry standard for subwoofer warranties is one year. However, some car subwoofers have five-year warranties. Since installing a subwoofer is no easy task, you should consider the phone and email contact options, the FAQs page and the user forums. You want as much help as you can get to ensure that your road trips sound fantastic.
If you want to look forward to the playlist on your daily commute or your next big road trip, you need to add a subwoofer to your car audio experience. Without a car subwoofer, you simply won't experience the best audio your music has to offer.