There's No Substitute For Great Bass

Adding a subwoofer to your factory system


Todd Cabell

Todd Cabell is the Senior Director of E-Commerce at Crutchfield. He drives a 2000 Ford F-150 with an Alpine stereo in the dash, Polk/MOMO speakers, a Rockford Fosgate amplifier, and an MTX Thunderform under the rear seat. He hopes to one day outfit his 1962 Mercury Comet with a worthy sound system as well.

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Putting some funk in your trunk can be as easy as adding a powered sub.

There's just no substitute for the kind of impact a subwoofer can add to your music. A typical factory speaker system may consist of a couple of 3-1/2" or 4" speakers up front, and perhaps some larger 6-1/2" speakers in the rear. These speakers are generally poorly-constructed, cardboard and foam drivers that have a hard time just producing mids and highs. As for deep bass response, well, forget about it — full-range speakers, even high quality, aftermarket models, simply aren't designed to move the large amounts of air that creates bass with impact.

Subs add power and richness to all types of music, whether jazz is your bag, or you get freaky with the old-school rap. But some folks are wary of undertaking a major subwoofer installation in their car, either because they lease their vehicle, or because they are looking to sell their car in the not too distant future. Fortunately, there are plenty of affordable options for adding a subwoofer to your factory system that do not require permanent modifications to your car. Here's a look at a few.
Powered subwoofers
These ready-made subwoofer systems come housed in their own, custom-designed enclosures, complete with a built-in amplifier that's a perfect match for the sub. Powered subs are compact, so it's relatively easy to find an unobtrusive place to mount them. These tiny little bass machines are some of the most popular sub products out there, and manufacturers have approached the design challenge of producing big bass from a small package in a number of interesting ways. Let's look at a few:

Bazooka Bass Tubes®
The original "bass in a tube," Bazooka revolutionized car stereo with the introduction of their Bass Tubes® in 1984, and haven't looked back since. These highly efficient bass-blasters project a big sound from their ported design. They fit in a variety of places, but will give you maximum output when angled in a corner in the trunk. Bass Tubes® come in both powered and non-powered versions. These tubes offer "auto turn-on," a convenient feature that turns on the tube when it senses incoming music — saving you from having to run a turn-on lead during installation.

Infinity BassLink
Infinity's BassLink combines a 10" sub with a 10" passive radiator and a 200-watt Class D amp to produce powerful bass. Stow this powered sub in your trunk — the BassLink takes up less than one cubic foot of space and may be mounted vertically or horizontally — and use the included wired remote to dial-in the bass level.

Kenwood WooX
Talk about great bass from a small space! Kenwood's ingenious WooX system takes up just 0.34 cubic feet of space, so you can put it just about anywhere. The 5-1/4" woofer drives a 6-1/2" passive radiator, generating solid low-end output. Throw it under the passenger seat and use the included wired remote to control the bass gain.

Installing a powered sub
Powered subs include mounting brackets or straps for securing them inside your vehicle, as well as speaker-level inputs for tapping into your existing speaker cables to deliver the audio signal. You'll have to run power, ground, and signal cables to the sub, tap into the factory speaker cables, and then you're ready to rock. Some subs even offer factory wiring harnesses that allow you to tap into your factory stereo, saving you from having to splice into your wiring.

Double-barrelled bass — twin Bazooka Bass Tubes® fit nicely in this SUV's cargo area.

The clear-chassis Infinity BassLink lets you watch the sub perform.

Kenwood's WooX system fits under a seat, and provides solid bass response.
A custom-fit sub nestles into an out-of-the way location in your vehicle, with a finish that makes it look factory-installed. These powered models also solve the problem of where to put the amplifier, as it's built right into the enclosure. For some folks, a custom-fit, powered sub can be the best of both worlds: Bass plus space!

Custom look, custom sound, thunderous bass.

MTX ThunderForms
These airtight enclosures are custom-designed to fit and blend inconspicuously with specific vehicles. They include one or two subs, depending on the vehicle, and a 100-watt amplifier. Speaker-level inputs let you connect them to any factory stereo system. ThunderForms are also available in non-powered versions.

Pickup trucks are especially challenging vehicles for adding a sub — or so you'd think! This MTX ThunderForm is custom-crafted to fit behind a Ford Ranger's front seat.
Non-powered sub options
If you're aiming to really rattle the windows, you'll want to add an external amplifier to your factory system, and pair it with a couple of non-powered subs. There are a wide variety of non-powered subwoofers that come pre-loaded in an enclosure. Here are a few of the more interesting options out there:

Kicker Solo-Baric Enclosures
Kicker combines the bass savagery of the legendary 12" Solo-Baric L7 woofer with a rugged sealed enclosure built to maximize its performance. The result? A hatchback subwoofer enclosure that delivers mammoth low-frequency punch from a remarkably compact box.

Polk/MOMO Enclosures
These are just beautiful. Polk teamed up with Italian design firm MOMO to create a sub that glistens with good looks, and pounds hard. Then they housed the sub in a high-gloss MDF box backed with curved Plexiglas that lets you watch the sub in motion. Definitely one of my favorite sub products.

Polk Audio/MOMO MM12 enclosure with 12" subwoofer

Bazooka "Nitrous" tube subs
Designed to look like a performance-enhancing nitrous oxide tank, these subs from Bazooka will definitely give your installation a "boost." The included aluminum mounting kit, cosmetic nozzle, and braided wire will have everyone looking and listening to this bass tank.

Visonik bandpass systems
When you really want to go all-out on your sub/enclosure system, these Visonik bandpass boxes provide a pretty good visual treat. Red neon and strobe lighting flicker as the bass booms.

The bass awaits
As you can see, there are many different ways to add a sub to your factory system without having to make major modifications to your vehicle. Thanks to speaker-level inputs, you won't even have to remove your factory stereo to connect these subs. So if you're longing for more substantial bass response in your factory vehicle, take a look at your options — great bass awaits!

Kicker HS12L7 Solo-Baric L7 12" sealed hatchback enclosure

Bazooka NOS-8 8" bass reflex subwoofer tube

Visonik V210BP dual 10" bandpass subwoofer with red neon lighting

Find what fits your car