Video: How to choose a subwoofer enclosure

Sealed, ported, or bandpass — what's right for you?


Ken Nail

Ken Nail has written about car audio for Crutchfield since 2003, after four years as Crutchfield Sales Advisor, and 10 years as a music teacher. He's an avid music listener, whose favorites are classical and film music. When not chained to a desk, Ken spends most of his time training for triathlons and marathons, and likes getting outside for backpacking, downhill skiing, and bicycle touring. He attended West Virginia University, where he received a Master's Degree in Music Performance and a Bachelor's Degree in History.

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The first step to choosing a subwoofer actually begins with the enclosure and how you want the sub to perform. In this video we'll tell you about the different types of subwoofer enclosures available, and find out which one best fits your vehicle and your needs.

Video Transcript

Our advisors get a lot of questions about subwoofers:

"Do I need a sub?"
"What kind of sub fits my car?"
"What sub hits hardest?"

It's easy to get confused. There are a lot of different sizes and styles of subwoofers and different types of sub boxes. It's hard to know where to start. Let's simplify things for you. There are two key things to think about when buying a sub: sound and space.

Sound depends on the kind of enclosure, or box, that you're subwoofer is mounted in. There are three kinds of enclosure designs you'll commonly find in car audio: sealed, ported, and bandpass. Sealed boxes are simple, sealed enclosures that the sub is mounted into. They're best if you want tight and accurate bass, great for all-around use. Ported boxes add a port or vent that improves the efficiency of the system. They'll play louder with less power input but might sound a little more boomy. When volume is king, it's a smart choice. Bandpass boxes combine a sealed box with a ported enclosure with the sub sealed inside the box. With their plexiglass windows, they're dramatic and they can give big bass output — the perfect call when you want to make a statement.

If you're short on space you may not be able to fit a large box into your car or truck but there are some good solutions for tight spots. Truck boxes like this one are built with a slim profile to let you slide them behind the seat of your truck. Special custom enclosures like these stealth boxes let you add a custom fit box to your truck. Some even come with subs and amps already built in.

One other solution when space is tight is choosing a compact powered sub like this one. Since the amp is built in, you'll save space twice. It'll fit in a lot of tight spaces where you can't put a normal sub. When space isn't an issue you can go with a larger box like this trunk-style box. Just make sure you measure the space you have available before you buy the box.

We've talked about sound and space, but let's face it, that still leaves a lot of different options. What's the best sub for you? The answer is simple. The best system is the one that matches your budget and your taste. Over the years our advisors have helped thousands of people buy subwoofers for their cars, whether the system is simple or whether you're going to the extreme. We've got the experience and expertise to kick around all the options with you and help you find the right gear.

So if you want bass don't hesitate and get in touch with us on the phone or via chat or email. We'll get you the gear you need and the support you want after the sale.

  • Charlie from Medford, Oregon

    Posted on 5/13/2015 12:19:47 AM

    I have 1 15" Kicker solo-baric L7 and 2 8" Kicker solo-baric L7s. I was wandering how I should go about boxing them when im looking for something extra poppy but with the lows really coming through. maybe bandpass the 2 8s on the side with the ported 15 in the middle? please let me know if that is possible. thank you for your time.

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 5/13/2015 10:52:25 AM

    Charlie, nice choice with the solo-baric L7's. They're some of Kicker's best subs. Unfortunately, we don't sell boxes that fit their unique, square design. However, what you have in mind could certainly work. A bandpass box will be very loud and boomy over a narrow frequency range but not as strong in other frequencies (which is what bandpass boxes are designed to do). With your 15" in there, you'll gain extra volume that could help fill any gaps left by the 8". If you end up building a custom enclosure, give us a call. We can certainly help you with the gear to make it top-notch.

  • Shawn from Ga

    Posted on 5/28/2015 1:12:04 AM

    I have a 10" Memphis sub in a standard cab p/u, how do I know if the enclosure is the right size ? is that determined

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 5/28/2015 10:26:46 AM

    Shawn, each manufacturer has their own recommendations for ideal enclosure dimensions that factor in the Thiele parameters of a particular sub. In your case, Memphis provides a PDF entitled "Enclosure Recommendations" that you'll find on their Support site. If you don't see your specific sub there, give them a call and ask them what they recommend. As far as which style enclosure you'd like, this article may be of help. And don't hesitate to call us if you need any help choosing one.

  • Koh Poh Ann from Singapore

    Posted on 7/8/2015 11:03:06 AM

    I was recommended to install Pioneer D8604 amp with active subs due to space constraints. Question is; the subs already got a built in amp, do I need additional amp? is it necessary to replace my original speaker set that comes with the new car? I am advised to change it to 6" morel Maximo component set. Please help as I am a novice in car audio but keen to learn more. Thank you!

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 7/8/2015 12:27:31 PM

    Koh, if the subs are already powered, you do not need an additional amplifier. As far as new speakers go, replacing them isn't "necessary" but aftermarket speakers (especially component speakers) are bound to sound better than your factory speakers. If you're unsure, see how the new bass improves your system, and if you're not happy with your sound, try upgrading the speakers when you're up for it.

  • Kerry from Kelso

    Posted on 8/11/2015 3:18:26 PM

    I got a 1988 Toyota supra,my stereo is 3 12" sony explodes,1000watt amp. how do i fit that in my car and still have room for my removable top.

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/11/2015 4:02:25 PM

    Kerry, when selecting a box (or building one), be sure to check the manual for the ideal dimensions for optimum performance from your subwoofers. You may even want to consult the manufacturer's tech support before ordering a box or beginning to build one. Once you know how big your enclosure(s) will need to be, you'll be able to see if your top will fit too. Worse comes to worse, you may only have room for two subs back there, not three.

  • Roberto H Westenfeld from Steger

    Posted on 8/20/2015 12:57:52 AM

    Hello I have two infinity 1252w refrence series subs in a sealed box in my 96 Chevrolet blazer would a ported or a band pass be better for sound also it's hooked up too a r750_1d Fosgate amp at 1 ohm .

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/20/2015 10:11:01 AM

    Roberto, it's a matter of preference. Your choice of enclosure comes down to what you're looking for in you bass. As this article points out, a sealed enclosure will give you tighter, more accurate bass, while a ported or bandpass box will put more boom in your bass.

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/20/2015 10:22:08 AM

    Alberto, you can check your subwoofer owner's manual for suggestions on dimensions, but searching the internet for "subwoofer box calculator" might point you to a tool that will help you figure it out.

  • Dartagnan from Huntsville

    Posted on 9/20/2015 8:53:24 PM

    Will a planet audio bb4000 push 4 15" db drive k5 series speakers

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 9/21/2015 9:53:58 AM

    Dartagnan, those aren't amps or subs that we carry, and we'd need more information. If you'd like advice on how to pair amps and subs, check out this article. Or give us a call and an advisor can help you find a system that's right for you.

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