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Car subwoofer buying guide

Find the bass that fits your taste, budget, and vehicle

Subwoofers make all music sound better. No matter what kind of music you like, or how softly or loudly you like to listen, a quality sub can really improve your overall listening experience. This article will explain how to find the subwoofer and bass system that's right for you.

Subwoofers are speakers dedicated to reproducing low frequencies. Car speakers are small, so they have trouble producing enough low-frequency sound to give your music realism and depth.

There are a lot of different ways to add a subwoofer to your vehicle. Which one is right for you depends on a lot of different factors, including your musical tastes, budget, and how much space you have available in your vehicle.

Watch the video

Get all the details in our subwoofer video. Then use this article to guide you in your shopping. 

What kind of sub should you get?

Look at the statements below. Which one matches up best to your needs?

  1. I want to pick and choose components to build a truly personalized system.
    You should start by looking at component subs. A component sub is just the speaker itself — it'll need to be mounted in a subwoofer box to operate properly. In addition, you'll need to power the sub with an external amplifier. Component subs usually range in size from 8" to 15". There are models designed to operate on low or high power, and in a variety of different types of boxes. They are several different impedance and voice coil setups, so you can pick and choose among models to match up to your system design. If you're starting from the ground up in designing your custom system, choosing the subwoofer is a great place to start. [Shop for component subs]

  2. I want an easy "off-the-shelf" sub/enclosure combo.
    Check out enclosed subs. Enclosed subs are pre-mounted into a box designed to accommodate the sub. This eliminates the need to choose an enclosure for the sub, so you won't have to do as much work designing and building your system. On the down side, you'll be limited on the number of speaker and box-type choices you have. You'll still need an external amp to power the sub. [Shop for enclosed subs]

    Rockford Fosgate Prime R1 12" package

    Enclosed subwoofers, like this Rockford Fosgate Prime R1 12" package, match a sub or two with a perfectly sized box.

  3. I want a simple, space-saving bass system.
    A powered sub is a great way to go. A powered sub combines an amplifier and woofer in an enclosure. Since the amplifier is built-in, there's only one piece of equipment to find a place for and install. Many powered subs are compact and won't take up a lot of room in your vehicle. While powered subs can be very effective bass producers, their smaller drivers and amplifiers may not provide all the sound power you want if you're looking for really big bass. On the other hand, their relatively simple installation and small size make them a great add-on to factory stereo systems. [Shop for powered subs]

    Sound Ordnance B-8PTD

    Powered subwoofers, like the Sound Ordnance B-8PTD, are a simple way to add bass.

  4. I want a sub that will blend in with my car's interior.
    You're a prime candidate for a vehicle-specific sub, either powered or unpowered. These subs are designed to fit in out-of-the-way locations in many cars, trucks, and SUVs, and are often color-matched to the vehicle's interior. Like the powered subs we just talked about, they may not be the best choice if you're looking for really big bass, but they'll more than suffice for most listening needs without taking up a lot of interior space. [Shop for vehicle-specific subs]

  5. I want a great bass system, but don't want to sweat the details.
    Check out our bass packages. Our experts have put these together to make selecting all the right components easier — some packages include everything you need, right down to speaker wire. [Shop for bass packages]

Some key specs to consider

Once you know what type of subwoofer or system you'd like to buy, comparing specs can be helpful in making your decision. Here are some key specs to consider:

  1. Power — If you want a system that really booms, there's no substitute for plenty of power. Pay attention to RMS power ratings, not peak power ratings. RMS ratings measure continuous power handling or output and are a much more realistic measure than peak power. Make sure the sub can at least handle your amp's output power.
  2. SensitivitySensitivity goes hand-in-hand with power to achieve high output. A sub that has a higher sensitivity rating requires less power to produce the same amount of sound as a model with a lower sensitivity rating.
  3. Frequency rangeFrequency range gives you an idea of how low a sub can play. Keep in mind, though, that the actual performance of the sub can depend on a lot of variables, like the box type it's mounted in.
  4. Enclosure type — The type of enclosure a sub is mounted in will have a big effect on the type of sound it produces. In general, sealed boxes give you the deepest, most accurate sound, while ported and bandpass enclosures produce more volume.
  5. Number of voice coilsDual voice coil subwoofers are a popular choice among car audio enthusiasts who want more flexibility in wiring their sound systems. While typical subwoofers have a single voice coil, dual voice coil (DVC) subwoofers use two separate voice coils, each with its own connections, mounted on one cylinder, connected to a common cone.
  6. Size of the woofer — It's a never-ending question — what size subwoofers play loudest and lowest? It's not an easy question — you need to consider sensitivity, enclosure type, and available power. If your ultimate goal is to have a system that plays loud and low, and space isn't an issue, go for the biggest subs. But don't underestimate smaller subs. Properly powered and in the right enclosure, smaller subs can put out plenty of sound.
  7. Impedance — Most subwoofers are rated at 4 ohms impedance, but 2-ohm, 8-ohm, and dual voice coil subwoofers have become commonplace. When you've chosen a subwoofer, look for amplifiers that will match up to your sub in terms of power rating and impedance. There are a wide variety of amps available, so you shouldn't have any trouble finding one that will bring out the best in the sub you've chosen.

Get Everything You Need

You'll need an amplifier to drive a component subwoofer.

If you're buying a component subwoofer, you'll need the proper enclosure.

A Dynamat kit will prevent any rattles from your sub, while reducing road noise to give you louder, richer bass.

Polyester fiber box stuffing slows sound waves inside a sub box, making the sub more efficient (and louder).

If you're going to build your own subwoofer enclosure, you'll need box building hardware.

You may need an amp wiring kit and speaker wire to send signal and power to a pre-loaded sub box or a sub/amp combo.

Need more help?

If you need more help, give our Advisors a call at 1-888-955-6000. They have the knowledge and experience to help you find a sub that will meet your needs.

  • JoAnne Fisher from Culpeper

    Posted on 11/22/2021

    What is suggested for a 2015 Mazda hb. My son wants better then what is in there now. I will swap out factory if cost isn't insane. Also need to keep backup cam option he has Bose factory now.

  • Eric Larson from ROANOKE

    Posted on 3/22/2021

    Great work! Thanks guys!!

  • JC from Kahului

    Posted on 8/20/2020

    What is the best speaker for my 8" bazooka tube

  • William Havens from Cleveland

    Posted on 4/19/2020

    ive got a planet audio ac2000.2 around 375 rms and 2 rockford fosgates r2d4. my amp is a 2 om but subs are 4 ohm. what do I do or is it okay?

    Commenter image

    Alexander H. from Crutchfield

    on 4/20/2020

    William, for wiring guidance check out this article. If you bought your gear from Crutchfield, you can call Tech Support for free help troubleshooting your system. If you purchased your equipment elsewhere, you can still get expert Crutchfield Tech Support - 90 days-worth for only $30. Check out our tech support page for details.
  • Curtis from Rosebud

    Posted on 3/6/2020

    I have a 2000w hifonics 2 channel class D monoblock amp And just bought 2 1300w pioneer single voice coils 4ohm 300 nominal watts and I don't know how to connect to wires the subs before were Duel voice coils and that had four plugins

    Commenter image

    Alexander H. from Crutchfield

    on 3/9/2020

    Curtis, check out this article to find the right wiring diagram for your setup.
  • Commenter image

    Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 11/14/2017

    Dave, I've passed your question along for recommendations on a sub to match your amp. A good rule of thumb is that your amp should supply from 75% to 150% of the sub system's total RMS rating. Here's more on the subject.

  • Dave from Stockton, CA

    Posted on 11/11/2017

    I recently purchased a Pioneer 8601 Mono amp. What RMS rating should I be looking for in a single 12' DVC sub?

  • Commenter image

    Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 10/30/2017

    Mark, I've passed your question along to our team of Advisors to help you find the best solution for your vehicle. Someone will contact you soon.

  • mark fitzpatrick from williams

    Posted on 10/28/2017

    hi, i just started to build up my new system in my 97 f150 ext cab. i'm trying to figure out which sub package to get. i'm running r168x2 fosgates in the front and i'm going to be installing them to my Clarion APA4160 amp channels 1 an 2 and i'm wanting to run a single 10 in in the rear either channel 3 or bridged... not sure of amp conts power or watts. Thanks

  • Commenter image

    Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 1/30/2017

    Slayer, you want to make sure the amp you choose is capable of supplying from 75% to 150% of the sub system's total RMS rating. An imbalance in power or impedance can damage your sub (if severely over- or under-powered). If your amp and sub do not have the same impedance, that may not be an issue as long as you wire them correctly. You'll find everything you need to match your amp and sub here as well as a database of wiring diagrams. Note that you should not wire different impedance subwoofers together to the same amplifier because the lower impedance sub will get twice the power of the higher impedance sub, possibly under-powering one while over-powering the other. That's a recipe for blowing subwoofers. Get separate amps for your different model subs.