The 10 Best Car Subwoofers
10. JBL GT-BassPro
9. MTX Terminator Dual
8. Rockford Fosgate P3
7. Pioneer Shallow-Mount
6. JL Audio CP208
5. Dual Electronics Illuminite
4. Bazooka Tube
3. Kenwood Excelon Reference
2. Kicker Dual CompR
1. Rockford Fosgate P300
Bringing Up Bass
Many of us can acknowledge the social impact an automobile has on different societies. For some, a car is a mode of transportation that makes traversing long distances easier and faster than traveling on foot. For others, the vehicle defines social status. It is a customizable machine used to impress friends and loved ones. Accessories that personalize the driving experience make all the difference when it comes to how a car owner perceives himself. Using music as an example, the quintessential college student is unlikely to use his car's built-in stereo system to listen to Beethoven's Fifth Symphony on campus. He's more likely to trick out his ride with a fancy subwoofer in the trunk to blast that rich-sounding bass. Doing so will immerse him in a world of audio pleasure that attracts much-wanted attention from bystanders and passengers with similar tastes in music. There are plenty of drivers like our college student who desire such a device to suit their musical tastes.
Also referred to as a complete or specialized loudspeaker, a subwoofer is dedicated to the reproduction of low-pitched bass audio frequencies. This reproduction of sound is accomplished through the movement of air back and forth to create displacement. The subwoofer is usually housed inside a speaker enclosure made from wood or MDF materials. The enclosure is a specially-engineered cabinet designed to hold the subwoofer's speaker unit and amplifier. It is responsible for improving the clarity of sound, while reducing the effects of distortion. A speaker enclosure is often equipped with fiberglass insulation to help increase perceived volume levels.
Two basic types of subwoofers include passive and powered devices. As the most basic, the passive subwoofer consists of a loudspeaker and enclosure connected to an external amplifier. It is small, with less of a dramatic bass effect than its powered counterpart. Setting the powered subwoofer apart is the integration of its amplifier within the speaker enclosure itself, saving the driver precious interior car space. The powered subwoofer is also more adept at replicating rich bass sounds at higher volumes than the passive variety.
So why would someone want or need such a high level of amplification for blasting their music inside a car? Because a car's speakers are typically on the smaller side, they need a boost in order to produce the desired level of depth and omnidirectional resonance most audiophiles crave. Furthermore, the subwoofer doesn't just amplify the bass. It also takes the burden of doing so away from the vehicle's factory speakers, which would otherwise be forced to bear the load of all the low-pitched sound with a risk of damage or blow out. While a subwoofer produces audible sound from all directions inside the car, bass frequencies are non-directional. This means that regardless of where the subwoofer is placed (e.g. in the trunk), its bass effect doesn't resonate from just its source location. Instead, the effects are heard from all around the driver and his passengers.
Practical Considerations Are Music To One's Ears
For many car owners, space is definitely an issue when installing a vehicular subwoofer. That said, the more components that can be combined into a single enclosure, the simpler your installation becomes. A powered subwoofer is a great way to go in this regard, since the unit's amplifier is already built into the enclosure. The enclosure should also be of high-quality MDF or some other sturdy material that can withstand constant vibrations.
Power ratings, what they mean, and how they differ are all extremely important to keep in mind when shopping around for the right subwoofer for your vehicle. The goal is to match up an amplifier's power with that of your car's speakers. RMS power is the most useful rating to consider when shopping, as it provides a realistic measurement of continuous power output from your equipment.
One must also consider a subwoofer's level of sensitivity before making a decision. A subwoofer with a high sensitivity rating typically requires less power to deliver greater sound output. Every watt that is used within a subwoofer also generates a certain of amount of heat. A high sensitivity rating means that less power is consumed, while less heat is being generated to potentially damage your equipment. Finally, if you're looking for superior flexibility for your subwoofer's wiring setup, then consider a unit with dual voice coils.
A Briefy History Of Car Subwoofers
One of the very first subwoofer patents was filed as early as 1964 by California resident Raymon Dones. Originally marketed under the name Octavium, the purpose for this patent was to provide a portable enclosure capable of reproducing low-frequency sound. The idea was to produce a completely immersive experience with audio resonance from all directions. The Octavium was popular through the mid-1970s and was even used by well-known artists that included the Grateful Dead, among others.
The first use of subwoofer technology for an audio recording session occurred in 1973, followed by its introduction to the world of film one year later with the release of the movie Earthquake in Sensurround.
The 1980s saw the dawn of more customized car stereo systems, including elaborate speaker and subwoofer setups with multiple configurations. The evolution from tape-based audio systems to the CD technology of the 1990s provided additional incentives for car owners to upgrade their vehicular audio setups. Doing so allowed such systems to accommodate high-quality music with low-frequency resonance and less interference from hissing and other anomalies. Today's subwoofers maximize sound performance, they are dedicated to audio precision, and they seek to immerse the driver and his passengers with unfiltered resonance that transcends many traditional vehicular speaker systems.