If you’re all about that bass when it comes to music, then a subwoofer is a necessity for enjoying tunes in the car. But how do you choose the best car subwoofers when there are so many on the market?
In this review, we’ll talk in-depth about the five best car subwoofers of 2021 based on sound quality, build specifications, and ease of installation. We’ll also go through some reasons why a subwoofer is a solid upgrade for everyone from the casual listener to the audiophile.
#1 Best Overall: MTX Audio Terminator TNP212D2
We named the MTX TNP212D2 our best overall subwoofers for one main reason: flexibility. The MTX is a great choice for an entry-level installation, but also caters to a sub enthusiast looking to tweak a car audio system.
The dual 12.0-inch subwoofer enclosure comes with a 250-watt amplifier and complete wiring kit. Running at 400 watts RMS, the sealed design ensures a tight bottom end sound at a respectable volume. It’s also built for durability with a 0.625-inch medium density fiberboard (MDF) box housing the woofer, and is covered with aviation-grade carpet.
Besides having everything to kickstart a party in your trunk, the MTX Terminator series subwoofers are a great platform for later modifications. You have the option to swap out an amplifier for a different one, or pair your subwoofers with another vehicle.
- Includes wiring kit, amplifier, and speaker enclosure
- Dual 12.0-inch subwoofers that run at 400 watts RMS
- Each speaker has a 4-ohm single voice coil
- MDF construction with high-grade carpeting
- Sealed enclosure for precise bass response
What Customers Are Saying: Even though the MTX TNP212D2 only has about 600 ratings on Amazon, 75 percent of reviewers give the product 5.0 stars. Customers enjoy the sound quality and overall value, however some mention the package missing wiring kits and having a lackluster amplifier.
#2 Best Budget Subwoofer: Rockville RW10CA
For those looking for better audio quality at a lower price, or those who are just tight on car space, we named the Rockville RW10CA our best budget option. The slim speaker enclosure can fit securely in a trunk, in a truck cabin, or even underneath a car seat. Just remember a 10.0-inch speaker will definitely add some oomph to your car speakers, but isn’t as likely to rattle the frame even at full volume.
Running at 200 watts continuous RMS, and with a peak power rating of 800 watts, the Rockville is more of an aftermarket option compliment to your car’s audio system at a reasonable price. While you may get added frequency response, it’s definitely not the most powerful subwoofer on our list of the industry’s best car subwoofers.
- Compact design
- Active system with built-in amplifier
- Adjustable input sensitivity
- Inputs with automatic turn-on technology
- Overload protection circuit
What Customers Are Saying: The Rockville scored 4.4 out of 5.0 stars after about 3,400 Amazon reviews. About 71 percent of reviewers felt the product deserved 5.0 stars. Positive reviews cite the subwoofer’s easy use and like its appeal to novice car modders. Some customers report the system failing within a year of purchase though, and others criticize the low-end response.
#3 Best High-Performance Subwoofer: MTX Audio Terminator Series TNE212DV
Guaranteed to make your car go bump in the night, or any other time of day, the MTX TNE212DV should be able to handle most things you can throw at it. We named it our best high-performance option due to its impressive 1,000-watt RMS rating and peak performance rating of 2,000 watts.
Like our best overall pick, the MTX features dual 12.0-inch subwoofers but is ported with a vent system that helps boost volume. While this could mean less defined bass frequency range, the high wattage means you’ll get added clarity with less risk of distortion.
- 1,000 watts RMS/2,000 watts peak
- Polypropylene dust caps
- Ported design with vents for hard hitting low end
- MDF enclosure
What Customers Are Saying: The MTX TNE212DV subs are rated 4.5 out of 5.0 stars on Amazon, with 74 percent of reviews awarding the speakers 5.0 stars. Durability and sound quality resonate with buyers. Some customers report issues with quality control and having to return the product soon after making their purchase.
#4 Best Powered Subwoofer: Rockford Fosgate P300-12
The Rockford Fosgate P300-12 is an all-in-one compact package that offers punch, power, and depth. With a name that’s been in the audio industry for over 40 years, we awarded the 12.0-inch version our best powered subwoofer for its compact sealed enclosure and a highly adjustable sound.
The active design features a Class-D amplifier for high power efficiency and low distortion. Pair that with a 300 watts, you’ve got a hearty sound with plenty of kick. One drawback of the Rockford is that it does clock in around the $300 price range. For a similar amount of money, you could almost build a completely custom sub with mid-tier parts.
- Enclosed subwoofer design for a tight bass response
- 300 watts RMS
- Active system for easy installation
- Highly adjustable EQ
- Intelligent automatic turn on/off
- One-year warranty
What Customers Are Saying: Rockford snagged a 4.7 out of 5.0 star rating on Amazon, and 85 percent of reviewers gave it 5.0 stars overall. Customers praise the quality materials and bass response, although some negative reviews say the speaker enclosure disintegrates after prolonged use.
#5 Best Custom Bass Build: Skar Audio EVL-15
Geared for the do-it-yourself road warrior that needs earth-shattering lows, the Skar Audio EVL-15 subwoofer is a surefire way to share your music taste with the neighborhood. Since this is a component speaker without things like an amp or speaker enclosure, you’ll have to put together your own subwoofer system. We awarded it best custom build for bass lovers that want size and sound quality.
The inclusion of dual voice coils allows for more wiring options, and Skar says it outfits the sub with a competition-grade pressed paper cone. It’s also competition ready with a 1,250-watt RMS rating that peaks at 2,500 watts.
Despite the impressive factory specifications, the Skar does have a below-average speaker sensitivity rating. Speaker sensitivity is the output level you get for running a single watt through a speaker, which is measured in decibels (dB). The Skar has a sensitivity rating of 86.1 dB, slightly below the industry average of 87/88 dB.
- Available with both dual and single voice coils
- Upgraded suspension from Skar
- Advanced air flow cooling
- Frequency response from 20-250Hz
- High foam roll surround for responsive bass
What Customers Are Saying: Even though the Skar Audio EVL-15 only has about 100 reviews on Amazon, most of it is high praise with a rating of 4.8 out of 5.0 stars. Many reviewers talk highly of the sound quality and value, with one customer saying it has an “unreal sound for the price.” One negative review we found on Amazon mentions potentially defective parts that might cause a burning smell.
Our Review Standards
In choosing the best car subwoofers featured in this review, we picked some of Amazon’s top-selling products and checked for sound quality, installation difficulty, strong customer reviews, and competitive prices.
Car Subwoofers Buying Guide
When shopping for the best car subwoofers, you’ll want to make sure whatever you buy has the right specifications for your audio needs. Here’s some general things to keep in mind while you’re shopping:
Passive and Active
Subwoofers don’t produce sound on their own, so you need an amplifier (amp) to power the speaker. Passive subwoofers will need an external amp, whereas active subwoofers have an amp built-in. While an active sub might be a simpler purchase upfront, passive subwoofers allow for more customization, so you can mix and match a high-quality sub with a high-quality amp.
Power handling ratings for audio equipment are usually noted by Root Mean Square (RMS) wattage and ohm, a unit of electrical resistance. RMS is a measurement of how much continual power a speaker can handle before risking damage. To best protect your sub, you’ll want to match your amp RMS to that of the speaker.
Consider this example: If your amplifier has a power rating of 350 watts RMS, look for a speaker with the same RMS power rating. Manufacturers may also advertise RMS watts peak rating, which is the amount of power a speaker can handle in short increments.
Impedance is how well a circuit resists the flow of electricity, which is measured in ohm. Typically, subwoofers are rated at 4-ohm, but there are 8-ohm and 2-ohm options. Similar to RMS, you’ll want to match your speaker’s ohm impedance to that of your amp.
Subwoofer speakers come in a variety of sizes, commonly found between 8.0 inches and 21.0 inches for things like movie theaters, concert venues and home stereos. That’s because larger speakers have a higher dynamic range and offer better sound quality.
Bigger speakers also have a better low-end response, so you can really hear the deep bass on your favorite tune. For vehicles, the happy medium is usually between 8.0 inches and 12.0 inches, although 15.0-inch speakers aren’t uncommon.
With a car, you’re weighing space versus sound quality. If you want to upgrade your sound system to be a little more punchy, an 8.0-inch or 10.0-inch speaker will probably do the job. If you want the cars next to you on the road to feel the bass sound from you blaring the Top 40 on the radio, opt for a 12.0-inch or 15.0-inch sub. Just make sure you have the space for it in your car.
Unlike the loudspeakers that come installed in your car, subwoofers require an enclosure to work effectively. Some subs already come with an enclosure straight from the manufacturer, and the more DIY-natured audiophiles among us can even build their own to match the vehicle. The main thing to know is that there are two types of speaker enclosures: sealed enclosures and ported enclosures.
A sealed box enclosure is exactly what it sounds like, and these provide strong clarity, defined bass and minimal distortion. A ported enclosure has a hole that allows air entering the box to reinforce sound waves. This helps to boost volume, but low frequencies tend to be less defined.
If you’re building a subwoofer enclosure, keep in mind you can buy component speakers to customize the sound you want.
Besides making space in your car, you’ll have to connect your subwoofer to your car’s audio system and wire it to receive power. A sub will need to be wired to the car battery in order to receive power since wiring it through the fuse box can amplify engine noise.
Connecting the amp to the vehicle’s audio system means routing and hiding wires under your vehicle’s trim. You should also follow the manufacturer’s instructions for securing your amp and subwoofer inside the vehicle, because loose parts can shift around, become disconnected or even injure passengers.