Under-seat subwoofers are great for multiple reasons. First of all, they’re compact enough so that you don’t need to have them stored away in the trunk of your car. Secondly, they come with their own enclosures so that you don’t need to buy or build a subwoofer box for it. Third, most under-seat subs come with their own built-in amplifiers.
A couple of months ago, I had the opportunity to test 12 of the best under seat subwoofers currently available in the market. After spending some time with each, I was able to pick out a list of the top five. You can read my review of each below.
- Best Under Seat Subwoofers
- Best Under Seat Subwoofer Reviews
- Best Overall Under Seat Subwoofer
- Frequently Asked Questions
Best Under Seat Subwoofers
Under Seat Subwoofer Buying Guide
Before you buy an under-seat subwoofer (or any other type for that matter), there are several factors to be considered, and yes, that includes some ‘boring’ technical specs. However, these technical specs are what is going to help you identify whether or not a specific sub is compatible with your car’s audio set up. For instance, details like RMS, sensitivity and impedance will tell you whether or not a sub will be effective and/or safe when paired to an amplifier with a certain amount of power output.
If you’re not so familiar with the terms mentioned, don’t worry. In this section, I’m going to be giving a brief overview of what each of them indicates and why they’re important:
When you increase the volume on your stereo, you’re essentially feeding more power into your speakers and subs. This power is then used to make the cone move back and forth faster, producing a sound that is louder. Each subwoofer and speaker, in general, has a limit to how much power they can handle. If you go beyond it, you could very well cause heat damage to the unit.
Fortunately, product information sections clearly tell us what this limit is. Power-handling ratings indicate how much power (in watts) you can safely supply to a subwoofer. There are two specifications you may want to pay attention to: RMS and Peak Power. RMS tells how much power a subwoofer can receive on a continuous basis without overheating. Peak power, on the other hand, sets the absolute threshold for how much power you can direct to the unit at any given item (i.e. a point of no return).
Your amplifier will also have power-handling ratings but these indicate power output rather than handling. As a safety rule, you want to make sure that the subwoofer you’re buying has an RMS that’s greater than or equal to that of your amplifier. This way, your amplifier will never supply more power than what the sub can handle, even at max volume.
How much power do you actually need to supply from your amp to a subwoofer in order to get it loud? This is exactly what the sensitivity rating of a sub will tell us – specifically, how much volume (in decibels) you can get out of a sub by directing one watt to it. For example, let’s say that a sub you’re looking at has a sensitivity of 85dB. This means that if you feed this particular subwoofer one watt, you’ll get it to reach a moderately loud volume. With each additional watt you apply, you’ll end up adding 3dB to this value.
Sensitivity is a very useful specification if you’ve got a relatively low-output amplifier. This is because, in this case, you’re best off pairing it with a highly sensitive amplifier, allowing you to get high volumes even without having to supply a ton of power.
Frequency response is a specification that refers to the range of frequencies that a speaker or subwoofer is able to reproduce. ‘Full-range’ speakers are able to handle all audio signals between 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz which is the entire range of human audible frequencies. Subwoofers, on the other hand, can only reproduce bass frequencies (between 20 Hz to 250 Hz). However, certain subs may not handle this entire range either, which can lead to distortion in either the sub-bass or upper-bass regions.
Impedance is how much resistance (in ohms) a subwoofer will present to the current supplied by an amp. The lower the resistance, the greater the amount of current which will be pulled from the amplifier. However, this isn’t such a good thing if the subwoofer also has a lower RMS than the amplifier. It can end up pulling more current than it can handle. Likewise, low impedance ratings can also put more stress on the amplifier since it has to keep supplying more power continuously.
The Cone Material
The material that makes up the subwoofer cone can indicate mainly two things: sound quality and durability. The stiffer the material is, the better it can retain its shape during fast movements (and high pressures). This essentially means that there won’t be any excessive rattling of the cone and any distortion in the signal path.
Below are some of the commonest materials used to make cones by manufacturers currently:
Treated paper is the lightest in weight when it comes to cone materials. Hence, it gives you the quickest response time, which is basically the speed at which a cone can move back and forth in order to generate sound waves. The key difference between treated and regular paper is that the former is coated with materials that improve its durability against heat and humidity. This includes stuff like carbon fiber, polyglass and kevlar.
While not as light as treated paper, polypropylene also gives cones a very fast response time. Polypropylene is also a very stiff material, which means that cones made out of it are less likely to flex while moving very rapidly. Hence, you’re unlikely to hear any excess distortion in the outputted sound when you crank up the volume, making for consistent and well-rounded bass response.
Polypropylene is also very durable. It is resistant to heat, moisture or mold and so you can expect polypropylene cones to have a relatively long lifespan.
The toughness of Kevlar cones shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, seeing as it’s the same stuff bulletproof vests are made out of. But toughness isn’t all that Kevlar brings to the table; it’s also lightweight and flexible.
Carbon fiber, like Kevlar, is tough, lightweight and flexible. Sometimes manufacturers may inject carbon into polypropylene in order to increase the stiffness.
The Surround Material
Surround is the thin material that you find covering the edge of the subwoofer cone. It has one simple job: to absorb any excessive pressure on the cone, preventing it from coming detached from its position. Most surrounds are made out of rubber these days. This is because in addition to being both stiff and flexible, rubber also has resistance against heat and humidity. Hence rubber surrounds last a long time.
Other than rubber, you’ll also come across foam and cloth surrounds. While these are also stiff and flexible, they’re usually not as durable as rubber. That is unless they’ve got some other material mixed in to help them withstand extremes of temperature and humidity.
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Class D Amplifier
The Alpine Electronics PWE-S8 comes with a built-in class D amplifier, which means that it’s extremely efficient. This is because class D amplifier circuits don’t retain any electricity when they’re turned off, hence almost none is wasted as heat energy.
The amplifier comes with a variable low-pass filter, which allows you to set the cutoff frequency anywhere between 80 Hz to 200 Hz. Plus the amp also offers a variable phase control which prevents ‘absent’ bass notes.
Polypropylene Cone and Rubber Surround
The Alpine Electronics PWE-S8 features a polypropylene subwoofer cone which means that it’s going to have no trouble retaining its shape at very high volumes. This, combined with a rubber surround means that you don’t have to worry about damaging the cone when blasting your music.
120 Watts RMS
Both the amplifier and the subwoofer feature an RMS of 120 watts. Hence, you don’t really have to worry about finding a more compatible amp for the subwoofer.
Cast Aluminium Enclosure
Aluminium enclosures are perfect for drawing heat away from the internal components of the amplifier, hence preventing heat damage.
This compact, under-seat powered subwoofer has a frequency response spanning from 32 Hz to 150 Hz. Hence, while it’s fairly okay at handling sub-bass (minus those frequencies between 20 Hz to 32 Hz), it does skip a fairly large portion of the signals in the upper-bass region. Hence, you’ll notice some distortion in the sound. However, using the low-pass filter, you could certainly dial this out.
- Built-in amplifier is Class D
- Solid construction with a cast aluminium construction, polypropylene cone, and rubber surround
- 120 watts RMS
- Does not reproduce all bass frequencies
- No useful information about sensitivity or impedance
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- Enclosure is made out of cast aluminum which stays cool at all times.
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The Rockville SS8P features a frequency response spanning between 20 Hz to 150 Hz, which means that it can only reproduce bass frequencies. As a result, this amplifier was designed to only work with subwoofers.
100 Watts RMS
The Rockville SS8P features an RMS of 100 watts which isn’t all that high for a subwoofer amplifier. However, it certainly should be enough for the average listener, who doesn’t blast their music out loud except on occasion.
Variable Low-Pass filter
Filters are EQ tools that gate certain frequencies while letting others through. Low-pass filters, like the one found the Rockville SS8P, block all frequencies higher than the cut-off while letting the ones lower in pitch go through. This specific LPF is variable as well, allowing you to specify what the cutoff should be between 50Hz and 150Hz. If you plan on using it, I’d recommend setting to as high as possible to get rid of any distortion in the upper-bass region.
The Rockville SS8P’s bass boost focuses on all signals at the 45 Hz frequency, allowing you to increase their volume by up to 12 dB. This can be quite handy when you’re listening to EDM and you want the low-end to be more prominent in the mix.
High-pass filters (HPFs) are the exact opposite of low-pass filters. They block frequencies lower than the cutoff while letting those higher in pitch go through. Subsonic filters are essentially HPFs that are restricted to the bass range. The Rockville SS8P’s filter has a set cutoff at 20 Hz, which means that it’s designed to dial out the distortion in the extreme low-end.
Phase switches help you deal with ‘dead’ bass notes. Simply put, they help you to make sure that all the audio signals are ‘getting along with each other’ rather than canceling themselves out. All you need is a little tweaking and you can get every bit of detail and nuance out of the low-end.
Thermal Protection Circuit
The Rockville SS8P has contains thermal sensors built into its circuit which constantly monitor the internal temperature. If the environment grows too hot, the sensors will automatically switch off the unit, preventing any damage to the internal components. The amplifier also detects shorts and cuts off the output of the amplifier immediately.
- Variable low-pass filter and subsonic filter allows you to dial out the distortion in the low-end
- Bass boost adds more ‘punch’ to the low-end
- Thermal protection circuit
- Power output might not be enough for some users
- Frequency response doesn’t cover the entire bass range
75 Watts Rms
With a power rating of 75 watts RMS, the Kenwood KSC-SW11 is the least powerful subwoofer on this list. That being said, if you’re not the type who listens to music loudly inside of the car (or prefer to use headphones) then this could be enough power for you.
The built-in amplifier has an output of 75 watts RMS so the two are perfectly matched.
The Kenwood KSC-SW11’s frequency response ranges between 35 Hz to 150 Hz. Hence, like most of the amps listed here, it does have a bit of trouble reproducing the upper-bass frequencies. As a result, you’re likely to notice a little bit of muddiness in the output.
Variable Low-Pass Filter
The KSC-SW11’s adjustable LPF lets you set a cutoff anywhere between 50 to 125 Hz. I’d recommend setting the cutoff as high as possible so that you can get rid of the excess distortion.
This control works just like those on other subwoofers. With a little tweaking, you’ll be able to make sure that all the details come through in the low-end.
Aluminium isn’t just tough and durable; it also helps to draw away any excess heat generated by either the subwoofer or the built-in amplifier.
- Variable low-pass filter
- Phase Control
- Durable, heat-drawing aluminium enclosure
- Slight distortion in the upper-bass frequencies
- No information available on the impedance and sensitivity ratings
- Lowest RMS on the list
- Rockville RW10CA 800 Watt 10" Slim Car Subwoofer.
- 800 Watts Peak / 200 Watts RMS. PWM MOSFET Power Supply.
- Low Level RCA Input. High Level Inputs with Auto Turn-On Technology.
- Adjustable Input Sensitivity. Soft Delayed Remote Turn-On.
- Thermal Protection Circuit, Short Protection Circuit.
200 Watts and 90 dB Sensitivity
This 10-inch powered subwoofer from Rockville features an RMS of 200 watts, which is enough for anyone who listens to music out loud on the regular. Combine this with a 90dB sensitivity rating, and you can definitely push your music to ear-splitting volumes without a problem.
The Rockville RW10CA has an impedance of 2 ohms instead of the standard 4 ohms, which means that it’s designed to draw more power out of an amplifier.
The RW10CA’s frequency response spans from 20 Hz to 150 Hz, allowing it to reproduce all sub-bass bass frequencies. However, it does skip out on all the upper-bass signals between 150 Hz and 150 Hz. As a result, I did notice some slight muddiness in the low-end, especially when I was listening to genres like dubstep and techno.
Low-Pass Filter And Subsonic Filter
Just like the two aforementioned subs, the Rockville RW10CA comes with a variable low-pass filter which allows you to set the cutoff between 50 Hz to 150 Hz. Hence, it can be quite useful for dialing out any ‘fuzz’ in the upper bass frequencies.
The subsonic filter, on the other hand, is fixed at 29Hz. Once activated, it will block out all frequencies lower than this cutoff.
This works pretty much exactly like the boost found in the Rockville SS8P which isn’t all that surprising, considering it’s from the same brand. The boost targets all signals at the 45 Hz frequency and allows you to boost their volume by up to 18dB
The phase switch makes sure than no audio signals cancel themselves out, resulting in absent bass notes.
Thermal and Short Protection
The Rockville RW10CA’s amp circuit is fitted with sensors that keep an eye out for spikes in internal temperature. This way, the internal components are protected from unexpected voltage surges and shorts resulting from a subwoofer failure.
- Can get quite loud with this subwoofer
- Low-pass and subsonic filters help to dial out distortion
- Bass boost helps to make the sub-bass more prominent in the mix
- Phase switch makes sure that no signals cancel each other out
- Thermal and short protection
- Cannot reproduce all the upper-bass frequencies
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Class D Amplifier
As mentioned above, class D is the most efficient type of amplifier. Hence, you don’t have to worry about any excess heat being generated inside the unit, even with prolonged use.
300 Watts RMS
With an RMS of 300 watts, the Rockford Fosgate P300-12 is the most powerful subwoofer on this list. 300 watts seems plenty for anyone who wants to blast out their music on the regular.
Like all of the other subwoofers on this list, the P300-12 has a little trouble when it comes to reproducing upper-bass frequencies. This is because its frequency response is a little bit limited, with a range of 35 Hz to 150 Hz. Hence, you’re bound to get a little bit of ‘hissing’ through this subwoofer.
The LPF found in the P300-12 allows you to set the cutoff anywhere between 50-200 Hz. I’d recommend having it set at 150 Hz so that you can block out all the upper-bass frequencies that this subwoofer is not able to handle.
Variable Bass Boost
Unlike all the fixed frequency bass boosts we’ve talked about so far, this one allows you to hone in one particular frequency of your choice. If you want more depth to the low-end, I’d recommend targeting the very low frequencies.
The phase switch ensures that there aren’t any missing bass notes in the mix, helping to keep the low-end as detailed as possible.
- Built-in Class D Amplifier
- Most powerful subwoofer on this list
- Variable LPF and bass boost
- Phase Switch
- Slight amount of distortion in the upper-bass frequencies
Best Overall Under Seat Subwoofer
If I had to choose just one amplifier out of all those on this list, I’d have to go with the Rockford Fosgate P300-12. My reasons were simple: in addition to having the highest power-output/power-handling rating, the powered subwoofer also featured an efficient class D amplifier, a variable LPF, bass boost and a phase switch as well. The bass response coming from this amplifier sounded excellent with tons of detail and articulation even at very high volumes.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Can I Improve Bass In A Car?
There are a few simple actions you can take in order to get a better bass sound out of your subwoofers. The very first thing I like to do is turn down the amp’s gain knob to zero so that there’s no added distortion in the signal path. If that doesn’t work, I usually turn up the low-pass filter so that it doesn’t cut off any of the bass frequencies. Sometimes I also dabble a little with the bass boost switch, especially if I want more sub-bass in the mix.
What Is An Active Subwoofer?
An active subwoofer is the same as a powered subwoofer, meaning they have amplifiers built into them.
Do More Watts Mean More Bass?
More watts add more volume to the sound output. Hence if you’ve got a relatively powerful subwoofer, that means the bass will be more prominent in the overall mix.
The products featured on this page were last updated on 2020-02-22 at 18:17 /. Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API.