This article was originally posted on HOWTOGEEK.COM
If you’re looking to add a little more bass (no treble) to your car’s sound system, a good subwoofer is the way to do it. These combos can add some thunder without pounding your wallet.
What to Look for in a Powered Subwoofer System
Twenty years ago, if you wanted powerful bass for your car audio, you had to spend north of $1,000 to get a decent system. Thankfully, times have changed. You can get a great-sounding powered subwoofer package for less than $300! While you might not win any audio competitions with them, these inexpensive systems are an easy bolt-on to enhance the rumble of a factory car stereo or custom aftermarket sound system.
Here are some important factors to consider when you purchase a powered subwoofer for your vehicle:
- Enclosure size and form factor: It’s easy to get an inexpensive, decent-sounding system. It’s not as easy to find one that sounds great and fits well in your vehicle.
- Power: Subwoofer and amplifier power is best measured by Root Mean Squared (RMS) watts. RMS watts is the continuous power handling level into a given speaker resistance with a Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) of 1 percent or less. So, you’re looking for how much power the subwoofer/amp can handle continuously without sounding like garbage.
- Frequency response: In most cases, larger woofers generate more volume and lower frequencies (deeper sound). But don’t get trapped by the bigger-is-better concept—that’s not always the case. There are some great 10-inch, eight-inch, and (surprisingly) six-inch subwoofers out there that generate a low, tight rumble.
- Signal input options: Most powered subs support a line-level input from a subwoofer pre-output on a stereo head unit. But most factory stereos don’t provide subwoofer pre-outputs. Some subwoofers also support high-level inputs, which allow you to tap into the front or rear speaker wires directly to get the audio signal. The good news is this “tap” doesn’t actually have to drive the subwoofer; it just provides the sound stream to the subwoofer. It doesn’t affect the volume or quality of sound for the source speaker channel.
The key to adding good bass is to match the right size, power, and frequency response to the cabin volume of your vehicle. Larger interior spaces require more power, but also typically have more space for a larger system. A smaller interior often doesn’t require as much speaker size or power to achieve good bass. In a smaller car, you can get away with less power, and a smaller speaker size and installation footprint.
Best Overall: Rockville RWS12CA Slim 1200 Watt 12-inch Subwoofer
The Rockville RWS12CA combines a slim subwoofer box with a built-in monoblock amplifier and a 12-inch, shallow mount subwoofer. This system measures 24 inches (length) x 15 inches (height) x 4.37 inches (top depth) x 6.65 inches (bottom depth). It pushes 300 watts (RMS) and 1,200 watts (peak). The RWS12CA delivers powerful, cabin-filling bass in a form factor that’s easy to install, at a price point you won’t believe. The enclosure will fit under most rear crew-cab seats in a full-size truck. You could also easily stow it in the trunk of a car or the rear hauling space of an SUV.
The RWS12CA plays nice, with an aftermarket head unit that provides a line-level sound source and remote turn-on signal. You can also tap into high-level speaker lines to add it to a factory system. With an Auto Start Music Sense, the amplifier detects when the high-level speaker source provides a signal and turns on the amp power. A configurable low-pass crossover, +12 dB bass boost, and remote bass control are also included.
If you already have sub-wiring in place, you can knock $10 off the combo price. Otherwise, the Rockville RWS12CA + Wire Kit is the better value.
Rockville RWS12CA Slim 1200 Watt 12″ Powered Car Subwoofer Enclosure + Wire Kit
The quality of the Rockville RWS12CA’s deep, cabin-filling bass is matched by the configuration options of the amp. This, combined with the slim enclosure for installation flexibility, makes this our pick for Best Overall.