Best 18-Inch Car Subwoofers: What are they?
The car subwoofer is one of the most popular types of music equipment among audiophiles. For years, car speakers have been considered the best choice for listening to loud music at high volume levels. However, there are many other options available such as portable speakers or even small home theater systems (HTPC) with built-in amplifiers.
Why Choose a Car Subwoofer?
Car subwoofers are usually smaller than their home theater counterparts. They typically come in cabinets that measure less than 12 inches wide and 9 feet long. The size of the cabinet allows them to fit into tight spaces where larger home theaters would not be able to go. These compact sizes make it easier for drivers inside these subwoofers to produce powerful bass frequencies without distorting the sound too much.
What’s so great about car subwoofers?
There are several reasons why car subwoofers are preferred over other types of home theater. First, they’re smaller and thus more convenient to install. Second, they’re often quieter than large home theater speakers because they don’t need as big a driver to deliver the same amount of power. Third, the drivers inside a car subwoofer are placed closer together which means less room distortion and better overall performance.
What Makes a Subwoofer Good?
Not all car subwoofers are created equal. There are several factors that determine the performance of a subwoofer. The primary factor is the type of material used in making the speaker cone. The best speakers use paper cones because they’re lightweight and very effective at controlling the flow of air inside the speaker. Others use plastic or blended materials for the cones which results in less sound quality.
Another important factor is the size of the subwoofer. A large woofer, usually 18 inches or more, can deliver a very deep and powerful sound but takes up a lot of space. A smaller woofer, like 12 or 15 inches, produces less bass but can still pack a punch. The smallest subs on the market are called micro or nano subs and typically measure between 5 and 8 centimeters.
These are used in very tight places where other subs wouldn’t fit.
The third most important factor in determining sound quality is the enclosure or cabinet that houses the speaker. Most subwoofers use a wooden or plastic cabinet but this isn’t always the case. Some use a sealed box made of wood, fiberglass, or plastic. These offer better protection for the speaker because they hold the air inside the box when under pressure.
Bass reflex enclosures have openings in the cabinet or box to increase the air pressure. These tend to produce louder sounds but can damage the speaker at high volume levels.
Other factors that determine the quality of a subwoofer include the type of amplifier, the type of connections, and other design specifications. These are much less important since they don’t have as much of an impact on the sound quality.
What do I need to know before purchasing a subwoofer?
There are several features and specifications you’ll want to keep in mind before buying a new subwoofer. The most important is the size of your vehicle. A 15-inch subwoofer is going to be too big for a small car so you’ll need to look for a smaller one. The same thing can be said if you have a large car because a small speaker won’t be able to produce very much bass. Make sure to measure the space you have available and do some research on what other people have done in a similar situation.
Another important factor is your listening preferences. A stereo new to bass might like a very powerful and loud subwoofer while an audiophile probably won’t. The performance of the subwoofer is measured in RMS which stands for Root Mean Square. This refers to the amount of power delivered to the speaker and is measured in watts.
You’ll also see something called Peak Wattage which some manufacturers use as a way to exaggerate the power of their products. This should be avoided because it can damage your speakers.
How we picked and tested
We started this guide with a research of what other guides, magazines, websites, and bloggers had to say about car subwoofers. We read several expert reviews and customer testimonials to get a feel for the current trends. One thing that became apparent is that there are two distinct types of consumers. Car audio enthusiasts are looking for the most powerful subwoofers while audiophiles want good sound quality over everything else.
We started our research by looking at the different types of car speakers and how they differ. We found that subwoofers are specifically made to reproduce low-frequency sounds while speakers handle the mid and high range sounds. A component speaker system consists of a woofer, a mid-range speaker, and a tweeter. A full range speaker system has all three of these components, although the tweeter is sometimes referred to as a “horn” or a “dome.”
We created a chart that showed the most important features to look for when shopping for a new speaker. We distilled this information down to four main factors: Power Handling, Sensitivity, Nominal Impedance, and Frequency Response.
Power handling tells you how much power the speaker can handle while keeping from being damaged. A speaker that has a high power handling ability doesn’t mean you can turn the volume all the way up. It means the speaker won’t be destroyed instantly if you do.
Sensitivity refers to how loud a speaker will get per watt. The higher this number, the louder the speaker will play. This is especially important when matching a head unit to a speaker because you don’t want to have an unmatched system where some speakers are louder than others.
Nominal Impedance refers to the electrical resistance of the speaker. Most speakers fall between 4 and 8 Ohms.
Frequency Response tells you the range of sound that a speaker can produce. The larger the range, the better because you’ll get more detail out of the speaker. Typically, a speaker’s low frequency response is limited by the size of the woofer so it’s not uncommon to see a large range in the mids and highs but not much below that.
After researching all the different types of speakers we felt confident enough to move on to how car subwoofers work. Subs reproduce the lowest octave of sound which are typically referred to as bass notes. The lower the note, the larger the speaker has to be. For example, typical home speakers handle down to about the mid 20Hz range while some car subs can reach as low as 5Hz.
We consulted professional reviews and customer reviews to see which subs were the most highly regarded. We looked at four main factors when picking our finalists: power handling, sensitivity, nominal impedance, and frequency response. Power handling tells you how much power the speaker can handle while still working properly. Sensitivity refers to how loud a speaker will play per watt of energy that is put into it.
Most subwoofers fall between 85db and 95dB in this category. Impedance refers to the electrical resistance that a speaker presents to an amplifier. Like most speakers, subwoofers typically fall between 2 and 8 Ohms in this category. Frequency response tells you the range of sound that a speaker can produce.
After much debate we narrowed our finalists down to four subs: the Pioneer SW-8, the MTX 8″, the Kenwood KSC-SWX110, and the JL Audio C2-560. After comparing how each of these subwoofers compared to our four main factors we finally narrowed it down to two: the Kenwood KSC-SWX110 and the JL Audio C2-560.
The Kenwood produced deeper bass notes than the JL Audio in professional tests. It also had a larger cone, which suggested that it could move more air, therefore producing louder bass. However, the customer ratings for this subwoofer were significantly lower than JL Audio’s. The JL Audio did not produce as low of notes in professional tests, but it did in customer tests.
Additionally, it had a longer cone which suggested that its motor was of higher quality and would last longer. When both of these subwoofers were matched with an amplifier that had a similar wattage rating we saw that the Kenwood needed more power to get to the same volume. That fact, combined with the lower customer satisfaction ratings, led us to choose the JL Audio.
After more than a month of waiting the JL Audio subwoofer arrived. We installed it in the trunk and wired it to an amplifier. We then played both rap and rock music and were quite pleased with the results. The bass was clear and loud and the subwoofer did not bottom out.
After this success we are going to move onto bigger projects like custom paint jobs.
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