In this article: We'll review and compare 9 of our best pick 8in, 10in, 12in and 15in subwoofers for your car, truck or SUV broken down by manufacturer series. We'll walk you through how to choose the subwoofer for your application and much more.
- What Size Do I Need?
- About Our Lists
- Best Car Subwoofers List
- 1. Best Overall Car Subwoofer Pick: JL Audio W7AE-3 Series
- 2. All Around Great Pick Car Sub: Hertz Milli Pro Series
- 3. Best Subwoofer for Quality Sound: Focal Flax Evo Series
- 4. Best Subwoofer for Clarity: JL Audio W6V3 Series
- 5. Editor's Pick: Sony MobileES Series
- 6. Best Value Car Subwoofer: Alpine R Series
- 7. Best Subwoofer for Harsh Environments: Polk Audio MM Series
- 8. Go All Out: Rockford Fosgate Power T1 Series Subwoofers
- 9. Best Low Cost Subwoofer: MTX 55 Series Subwoofers
- Choosing the Right Subwoofer
- What to Look For
A subwoofer is a speaker that's designed to reproduce bass (duh). They typically operate between 20-200 Hz, however depending on the size of the woofer this'll vary. Larger subwoofers with a lower frequency range will produce deeper tones, but can sometimes lack midrange sound while smaller subs with a higher frequency range will produce midrange a little better but may lack the deeper tones.
The typical reason you'll see someone add a subwoofer to a car or truck's stereo is to either:
- Round out the sound of their music. The majority of audio systems from the factory don't produce enough bass so adding a subwoofer will produce the low frequencies that a factory system doesn't. But it's not just factory systems that need a subwoofer to round out the sound, almost every high-output and well-rounded stereo has at least one subwoofer. Sound quality is the goal for this group and having just the right amount of bass is important.
- To feel the bass. This is for the people who want their windows to shake and to feel the bass in their chest. It's for people who love heavy bass music and want the people around them to hear what they're listening to. More is better for these folks, even if it's overkill.
What Size Do I Need?
Most people will find this article typing things like “what's the best 12 inch subwoofer”, or “best 10″ subwoofer”. Subwoofers come in a variety of sizes though. Different sized subwoofers have different sized woofers, which will typically determine things like frequency range, and how well it will reproduce the different ranges of bass. The most common automotive subwoofer sizes are 8″, 10″ and 12″ however, more recently, manufacturers like JL Audio have introduced 13″ subwoofers. 15″ subwoofers are also available but much less common and we'd really only recommend them for performance applications. The bigger the subwoofer is, the more efficient it is as producing lower frequencies and vice versa. We've written an article to help you choose the right subwoofer size if you'd like to read more up on it.
Subwoofer diameter isn't the only important aspect of size though. Some vehicles require a subwoofer to fit in a tight, shallow space. In these cases, we've got you covered with a list of our best pick shallow mount subwoofers.
About Our Lists
We consider a number of factors when assembling our top lists. Extensive research and first hand testing is what ultimately drives our top picks but they're our recommendation of subwoofers that are from reputable brands, produce high-quality bass, are built with quality components and will last. We maintain our lists frequently, and work hard to keep them up-to-date with the latest products on the market.
It is important to note that a top-of-the-line subwoofer may not perform at it's potential without other matching components such as a car amplifier, car speakers, high quality head unit or a proper subwoofer enclosure. If you are building your stereo system piece-by-piece, it is often a good idea to save the subwoofer for last. When you are sure the rest of your components are what you want, then select a subwoofer to complement the system. Be sure that the power handling of the subwoofer will align well with the power output of your chosen amplifier too. Failure to do so could result in a failure of the amplifier or subwoofer. We've compiled a list of best monoblock subwoofer amplifiers to help you narrow your choice for a power source too!
And if you'd rather buy an all-in-one powered subwoofer that has an amplifier and subwoofer enclosure in one package, take a look at all of CarAudioNow's Best Powered Subwoofers.
Looking for a different type of subwoofer? Check out these list!
Best Car Subwoofers List
1. Best Overall Car Subwoofer Pick: JL Audio W7AE-3 Series
JL Audio W7AE Series Subwoofer Review
JL Audio introduced the W7-series subwoofers in 2001. Seriously, how can a subwoofer design that old be so good? The W7-series is that good because every year, JL Audio engineers update and improve on the legend that is the W7-series subwoofer. JL Audio owns eight patents on this speaker. The W7’s are so good, they are now used in home theater systems. They're so good because JL Audio goes through the trouble of ensuring that every screw, nut, and connector is made to tight specifications. That’s how you build the best for two decades.
JL Audio markets the W7-series in four sizes that include 8”, 10”, 12”, and the newest 13.5”. The original W7’s have been discontinued, but JL Audio continues to make and sell the “Anniversary Edition” which debuted in 2011 to mark the 10th anniversary. The differences are purely cosmetic.
The W7-series feature an expansive list of features that include:
- Dynamic Motor Analysis (DMA). A system that reduces sound distortion and provides an analysis of the sound dynamics.
- W-Cone assembly. This is a two-skin-unit –body design that can handle all kinds of wear and tear.
- Elevated frame cooling design for enhanced ventilation.
- Floating Cone Attach Method. This improves the surround sound.
- Overall Surround sound system which improves air displacement and speaker efficiency.
- Cross-Drilled Pole Piece for efficient cooling for superior linear performance.
- Lead-wire design for reduced sound distortion and mechanical noise.
- The W7AE series subwoofer includes all of the latest and innovative designs and features created and patented by JL Audio.
The W7-series is still regarded as the best by us here at CarAudioNow, and we are not alone. Top quality car audio installers across the country choose JL Audio W7’s because of the low distortion, incredible sound quality, long-lasting lifespan, and undeniable build quality.
2. All Around Great Pick Car Sub: Hertz Milli Pro Series
Hertz Milli Pro Series Subwoofer Review
Hertz has been a competitive and innovative brand on our best subwoofers list for some time now. Previously with the Hi-Energy series (which has since been phased out), and now with the Milli Pro series. The Milli Pro subwoofers are designed to produce the lowest octaves of the audio spectrum with impact, precision and power while maintaining a relatively compact profile. These subs have some great innovative technology that help it product great quality bass while maintaining a reasonable price point. This includes:
- Exponential V-cone – A ‘V' shaped cone that's engineered to be stiff and strong at high power, high excursion.
- Mineral injected paper cone – A proprietary mix that further helps with the rigidity of the cone under high loads.
- CNC machined diamond-cut basket – CNC is typically used for higher-precision and lower tolerances.
- Boundary Free Surround – Hertz has a unique surround design that's meant to maximize the surface area of the cone to push more air. The bigger the cone, the more air it pushes.
- Compact design – This sub was designed specifically to be in a sealed enclosure that's only 17 lt in volume. That's about a 10″ cubic box to put it into perspective.
All around, this is a great subwoofer that we'd recommend. It's a high quality, high output sub that gives you a lot for the price point. And with the compact design and engineering, it's really meant to give installers flexibility to where they want to fit it.
3. Best Subwoofer for Quality Sound: Focal Flax Evo Series
Focal Flax Evo Series Subwoofer Review
Focal Flax Evo subwoofers are uncompromising in quality. Designed and developed by some of the most reputable sound engineers’ world, these subwoofers feature incredible build quality and deliver exceptional sound superiority. Focal is popular for its capabilities in low-frequency audio reproduction, making these subwoofers revered by many bass enthusiasts all around the globe.
The Flax Evo Series subwoofers are available in three sizes that include 8”, 10”, and 12”. The flax-fibre cones are unmistakably beautiful. Each speaker is built to operate in a specific size speaker box.
These performance subwoofers deliver pure bass with powerful and crystal-clear audio quality from 27 Hz to 500 Hz. A single 4-ohm voice coil is powered by dual Ferrite magnets for clear bass with deep resonance. Focal performance subwoofers are built and intended for the car audio elite. The Flax Evo Series from Focal design, quality, and performance are outstanding. You can throw plenty of power to them (up to 1600 Watts for the most powerful subwoofer in the series) and they will perform perfectly without sound distortions, keeping your system’s bass reproduction accurate and punchy. Great things come at great costs however.
4. Best Subwoofer for Clarity: JL Audio W6V3 Series
JL Audio W6V3 Series Subwoofer Review
JL Audio has spent decades building a reputation for top-quality subwoofer and speaker components. The JL Audio W6V3 series is available in 10” and 12” variations. Made with a durable, mineral-filled polypropylene cone, the W6v3 series delivers incredible strength without the added weight that can decrease a woofer’s response and accuracy. Combined with a rigid cast-alloy basket that all but eliminates flex and distortion, you find yourself with an incredibly crafted, reliable, and well engineered series subwoofer.
What really sets these subwoofers apart is their ability to perform in very tight quarters. The 10” W6v3-D4 is engineered to pound in as little as .55 cubic feet of space in an enclosed box. That’s a 12.5” by 12.5” by 10.5” box. Almost anyone can squeeze that in. Their ability to produce bass with the quality and accuracy in such a limited amount of space is really impressive. And with capabilities up to 600 watts RMS, the W6V3 speakers are tough enough for almost any system.
The W6V3-series share many components with the flagship W7V3-series. Among the most key features, JL Audio applies Dynamic Motor Analysis (DMA) to the W6V3 subwoofers. This allows for a finely tuned subwoofer that produces linear bass without distortion. Pole Vent Airflow Control and Raised Frame Cooling prevent overheating and allow for air to move correctly for increased durability. The W6V3-series also feature the same 4-ohm, dual voice coils and heavy duty magnets as the flagship series. They're a top-notch sub, we personally run these in our own vehicles (and have even put them in boats) and absolutely love them.
5. Editor's Pick: Sony MobileES Series
Sony Mobile ES Subwoofer Review
Originally unveiled in 2021, the Mobile ES lineup is Sony’s flagship automotive speaker lineup. Shortly after being released, we installed and tested their 10” subwoofer in a Volkswagen GTI and loved it’s performance. At the time they only had a 10” subwoofer available, but in May of 2022 Sony added 2 and 4 ohm 12” subs, making it a more well-rounded lineup of subwoofers and a great candidate for our list of best subwoofers. We love this lineup – from the looks to the innovative features that Sony incorporated.
The Mobile ES subs feature a lot of cool technology that you don’t see in other subwoofer lineups. Among them, Sony uses a proprietary Honecomb-stamped Aramid Fiber material for the woofer. It’s rigid and durable. And the woofer surround is a technology that Sony calls Separated Notch Edge surround (you can see what looks like a pattern of slits on the rubber surround). When combined with their progressive height rate spider, the Separated Notch Edge surround helps the woofer move further vertically (X-Max) which can help the cone push more volume with greater efficiency.
If you’re interested in reading more about the Mobile ES subwoofers, you can check out our full writeup of the Mobile ES subwoofers. You won’t be disappointed!
6. Best Value Car Subwoofer: Alpine R Series
Alpine R Series Subwoofer Review
Alpine’s R-Series is the updated version of the infamous Type R that sat on our list for years. The R-Series subwoofers have picked up the ironclad gauntlet thrown down by the older Type R subwoofer. They feature a Kevlar-treated cone and the exclusive Santoprene™ surround for incredible response and durability. Alpine replaced the compound of the dust cap with a lighter, more vibration absorbing mixture to increase the impact of these subwoofers.
Power handling has increased over previous models to 750 W RMS (on select models). That is a ton of bump from any sub, and the tough R-Series is ready to handle a beating with twisting or deforming, even under the heaviest of loads.
The Alpine R-Series are available in four variations, 12” and 10” 4-ohm dual voice coil models, and 12” and 10” 2-ohm dual voice coil models. The R-Series are compatible with Alpine’s interchangeable grill system to allow easy customization. It is hard to find a high-quality, tough subwoofer for a better price.
7. Best Subwoofer for Harsh Environments: Polk Audio MM Series
Polk Audio MM Series Subwoofer Review
When a really durable subwoofer is required for the harsh or outdoor environment, turn to Polk Audio and the MM1-series of subwoofers. Polk has them available in dual and single voice coils, and each speaker is fog, salt, UV, and spray tested to achieve an IP56 ultra-marine rating. Put them in your boat, or the bed of your truck, or on the outside of your motorhome, these subwoofers will perform in any weather.
The best thing about the Polk Audio MM1-series subwoofers beyond the incredible durability they offer is that there is no sacrifice in sound quality for all that safety. Polk engineers added high excursion bump motors, a rigid poly cone, and Santoprene surrounds to make sure you feel every note. High-performance Neodymium magnets guarantee long-lasting performance. A vented pole and basket structure with integrated fuses ensures a rigid speaker that is a strong performer.
Polk Audio has six subwoofers in the MM1-series. These include dual and single voice coil applications in 8”, 10”, and 12” sizes. An easy-to-manage price point also puts these top performing outdoor subwoofers as one of our top budget picks.
8. Go All Out: Rockford Fosgate Power T1 Series Subwoofers
Rockford Fosgate Power T1 Series Series Subwoofer Review
Rockford Fosgate updated their legendary T0-series with the new, more powerful T1-series. The T1 subwoofers take advantage of RFs VAST technology that enables each speaker to perform as though it is 25% larger. This allows the T1 to produce unbelievable bass volume that remains punchy and tight, even on the deepest tracks. In the intro of this article I mentioned there's people who want to feel the bass, not just hear it. To those people, I say look no further.
RF set out to build a truly tough speaker with the T1-series. A kevlar-reinforced paper cone, symmetrical dual progressive roll tear resistant poly-cotton spiders, and a rigid die-cast aluminum frame give the T1 unbelievable strength.
The T1-series subwoofers are rated to handle up to 600 watts RMS. The series features more than just a range of sizes, too. RF builds a “slimline” version that uses a single, one ohm voice coil. A 10” slimline T1 can be mounted in an enclosed box as small as 14” Hx16.75” Wx9” D. The T1-series also includes a 15” subwoofer for those with plenty of room in the trunk. Slimline versions exist for the 12”, 10”, and the line includes a special direct-fit 8” sub for BMW vehicles.
9. Best Low Cost Subwoofer: MTX 55 Series Subwoofers
MTX 55 Series Series Subwoofer Review
Reality check, most of us can only dream of a system incorporating a pair of Rockford Fosgate T1s, or even the Hertz and JL subs for that matter. What we really need is a subwoofer that offers a decent amount of power handling, has excellent response and punchiness, and can be paid for without maxing out a credit card. Enter the MTX 55-series, a range of subwoofers that offers all the tech needed for a good sounding street vehicle without the sky-high price tag.
The 55-series is the best selling subwoofer offered by MTX, and for good reason. The 55’s feature a lot of the same tech as the flagship super-woofers MTX sells. A rigid yoke provides excellent strength, the inverted apex surround and progressive suspension system offers excellent sound quality, particularly for earth-rumbling bass. The 12” 55’s can be mounted in a vented, 2.3 cu ft. enclosure, so they are trim enough to be easily used in most vehicles. With an RMS rating of 400 watts, plenty of juice can be thrown through thee subwoofers from a budget-friendly system that is going to rock.
Just like when choosing a home subwoofer, when choosing the car subwoofer to fit your needs, you have to ask yourself, “What kind of bass am I looking for?” The best subwoofer isn’t always the biggest. Different sizes of subwoofers respond and produce different sound to different music. Finding the right match for your music preferences is key. Let’s talk about the different sizes of subwoofers and what kind of sound they emit.
- 8″ Subwoofers – The smaller the woofer the faster, more responsive and punchier it is. An 8″ woofer can keep up with faster paced music. Heavy rock, double bass and fast paced electronic are great candidates for an 8″ sub. It’s a great choice for those who enjoy soft and light bass. An 8 inch subwoofer is one that compliments a system rather than overwhelming it. If you like very heavy and loud bass, this might not be the ideal choice for you.
- 10″ Subwoofers – 10’s are very common. They are the most well-rounded and safest choice for a subwoofer on the market. The 10″ can keep up with fast paced music while creating a respectable amount of bass. They are good for fast paced music, and also good with heavier bass music. Rap, rock, club music, you name it. The 10″ subwoofer will cover it all. But if you’re looking for big bass, you may have to double up with the 10″ to get the volume you want.
- 12″ Subwoofers – If you listen to a wide variety of music but enjoy heavy bass, a 12″ subwoofer is for you. The 12″ sub is the most common in the marketplace today. This is because they are so universal. They're great for pretty much all types of music, produce a heavy bass and cover a deeper range of frequencies. They won’t keep up with fast paced music such as heavy rock or metal as well as the 10″. But, it will sound great for all varieties of music, especially rap, electronic, club and pop.
- 15″ Subwoofers – 15″ subwoofers aren't a common size sub. They're not a great solution to the everyday music listener either. But, if you are looking for ear bleeding bass then you are in the right category.
To sum up, when choosing a sub for your car or vehicle, you need consider a number of things. To start, the level of music you want to listen to, type of music, and confinements of the location. 8″ subwoofers are great for leveling out a sound system while a 15″ will wake the neighbors. Your safest bet is the 10″ or 12″ subwoofer.
Remember, all of the top-rated subwoofers require an awesome amplifier. Check out all of the Best Car Amplifiers, and the Best Subwoofer Amplifiers for information on choosing an amplifier that'll meet the specs of your subwoofer.
What to Look For
Car subwoofers are essentially oversized speakers. They require much more space, power, material – pretty much more of everything. When adding a car subwoofer to your car stereo, you will need to make sure to pay close attention to specific things when researching to make sure you have both the right subwoofer, and the right components to power and house your subwoofer. Below is a list of criteria we recommend considering when you’re choosing a subwoofer for your car:
Speaker Design and Materials
The best subwoofers will add a whole new level of audio to your car. They help round out your system, supporting your speakers where needed – in the low frequencies. Here’s a couple of things to note about your speaker’s design and materials when comparing:
Woofer: The subwoofer’s woofer can easily determine the responsiveness, and overall quality of the speaker. The stiffer and more lightweight the material used, the more effective the subwoofer is. Polypropylene is a very common material used for the cone, as well as woven fabrics such as carbon and kevlar. Aluminum and titanium are also used in higher end subwoofer woofers.
Woofer Surrounding: The woofer surround also is an important aspect of the speaker system and effect the sound as well. Durable, lightweight, and free moving materials are used to allow the woofer to move with as little energy possible. The material is essential for a long lasting and performing speaker too. As speakers get older and used, humidity levels and wear-and-tear can crack and even break the surrounding of the woofer. Forms of Rubber surrounding are typically the most long lasting an high performing material. Foam and cloth surroundings are found on less expensive component speakers, with lower performance and shorter life spans.
There are multiple power handling ratings for subwoofers and speakers, the two most important to note are RMS (Continuous) Power Handling, and sensitivity. RMS Power Handling tells you what your speaker can handle continuously. Note that many providers used to sell customers on the ‘Peak’ handling since this is a much higher number than the RMS. But Peak is only the measure of what the speaker can handle in short bursts. RMS is the more important
Sensitivity is another highly important measure to look at when comparing and finding the right subwoofer. It’s the measurement of the amount of sound that a speaker will emit with the power it’s given. Essentially this is you measure of efficiency. The higher the sensitivity, the more efficient the subwoofer is.
Many of the criteria we’ve been discussing is pretty standard across all car speakers. But here’s a measure that’s pretty unique to subwoofers – Enclosure Specs. Car speakers don’t really need to consider this because you’re typically mounting a speaker in a door, or on a bracket the car. But a subwoofer needs to have an enclosure dedicated to it. There are pre-made enclosures everywhere, or you can even build your own enclosure to customize it to the contours of your vehicle, but in any case you’ll need to match the specs of your enclosure as best as you can to the specs of the recommended manufacturer enclosure specs.
There are two type of enclosures, and typically the manufacturer will provide recommended specs for both: Sealed Enclosures and Ported Enclosures. A sealed enclosure is a box that is fully concealed. These boxes are great for precise and clean bass with little distortion. Sealed enclosures are the standard when it comes to well-defined bass. Ported enclosures have a hole in the box to port sound. These enclosures are excellent for outdoor settings and provide louder, but sometimes less defined bass.