Best Subwoofers for Your Car or Truck in 2024
Why Trust Our Opinion on Car Subwoofers?
CarAudioNow isn’t your typical automotive blog—we’re an award-winning platform built by car enthusiasts who have first hand experience in the audio shop installing products. Led by our editor, Kameron, and a select team of expert writers, we’ve dedicated years to testing and installing a diverse range of subwoofers, building a deep understanding of their performance, sound quality, and overall value to consumers. We get our hands dirty, purchasing some of the products on our list and graciously receiving others from manufacturers. Our recommendations are the result of a careful blend of first-hand experiences and in-depth research. We frequently refresh our lists with new and noteworthy subwoofers in an effort to stay at the forefront of what’s on the market and provide our readers with the latest and greatest products too.
And at CarAudioNow, we don’t rely on AI to spit out generic lists. We take pride in delivering content that goes beyond regurgitated information – car audio and video is what we love. Rather, our focus is on crafting meaningful lists with practical insights to empower you to make informed decisions. We’re not here for a quick buck or to chase Google rankings; our reader’s trust, reputation and genuine love for the products we recommend is why we do what we do. Read more about how we choose our top lists here.
In this article: We'll list out and compare our top subwoofer picks for your car, truck or SUV broken down by the various types of subwoofers that we feel like are mainstream today – shallow, component/traditional, powered and free-air. We'll walk you through not only our own top picks, but also the things we think you should consider yourself when choosing your own subwoofer for your vehicle.
At the end of the day, subwoofers are just speakers that are engineered to reproduce bass and low frequencies. Most car subwoofers operate best at frequencies between 20 Hz and 200 Hz, with some models reaching higher into the mid-bass range (for example some 8” subwoofers).
They are typically installed as a part of your broader car stereo to round out the bass frequencies, while normal car speakers in your door panels or dash are dedicated to the mid-bass, mid and higher frequencies. We see a lot of consumers reserve the subwoofer purchase for last and upgrade other speakers and/or the head unit first, but there's no substituting the impact that a subwoofer has on the overall performance of a stereo.
You can pretty much boil down the reasons why someone adds a subwoofer to a car or truck's stereo to either:
- To 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?
Many will find this article by searching for things like “what's the best 12 inch subwoofer”, or “best 10in 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.
If you're interested in reading more about what size sub you should choose, along with the various components of a subwoofer that we consider when selecting our lists, we highly recommend glancing at our Comprehensive Guide to Choosing a Subwoofer.
Here Are Our Best Car Subwoofers of 2024
Best Overall Component Car Subwoofer
>>> Check out our full list of Component Car Subwoofers <<<
This category of subwoofer is what we consider the most common. It's traditional, in a sense that it's designed for bass in an enclosure without any other goal in mind (for example shallow subs). When you think of an automotive subwoofer, this is probably what you think of first.
Since they aren't slim, and don't come out of the box with an enclosure or amplifier, component subs are ideal for those building a system from the ground up. They give you the flexibility to choose the enclosure you want (maybe a custom one designed for your vehicle), choose the amplifier you want to power it with, and really just install them wherever you can fit them. If you're not limited by space and don't need/want a built-in amplifier and an enclosure, this is the category of subs that we'd recommend.
JL Audio W7AE Series Subwoofer Review
The JL Audio W7-series of speakers debuted back in 2001 and has been regularly updated ever since. It has reigned at the top our ‘best list' for years now, and you’ll likely notice the same thing from other reviewers that know their stuff. The newest version is their 10th Anniversary Edition which adds a slick, satin black finish to the frame and an anodized metal ring around the surround. You’ll also find unique commemorative logos on the cone and a tag on the inputs. The 10th Anniversary models are exact to the specifications of non-Anniversary subs though.
What makes this particular subwoofer our top pick is its ability to handle tons of power while producing clean, tight, accurate bass. This is possible due to a unique cone design that is built just like a car – providing rigidity that can handle the tremendous forces exerted on the assembly while remaining light and responsive. One of our favorite features about the W7 though, even if it doesn't necessarily have the biggest impact, is the OverRoll feature. If you look closely at the picture, you might notice there is no visible place for a mounting screw. The design positions the mounting screws under the surround of sight for a cleaner, structurally superior, sound-enhancing mounting. They optimized the space that would have traditionally been wasted and used it to maximize excursion. Brilliant.
They are available in 8”, 10”, 12”, and 13.5” sizes and work with sealed or ported boxes.
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 stability.
- OverRoll Surround system which improves air displacement and speaker efficiency.
- Cross-Drilled Pole Piece for efficient cooling and superior linear performance.
- Floating lead-wire design for reduced sound distortion and mechanical noise.
We really feel like the W7 is the best all around component sub on the market still. Time and time again we've re-affirmed this. Many people have found the 8” model to be the ideal compromise of power and bass output with size since it can be mounted in a compact enclosed box with great results. Check out our more in-depth of the JL Audio W7 10th Anniversary series for more information.
Best Overall Shallow Car Subwoofer
>>> Check out our full list of Shallow Car Subwoofers <<<
Sometimes space is limited. Particularly in trucks, coupes and so on. In these cases, a shallow or slim series subwoofer might be a better choice for you than a component car subwoofer. The challenge with shallow subs is finding an option that will fit, produce the volume of bass you're expecting and at the same time ensure clarity.
Once upon a time, shallow subwoofers were a lesser product than traditional component subs. You only used them if you absolutely had to because the technology used was sub par. We've seen a trend in the past 5-7 years, in particular, that's changing the way we look at slim series subs – and it's for the better. But for you, as a consumer, the key thing is performance and ensuring that you purchase a shallow subwoofer that doesn't wreak of the past limitations and flaws that came along with a slimmer option. So this category is dedicated to finding the latest and greatest in shallow subwoofers that will compete with even some of the best component subwoofers on our list.
Hertz Milli Pro Shallow Series Subwoofer Review
Besides JL Audio, we think that Hertz is really the only other brand who has completely overhauled and re-engineered the design of a subwoofer specifically for the slim use case. They took their Mille Pro-series subwoofers – already known for their compactness – and shrank them down even further. Then, they beefed up the features and other technologies to ensure the slim subwoofer will produce deep bass frequencies and handle plenty of power.
There are two key aspects of the compact design that make the big difference: 1) a smart suspension group design that contains the spider and coil, and 2) moving the magnet structure inward within the chassis which reduces the depth of the speaker while providing 20% more linear excursion.
But we weren't the only ones who were excited about Hertz's new design, the Milli Pro Shallow Series earned an Expert Sound and Imaging Association “Best of 2022-23” award. The MPS subs don’t sacrifice power handling, either.
The Hertz-Audio Mille PRO Shallow subwoofer is available in 10” and 12” designs, with sub-models providing a choice of 2-ohm and 4-ohm resistance for each size. Owners of pickup trucks with rear bench seats or coupes with limited space – this is our ideal pick for a solution for you. Check out our more in-depth review of the Hertz Audio Milli PRO Shallow subwoofer to get all the details.
Features of the Hertz-Audio Mille PRO Shallow include:
- Ultra-shallow depth
- Optimized for extremely compact sealed enclosure 12-14L (0.4-0.5CF)
- Air Intercooling Revolution (A.I.R.) prevents air-compression-related limitations
- Unrivalled mechanical excursion, +20% over traditional designs
- Six-layer copper voice coil (38mm/1.5 in.) ensures high thermal capacity
- Non-vented rear design allows reduced enclosure depth
- Robust screw-less mesh grille included with black screws provided
- Die-cast aluminum frame
- Solid horizontal 8AWG spring-loaded terminals
Best Overall Powered Subwoofer
>>> Check out our full list of Powered Subwoofers <<<
Powered subwoofers fit a wider variety of use cases than most component and slim subs. Also known as “active” subwoofers, they're a more versatile and convenient option to the other types of subwoofers on our list. The main reason, and what sets these subs apart from other sub categories on our list, is the inclusion of a built-in amplifier. This makes them a standalone solution, rather than merely one component like, let's say, a slim subwoofer.
In the automotive world, powered subs are typically a go-to choice for those who want an easy installation, all-in-one option. Powered subs are also frequently more compact and require less installation space, making them a perfect fit for smaller vehicles like the shallow subwoofer category. In fact, many of these options actually use a shallow subwoofer. The built-in amplifier simplifies the setup process and eliminates the need for an external car amp, which can be a significant advantage for those not as familiar with wiring or want a plug-and-play option.
The decision to choose a powered subwoofer over a component one often comes down to simplicity and space-savings. If you value hassle-free installation, compact design, and impressive bass, a powered subwoofer our recommended solution.
JL Audio ACP110LG-TW1 Quick Review
The JL Audio ACP110LG-TW1 is a top-notch powered subwoofer. Compact, high quality, super powerful – the ACP110LG is the complete package. The key thing that stood out to us about this unit was its performance. It delivers clear, powerful bass without using too much space. This is more than just a subwoofer and an amp shoved in a box. This is a specially designed subwoofer that we think you should check out above any other powered sub on the market.
JL Audio speaker boxes are made in the company’s Florida production facility. JL Audio uses a special V-Groove, CNC cut, medium-density MDF to build these speaker boxes. The V-Groove allows the panels of the box to fit precisely and be leak-free for optimal sound quality once assembled. Port and woofer holes are precisely cut to ensure good stability when the speaker is installed.
JL’s assembly of the boxes is unique. Rather than glue the wood together and wrap it in carpet, JL Audio glues the panels to the carpet, then folds the panels into a box, gluing the V-Groove along the way. The single panel of carpet functions as a wrap when the box is assembled.
The powered subwoofer component uses an ultra-low clearance TW1 subwoofer measuring at 10 inches. The subwoofer uses several patented construction elements to provide deep bass in a shallow package.
Excursion is everything in terms of making bass. The TW1 subwoofer uses concentric tube suspension that allows the motor to sit higher up in the body of the woofer while providing excellent range of motion from the spider. The voice coil sits within the motor to eliminate the top-plate and provide a slim profile with plenty of mechanical range.
On its own, the TW1 is a contending subwoofer worthy of including in our best slim subwoofers. This package includes a TW1 that has an impedance of only ¼ ohm, allowing the greatest extraction of power from every volt available.
The Class-D amplifier provides up to 400 watts RMS. The design doesn’t ramp up voltage as most designs using a switching power supply will do. Instead, the built-in DCD technology optimizes the 12-volt supply in combination with the ultra-low impedance speaker at extremely high amperage. The speaker will receive around 50 amps of current flow to allow for the high wattage capabilities you want.
What We Like About the JL Audio ACP110LG-TW1
When it comes to adding a compact yet powerful subwoofer, these types of designs are excellent. The enclosure measures only 5-inches high so it’ll fit in lots of tight locations. The best part about this design is the premium, hard-hitting bass response you get. Installation is fast and easy. The patented features of the design and construction ensure an excellent sounding and reliable subwoofer.
Reasons to Buy
- Excellent bass response that greatly increases audio performance
- Slim profile that will fit in lots of tight locations
- Highly efficient amplifier doesn’t draw a ton of power
Reasons Not to Buy
- The enclosure is not as slim as some designs
Best Overall Free Air Subwoofer
>>> Check out our full list of Free Air & Infinite Baffle Subwoofers <<<
Also grouped together into the same category as infinite baffle sub, free air subwoofers are designed to produce good bass response without a traditional enclosure. All of the other subs on our list are meant to be mounted in a box, and use the air trapped inside as a baffle, both controlling the rear-moving air waves and allowing the speaker to push the bass forward. Whereas a free air sub has to have features that allow it to perform well without the use of an enclosure. In many cases, a free air sub will need more power input than a typical subwoofer. They're also a little more prone to damage if pushed to the extremes of other subwoofer types. Nonetheless, a solid, robust free air subwoofer will produce solid bass response and will take the abuse with ease.
There are a couple key use cases for free air subwoofers that we've seen:
- Rear shelf behind the back seat of a car – Some vehicles have the subwoofer mounted in the rear shelf of their car, behind the rear seats. Lexus was known for this with their SC300s but many other vehicles share the same design. If the subwoofer is mounted in the rear shelf of your car and you can see the bottom of the subwoofer from your trunk, this is a good indicator that you need a free air subwoofer.
- Marine or boats – if you have a boat, where the subwoofer is mounted freely and open to a panel, it's likely that you need a free air sub. But just in case, check the back side of the panel to see if the subwoofer is fixed within an enclosure that you can't see from the face of the sub.
We put together some content that will help you further understand the nuances of free air and infinite baffle subwoofers in our Free Air Subwoofers Defined article. If you're still not sure about whether or not a free air or infinite baffle sub is for you, take a glance at this article!
Infinity Kappa 123WDSSI Quick Review
When it comes to getting excellent bass quality while pushing big power, you won’t find a better free-air subwoofer than the Infinity Kappa 123WDSSI. Superior build quality and materials were what stood out to us with this one. The 123WDSSI is rated to handle 500 watts RMS and a peak of 1500 watts! Bear in mind though, when mounting this sub in a free-air location, you’ll want to cut the power rating roughly in half. The 123WDSSI features a selectable input to match with either 2-ohm or 4-ohm amplifiers too.
The steel basket is the secret to this speaker’s power-handling characteristics. The design eliminates flex and absorbs harmonics to prevent distortion. Infinity uses a proprietary technology called aero-cooling that gives the voice coil added ventilation to prevent overheating. Most subs fail when the voice coil is overloaded and begins to distort due to heat. This design allows the sub to take power above its rating without distortion or flex.
Creating the perfect range of bass frequencies requires a strong, rigid woofer cone and a surround with plenty of movement range. Infinity uses a special glass-fiber material that provides rigidity and then coats the cone with a frequency-damping material that prevents unwanted harmonics. The combination of strength and quality materials gives the Kappa Infinity 123WDSSI excellent power-handling characteristics when mounted as a free-air sub.
- 500W RMS, 1500W peak
- 12” subwoofer
- Steel Basket
- Dampened glass-fiber woofer cone
- Rubber surround
- 2” voice coil with aero-cooling
Reasons to Buy
- Excellent power handling characteristics due to quality materials and construction
- Well-suited for free air mounting in cars and trucks
- Impressive bass quality that focuses on the very lowest frequencies
Reasons Not to Buy
- Requires more depth than many similar-sized subs
- A high-quality and powerful amplifier is required to get the best performance
A subwoofer is a type of speaker that's specifically designed to produce low-frequency sounds, aka bass. A car subwoofer can enhance the overall quality of a car's audio system, particularly for music with heavy bass.
Some key features to look for in a subwoofer include the size of the sub, its power handling capacity, impedance, sensitivity, and the frequency response.
Generally speaking, in order to install a car subwoofer, you need five components: a car amplifier, head unit, power, signal and a subwoofer enclosure. You will need to run power from the vehicle's battery and signal from your head unit both to the car amplifier and then speaker wire from the car amplifier to the subwoofer. Be sure to take proper precautions, like disconnecting your battery and double checking connections in order to prevent damage to your vehicle.
Some popular brands of car subwoofers include JL Audio, Sony, Rockford Fosgate, and Kicker. Many of which are on our list of best subwoofers!