Back in October, Sony announced the addition of a new subwoofer to their lineup. You can read the announcement here. It's the XS-AW8 and its their only powered (or active) subwoofer in their lineup, adding a new product category to Sony's line of products.
If you're not familiar with the difference between a powered/active and passive subwoofer, let me quickly summarize. An active or powered subwoofer is one that combines amplification and a subwoofer into a single unit. Typically, powered subwoofers are a little more compact than passive and are easier to install than a passive subwoofer. A passive subwoofer is a stand alone subwoofer and is probably what you're most familiar with when you picture purchasing an aftermarket sub. You need to purchase your amplifier separately in most cases and unless you're buying a subwoofer that comes with the enclosure, odds are you'll have to source or build that too.
If you're looking for a straight forward and integrated way to add a little more bass to your car's stereo, or just want to add a fuller sound without breaking the bank or doing custom work, a powered/active subwoofer is a great option. You can check out our list of best powered subwoofers for all of our recommendations. They're also great options for tucking underneath your seat or behind a bench seat in your truck, which is exactly what we did in our 2012 Ram 1500.
Shortly after Sony announced the release, we were lucky enough to get our hands on one to review it. I was looking for a quick and easy way to add a little more bass in my 2012 Ram 1500 without building a custom enclosure and ultimately a custom stereo for it (yet). I didn't want to take up room under the rear bench seat and I also didn't want to deal with wiring a separate amplifier and subwoofer. So the XS-AW8 was a perfect alternative to a much more intensive and custom bass setup.
Let's take a look at the active subwoofer, some of it's key features and walk through what we thought about the subwoofer setup after we installed it in our truck!
Unboxing & First Impressions
When the XS-AW8 first showed up at the front door and I pulled out the unit from the shipping box for the first time, I was actually expecting a larger unit. I had been sent the dimensions beforehand but I was relieved when I began to open it up for the first time and see the unit's actual size. I was concerned it may not fit underneath the driver seat of the truck but after pulling it out I really was amazed at how much Sony packed into such a small unit.
When you first open up the box, you'll see the subwoofer up front and center. The gunmetal-like finish gives it a really nice, aggressive and clean look.
When you first pull out the subwoofer, you get a sense of how dense the enclosure and unit really is. And, again you can really get a sense at how compact it is. You can fit this unit almost anywhere which makes it perfect for an add-on unit really on any vehicle at any time or circumstance. There's one panel on the left hand side of the unit that houses the inputs, phase and low pass filter and then of course the subwoofer driver that's mounted securely to the enclosure and covered with a steel grill. We'll get more into the enclosure and sub a little further.
With the subwoofer out, really the only things you have left in the box is the manual, wiring, volume knob and installation brackets. The beauty of a powered subwoofer, again, is everything is contained in a single unit.
And what's nice about the wiring on this unit is that it's all condensed into a single harness that plugs directly into the unit. It simplifies the wiring and creates a clean look when you go to plug everything in, making it a great product for the weekend DIYer.
The volume knob is simple enough, stylish and plugs right into the same panel on the side of the unit. The only thing that this unit doesn't come with is a signal RCA wire IF you choose to use one. There are two ways to wire the signal input to the XS-AW8 though. We'll get into that a little further.
So What's In the Box?
- Sony XS-AW8 owner's manual
- Powered subwoofer
- Wired remote control with attached 13′ cord (has 4-conductor RJ-14 plug on the end)
- Wiring harness (13′ Power and Ground/ 10′ Remote turn-on/ 10′ Speaker level input)
- 4 Mounting brackets
- 1 Remote mounting bracket
- Adhesive backed remote mounting pad
- Four M5x8mm Machine screws
- Four 3/4″ Screws
- Two 1/2″ Screws
- Two 3/16″ Screws
- Warranty information
- Wiring instructions printed on the box
Let's talk through some of the most notable features of Sony's XS-AW8 and what makes it a great option for adding bass to your car.
The enclosure is made from cast-aluminum, making it incredibly rigid and stout. It was built to be ultra compact too and measures in at only 13 5/8″L x 9 7/8″W x 3 1/8″D, making it shallow enough to fit under almost any normal seat, under a bench seat or even behind your single cab truck seats. The enclosure serves a few key purposes in this combination:
- Enclosure to the subwoofer (obviously) – It's really rigid though by design to reduce unwanted vibrations and distortion when you're pumping your music.
- Enclosure to the amplifier – The amp is also mounted to the side.
- A big heatsink – Since the amp is mounted to the enclosure and shares the inside with a subwoofer that gets warm, the entire aluminum enclosure acts as a large heatsink to help fight against overheating when under heavy loads.
My favorite part about the enclosure though is the gunmetal look. When you combine it with the solid aluminum casing it feels kind of like an Apple product. It just feels like its quality made with quality materials. The one thing I don't like about a solid aluminum, gunmetal enclosure is that it is very easy to scratch. I learned this the hard way when trying to hoist my driver seat up and back into the truck after I installed the unit. Be aware of metal to metal contact because you'll definitely ruin the beautiful look of this enclosure if you aren't careful.
The subwoofer was designed/chosen specifically for the compact application. Sony put a shallow 8″ subwoofer that was designed with a unique rigid diaphragm that's meant to complement the rigidity of the enclosure to really get the most out of the compact design.
After installing the unit, I was impressed with the volume and clarity that this small unit put out. I won't tell you that it's the right subwoofer for a high performance system though. But the 8″ really did a nice job at rounding out what was a stereo that just rattled the door panels when I pumped bass into it. It really brought the music to life and added a new level of fullness to the stereo.
Wiring & Amplifier
Personally one of the things I liked most about the XS-AW8 was it's amplifier and wiring design. It's very simple and doesn't really require much thinking, again.. making it a great candidate for the weekend DIYer. The unit is powered by a 75W RMS (160W Peak) A/B class amplifier that's tucked into the left side of the unit. It only has one simple panel with inputs and adjustments.
Since the amplifier was designed to the specifications of the subwoofer you really don't have to worry about anything like tuning, gains, etc. It's uber simple and was designed to be plug and play for the average person.
If you look at the wiring harness that comes in the box, technically this is everything you need to make the subwoofer work flawlessly in your vehicle. You have:
- Yellow: Constant 12V power (B+). This is ran to your battery.
- Black: Negative. You can run this to your battery as well or to a good ground on the body of your vehicle.
- Blue/White: Amp turn on. You can tie this into your amp turn on on an aftermarket head unit, or simply find the accessory wire that turns on when you start the vehicle.
These three wires above are the core wires to make your subwoofer turn on. In order to get the signal to your subwoofer, Sony gives you two easy options:
- Connection with OEM Audio that doesn't have an RCA pre-out: If you don't have an aftermarket head unit in your car, you're likely going to use this setup. In addition to the three wires above, there are also four additional wires that will tap into your vehicle's left and right speakers. You can go directly to the speaker in the panel or you can find the speaker wire somewhere in the harness. This method was designed to work with OEM speakers so that you don't need to buy any other parts to make it work. Back in the day, this would include a high-low converter that would need to be wired to your car's speaker to transfer it into an RCA, which would then need to be ran to the amplifier. Those days are gone with the XS-AW8.
- Connection with a head unit with a RCA pre-out: If you do have an aftermarket head unit, odds are you have a dedicated RCA pre-out specifically designed for the subwoofer. In this case, you'll need to purchase an RCA cable and run it from your head unit directly to the subwoofer amplifier panel. The benefit to this type of installation is that your head unit will likely also have dedicated controls for the subwoofer which will make it easy to tune and make it sound exactly how you want it to without touching the amplifier panel. For this connection type, you also will not use the additional four wires in the harness that I described in #1. In my case, I snipped the four wires, capped them and then used an RCA that I ran to the back of my head unit.
These options make it a great, universal powered sub that can be installed in almost any audio system with ease.
Highlights & Specs:
- compact powered subwoofer
- 8″ shallow-profile woofer
- Class A/B amplifier (75 watts RMS)
- sealed cast-aluminum enclosure
- wired remote included
- speaker- and preamp-level inputs
- dimensions: 13-5/8″L x 9-7/8″W x 3-1/8″H
When it comes to adding in an easy to install, straight forward and compact subwoofer to your vehicle, the XS-AW8 is a good choice. We used it to add a little more fullness to our Ram 1500, which had the OEM door panel speakers and no added subwoofer for bass.
What I liked about the unit was its compact, solid aluminum enclosure that fit perfectly underneath the driver seat of the truck. Installation for the XS-AW8 is also very straight forward and an easy to understand project for the average DIYer which makes it a great option for almost any vehicle. The wiring and configuration options really make it a universal unit.
I definitely would recommend this unit for those who are looking to add a little more fullness and bass to their OEM system. When added to our truck, it really rounded out the sound very well. It's how the truck should have come from the factory. That said, these units were designed to do just that – round out your stereo and add some bass. I would not recommend this unit for those who are looking for ground shaking bass or a custom, high performance stereo.