LAST UPDATED: April 25, 2019
Best 12-Inch Subwoofers: Add Some Bass to Your Music
Experience a rich booming sound in your car with any of our top picks for the best 12-inch subwoofer
The Review Team
How We Decided
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PUBLISHED ON April 25, 2019
Ever played loud music in your car but couldn’t feel the deep, low bass in your chest? If yes, then what you need is a set of quality subwoofers that will fill your car with a bass-laden sound. We understand that there are plenty of subwoofers on the market, and it may be difficult to discover the best. You don’t have to go through all that trouble; we have rounded up some of the best 12-inch subwoofers that will give your audio system more depth and realism.
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All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, or practical experience with most products we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Why Buy A 12-Inch Subwoofer
- Improve your stereo speakers. Most factory stereo speakers don’t produce enough bass. Car stereo speakers are designed to be small so that they don’t take up a lot of space in a car door. Small speakers don’t have enough space to produce frequencies lower than 80 hertz, which are typical for the best bass. That’s why you need to boost them with a set of subwoofers that can pick up the lower frequencies.
- Reduce strain on your audio system. When you use a single stereo speaker to produce a full range of frequencies, the lower frequencies tend to suck up a lot of power and eventually weaken the entire audio system. A subwoofer has its own amplifier as its power source, and adding it to the audio system will reduce the strain on the entire audio system.
- Smooth sound. In most car audio systems, there is often an imbalance of sound between the tweeters, mid-drivers, and the stereo speakers, especially when playing music at high volumes. A subwoofer improves the quality of sound by opening a channel for lower frequencies that cause distortion in other devices.
- Speed control. Some genres of music have fast starts and stops in the instrumentals that factory speakers struggle with, which leads to skipped beats or smeared music. Most subwoofers have speed and transient response, where the fastest bass lines are received and delivered with ease and realism.
Types of Subwoofers
Bass tubes are subwoofers that are enclosed in a tube to save on space in a vehicle. These subwoofers don’t typically deliver a loud, distortion-free sound, but they are cheap and the easiest upgrade to your car’s audio system. Bass tube subwoofers can handle up to 800 watts of power and are available in sizes ranging from 6 to 12 inches.
Self-Amplified Bass Solutions
Self-amplified bass solutions are subwoofers that are fitted into an enclosure that’s powered by an in-line amplifier. These subwoofers also don’t deliver high-quality bass, but most are cheap and can be used as a quick upgrade. They save on space in a vehicle and are available in several sizes that fit almost all modern vehicles.
Standard Subwoofer Speakers
Standard subwoofer speakers come without an enclosure. You need to purchase either a sealed or ported enclosure to contain these speakers. They are available in sizes ranging from 6 to 15 inches and give the user more freedom when it comes to choosing where to install them. They are also the best performing subwoofers and deliver the best bass output.
Rockford Fosgate has more than 30 years of experience in the car audio market, and it makes audio equipment for motorcycles and marine equipment. James Fosgate founded Rockford in 1973. The company produces amp-component speakers, stereo speakers, subwoofers, and a variety of audio accessories. One of the best single 12-inch subwoofers from Rockford is the Rockford Fosgate P3D4.
Planet Audio was birthed in 1997 by a team of car audio enthusiasts who believed that the industry could do well with audio products that are powerful and budget-friendly. With its headquarters in Oxnard, Calif., the company branched out to produce and sell subwoofers, speakers, and amplifiers on a global scale. One of the best budget 12-inch subwoofers from Planet Audio is the Planet Audio AC12D.
MTX Audio is a brand name under the Mitek Corporation and an American manufacturer of sound equipment for home audio, car audio, and marine audio. MTX Audio was founded by Loyd Ivey in 1979 and has its headquarters in Winslow, Illinois. MTX was the first inventor of a mobile audio enclosure. The company’s best-selling item is the MTX Audio Terminator.
Pioneer is a multinational company that specializes in designing digital entertainment equipment. Nozomu Matsumoto founded Pioneer in 1938, and it played a major role in the development of the first-ever automotive compact disc player. The company is based in Japan. If you would like to try out one of Pioneer’s top subwoofers, go for the Pioneer TS-SW2002D2.
12-Inch Subwoofer Pricing
- Below $100: Budget around this much if you would like a simple subwoofer that will add just the right amount of bass to your music. It’s not hard to find some cheap, quality speakers from apex brands, so don’t shy away from including them in your search filter.
- $100-$200: Expect to find both single and dual subwoofers at this price point. Your buying decision will largely be affected by how much space you have in your car. The subwoofers here are made of top-notch materials and typically offer you great bass and durability.
- Above $200: This price range offers dual subwoofers that come in an enclosure and typically have dual voice coils. The products are from high-end manufacturers, so you can expect to find some chic products from top brand names to add a spark of elegance to your car’s interior.
Power Handling Capacity
Ensure that you match your amplifier's power output to the subwoofers power handling capacity. That’s the only way you can avoid smoking coils and overheat. Pay more attention to the RMS power rating, as it shows the speaker's continuous power handling capability. Moreover, manufacturers often exaggerate peak power outputs, and some subwoofers don’t live up to the hype.
Single Vs. Dual Voice Coils
Voice coils connect the subwoofer to the amplifier where it draws its power. Single voice coils are cheap, but there are some amplifiers that can’t accommodate them. You will probably have to buy a new amplifier to connect with your single voice coil subwoofer. Double voice coils are expensive but connect to a greater number of amplifiers than single voice coils.
- Enclosure Type: Subwoofers are typically installed in a sealed or a ported enclosure. Ported enclosures give you a louder volume and keep the subwoofer aerated to prevent overheating. A sealed enclosure offers a clearer, deeper and controlled base.
- Frequency Range: A subwoofer’s frequency range indicates how low it can play and consequently, how good it's bass output is. A subwoofer with a frequency response of anything less than 80 hertz will give you a good bass.
- Sensitivity: A subwoofer requires a certain amount of power to produce volume, and that’s its sensitivity. The higher the sensitivity, the louder the volume you can get from less power. The ideal sensitivity for a subwoofer is between 80 and 99 decibels.
Best 12-Inch Subwoofer Reviews & Recommendations 2020
Rockford Fosgate tops our list due to its great sound quality and bass response. It features anodized dust caps and aluminum cones to increase its durability and delivers up to 1,200 watts of power. It’s equipped with aluminum voice coils that are efficient in dissipating heat during full range power usage. The Vertical Attach Surround Technique (VAST) increases the speaker’s cone area by up to 25 percent, and it has a flex-fit frame as opposed to single screw holes, giving the speaker enough flexibility to fit into an enclosure.
Multipoint-stitched lead wire increases the speaker’s resistance to damage by high current. The wiring also reduces the weight of each tinsel lead and distributes stress over a greater area. The speaker is also engineered with an extended pole piece and bumped backplate to promote heavy excursion where the speaker can reach deeper low frequencies without dragging the sound. The sound quality of the P3D4 doesn’t waver whether it’s in a sealed or ported enclosure.
A major drawback of this subwoofer is that it may be a bit too loud. That may be annoying, especially in a confined space like a car. Moreover, it has a low sensitivity of only 85 decibels and is heavier than other high-power handling subwoofers. That aside, if you decide to select this model, consider pairing it with a mono-amplifier rated at 900 watts RMS at 2 ohms to get the best out of this subwoofer.
The AC12D is one of the best cheap 12-inch subwoofers available. It features a polypropylene cone that is sturdy and lightweight to increase the quality of bass. A foam surrounding protects the speaker from damage caused by vibrations and offers the cone enough flexibility to move around while still keeping it centered. In addition, it has a customizable trim ring that makes the speaker a perfect fit when installed in either sealed or ported enclosures.
It has a low resonating frequency of 35 hertz, which also translates to low bass. Its dual voice coils can withstand high temperature and reduce electrical resistance to increase the amplifier's efficiency. That means that you can hook up two of these subwoofers to one amplifier, and the latter will still perform at its optimum level. The speaker’s die-cast frame has good corrosion resistance and can absorb and dissipate energy to maintain the subwoofer’s performance at high temperatures.
When you first install this subwoofer, you may not like that it takes hours to break them in and get quality sound. The manufacturer indicates that the subwoofer can handle a power rating of 1,800 watts, but the subwoofer may blow out when pushed to that limit. Moreover, Planet Audio doesn’t have the best customer support.
The MTX Audio Terminator is a powerful dual 12-inch subwoofer that comes as two woofers enclosed in a medium-density fiberboard. The sealed box is decorated with a black aviation-grade carpet for a fashionable look that complements your vehicle’s interior. Each subwoofer is made of a rigid, durable polypropylene cone and is sealed in an enclosure to control the quality and pitch of the sound. The outer covering of the enclosure is made of wooden material to protect the woofers from any damage.
With Spider Plateau Venting, the air surrounding the voice coils is constantly kept cool to prevent overheating of the components and the car’s atmosphere. Inside the subwoofer enclosure, there are insulating materials that minimize sound loss and maximize sound output. Each woofer possesses an RMS power of 200 watts, and the peak power is 1,200 watts. In addition, this model has a built-in amplifier that increases the depth of sound.
This is one subwoofer that’s difficult to set up. You may need to hire a car audio expert to install it for you. Its large size is also an inconvenience to people who love installing their subwoofers on the doors. It can only fit in a trunk or under the seats. Also, the MTX Audio Terminator is an entry-level subwoofer and may not deliver the much-needed punch to an experienced ear.
- If you would like to turn your car into the best listening area, place your subwoofer between two speakers. The low frequencies will blend in between the high frequencies and give you a well-balanced sound.
- If you are going for a full audio upgrade with new car stereo, speakers, amplifiers, and a subwoofer, and you suspect that your vehicle won’t handle it, you can add a second battery/capacitor or upgrade the alternator to power the new system.
- Consider hiring a professional to tune your subwoofer’s amplifier so that you can get the best quality of bass. You should also be there as the audio expert tunes it to ensure that the volume is right for you.
Q: How do I take care of the distortion coming from my subs?
A: If you are positive that the distortion is coming from the subwoofer, lower the amplifier’s gain. If that translates to your speakers overpowering your subwoofers, then you should consider buying bigger subwoofers with better sound quality.
Q: Why do my lights dim after I connect the subwoofer to the amplifier?
A: The source of the problem may not be with the subwoofer but your amplifier. The amplifier may not be installed correctly and consequently not drawing enough power from the vehicle’s electrical system. A simple solution is to upgrade your amplifiers wiring system and ensure that the power and ground wire are long and, if possible, of the same size.
Q: Will I still hear the bass if I place the subwoofer in my trunk?
A: Yes. Provided that your trunk isn’t insulated or soundproofed, a bass typically moves through the materials separating the front seats and the trunk. But if you feel that you will be missing out on all the great bass, you could drill a few holes in your rear deck and cover the holes with a thin fabric to create more room for the sound waves to travel.
We chose the Rockford Fosgate P3D4 as our best 12-inch subwoofer since it produces great bass consistently, and it’s made of the best materials that make the subwoofer durable and resistant to damage.
The Planet Audio AC12D is for anyone on a budget but needs a good quality subwoofer.