Best 10-Inch Subwoofers: Top Picks for Building That Bottom
Turn your bass up to ‘11’ with these top 10-inch subwoofers
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BY Jimmy Brown / LAST UPDATED ON May 14, 2021
Window-rattling, earth-shattering, gut-wrenching bass are some of the evocative imagery that people associate with subwoofers. However, the best 10-inch subwoofer for your ride produces more than just thundering bass; it delivers the power and clarity for low frequency sounds to really explore the sonic space of your favorite tunes. Check out our picks for the best 10-inch subwoofer speakers.
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Benefits of 10-inch Subwoofers
- Boost your bass. Modern, door-mounted car stereo speakers may be able to reproduce crystal clear higher frequencies, but the small size cannot generate adequate low frequencies without heavily distorting. Subwoofers are able to reproduce frequencies below 80 Hertz on average, giving you that rich, full-bodied bass that really makes your music come to life.
- Improve higher frequency performance. Subwoofers generally receive power from an independent amplifier so you can adjust the crossover frequency of your stereo. This sends all the low bass notes to the sub and sends the higher frequencies only to the woofers and tweeters. Standard stereo speakers have to handle both frequencies, but subwoofers let the woofers and tweeters maximize midrange and high frequencies.
- Smoother sound without distortion. The best 10-inch subwoofers give you rich, dynamic, and crystal clear sound performance for all frequencies. You’ll be able to rock out to smoother sounding music free of distracting distortion—at neighborhood-friendly and Friday night volume levels.
- Versatile installation options. A subwoofer provides a bigger speaker enclosure for your bass notes to fully resonate, but its larger size means that it cannot fit inside your narrow car doors. Thankfully, a subwoofer generates non-directional audio so it can be installed in your vehicle’s trunk or under a seat, depending on the model or your preference.
Types of 10-inch Subwoofers
Component subwoofers are just the speaker itself, without the enclosure or amplifier. Components subs are offered in an assortment of shapes and sizes, from 8 to 15 inches. These are the ideal type of subwoofers for shoppers looking to highly-customize their audio system with personally selected speakers, enclosures, and amplifiers.
Powered subwoofers are mounted inside a small, tidy enclosure and are powered by an amplifier. This type of subwoofer produces effective bass frequencies and great overall sound quality, but its compact enclosure prevents it from generating the power necessary for the hard-hitting low frequencies that rattle your fillings lose. Still, the small size and easy installation make them an attractive option for shoppers looking for a straightforward, space-saving sub.
Enclosed subwoofers come pre-mounted into an enclosure designed for a perfect fit with the sub. You will have to source an amplifier with this kind of subwoofer. Though there aren’t as many enclosed subwoofers options to choose from, this is a perfect choice for buyers who want a convenient subwoofer setup.
Vehicle-specific subs are designed to fit in convenient, space-saving locations in many cars, trucks, and SUVs, and are frequently color-matched to your vehicle’s interior. These subwoofers come pre-mounted in an enclosure engineered for best sound quality and fit with your particular ride. This is an excellent option for consumers who are looking for a convenient, space-efficient subwoofer solution that offers OEM-style and finish.
Founded in 1967 with its headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, Alpine Electronics, Inc. is the consumer electronics subsidiary of the electronics components manufacturer Alps Electrics. Alpine specializes in manufacturing automotive audio and navigation products, with 76% of its revenue derived from OEM sales. One of its best-selling products is the Alpine W10S4 10" 750 Watt Peak 250 Watt RMS 4-Ohm Car Audio Subwoofer.
Established in 1975, JL Audio is an American manufacturer of consumer audio products and accessories. The company produces high-quality audio products for home, marine, and automotive applications, with the special distinction of being considered a pioneer in the latter category. A top product of this brand is the JL Audio 10W3V3-D4 10-inch Subwoofer.
Tracing its roots to 1973, Rockford Fosgate is a subsidiary of the Tempe, Arizona-based Rockford Corporation. Rockford Fosgate has been an innovator in the consumer audio business since its inception, creating groundbreaking solutions like the Frequency Energizer. Today, the brand manufactures audio products for automotive, marine, motorcycle, and other applications. One of its best-selling products is the Rockford Fosgate P3D2 10-inch Subwoofer.
10-inch Subwoofer Pricing
- Under $150: There are several 10-inch subwoofers available at this price point. Shoppers can expect these cut-rate subwoofers to offer decent performance, quality, and features for an excellent price.
- $150-$300: Most 10-inch subwoofers fall into this price range. Consumers will have a dizzying array of quality subs to choose from in this pricing category, with most options delivering superb sound quality, durable construction, and great value.
- Over $300: Shoppers with deep pockets will have plenty of 10-inch subwoofers to select from at this high price point. For those in search of the loudest 10-inch subwoofer, there’s a good chance you’ll find one priced in this range. Most 10-inch subwoofers at this price point deliver amazing performance, sound quality, and longevity.
Car subwoofers come in a variety of sizes, from 8 to 15 inches. Theoretically, larger subwoofers generate louder bass, but the size is not the only determining factor when it comes to overall performance. The sensitivity rating, enclosure type, and power handling of a subwoofer have a tremendous impact on its performance. A 10-inch subwoofer can produce superior performance and sound quality compared to a larger sub if it’s positioned correctly and adequately powered.
Sensitivity rating is the method for measuring the capacity of the subwoofer to convert power into volume. Subs with a higher sensitivity rating number need less power to generate loud, bassy sound without compromising clarity. Generally, sensitivity measurements of above 84 dB are considered decent, while any rating above 90 dB is regarded as excellent.
The type of enclosure your subwoofer is mounted into has a huge impact on how it sounds. If you want to maximize the volume of your sub, mount it into a ported enclosure. Its optimal airflow produces more sound while using less power. Alternatively, if you prefer a more precise, tight sound, mount your sub into a sealed enclosure. A sealed enclosure needs more power to produce the same volume as a ported enclosure.
The two most vital power handling ratings are Continuous (RMS) and Peak. Peak power handling indicates how much power a subwoofer can handle for brief periods of time. RMS denotes how much power a sub can handle continuously for long periods of time, making it the more important number to consider.
Impedance is the effective resistance of an electric circuit to the current flow, measured in ohms. The majority of 10-inch subwoofers for cars, trucks, and SUVs are rated at 4 ohms, but there are other options rated at 2 ohms and 8 ohms. Both a subwoofer and amplifier need to have the same impedance rating in order for them to work together.
- Number of Voice Coils: Typical 10-inch subwoofers feature a single voice coil, but dual-voice-coil (DVC) subwoofers utilize two separate voice coils, each with its own connections, mounted on a single cylinder, and connected to a common core. DVC subwoofers are a popular choice among audiophiles who want greater flexibility in wiring their sound systems.
Best 10-inch Subwoofer Reviews & Recommendations 2021
- If you’re looking for a subwoofer to achieve subterranean-level deep bass tones, choose a sub designed for use in a sealed box. Additionally, a subwoofer with ample wattage and an extremely low-frequency response spec can help generate those ultra-low bass notes.
- You’ll get cleaner sound using the unamplified “line-level” signal from an aftermarket stereo, but you can hook up a sub and amp to a factory system. You’ll need to tap into your speaker wires to get to the high-level signal the stereo puts out. You can use the high-level signal directly if you get an amp or powered subwoofer featuring speaker-level inputs.
- Your amp's RMS output can surpass your subwoofer's maximum RMS rating. Listen closely: when the bass starts to distort or “break-up”, you've hit the performance limit of your amp/speaker setup. Back off on the volume a bit and your subwoofer will operate within safe parameters. Remember, the clean high-volume sound will not damage your subwoofer.
- Stuffing your enclosure with the correct amount of polyester fiber can make your box deliver the performance of a larger box. This is an affordable way to clean up your bass by reducing unwanted resonances inside the box.
- “Bridging” means consolidating two amp channels into one to gain more power. You must be careful not to hook up too low of an impedance load, or you could damage the amplifier. Generally, amps that work with loads as low as 2 ohms per channel can safely drive loads only as low as 4 ohms when bridged.
Q: What’s the best subwoofer for my truck?
A: The best 10-inch subs for truck applications are shallow mount vehicle-specific subwoofers. These subwoofers require 4 inches or less of mounting clearance and can be effortlessly mounted in rear decks, along the sides of trucks, or in slim, compact boxes behind your seats.
Q: I want a hard-hitting setup. Will two 10-inch subwoofers hit harder than one larger one?
A: This is a difficult question to address because there are so many factors that affect a subwoofer’s ability to hit hard. Generally speaking though, given sufficient power, two 10-inch subwoofers will produce a cleaner, harder-hitting bass thanks to its combined cone surface area creating more sound pressure.
Q: Let’s talk enclosures: Which one should I get?
A: If you’re after deep, precise bass, a sealed box will deliver. If you’d like forceful and loud bass, consider a ported box. For boomy in-your-face bass, a bandpass box will give you that slam you’re looking for. Lastly, free-air systems save space and feature flat frequency response, but their powering handling capabilities are lackluster compared to the other enclosures.
Q: I want my sub to register on the Richter scale when I bump it. How do I achieve this?
A: Select a 10-inch subwoofer featuring a high sensitivity rating mounted in a ported or bandpass box. Next, power your subwoofer with an amplifier with a power output that falls within your sub’s recommended power range (ideally in the upper third) or a little higher. This will give you that heavy “slam” you’re aiming for. Additionally, consider a multiple sub setup. Although it’ll require more power, it’ll bump louder than a single subsystem.
Q: Does the material of subwoofer cones make a difference in sound quality?
A: Yes. Subwoofer cones are constructed from treated paper, synthetics, or composites. While paper tends to be less durable, its lightweight construction makes it respond faster than other materials. Each material works great and sounds fantastic, so you can’t go wrong with any of them.
Q: Which shape is best? Round, square, or triangular?
A: It all comes down to your personal taste and preference. Square subwoofers reproduce bass incredibly well and look stylish. Triangular subwoofers also reproduce bass very well and have the advantage of being able to fit in tight spaces. Traditional round subwoofers reproduce bass effectively with the advantage of playing more precisely.
We believe the JL Audio 10W3V3-D4 10-inch Subwoofer is the best 10-inch subwoofer for the money. It blew us away with its impressive mix of unbelievable sound quality, exquisite construction, and ease of installation.
For bargain hunters looking for a solid subwoofer that’s easy on their ears (and wallet), try the Rockville RW10CA 10-inch Active Powered Car Subwoofer.