LAST UPDATED: November 27, 2019
Best Underseat Subwoofers: Hear and Feel the Music
These top underseat subwoofers will boost the bass in your vehicle
The Review Team
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PUBLISHED ON November 27, 2019
Most factory car stereos lack what some call the most important part of their music: that low, rumbling, booming bass that you feel in your gut. How do you get that hard-hitting bass punch you’re looking for without tearing up your car’s interior by running wires everywhere? An underseat subwoofer is just what you need, and we’ve got three of the best right here.
Alpine is one of the most respected names in-car audio. The three-inch mounting depth allows it to fit under even the lowest seats.
This underseat subwoofer has all the inputs and controls conveniently mounted on the side for easy access when installed. The Class D amplifier puts out 120 watts of clean power.
Customers report a weak output that is overpowered by other speakers. Several customers reported crackly output and amplifiers that died soon after installation.
Pioneer is a popular name in mobile audio. The box on this is only 5 ½ inches deep. The woofer cone’s structure gives it greater gasket and cone surface, allowing it to move more air and deliver a better low bass punch.
The woofer’s cone is made of MICA injected-molded resin and is durable and rigid. It is equipped with a dual spider, giving more control over the cone’s movement, thus better-sounding low bass.
There’s no amplifier; it’s just the underseat subwoofer enclosure. The box is made of ⅝ inch fiberboard, which can vibrate at higher power levels. The sensitivity rating of 86 dB is pretty low, so you won’t hear softer hits at lower volumes.
Kenwood is a respected name in-car audio. The slim design means it will fit almost any car. It also comes with a wired remote.
This powered underseat subwoofer handles a maximum of 250 watts. The Class D amplifier delivers a clean, crisp sound between 38 and 150 Hz, an optimum range for a subwoofer.
The 81 dB sensitivity of this underseat subwoofer won’t let you hear soft bass notes at low volume. Customers report low or muddy output.
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Benefits of Underseat Subwoofers
- Save space. A subwoofer can take up plenty of space in your car. However, when you install an underseat subwoofer, you utilize space that is hardly used. Typically, subwoofers are installed in the trunk. An underseat subwoofer doesn’t get in the way of your stuff. You can even install other audio components in the trunk.
- Easy installation. Underseat subwoofers are specially designed to be installed under car seats. You may be able to install them on your own without the help of an expert.
- Improve the car’s audio profile. Underseat subwoofers produce a unique sound—low-frequency bass. This frequency is created by bass guitars and kick drums. When the subwoofers are paired with other speakers that output higher frequencies, the result is an amazing blend of sound.
- Low power consumption. Underseat subwoofers don’t need a lot of power to put out sound. You may not even need an external amplifier to improve their sound. Some underseat subwoofers even come with built-in amplifiers for better sound.
Types of Underseat Subwoofers
Most underseat subwoofers lie in this category. Powered underseat subwoofers have built-in amplifiers that provide power. The subwoofers have less wiring and are easier to install. Powered subwoofers produce great sound even without an external amplifier. However, they have one major drawback, their sound output level is lower compared to subwoofers with external amplifiers.
Passive underseat subwoofers do not have an internal power system. They require an external amplifier to provide power. An external power source calls for more wiring and this could affect installation as well as placement. However, the good news is if you buy a high-output passive underseat subwoofer and get an amplifier to supply the power, you’ll enjoy brilliant sound. Compared to powered speakers, passive underseat speakers require more wiring. You may have to get a speaker technician to handle the installation.
Kicker has been in the sound business since 1973. It is based in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and has maintained a strong reputation for high-quality sound equipment and accessories. The Kicker 11HS8 Powered Subwoofer is a great example of the company’s dedication to innovation and creativity. Measuring only 8 inches, the subwoofer is designed for tight spaces.
Rockville Audio has been making a name for itself in the audio industry since 2012. Based in Inwood, New York, it has quickly grown into a formidable force, innovating sound solutions like marine audio equipment. To experience the great quality of its products, you can grab the Rockville RW10CA Active Powered Subwoofer. This 800-watt unit comes with auto turn-on mode, a thermal protection circuit, and a short protection circuit.
Rockford Fosgate is not a new name to any audiophile. The company’s audio catalog covers audio solutions for cars, motorcycles, and even boats. The company has been in operation since 1973 and is currently headquartered in Tempe, Arizona. One of its best-performing underseat subwoofers is the Rockford Fosgate P-300 Powered Subwoofer. The 12-inch unit has a 300-watt amplifier and features a closed-loop design for a clean, tight bass.
Situated in Los Angeles, California, JBL is an audio company under Harman International. It was formed back in 1946 and is well-known for its audio equipment that includes headphones and speakers. Car owners trust the brand’s speakers, like the JBL BassPro SL Underseat Subwoofer, to deliver high-definition sound. The 8-inch unit has a class D amplifier and remote control.
Kenwood (Kabushiki-Gaisha Ken'uddo) is a Japanese company known for its top-notch car audio, personal audio, and Hi-Fi equipment. The company also manufactures amateur radio and two-way radio communications equipment. It was established in 1946 and was known as Kasuga Radio Co. Ltd. back then. In October 2008, the company combined with JVC to form a new company known as JVCKenwood. One of its most popular subwoofers is the Kenwood KSC-SW11 Compact Powered Subwoofer. The Kenwood KSC-SW11 has a low-profile design, a built-in amplifier, remote control, and an aluminum enclosure.
Underseat Subwoofer Pricing
- $80-$150: It would be hard to imagine getting a good speaker from a reputable brand for less than $100. Yet brands such as Soundstorm and Rockville offer underseat speakers at this price range. In this category, you’ll find subwoofers with 400-watt peak power handling.
- $150-$200: This category offers underseat subwoofers with better sound output and more power handling. On the lower end, you’ll find subwoofers that can handle about 250 watts and can be operated remotely.
- $250-$300: This is where you’ll find premium underseat subwoofers. They have better sound, more defined basslines, and clear lows. The subwoofers in this class are likely to be featured in custom model cars that require great audio and have minimal space.
Underseat subwoofers are either powered by internal amplifiers or external amplifiers. Those with internal amplifiers are a lot easier to install as they have less wiring requirements. To tell you the truth, you will have an easier time finding a good powered subwoofer than finding one that's externally powered.
This is one of the most important aspects to consider when buying an underseat subwoofer. The RMS (root mean square) is the wattage that a subwoofer can handle continuously. Peak power is the maximum wattage it can handle in bursts before the sound gets distorted. RMS is the most important power rating as it determines the integrity of the speaker and the sound you’ll get.
The main job of an underseat subwoofer is to fit in a tight space and produce great sound. A small unit can fit in a regular sedan or even cars with deeper seats such as sports cars. Other subwoofers will only fit in trucks since they are bigger. However, they are still underseat subwoofers. Small subwoofers usually tend to be lightweight. Confirm the size of the underseat subwoofer you want before getting it.
The housing of an underseat subwoofer has an impact on the sound it produces. There are sealed housing, ported housing, and bandpass housing. Sealed housing accentuates any deep bass notes that come from the sound source while ported housing works better for boosted bass. Bandpass housing is ideal for higher bass notes. It is worth noting that sealed housing utilizes more power than ported housing.
Sensitivity tells us how good a speaker is at converting power (watts) into sound (decibels). The higher the sensitivity, the louder the speaker will be. If a subwoofer has a high sensitivity rating, it needs less power to produce sound. For the best sound experience, get an underseat subwoofer with high sensitivity. It produces less heat, uses less power, and will most likely outlast a subwoofer with low sensitivity.
- Warranty. Technical faults happen all the time, sometimes when you least expect them. It is important to check the manufacturer’s warranty policy so you’re well-prepared if anything goes wrong. Thankfully, most companies offer a one-year warranty and replace units that malfunction within the warranty period.
- Ease of Installation. This is determined by the subwoofer’s size and the wiring. Impedance affects the wiring and installation of a subwoofer. Low-impedance subwoofers use thin wiring and are easier to install. If you’re not sure about the installation guidelines, consult a speaker technician.
Best Underseat Subwoofer Reviews & Recommendations 2020
Good things come in small packages. Only 3 inches deep, this speaker is the embodiment of a compact subwoofer. If you own a sports car, or a car with low seats, you’ll appreciate how easily it fits under the seats and offers superior sound. It’s so small you can install it in your SUV’s hatch, in the trunk of your sedan, or behind the seat of your truck. With 120 watts RMS power and 240 watts peak power, this subwoofer packs a powerful punch. You can mount the speaker’s high-level inputs and controls on the side for easy access. The speaker can reproduce a wide range of audible frequencies: from 32Hz to 150Hz. It is constructed using die cast aluminum for enhanced durability. However, the speaker has a few downsides. For starters, it has a high price tag. Its sound output is low and sometimes it produces crackly sound.
This Pioneer speaker is a prime example of a passive subwoofer. The compact unit can fit in sedans and even behind the seat of a truck. As small as it is, the sound it puts out is clean and punchy. Its carpeted, scratch-resistant, and non-slip enclosure enhances the sound quality by reducing rattling. Angled push terminals make the connection wires straight so they can fit in vertical or horizontal terminals. This not only saves space, but it also makes installation easier and decreases stress on the wires. The fortified mica injection-molded resin cone delivers well-defined lows. It moves more air for a bass boost. However, as good as the subwoofer is, it doesn’t come with an inbuilt amplifier. It also has a low sensitivity rating (86 dB), meaning you will need more power to get the best audio quality. The enclosure is made with fiberboard and vibrates at higher power levels.
If you’re looking for an underseat subwoofer you can operate remotely, this one may fit the bill. Kenwood designed it to produce impressive bass in less space. It features a slim design and comes fitted with a class D amplifier. It can handle 150 watts of power continuously and 250 watts in bursts. The remote control allows you to regulate the volume from the driver’s seat. The speaker can reproduce a range of audible frequencies—between 35 Hz (deep bass) and 150 Hz (soft bass). It also comes with more than enough wiring and metal brackets so you can have an easy time during installation. But without a doubt, its weakest point is its low sensitivity. Its 81 decibels are not enough to reproduce the best low frequencies. It also produces muddy sound, meaning there’s a lack of sound clarity and definition (poor separation between instruments).
- An underseat subwoofer should come with a built-in amplifier, so you’re not relying on the (usually) weaker output of your head unit for stomach-rumbling bass.
- Underseat subwoofers that are covered with carpet will scratch less easily than aluminum or wood boxes. Carpet is also less likely to slip.
- Measure the height, width, and depth, and make sure the underseat subwoofer you choose will fit in those dimensions.
- Mount your underseat subwoofer in such a way that you can reach and adjust the controls, especially the low-pass filter and gain. Forcing the subwoofer to reproduce audio outside its capability (low-pass filter) or overdriving it (gain) can ruin a speaker.
Q: What is the difference between an underseat subwoofer and a regular subwoofer box?
A: An underseat subwoofer is one that is specifically designed to fit under or behind a seat, while a regular subwoofer may or may not fit under or behind the seat.
Q: Will an underseat subwoofer work with my factory head unit even though it only has high (speaker) level outputs?
A: Yes. A well-designed underseat subwoofer will work with factory stereos right out of the box as it will have input converters. External input converters are also available.
Q: Is it bad to mix subwoofer and speaker brands?
A: No. High-end professional installers will commonly mix speaker brands to obtain the best mix of low, mid, high, and ultra-high frequency reproduction.
Q: What kind of bass response can I expect from an underseat subwoofer?
A: It varies. There are units you can buy that will deliver a soft tickle to your stomach on hard bass notes, and there are units that will deliver an outright gut punch on those hard hits. For that harder kick in the gut, you want a high sensitivity number, frequency response as close to 20 Hz to 250 HZ as possible, and some decent power. How much is up to your ears and stomach.
Our choice for the best overall underseat subwoofer, the Alpine Electronics Restyle Compact Powered 8-Inch Subwoofer, comes with a Class D amplifier with MOSFET technology to ensure a clean, crisp bass response, even at the highest output levels.
Our choice for the best value underseat subwoofer, the Pioneer 8" Shallow-Mount Pre-Loaded Enclosure, is a low-cost sub and amplifier system that delivers excellent low bass.