LAST UPDATED: November 18, 2020
The Best Powered Subwoofers (Review & Buying Guide) in 2021
Experience a deep, rich, and energetic bass with a powered subwoofer
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PUBLISHED ON November 18, 2020
If you are an audiophile, then you know that having a great playlist with some prominent bass lines can make a long drive more exciting. However, your factory speakers may be too underpowered for the low frequencies, and the bass may not appeal to the bass head in you. This is common in almost all vehicles since most vehicle manufacturers don’t prioritize the audio system when designing the vehicle.
We recommend upgrading your sound system with a high-quality, powered subwoofer. It’s also known as an active subwoofer since it has an internal amplifier that enhances the power being delivered to the speaker. We have got you covered with a detailed active subwoofer buying guide.
This is a 10-inch subwoofer that’s rated at 800 watts. It's encased in a slim subwoofer box with input and output controls on the side.
- Offers clean and decent bass
- Slim profile saves on mounting space
- Easy to wire and install
- May overheat during extended playtime
- Doesn’t offer a loud, booming bass
- Sound might get distorted at higher volumes
This is an 8-inch, 600-watt subwoofer with a variable bass boost that allows you to tune the bass to your liking.
- Comes encased in a compact housing
- Compact profile saves on mounting space
- Has customizable settings
- Rubber mounting brackets can wear out easily
- May get drowned out by other speakers when music is played at high volumes
This is an 8-inch powered subwoofer that’s rated at 240 watts. It's housed in a durable, cast metal enclosure.
- Doesn’t take up much space in your car
- Compact and damage-resistant build
- Side panel inputs make it easy to install
- May experience distortion at high volumes
- Not very loud; mostly suitable for small passenger cars
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Benefits of Powered Subwoofers
- Better bass. Powered subwoofers perform better than subwoofers that rely on an external amplifier (passive subwoofers). A subwoofer speaker that’s configured with an amplifier delivers better low-frequency sound that fills your car with rich, full bass.
- Get more power. Subwoofers need more power in comparison to other speakers. Having a built-in amplifier means that the speaker will have enough power to maintain the low frequencies, and consequently, produce deep booming bass without exhausting itself.
- Save space. A powered subwoofer typically has a self-contained amplifier, and both units are housed in the same compact enclosure. This saves you the time and mounting space needed for an external amplifier.
- Easy to set up. Finding an amplifier that’s rated for your subwoofer can be a bit of a challenge. A mismatch in your audio system may result in blown speakers. It’s much more convenient to buy a powered subwoofer since the correct amplifier is already included in the set-up, and most come with speaker enclosures.
Types of Subwoofers
An active or powered subwoofer is driven with an internal amplifier that’s built into the subwoofer enclosure. The amplifier's power matches the power needs of the speaker. This is done to resolve inadequate power or power mismatch issues when installing subwoofers. Another benefit of this design is that the head unit’s amplifier can have enough "juice" to drive the other mid-range speakers and tweeters.
A passive subwoofer is driven by an external amplifier. If you already have a dedicated amplifier for your sound system, and it pushes out enough power to drive a low-frequency speaker, then it’s easier to find a passive subwoofer that matches the power rating of the amplifier. It will also be cheaper than buying an active subwoofer.
Rockville Audio is an audio and lighting equipment manufacturer that has been around since 2012. It’s headquartered in Inwood, N.Y. Although it’s a bit new in the audio industry, it has hit the ground running with some of the best speakers for cars, off-road, and marine equipment. If you are looking for a compact subwoofer, consider installing the Rockville RW10CA Powered Car Subwoofer.
JBL is a subsidiary brand of Harman International that specializes in designing high-end audio equipment, including car speakers, wireless speakers, headphones, and loudspeakers. It was founded by James Bullough Lansing in 1946, and is headquartered in Los Angeles, Calif. Some of its best-powered subwoofers include the JBL BassPro Powered Subwoofer and the JBL 550P Powered Subwoofer.
Alpine is a Japanese-based manufacturer of audio and navigation systems for automotive and home applications. It was founded in 1967. It’s a subsidiary brand of Alps Electric, and has manufacturing facilities spread out in China, Thailand, Hungary, Mexico, and Brazil. The Alpine Electronics PWE-S8 Powered Subwoofer is one of its best-rated car subwoofers.
The Kenwood KSC-PSW8 Powered Subwoofer is a reliable powered subwoofer from Kenwood, which is a Japan-based designer of car and home audio equipment. It also designs dash cameras and navigation equipment. It’s under the umbrella of the JVC Kenwood Holdings Inc., and was founded by William Kasuga in 1946.
Powered Subwoofer Pricing
- Under $150: Getting a powered subwoofer within this price range doesn't necessarily mean that you will be compromising on having a quality product. While they may not be as durable as the higher-priced options, they also have advanced features such as customizable sound settings on the subwoofer box. They are also compact and can fit in tight spaces.
- $150 and up: Most subwoofers within this price range have a higher wattage of about 500 watts to improve the bass output of the speaker. They are also housed in durable subwoofer boxes with either a carpeted or a powder-coated finish. Since they deliver loud and more controlled sound, they are best installed in large trucks and SUVs.
With subwoofers, a larger cone size almost always translates to better and deeper sound. However, going for a large speaker may not always be a good choice since it mostly depends on the amount of space you have in your vehicle for an extra speaker. This is why you need to prioritize speakers from the top brands who have taken the time to make the subwoofers compact enough to fit under a car seat without compromising the audio quality.
Since powered subwoofers come with built-in amplifiers, you don’t have to worry about matching the speaker's power to the driver. However, if you want a powerful bass that makes your car windows vibrate, then choose a speaker with a high wattage of about 1,000 watts if your budget allows it.
In simple terms, a speaker's sensitivity is a measure of how well it converts the supplied wattage from the amplifier into loud, acoustic sound. It’s measured in decibels. The higher the sensitivity, the more efficient the speaker is in converting low power into accurate sound. Therefore, you should prioritize subwoofers with a high sensitivity of about 80 to 90 decibels.
- Enclosure Type. When choosing subwoofer enclosures, you can either go for a sealed or ported subwoofer. Sealed enclosures do not allow much air to move around and, therefore, produce accurate bass. Ported enclosures have built-in air vents that optimize airflow to provide a fuller sound without needing much power.
- Placement. Ensure that you have enough mounting space in your vehicle to fit the speaker you intend to buy. If you want it seated near the other speakers on the car door, then be sure to get one with a small profile. Otherwise, a large speaker will have to go under the car seat or in your trunk.
Best Powered Subwoofer Reviews & Recommendations 2021
Mounting subwoofers under car seats or in the trunk is made easier with the Rockville RW10CA Powered Car Subwoofer. It comes with a slim and compact encasing, which has all the input and output connections on one side for easy setup. You only need to connect it to other speakers, and the built-in amplifier utilizing a smart circuit will turn the speaker on or off depending on whether or not the other speakers are receiving a sound signal. The subwoofer is rated at 800 watts and can handle a continuous power of 200 watts. This tells you that it can handle being connected to a powerful aftermarket head unit.
A low pass filter keeps the higher frequencies out of this speaker, and it can only handle frequencies ranging from 50 to 150 hertz. It won’t produce a loud booming bass, but just enough for you to have an enjoyable listening experience.
If you are looking for an affordable subwoofer that packs a lot of power, we recommend the Sound Storm Laboratories LOPRO8 Car Subwoofer. It’s an eight-inch speaker with a 600-watt peak power rating. It has a built-in amplifier that utilizes a Mosfet power supply, which helps to improve the speaker’s performance even when connected to a low power supply. You can connect the speaker to other speakers in your audio system via the high-level inputs, or an external amp or processor via the low-level inputs. Most of the features on this speaker are customizable. It has a variable bass boost that lets you tune the bass output to your liking. You can also control the frequencies coming into the speaker by tuning the variable low pass filter, which utilizes a subsonic filter to keep out frequencies below the setting.
It produces decent enough bass, but you should keep the music volume at moderate levels so that it doesn’t get drowned out by the other speakers in your vehicle.
Alpine offers a low profile and rugged subwoofer that’s designed with a die-cast aluminum casing that resists mechanical damage and cools the components so they can provide years of reliable service. It’s an eight-inch speaker with a shallow mount, meaning you can install it almost anywhere in your vehicle, including under a seat or in the trunk. It’s powered with a built-in amplifier with a 240-watt peak power rating and a 120-watt RMS rating. The built-in amplifier controls, along with controls that will help you control the phase, gain, and low pass crossover, are located on the side panel. This helps you to customize your listening experience.
It’s recommended that you maintain the bass at 32 to 150 hertz. Otherwise, the sound may get distorted.
The Cerwin Vega Active Subwoofer has the same design as most of the powered subwoofers within its class — that is, a subwoofer housed in a shallow enclosure with controls on the side panel. However, its unique selling point is its high power handling capabilities: 550 watts peak power and 200 watts RMS power. This means that it remains efficient even at the highest loads. The speaker is driven with a built-in, 2-ohm amplifier utilizing Mosfet Power Technology. Though both units may overheat occasionally, a cast aluminum enclosure helps to keep the components cool.
At the side panel is an adjustable variable low pass filter, which only allows low frequencies within a certain range into the speaker. It’s recommended that you maintain it between 85 to 150 hertz. The subwoofer is 10 inches wide and can fit under a car seat, or in the trunk of an SUV or a Truck.
If you would like to enjoy a high-quality Rockville subwoofer without breaking your bank, consider the Rockville SS8P Powered Subwoofer. The subwoofer is only 8 inches wide and 2.8 inches thin, allowing it to fit under the car seat of almost any car or truck. It’s designed with a built-in amplifier, which can handle 400 watts peak power and 100 watts RMS power. Though it may not be as durable as high-end Rockville speakers, it’s encased in a sturdy cast aluminum enclosure, which also keeps the speaker and amplifier cool. The amplifier is integrated with a smart turn-on circuit so it can only turn on when an audio signal is present. High-level inputs increase the versatility of the speaker so it can connect to both aftermarket and factory stereos. Also, it comes with all the mounting hardware you need for a clean installation.
The Rockville 12-Inch Powered Subwoofer carries a slightly different design from most of the Rockville subwoofers in our review. For one, it’s a large subwoofer that’s about 12 inches wide, and is housed in a larger carpeted enclosure that’s made of medium-density fiberboard. Seeing that it’s a bit large, it’s better installed against rear seats or in the trunk. A built-in amplifier powers the speaker and it can handle a maximum power of 500 watts and 300-watt RMS power. Also, the enclosure is fitted with an aerostyle port that helps low frequencies to fully develop before being released into your cabin as a deep, full sound. You can play it at high volumes for a prolonged period and expect to get a deep, punchy bass with minimal distortion.
The Kenwood KSC-PSW8 Powered Subwoofer leans a bit on the expensive side, but its sturdy construction and commendable bass output make up for the extra bucks. When it comes to the design, the speaker is 8 inches wide and is housed in a shallow enclosure that can fit under a car seat. The enclosure has rigid construction to minimize rattling when music is played.
Unlike most of the subs on our list, the controls on this subwoofer are located on a wired remote. This limits the number of controls available, but the upside is that you can control the bass while sitting on the driver’s seat. The controls include a rotary volume control that lets you match the volume of the subwoofer to the other speakers in the system. Also, a rotary frequency control lets you adjust the frequency response from 50 to 125 hertz.
JBL offers innovative car audio solutions, and the JBL BassPro Powered Subwoofer is no exception. This is an 8-inch subwoofer that’s housed in a compact enclosure. It has a built-in Class D amplifier, and can handle a peak power of 250 watts and continuous power of 125 watts.
We are impressed that it’s a soft start speaker, meaning it won’t startle you when you turn on your head unit. It doesn’t produce a window-rattling bass, but just decent enough to bring out the details in the music you are listening to. The enclosure also keeps out air and mechanical noise that can distort the sound. Also, the unit includes an adjustable low pass crossover so you can tune the bass level to your liking.
- Even if you choose a large subwoofer and get enough space for it in your trunk, you should know that you also need to upgrade the other speakers in your vehicle so they blend seamlessly with the larger speaker.
- The genre of music you listen to can help determine the type of subwoofer you choose. If you are a hip-hop or hard rock fan, then you need a large subwoofer with a ported design for better sounding beats. However, if you prefer soft music, you can get a small and compact subwoofer with decent bass.
- Disconnect your battery’s negative cable to avoid getting shocked when installing the subwoofer. Alternatively, you could hire a car audio expert to install it for you.
Q: What is a powered subwoofer?
This is a self-contained subwoofer that’s designed with an internal amplifier that can efficiently supply its power needs. It’s also encased in a speaker enclosure.
Q: What is the difference between an active subwoofer and a powered subwoofer?
There’s no difference. An active subwoofer is also known as a powered subwoofer since it has a built-in amplifier that powers the speaker. It’s different from a passive subwoofer, which relies on an external amplifier for power.
Q: What is the best powered subwoofer?
Our review features some of the best-powered speakers on the market that deliver a powerful bass that’s guaranteed to optimize your car listening experience. However, if you are looking for the overall best, we recommend the Rockville RW10CA Powered Car Subwoofer.
We chose the Rockville RW10CA Powered Car Subwoofer as our best overall product because its slim design makes it easy to install in almost any vehicle. It also provides a rich, full bass. If you are looking for an affordable speaker that still offers an enjoyable entertainment experience, consider the Sound Storm Laboratories LOPRO8 Car Subwoofer.