I am going to date myself right off the bat here and say… I am a millennial. I was born in the late ’80s and a kid of the ’90s. I was picking boogers with Ren and Stimpy, being blown away by MC Hammer and Aerosmith on MTV when it actually played music, going to school with Billy Madison, and Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper.
I was doing all that and also sneaking into my older brother’s Prelude and cranking the sub, bumping bass every chance I got.
Now, the classic tv shows and movies may have faded away, the Prelude was sold long ago, and my music choices have definitely changed, but the bass, the subwoofer, and the boom are here to stay.
That’s because whether you’re bumping license plate shaking bass in your JDM tuner or filling out the minivan system with lows to match the mids and highs, a subwoofer is a necessary tool to pick up all the frequencies in any sound system.
What Are The Benefits of a 12 Inch Subwoofer?
Music and how people have listened to it have been in constant progression since early humans learned to carry a tune some 40,000 years ago.
The car subwoofer is a relatively recent addition in all of that progression. It was developed in the ’60s, popularized in the ’70s, and almost necessary by the late ‘80 synth-pop and ’90s after the invention of the CD and bass-heavy styles of music like hip hop.
Obviously, when looking at a good quality subwoofer of this size, you are looking for distortion-free bass which, believe it or not, this sub does so much more.
The subwoofer doesn’t just sound bassy. It actually “reveals” the deep bass in your favorite track. The subwoofer is designed to pick up lower frequencies (20HZ) better than standard speakers (50HZ), allowing you to hear the music the way the artist intended.
The rule of thumb is that the lower the Hz, the more bass quality you will get. For overall sound quality, look for a powerful subwoofer with a frequency response range from 20Hz and 120Hz. It’s perfect for enjoying music genres with bassy beats while you’re on the road.
Subwoofers add clarity to your system by reducing the workload of your smaller speakers. Even a full-range small speaker doesn’t give you clear bass like a sub. By programming the sub to take the load, the whole system will sound better and less distorted.
By programming the sub to take the load, the whole system will sound better and less distorted. The smaller speakers can reproduce sound in a more comfortable frequency range as the lowest frequencies are diverted to the sub.
Even if you have the best 12 inch subwoofers, you can only get the best out of them by adding an amplifier. Subs require much more power than typical speakers and an amp can boost audio signals for more power, volume, and sound clarity.
Although most folks will install an amp to regulate the subwoofer, that amp actually benefits all of your car speakers (including those 4×6 car speakers). With an amplifier, you will be able to hit higher volume levels without distortion from all your speakers while getting that full-spectrum response and full audio range from the sub.
Why choose a 12-inch subwoofer?
The debate on the perfect sub size won’t be over after this article. But if you’re looking for a solid subwoofer that produces rich and heavy sounds, isn’t too big, and is probably the most popular on the market, nothing really beats the 12 inch.
The 12-inch subwoofers are known for their accuracy and loudness. With outstanding response and clarity, they are capable of producing the same crisp, clean sound of a 10 inch while also handling more power, playing louder, and being boomier in the right places.
On the other end of the spectrum, they are also more readily available than a 15 inch, won’t require a more expensive amp, and won’t take up that much room.
The bottom line is, if you are looking for the “it” sub, the 12 inch is the one for you.
What to Look for in 12 Inch Subwoofers
When purchasing your subwoofer, there are a few things to keep in mind.
There are essentially five types of subwoofers.
The powered subwoofer or active subwoofer works using its own amplifier. This subwoofer always has the right amount of power and is usually the easiest to install because of its compact size. The small size, however, means smaller drivers and amplifiers so it might not give the same thump as the other types.
A passive subwoofer, on the other hand, cannot power itself and needs an external amp before it can function. While it can be a turnoff for those who want to plug and play, it gives audiophiles the flexibility to work with different amplifiers based on their needs and desired sound performance which is not possible with a powered subwoofer.
An enclosed subwoofer is your basic sub but pre-mounted in sealed or ported enclosures. A sealed enclosure is fully closed to ensure air does not get in or out of the subwoofer box allowing for a tighter bass. This is another easy-to-install option for beginners but the sub box can take a lot of space in your car.
In a ported enclosure, there is a hole that allows air to flow into and out of the subwoofer box which allows for louder bass. The same air flowing in and out of the port helps keep the subwoofer cooler to make them last longer. The ported box, though, needs to be built to the right specifications or it can lead to woofer damage or failure.
A component subwoofer is the sub for car nerds, audiophiles, and DIYers. The component sub only comes with a speaker and you have to purchase or make an enclosure, and purchase the amp separately. You can position the various parts of the component strategically to create optimal sound performance.
You will notice that there is a wide range of dimension options when it comes to picking up a 12-inch sub and enclosure. On the smaller end of the 12 inch sub (see also 8 inch subwoofer), you will find powered subwoofers that are usually compact enough to fit under or behind your seat. On the larger end, you will find huge enclosures with dual or triple subwoofers installed.
When considering your car audio, think of your vehicular space because bigger and louder isn’t always better. The boom should complement your car speakers, space, and soundstage, not overpower it. Generally speaking, the better the quality of the materials of the component sub is, and the bigger and more well-built the enclosure is, the better the sound will be.
Peak Power/ Power Handling
The power handling specs will tell how much power (in watts) the 12 inch subwoofers can handle. There are two main values on the spec sheet to pay attention to: the RMS (root mean square) and Peak Power. The first one indicates how much power a sub can take on a regular basis while the latter sets the absolute maximum it can handle.
The RMS is a more useful metric as it covers the day-to-day use of the subwoofer but consider also the peak power so you will know how much power your sub can handle for short bursts. Look for a peak power you’ll be happy staying well below and not reaching every day because more power also means more money. Sometimes, hard hitting bass is actually a worse sound for your specific system, and a subwoofer is a purchase you want to last for a while.
Impedance Level/ 2 ohm vs. 4 ohm
Also written in the product manual is the sub’s impedance level measured in ohms (symbolized as Ω). Impedance is the resistance to the flow of electric current as it operates with a musical signal. The lower the impedance, the more easily electricity (the signal or music) flows through the speaker.
That means a subwoofer with a lower electrical resistance will produce a louder sound. A sub with a 2 ohm load is going to be louder than its 4 ohm load counterpart. Keep in mind, though, that although louder, 2 ohm subwoofers generally produce a lower sound quality. The louder sound will also require a more powerful amplifier.
Human hearing ranges from a low frequency of 20 Hz to a high frequency of 20 kHz, and frequency response tells how well a speaker can reproduce all of the tones we can hear. It is measured in the hertz (Hz) unit, and nothing else matters if the frequency response is not good. Good frequency response can play all the musical tones with high fidelity.
Generally speaking, the higher the frequency, the sharper the sound while the lower the frequency, the more bass you’ll get. If you are purchasing a sub with a fixed frequency rating, look for something lower than 80 Hz. If your sub has a frequency range, look for something at around 20-120 Hz.
Voice Coils: Single Voice Coil (SVC) vs. Double Voice Coil (DVC)
A voice coil is a wire wrapped around the bottom of the speaker cone or cylinder called a former. The former receives the amplified current being sent to the sub. When the current reaches the coil, the coil reacts by moving up and down on the former’s magnet. The entire setup is attached to the speaker cone. The movement of the former produces air pressure in the cone, which in turn produces sound.
A single voice coil subwoofer has one coil while dual voice coil subwoofers have, you got it, two coils. Now, it’s a little techie, but the benefit of a DVC subwoofer comes in wiring options. To keep it kind of simple, the DVC lets you change the ohm impedance level of your sub.
If you are looking to dive deep, check out this tutorial.
Before you pull the trigger on any subwoofer or speaker, make sure you have everything you will need. That might include separate wiring and fuses, an amplifier, basic electrician tools, and a trusty manual or YouTube tutorial.
Do not forget that you will also want to soundproof your car. That might include adding carpeting and other noise-canceling material, as well as getting out the screwdriver and tightening down anything that might rattle.
When in doubt, there’s no shame in picking up a six-pack and having your technician brother-in-law over or dropping your rig off at a geek squad for the afternoon.
As with everything you purchase, and even more so with a 12 inch subwoofer, you usually get what you pay for. So if you’re looking at the deal of the century, be wary, check the specs, and read the reviews. You want a subwoofer that offers high value in terms of power, volume, and overall sound quality but at a reasonable price.
It is not hard to find some cheap, quality subs from recognized brands but there are some that cost a little more than others and are well worth the price. Just know that the sound reproduction of a subwoofer can change as the price changes. If you want to wake up the neighborhood with the thump, thump of your bass, expect to pay more.