The subwoofer has one primary function; to deliver the boom. It is the bass speaker system dedicated to reproducing low frequencies to reveal sounds in your music that your speakers alone cannot reproduce. It is designed to move a lot of air and pump a lot of bass. Because of this, subwoofers are generally large (see our list of best 12 inch subwoofers) and will take up much space in your car.
Ultimately, the shallow mount subwoofers you choose are going to be determined by the sound you are looking for, the size of your ride, the free area you have for placement, and the aesthetic you are going for. Remember that not all shallow mount car subwoofers are made equal. This guide will help you understand everything you wish to know about shallow mount subs and follow it up with an extensive catalog to help you choose the one best suited to your needs.
Why should I buy a shallow mount subwoofer?
While the bigger the sub, the bigger the bass, a full sized subwoofer will take up a ton of room and isn’t easily hidden from car thieves. In many cases, it just won’t fit in the available space in your car. It is harder to position and can take much of your passenger or cargo space. Since it is also way heavier, your vehicle also has to work harder as a traditional subwoofer can be equivalent to carrying an extra passenger.
If a large or medium box just won’t fit or doesn’t provide the look or sound you are going for, I’m here to tell you that a shallow mount subwoofer is the answer to your bassing, bumping prayers. It is designed to take up minimum space and fit in tight spaces and narrow areas while offering performance on par with regular subwoofers. Its streamlined look facilitates seamless placement, ensuring it won’t stand out as an eyesore inside your car.
Shallow mount subwoofers are best for small vehicles where space is a challenge. Installing just one is enough for a high-quality, boomy listening experience though you can add more if you want to. They are designed to fit under your seat or behind your truck bench and are usually capable of being played facing up or down. It’s because they are omnidirectional which simply means the sound output is directed to the four corners of the car cabin. Everybody in the car can hear the sound output as audibly as possible.
How to Pick the Best Shallow Mount Subwoofer
There are a ton of options when it comes to the best shallow mount subwoofer. It can get crazy choosing which subwoofer to purchase with different specifications in different sizes from different brands available. You need to make an informed decision if you are looking to upgrade your car or truck audio system for bass. Here are a few things to consider to make your search easier.
Depending on placement, size will be your most significant factor in picking up shallow subwoofers. Shallow mount subwoofers come in different sizes with the most common diameters measuring 8 inches, 10 inches, and 12 inches. It used to be that the bigger the size, the better the base but recent technological advancements have found a way to improve the bass without sacrificing space.
If you plan on throwing a powered sub under a single-seat, take out your tape measure. The last thing you want is a sub that doesn’t fit through the seat mounts and ends up riding between a passenger’s feet. When measuring the size of the shallow subwoofer, oftentimes it is the overall diameter that’s tracked. It is imperative that the measurement is compatible with the car space it will occupy.
On the other hand, if the sub is riding in the back of your truck or in another relatively larger spot, opt for one of the largest shallow subwoofers you can fit in the space. Just make sure you account for an amp. The amplifier will power your subwoofer as bass sound waves need lots of power to thump. If you are looking for that satisfying rumble of big bass, a subwoofer with an amplifier will give you that sharper sound and increased clarity.
Many shallow mounts you’ll find on the market come with a built-in power supply. The benefits of the built-in power supply include the ease of installation because of less wiring and saving of storage space because everything is packed inside sealed enclosures. There is no need to search for a matching amplifier and enclosure to pair with the subwoofer you bought. Everything is already matched and optimized for those bass notes to resonate.
Just keep in mind that it might not sound as good as something with a separate amp. The compactness of the stand-alone subwoofer means the drivers are smaller and the output is lower, compromising the amount of bass they can deliver. If you do opt for a separate shallow mount/ amp setup, be careful to purchase an amp that not only fits your space but also has the appropriate power levels for your small woofer.
There is a limit to how much power a subwoofer can handle so check the subwoofer’s power-handling ratings. They come in terms of peak power and root mean square (RMS) power with peak power indicating the maximum amount of power surge a subwoofer can handle while RMS power specifies how much continuous power a subwoofer can sustain. Both numbers are important to know so you don’t blow up your unit.
Even though you have to be familiar with both the RMS power and the peak power rating, pay more attention to the RMS values. The RMS power rating will likely be lower than the peak power rating but it represents what a subwoofer is truly capable of handling. The RMS is reflective of the experience you will get on a daily basis as its numbers represent what the subwoofer can handle on continuous play.
Another important feature to consider when buying a shallow mount sub is sensitivity as it goes hand-in-hand with power to produce loud volumes. The sensitivity is gauged by how much bass a woofer produces as it converts power into volume. It is measured in decibels (dB) and 90 dB will give you decent loudness with no distortion. Anything less and you will probably end up wanting more so check the sensitivity rating.
Always remember that subs with higher sensitivity ratings won’t require as much power to produce the same amount of sound compared to subs with lower sensitivity ratings. Sensitivity is especially useful depending on your amplifier. A subwoofer with high sensitivity is best if you are using a low power amp, but you could get away with a lower sensitivity rating if you are using a well-powered amp.
Like everything these days, the variations in the quality of available shallow mount subwoofers are as wide as the horizon. When looking for a sub that will last, consider the materials used in its construction. A rigid polypropylene cone can absorb moisture and has low distortion. A flexible rubber surround can last for decades even with changing weather conditions. An anodized aluminum voice coil, on the other hand, dissipates heat much faster so it can withstand more power longer.
Brand names have the credibility of creating great car audio systems from many years of reliability and sound quality. Rockford Fosgate, Kenwood, Rockville, and Cerwin-Vega are easily some of the best shallow mount subwoofers’ names in the market today. They are patent-holders of many innovations that changed the way subs are made, allowing them to remain relevant and in high demand worldwide. A shallow subwoofer that comes from a company you’ve heard of and uses quality components is a sure bet to finding a sub you’ll be happy with.
The best shallow mount subwoofers do not just sound bassy. They actually “reveal” the bass in your favorite track being the loudspeaker that produces the low-pitched sound frequencies. Once the bass starts playing, you should feel it as well as rattle your car windows. As the anchor that ties rhythm and melody together, the bass frequency in your car should be a deep, full-bodied sound coming out of your subs.
The shallow subwoofers are designed to pick up lower frequencies (20HZ) than standard speakers (50HZ), allowing you to hear the sound quality the way the artist intended. Because human ears can only pick sounds with a frequency down to 20 Hz, the subwoofer will help you feel the vibrations even if you cannot hear it. A good subwoofer can make you hear something entirely new even from a song you’ve heard a hundred times before.
When it comes to a shallow mount, you’ll want to look for a peak power of around 1000 watts RMS. This ensures that when you crank up the bass lines, your subs will never give up. An impedance rating of 4 ohms is also preferable for less stress on your vehicle’s electrical system without a decrease in sound quality and clarity. You can find the specs in the packaging or product manual of the subwoofer.
The frequency response shows how well a shallow mount subwoofer can reproduce all of the audible tones. It is measured in hertz (Hz) unit with the hearing range of humans anywhere from 20 Hz to 20 kHz. As the frequency range goes lower in the scale, the bass becomes deeper until you mostly just feel it and not hear it. So, do you need a shallow subwoofer with lower hertz or do you need subs with a higher Hz rating?
Keep an eye out for a frequency response ranging from 30 Hz to 800 HZ. That will allow the shallow mount subs to deliver a variety of heavy bass sounds within a wide frequency range. There are subs capable of reaching down to 1 Hz but that is already well out of the range of human sensation. By definition, subwoofers are not built to handle the highest frequencies so 200 Hz and above is best left for other speakers.
While shallow mount subs are often less expensive than regular subwoofers due to their smaller size, the upgrade to your sound system will still come at a price. The good news is there is a wide price range for mount subwoofers whether money is no object to you or you are on a budget. You get what you pay for with a shallow subwoofer with more expensive subs able to go louder, produce lower frequencies and create better sound quality.
It does not mean you won’t get big bass if you’re not interested in spending big money. There are units that can give you a lot of value for not that much cash. There are some affordable options available that can deliver clear highs and punchy lows. Even for a fairly low price tag, your choice of brand and model can help you enjoy listening to your favorite music while on your way to and from work.
Shallow Mount Subwoofers: Things to Know
Music and how people have listened to it has been a 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 in cars by the late 80 and ’90s after the invention of the CD and bass-heavy styles of music like hip hop.
Obviously, when looking at the sub, you’re looking at bass accuracy but believe it or not, the sub does more.
See, it also fills out your soundstage. A proper soundstage is one where all of the components play an integral part to deliver the most pleasing sound quality. That is great news if you are looking for a shallow mount sub. The reason is bass drowning out the rest of your car audio isn’t the goal, crystal clear tones that add rather than subtract from the overall experience are.
Benefits of a Shallow Mount Subwoofer
The obvious benefit you’ll find in a shallow mount is the compact size. It is very slim and generally is smaller in dimension than regular subwoofers. Thus, it can be easily mounted in tight spaces. You won’t need to round up your friends to transport the shallow subwoofer into your car either. The subs are available as small as 8 inches and as big as 15, and are designed with a small footprint in mind.
Along with size, weight is another easy-to-understand benefit. Many larger boxed subwoofers or dual enclosures can weigh up to a hundred pounds. A shallow mount, however, should only weigh about five. That means it will be easier to install and transport out of the car and adds less weight to the back of your rig when it is finally in. You probably also know that the lighter your vehicle weighs, the better its fuel economy.
Many of the best shallow mounts come powered. A powered sub is easy to set up, though, generally speaking, the unpowered sub will move more air and have a better sound. Just keep in mind that for an unpowered sub, you will also need a car amplifier. The amp will boost the very small audio signal from your car stereo to provide more power to your subwoofer. No one wants to hear a dull, thumpy vibration while listening to bass-heavy music.
So, yes, installing a subwoofer in your car without partnering it with an amplifier is a mistake. There’s a reason your neighborhood car audio retailer offers a car subwoofer and amplifier package. If you choose an unpowered sub, a good option is storing an appropriately sized amp under one seat and the shallow subwoofer under another. It is important to locate the desired placement for your amp and sub in your transport as it can vary by vehicle.
Disadvantages of Shallow Mount Subwoofer
There are a lot of things like cone material and magnet quality and size that go into a subwoofer to reproduce excellent sound. Unfortunately, one of those things is also the size of the box. The larger the box, the more air the shallow subs can move. Because it is installed in a small space, a shallow mount subwoofer can’t move a lot of air behind it. You may not get the same bass and low-end frequencies in as clear and loud of a manner as for regular subs.
That means that, although you’ll be happy with the sound quality from a premium shallow mount, it just won’t compare to its big brother. It will struggle to hold up to the output of a larger sub. It will still sound good but will have less deep bass and low-end frequency capability. If you’re not looking to compete with this sub or max out your sound without some distortion, a shallow mount subwoofer remains a viable option for most setups.
Keep in mind that you will generally be using a shallow mount in a small area, so you may not need as much deep bass as you’d think to fill out your soundstage appropriately. Do you really want loud, earth shaking bass that can loosen bolts and screws, and shatter car windows from vibrations? When you pair your shallow mount with the right stock or aftermarket interior speakers, you should be more than happy with the results.