Are you looking for the best 12 inch subwoofer for your car or home?
Adding a subwoofer can be one of the most impressive upgrade you can make to your car or home audio system. But let’s be honest, choosing the right subwoofer for your audio system isnt easy. You need to do your homework before buying the subwoofer that is a perfect match for you. In this article we are going to be your guide in choosing the best 12-inch subwoofer. So, without further ado, let’s get started.
What is the purpose of subwoofer?
In any musical environment you will find highs, mids and lows. Highs are considered as treble, mids are usually the vocals and snares etc. Lows are where the subwoofer comes into play. Now bass is not directional, which means that you can hear bass from all directions. So when adding bass to the car sound system, we put a subwoofer into the trunk of the car. From the trunk, it sounds like the bass is coming from everywhere inside the car unlike the speakers that are in your dash, tweeters or the woofer that is in your door.
All purpose speakers are not capable of reproducing every frequency that is sent to them by the audio source. The purpose of subwoofer is to produce only low frequency bass which helps in achieving the full, rich, three-dimensional effect which everybody loves in movies and music.
What does a subwoofer do?
A subwoofer is referred to as a loudspeaker which is capable of producing deep and intense pulses which cannot be produced by ordinary speakers. It acts like a big low powered pressure pump that pumps out low bass frequencies. Installing a subwoofer can help lighten the load on your stereo speakers. You can let your stereo play flat and use the subwoofer to pick up all of those low frequencies.
You are always going to need an amplifier when you add a subwoofer. If your car came with high end sound system, chances are that you have a small subwoofer built in. A typical stereo is going to break up if you turn up the bass too much. So, the best option is to leave the bass flat and add a subwoofer to pick up the extra load. In this way you can turn the car or home stereo up without your music getting distorted.
Receiver to Subwoofer
Subwoofers are usually connected to an audio receiver or a preamplifier. This receiver sends low frequency effects (LFE) that are between 20 Hz to 100 Hz, through electrical currents to the subwoofer. The Subwoofer then amplifies this current. This current is converted into sound by using a magnetic coil which causes vibration of the driver’s cone. As a result of these vibrations, low frequency sound waves are produced and sent out through the air.
Car vs Home Subwoofer: The Difference
Home and Car subwoofers are almost nearly identical with only few differences.
Active and Passive Subwoofers
There are basically two types of subwoofers, one is active and the other is a passive subwoofer. Active subwoofers have a built-in amplifier. When you connect it, you’ll just need an electrical output to plug it in. This is because home subwoofers have built-in amplifiers that deals with the power rates of your subwoofer.
On the other hand, most car subwoofers need an external amplifier in order to drive the speakers. This is because most of them (not all) are passive subwoofers and require an external amp for assistance. This gives the owner the authority to select an appropriate amplifier for powering their unit. Choosing the right amplifier for your best 12-inch subwoofer depends on the size of your car and the amount of bass you need in your vehicle.
Another main difference between a home and car subwoofer is the efficiency of the speaker. Speaker efficiency also known as the speaker sensitivity, and is a measure of the speaker’s output which is measured in decibels (dB). While using specified amount of amplified power. A home subwoofer cannot run successfully in a car to produce 90 to 95 dB of sound by using lower wattage. And for a car subwoofer that is designed to work on low watts it would need larger amounts of wattage power to produce 90 to 95 dB of sound.
The reason for efficiency differences between the two subwoofers is the fact that home subwoofers are specifically designed to push more air and produce sound for larger listening area whereas the subwoofers for car stereo system are not designed for this purpose.
Home subwoofers usually have better current input which results in driving stronger bass. On the other hand, car subwoofers don’t have much power to supply. The main reason is that the car subwoofers run by using direct current whereas home version use alternating current. Car stereo systems run on 12v of DC power and have 2 to 4-ohm impedance whereas the home systems run on 120v of AC power and have an impedance of 4 to 8 ohms. If you try run your car subwoofer in your home it would be only effective in small rooms as it is built for that purpose.
A home subwoofer is designed for a consistent current, while a car current keeps on fluctuating depending upon the car’s actions. Car subwoofers can have up to 2 to 5 times more harmonic distortion as compared to that of a home subwoofer. It is also important to note that the car subs are unshielded, so anything that has magnet inside it may get affected if brought close to it. For example, a computer hard drive etc.
Do I need an amp for the best 12-inch subwoofer (passive subwoofer)?
Well, the answer to this question is YES! The reason is that the low frequencies have long wavelengths, for which subwoofers have to move a lot of air. Let’s suppose you try to wire your subwoofers to your car stereo the same way you do to connect the speakers, then your subwoofer will not have enough power to play along with the speakers. This is where an amplifier will come into play and maintain a balance for your stereo system. Without an amp, your subwoofer is nothing but a box with a vibrating bowl.
There are three key things to consider when pairing an amp and a subwoofer:
- RMS Power of Subwoofer
- Final Impedance
- Type of Amplifier
RMS Power of Subwoofer
First of all, find the total RMS wattage of all the subwoofers you want to add in the system. This would be the power rating you want the amplifier to output at the given impedance of the subwoofers. Always look for amplifiers that have CEA certified power ratings if you want safe and accurate wattage comparison. Although, you don’t need to perfectly match up power ratings. Remember, peak and max power ratings should be ignored as these numbers represent quick bursts of power, not the sustained musical power.
Now, notice how an amplifier will often function at 1,2 or 4 ohms and will produce different wattage output at each impedance. Depending on how you wire your subs, you will need to match the final ohm rating of the subwoofer to the ohm rating of the amplifier.
Type of Amplifier
A Monoblock amplifier is often the best type of amplifier when powering one or more subwoofers because they are designed to output tons of power at low frequencies. It’s not uncommon to use a 2-channel amplifier when running low powered woofers, however the wiring would be a little different. Avoid using a 4-channel amplifier to run subwoofers, they are designed to produce wide range of frequencies and low power which is best suited for car speakers.
Where to place your 12 inch Subwoofer in your home
Subwoofers and the way that it behaves and interacts with typical listening room is a very complex subject. There are all kinds of tools and measurement system and other things that will allow you to get a precise idea of where you can put your subwoofer for the best response. But, a lot of those techniques don’t work well if you don’t have a reasonably good starting point.
Conventional wisdom says that you want to put your subwoofer and in the corner of the room. Now, in many cases this will give you the loudest bass but, in most cases, it won’t give you the smoothest and most linear bass. So, it’s a decent starting point but don’t assume that once you have put the subwoofer down and in place, it should stay there forever.
The Corner Placement
In many homes, probably the only place that you can put your subwoofer is close to your television set. Which usually means that it’s going to be behind, left or right to the loudspeaker and probably in the corner, unless you’ve got a L shaped layout. The corner placement is going to give you the biggest amount of what is called, room gain, which is additional output because of the loading of the room boundaries i.e. the walls and the floor.
If you are limited in terms of your placement, even if you have only a couple of feet to play with in any direction, you should try pulling the subwoofer out and move it to the left or right by a few feet. As you do this, listen to the music that you’re familiar with and try to find the position that gives you the smoothest bass. Even a couple of feet of pulling the subwoofer out from the corner can smooth out the bottom end significantly.
Method for finding the sweet spot for your best 12-inch subwoofer
A really good technique to find the sweet spot for your subwoofer is to do something called a subwoofer crawl. Now, this may sound a little strange but it really works.
The subwoofer crawl is simply moving your seat or if you’ve got a large couch or something, placing the subwoofer as close as you can to the position where you are going to be sitting listening to the system. Then, connect the subwoofer as usual and play some movies or music that have some good frequency content in them. Now, what you are going to do is get down on your knees and crawl around the outside edges of the room, listening for when the bass smooths out.
Subwoofers interact with the rooms in a way that causes what are called room nodes. These room nodes occur at different frequencies, depending on the room and where the subwoofer is placed. These peaks and valleys mean that as you crawl around, you may find some spots where all of a sudden have very loud bass but it doesn’t sound very smooth. The flip side of that is that you may get into a position where you hear very low bass or almost no bass at all. Now, in that position you are going to be in a room null, where the output of the subwoofer is actually cancelling with the size and dimension of the room. So, by doing the subwoofer crawl, you can easily find a spot that gives you the smoothest low frequency bass. And that now is a good position to try out by actually putting the subwoofer in that position and going back to your listening seat, sitting down and observing whether or not that placement actually works. It’s a good easy technique that doesn’t require any measurement equipment and really works well in most rooms.
How to connect subwoofer to amplifier
To connect your subwoofer to the amp, all you need is an RCA cable. However, if you want a stereo to hook-up, you’ll be needing two sets of RCA cables. Before connecting your best 12 inch subwoofer to your amp, make sure both of them are turned off and disconnected from the power source. Now, connect the subwoofer’s output to the amp’s input. The input jack for subwoofer on the amp might be labeled as “subwoofer output” just to make things easier.
Now, connect your amp to your speakers. For this, find the speaker’s output on the back of the amplifier. Connect your speaker wires to the respective outputs. You might find that your speaker wires are just bare wire ends. Make sure you connect the right and left output speaker wire to their corresponding jacks on the amp. There is a chance that you might find that your amplifier has positive/negative polarity defined. In this case, you need to make sure that the proper positive and negative terminals from each speaker are connected to the same polarity of the amplifier.
In the end connect your amp and subs to their power source and enjoy the amazing sound experience from your best 12 inch subwoofer.
Most subwoofers nowadays come with a phase switch. The phase switch in a subwoofer actually allows the user to add electrical delay to the incoming signals. The phase control switch operates over the range of 0 to 180 degrees. The advantage of adding electrical delay to the incoming subwoofer signals is that it can sometimes help the subwoofer to integrate better with the loudspeakers in the room. If we set the phase control to 180 degrees, it reverses the polarity of the subwoofer. If you are going to place your subwoofer on a wall opposite from the speakers then reversing the subwoofer polarity can yield better in-room low frequency response. Reversing the polarity of a subwoofer makes the subwoofer’s driver move inward while other speaker driver move forward in the stereo system.
A low pass filter basically prevents the subwoofer from playing frequencies that are above its limit. These frequencies are above the frequencies that your main speaker reproduces. So, if a low pass filter of a subwoofer has a limit of 80 Hz then it will only allow the frequencies below 80 Hz. However, having any kind of filter doesn’t give you the surety that no frequency above the limit will pass, some frequencies will make their way anyways. The low pass filter in the subwoofers is from 40 Hz to somewhere between 160-200 Hz.
How to install subwoofer in your car
You will be needing several items to complete the process of installing your best 12-inch subwoofer in your car. The equipment and tools solely depend on the type of car you are going to install your subwoofer in. However, we have tried to make a list of everything you are going use during the installation process
Speaker wires for subwoofer
- Good Quality Electrical tap
- Speed drill of different sizes (cordless)
- Speaker wires
Before installing your best 12-inch subwoofer in your car you must go through the manual. Every subwoofer comes with a manual for installation. It is very important that you read the instructions given in the manual even if you already have the idea of what needs to be done. In this way, you will not miss anything during the installation process.
After you have everything in place, the very first thing you need to do is to create space to install the best 12-inch subwoofer. For this, measure the face of the box and while you are at it, you should leave some inches of space below and above the outer dimensions of the speaker. Then cut all the other three side of the box. After that create an opening for your subwoofer by using the speaker as a template. Don’t forget to mark all the drilling holes for the screws that you are going to use in tightening the subwoofer.
After construction is done, begin the mounting of your amp. If you want to connect every component, you must find out where the bottom of the amp sits. You then need to install the subs of the amplifier modules. This is where you have the amp, all the three inputs, phase switch, parametric equalizer and the low pass crossover. Once the module is situated correctly, you need to screw down the amplifier. Use a star screw for tightening the screws and make sure you tighten them properly. You also need to connect the remote wire at the stereo to the remote lead. It can also be connected to a +12V accessory wire.
Assemble the subwoofer
Once you are done placing the amp, you should now start assembling the subwoofer. Your best 12 inch subwoofer must be firmly mounted using the screws provided in the box. In addition to this, you need to attach a separate grill that will protect the cone. Now you need to connect your best 12 inch subwoofer to your amplifier. To boost the power and sound system you should wire the amplifier in bridge mode.
Connect to Signal Source
To get a better sound you need to connect the wires correctly. This connection however depends solely on the type of stereo you are using. There are two types of stereo systems, one is factory stereo system and the other is aftermarket stereo. If you are using a factory stereo system, it is important to tap off the rear speaker wire. This is where the speaker inputs to the amplifier are found. If you are using aftermarket stereo, you must connect the stereo to the subwoofer RCA jacks or the rear.
Now all you have to do is, set the cross over and the gain. This could be done by playing the stereo at a medium volume. At this volume try to adjust the low pass crossover. Do it until you can feel only the bass. Now, turn the amp to start from zero and continue to adjust the bass until you get a sufficient bass that is perfect for you. This is all what is need to done to install your subwoofer in your car. We wish you good luck in your quest of buying the best 12 inch subwoofer for your vehicle.