When it comes to subwoofers, their power wattage and RMS ratings determine the overall sound quality and loudness. Speaking of which, you may ask, how many watts is a good subwoofer?
Generally, subwoofers for cars range between 200-1000 watts, and most operate around 400 to 600 watts.
And how much wattage you need depends on the vehicle’s size, the loudness you want from the subwoofer, and much more.
Selecting the right components for your car’s audio system will require some forethought and planning, so we’re here to help with this article.
Let’s get started!
How to Choose the Right Subwoofer
When looking for a car subwoofer, you’ll have to narrow down your choices by considering the following:
- Do you need ground-breaking bass? Or are you looking for the best audible experience?
- How much power wattage does your car support?
- What is the existing audio system in your car?
Based on these questions, here’s a simple guide to check how many watts can the audio system of your car support:
- Factory radio: 50 to 200 watts
- Aftermarket head unit: 200 to 350 watts
- Amplified speakers w/ around 40-50 watts per channel: 250 to 500 watts
- High-end audio system w/ about 100 watts per channel: 1,000+ watts
Once you know how much power your car can provide, you’ll have to determine which type of enclosure suits your requirements the most. Here are the 3 most common types –
1. Sealed Enclosures
Also known as boxes, these airtight subwoofers are ideal for audiophiles looking for the best hearing experience. Sealed enclosures are suitable for all types of audio as they can reproduce more precise bass lines than other types of enclosures.
2. Ported Box
If you want the ‘ground-breaking’ bass we mentioned earlier, a ported box would be your ideal enclosure. Although they’re not as accurate as sealed enclosures at reproducing bass lines, they are generally much louder.
3. Model-specific Enclosures
Nowadays, a lot of aftermarket audio equipment manufacturers produce vehicle-specific enclosures depending on where you’ll place the subwoofer. These enclosures will ensure the appropriate fitting of the subwoofer in your car.
How Do I Know Where to Place My Subwoofer?
As a rule of thumb, installing the subwoofer behind the rear seat (in the trunk) gives an even sound distribution along with great bass production. And it should be facing the front seats or towards the ground.
If you’re getting a small subwoofer(s), you can place them at the front of your car, facing towards the rear seats. Alternatively, they can also be installed below the rear windshield/hatch of the car.
What Does Wattage Have to Do with Subwoofer Loudness?
A common misconception about subwoofers is that the higher the power rating a subwoofer has, the better sound it produces. However, that is not always the case.
Although a subwoofer with higher wattage will play audio much louder than a subwoofer with low wattage, it doesn’t necessarily mean better bass production.
On the other hand, a subwoofer’s power wattage doesn’t have anything to do with other important factors such as impedance, cone size, etc.
Differentiating Between Peak Wattage and RMS
When dealing with subwoofers, you’ll come across two wattage ratings frequently – the RMS wattage and the peak wattage. Here’s the difference between the ratings.
The RMS wattage of a subwoofer indicates the amount of power/load it can regularly handle without the risk of getting damaged.
By definition, RMS (root mean square) is a measurement of the amount of continuous power that the subwoofer can handle.
On the other hand, peak wattage indicates the maximum power that a subwoofer can handle for short intervals of time.
Why Do You Need a Subwoofer in a Car?
Adding a subwoofer to your car’s existing audio system can enhance the hearing experience significantly. Moreover, if you’re an audiophile looking for accurate audio reproduction with precise bass, a subwoofer can do wonders!
Moreover, installing a subwoofer will also minimize the distortion that you hear when playing loud audio on regular woofers/speakers.
Additionally, you’ll also get improved clarity as subwoofers can reproduce lower frequency ranges that regular speakers can’t.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Car Subwoofer
All subwoofers have their own differences, so here are a few factors you should consider when choosing a subwoofer for your car.
1. RMS Rating
Most subwoofers come with RMS ratings, as we have mentioned before, which is a measure of how much continuous power the subwoofer can handle. A higher RMS wattage means a more powerful subwoofer.
If a given subwoofer’s spec sheet doesn’t include the RMS wattage, you can calculate it by multiplying the power wattage by ‘0.707’.
For instance, a 600 watts subwoofer will have 600 x 0.707 = 424.2 RMS wattage.
The sensitivity of a subwoofer indicates how much output volume it will produce for a certain amount of power.
In simple words, the higher the sensitivity of a subwoofer, the lower power it requires to produce sound.
Impedance is used to determine how much load the subwoofer will put on the amplifier. As a general rule, the higher the impedance, the lower work has to be done by the amplifier.
4. Frequency Range
For a subwoofer, the frequency range determines how low it can play. A high-quality subwoofer should have a range between 20-200 Hertz. This is important to consider by audiophiles looking for accurate bass production.
The right subwoofer for your car should blend with the interior of your vehicle. Besides, styling is important if you want your subwoofer to match the visual aesthetics of your car.
6. Voice Coils
Voice calls are attached to the tip of a subwoofer’s cone. Usually, subwoofers come with single voice coils or dual voice coils. In comparison, subwoofers with DVCs have an extra connection to the amplifier.
Pros and Cons of Subwoofers in Car
While some people love subwoofers, others feel disturbed by the deep sounds produced by them. Here are a few advantages and disadvantages of installing a subwoofer in your car.
- Improves audio fidelity by enhancing bass clarity and response
- Minimizes distortion produced by main speakers at loud volumes
- Produces richer sound with accurate low-end frequencies
- Subwoofers can be used as an extension of full-spectrum speakers
- Relieves main speakers from the struggle of reproducing low-frequency notes
- Deep bass notes could disturb peaceful environments
- Subwoofers are usually bulky and take up a lot of space in the car
- Ensuring proper power supply to the subwoofer(s) may be a challenge
- It may cause rattling of loose body parts/panels
How Many Watts Should a Good Subwoofer Be?
With all of that being said, you should now know how to determine the ideal power wattage of a subwoofer for your car.
Depending on the existing audio system and your budget, you may choose a subwoofer with around 200-400 watts of power rating or go all-out with proper gauge wiring and an amplifier for powering subwoofers with 1,000+ watts ratings.
As a general rule, the power wattage doesn’t determine the quality of bass produced by a subwoofer. Therefore, to know if a given subwoofer is good for your requirements or not, you’ll have to experiment a bit.
Usually, subwoofers with power ratings between 300-600 watts are good enough for most scenarios.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What size subwoofer is best for bass?
In most cases, an 8” subwoofer does the job by producing tight and accurate bass. And some 8” subwoofers even offer performance better than low-end 10”+ subwoofers.
2. Do higher-watt subs hit harder?
Yes, the higher the power rating, the louder the audio will be produced. However, for hearing an audible difference (e.g., a 3 dB increase), the power rating has to be doubled.
3. What happens if you underpower a sub?
Underpowering a subwoofer won’t really damage it. Not giving it sufficient power just means that the produced audio will sound feeble with low details. The risk of damaging a subwoofer only comes when it is overpowered.
4. Do shallow-mount subs hit hard?
Yes, they even have the ability to sound better than regular-sized subwoofers. But for the best results, they’ll have to be installed in the right place.
5. How long should I break in my sub?
For a solid break-in, you should run your subwoofer for around 20-24 hours. To break in the subwoofer, play a clean signal overnight. Once you’re done, the subwoofer should be ready for use.
6. What frequency is deep bass?
Deep bass is known as the audio bandwidth with frequencies between 16 to 80 Hertz. Usually, this range of frequencies cannot be reached by regular speakers/woofers, and a subwoofer is needed for playing deep bass.
Choosing the right subwoofer for your car is not an easy task, as a lot of factors have to be taken into consideration.
Typically, subwoofers with power ratings between 300 to 600 watts can fulfill the requirements of someone looking to enhance their car’s audio system.
With all of that being said, you should now know how many watts is a good subwoofer need.