Without a sub in your system, you are missing out on full, rich and solid sound. Whether you use a factory or aftermarket stereo, you can find a powered subwoofer that matches the system.
Why go for a Powered sub?
- The sound delivered by your factory system is weak and unbalanced
- Your new aftermarket system didn’t come with a sub
- You want to add a sub and an amplifier in one go
- There’s no space to install a subwoofer and amplifier separately
- Installing powered subwoofers is generally cheaper than installing a sub and an amp separately
Leading car audio equipment brands have continued to advance their engineering technologies. The result is an increasingly expanding variety of powered subwoofer models to fit every user’s needs and preferences. This review represents the results of in-depth research by our team, a project that aimed at identifying and ranking the best performing powered subs on the market.
1. Rockville RW10CA
Rockville RW10CA comes across as the most powerful 10-inch car sub. It beats the competition to impress you with effective bass performance and user-friendliness. You’ll love this sleek bass champion especially if your vehicle is running short of installation space. Rockville has proved that it’s possible to go big on sound while going small on size and price.
- 200W RMS; 800W MAX power
- Frequency response: 20 -150 Hz
- Sensitivity: 90 dB
Features that make Rockville RW10CA the overall best powered car sub
- A bass powerhouse among 10-inch subs: Scaling the heights of power handling at 800 watts, and having an impedance of 2 ohms, the RW10CA packs quite a punch. You might underestimate what will come out of this compact box but wait until it’s all set up. The sub will open you to a new level of impressive bass experience, and you’ll never look back.
- Gives the best of each of your favorite jams: Why are some subs great when playing a certain genre, say hip hop, but suck at other genres, say classics? Frequency response! Rockville designed the RW10CA to give you the best of anything you throw at it. The wide 20Hz – 150Hz frequency response means that the sub can add a considerable punch but still manage higher frequencies efficiently.
- User-friendly operation: Of what use is a powerful sub if operating it gives you a headache? Rockville engineers seem to have thought this out and did everything to ensure the RW10CA offers you the best experience. First, it features Soft Delayed Remote Turn-On, so you won’t hear any loud and annoying sound when the sub turns on. Secondly, you have several options for customizing the sound you get, thanks to the low-pass filter and bass boost.
- Protection circuits: Car electrical systems act up sometimes. You don’t want your highly valued sub to be easily affected by unusual electrical occurrences. Luckily, this is not something you’ll worry about when using the RW10CA. It has inbuilt circuits for thermal protection, short protection, and overload protection.
- Low profile design makes it perfect for small vehicles.
- High power performance; bigger bass potential.
- Fairly balanced sound stage due to the extensive frequency response range.
- Easy and clean installation.
- Fantastic controls for sound output adjustment.
- Remote control for convenient management of your entertainment experience.
- Limited bass depth
Adding a little bass to the car sound system is simple with this powered sub. Many Rockville RW10CA reviews by users portray it as an inexpensive option that provides significant sound quality enhancement.
Place the RW10CA under the seat within minutes and start enjoying better audio while in the car.
2. Rockford Fosgate P300-12
If you’ve used Rockford Fosgate equipment before, you know of this brand’s keen focus on build quality. You’ll see this clearly upon setting your eyes on the P300-12. But this is only the icing on the cake. The 12-inch subwoofer inside has a set of formidable features, which assures you satisfactory audio performance.
- 300W RMS; 600W MAX power
- Frequency response: 35 -150 Hz
- Sensitivity: 92 dB
Competition-crashing features of Rockford Fosgate P300-12
- Comes ready to roll: Once you get this sub, you’ll need just a couple of minutes to unpack, connect it to power, and ground it. No strenuous screwing or drilling is required. The sub is ready to receive an audio signal and amaze you with harmonious amplified sound.
- Designed for optimum component synergy: Rockford Fosgate used a closed-loop design to ensure that the woofer, amplifier, and enclosure work together to give out the best output. Although a sealed enclosure is the most basic enclosure design, it often produces the cleanest sound compared to other subwoofer box designs.
- Integration with your audio system: The P300-12 features separate low level and speaker level inputs. These allow for easy integration in both factory and aftermarket audio systems. This versatility would be really useful if and when you change cars. If you like its performance, you can install it in your new car and continue enjoying great audio.
- Control the highs and lows: Have a little fun while driving by interacting with your audio system. You can adjust bass using the remote bass level control. Besides, the P300-12 has a built-in adjustable bass EQ, 0°/180° phase switch, and a 12db/Octave low pass crossover. These features allow you to tweak the audio output to your liking.
- Sturdy, durable exterior that withstands rough treatment in the trunk.
- Powerful 300-watt amplifier.
- High-efficiency sealed enclosure design.
- Thermal and overvoltage protection.
- Smart auto turn on/turn off function.
- The enclosure is too big to fit in tight spaces.
- No remote control.
If you are looking for a powered sub with a small footprint to fit behind the back seat, you’ve just found it. The P300-12 has a small footprint and gives out full and clear sound.
Let Rockford Fosgate P300-12 make your daily commute/road tours livelier by adding lovely vibrations to your audio system’s output.
3. Kicker 11HS8
We’ve seen what a 12-inch and a 10-inch subwoofer can do. Now let’s see why Kicker’s 8-inch HS8 has managed to weather the competition to become the 3rd best powered car subwoofer in our ranking.
This sub has won a CES award for design innovation and superior engineering. This is a strong indication of competitiveness. As you’ll see shortly, it can bring your stereo to life and make your days more cheerful.
- 150W RMS power
- Frequency response: 25-150 Hz
Top highlights of Kicker 11HS8
- Hideaway design: Like its name ‘hideaway’ suggests, the 11HS8 is ultra-compact. It comes in with a 3” height and 14-inch width. Thus, it is a small enclosed system that can fit in the tightest locations in your car. Stash it under the car seat or other hidden spot and enjoy better audio without giving up valuable space.
- 150 watts RMS power amplifier: Although the 11HS8 is considerably smaller than other top-ranking powered car subs, its high power handling makes up for size. Fitting a 150-watts amplifier in this highly compact sub was incredible effort by Kicker. As many Kicker 11HS8 reviews by customers show, experiencing this speaker for the first time is a pleasant surprise. It’s intriguingly small yet it offers big sound.
- Goes as low as 25Hz: This bass is low enough to add the energy your current sound system isn’t giving you. Your new Kicker sub will impress you when playing music that has deep voices, bass guitar and drum beat sounds. Besides, the subsonic filter helps to eliminate the bass notes that you cannot hear, so that you don’t waste the sub’s potential.
- Wired remote control: For convenient bass control, Kicker has designed a small knob that you can install on the side of your seat. You won’t waste a second stretching your hand to locate the subwoofer, or endanger your safety taking your attention off the road when your favorite bass-heavy track comes up. The wired remote control is right there beside you.
- Kicker sub + Kicker amplifier means robust construction.
- Adds low notes well across all spectrums of music.
- Clean and precise bass even when cranked up.
- Comes with all the wires you need for power and speaker input connections.
- Variable low-pass crossover lets you control how high it goes.
- Doesn’t come with RCA cables or speaker wire-to-RCA input adapters.
- Price is on the higher side.
This award-winning Kicker will give you a level of bass that will add the sweet juice lacking in your car audio system’s performance.
With its proven capabilities, Kicker 11HS8 is a worthy investment in memorable in-car entertainment experiences.
4. Pioneer TS-WX1210A: Most affordable 12-inch powered car subwoofer
Many individuals – both experts and customers – consider Pioneer TS-WX1210A the best powered car subwoofer in terms of value for money. It flexes its power handling up to 1300 watts MAX while taking on lows are low as 20Hz. If tight bass is what you are after, this powered sub from Pioneer is an option you want to consider.
- 350W RMS; 1300W peak power
- Frequency response: 20-125 Hz
- Sensitivity: 114 dB
Unique features of TS-WX1210A
- High-efficiency sound reproduction: A formidable combination of a 12-inch sub and a Class D amplifier account for the powerful sound the TS-WX1210A produces. Note that this powered sub boasts of an RMS power handling of 350 watts. Then, marry this aspect with the high efficiency of class D amps. This explains why the sub produces powerful sound continuously.
- Sealed enclosure with carpet finish: A big part of a sub’s performance depends on the design of the enclosure. Pioneer chose to use a sealed housing, which is the best option when the target is tight bass. The carpet finish not only enhances the durability of the enclosure but also reduces rattling when the bass is turned all up.
- Expandable system flexibility and control: A wired remote control knob is included in the package. Also, you’ll find the input gain control on the side panel of the enclosure. These control features give you more control over the sub’s performance. Meanwhile, the crossover helps you to assign certain frequencies to the components that can handle them.
- Installation flexibility: The trapezoidal shape of the enclosure allows for varying placement options. You can install it freely in the vehicle’s cabin or under seats. Also, any of the five sides of the box not harboring the speaker can act as the base. So, depending on where you want your sub to be, it can function just fine firing forward, backward, or upward.
- Relatively higher power handling compared to competition.
- Produces impressively deep bass.
- Placement flexibility allows for optimal bass tuning.
- Durable, scratch-resistant and non-slip exterior finish stands up to harsh treatment.
- Incredible price.
- The enclosure size is too big for installation in space-limited cars.
- Thin wiring may burn out with frequent high power applications.
Some car subwoofers promise to deliver great bass but end up giving out discordant lows that sprawl all over the sound stage. Pioneer TS-WX1210A remains true to its promise – deep, tight bass.
Looking for ways to revitalize the output of your car audio system? Try Pioneer TS-WX1210A.
5. Dual Electronics BP1204
For some car subwoofers, hiding them away feels okay. For some, you want to see them regularly and probably show them off a little bit to your friends. The beautiful BP1204 belongs to the latter category. It does its thing while giving you a wondrous viewing experience thanks to its special illumiNITE design. What’s more to the cool-looking sub system?
- 600W RMS; 1100W peak power
- Frequency response: 25-200 Hz
- Sensitivity: 89 dB
Key highlights of Dual Electronics BP1204
- Two subwoofers: Dual Electronics decided to try take the less travelled path and included two carefully-crafted subs in this enclosed subwoofer system. The speakers work together to deliver huge amounts of bass that will make each listening experience both pleasurable and memorable. Now, are you ready for punchy bass?
- Unparalleled output capabilities: The engineers behind this system’s build and design must have had laser-focus on making the BP1204 as efficient as possible. They used brushed aluminum cones and 2.5” voice coils, which assure you of high-efficiency sound reproduction. Consider these high-caliber subwoofer design aspects in the context of a high power handling environment (1100w MAX). Mind-blowing!
- Built to last a lifetime: Without a doubt, the design of the BP1204’s enclosure is totally enthralling. However, the more interesting thing about it is that it’s built to enhance your speakers’ longevity. Sturdy MDF chambers take on any knocks without breaking or bending easily. Meanwhile, the Plexi glass in front of your speakers protects the subs even further.
- Built-in ventilated control circuitry: With such high power handling capabilities, overheating cannot be ruled out. Dual Electronics engineers thought of this in advance and included an advanced overheat protection system. It makes sure that your sub system remains cool even after extended periods of maximum bass performance.
- Installation is a breeze: This powered subwoofer system has a simple installation process. Just connect the power and ground connections and you’re all set for an amazing experience. Dual Electronics has super simplified the connections panel.
- Computer-aided design for efficient and accurate bass.
- Powerful bass that you can feel.
- Plug and play setup.
- Blue LED lights give you a serene feeling.
- Premium-grade in-line carpet finish reduces enclosure movement .
- Low sensitivity.
- No remote control or sound customization controls
When it comes to looks and durability, the BP1204 scores 10/10. The big subs give out big sound – great for anyone eyeing sound superiority on the road. If you have the budget and installation space, this might be the best powered car subwoofer you’ll ever find.
You have a chance to experience the unique value of the BP1204 – a powerful, cool-looking, and durable powered subwoofer.
6. Cerwin Vega VPAS10
The VPAS10 combines a 10-inch sub and a powerful amplifier in a compact design. It’s a good option if you are lacking the lows in your existing audio system. You obviously don’t expect it to annoy your neighbors or deliver bass like a trunk box. Nevertheless, it will fill the low end that your stock speakers cannot handle.
- 200W RMS; 550W peak power
- Frequency response: 35-150 Hz
Attributes to check out
- PWM MOSFET power supply with integrated thermal protection circuit: The VPAS10 gets its power from a PWM-controlled MOSFET. This type of power supply avoids power loss and voltage drops, ensuring that the available power goes to powering your subs effectively. The integrated overheat protection circuit helps to reduce instances of overheating.
- Remote bass knob: While the Cerwin Vega has a small enclosure, it might not fit under the front seat of some cars. A significant number of users found the trunk to be a great alternative placement location. The sub also works well strapped on the back door of all Jeep Wrangler models. A remote bass knob is included, and it gives you convenient means of controlling the bass regardless of where you install it.
- Cast aluminum housing: Don’t worry about the subwoofer’s safety when you place it back there, probably next to your tool box. The enclosure is sturdy and durable. As long as it’s well attached to the floor of the trunk, you’ll enjoy the bass kicks for years without seeing a single dent on your sub.
- Low-level (RCA) and high-level inputs: Are you currently using a factory or aftermarket system? This powered sub is designed to work with just about any system. It’s the reason Cerwin Vega has included separate RCA and speaker-level inputs. If you are using a factory system that you plan to switch out for an aftermarket upgrade, you will not have to buy another subwoofer if you have the VPAS10.
- High power handling capacity (550w MAX) for a sub of its size.
- Adds punchy bass without taking up too much space.
- Delayed soft remote turn on.
- Efficient sound customization with variable bass boost and subsonic filter.
- Easy and quick installation.
- The sub shuts off when it overheats.
- Boomy mid bass.
If you don’t mind sacrificing bass fidelity a little bit for loud lows, this compact 10-inch powered sub is a good bet. Granted, it fires powerful kicks that make the music fuller and livelier.
Upgrade your stereo with the high-performance Cerwin Vega VPAS10 powered subwoofer.
7. Alpine PWE-S8
This one is really small, compact, and simplistic in design, but heavy. 13.5” L x 9” W x 3” D measurements tell you that it will fit anywhere you like. More importantly, this bass baby does introduce great lows into the atmosphere. Pushing the frequencies down to 30Hz, you can hope that its mid-bass will effectively accentuate the overall sound output.
- 120W RMS; 240W peak power
- Frequency response: 30-150 Hz
Features of Alpine PWE-S8
- 8-inch sub & a 120-watt Class D amp: Behind the impressive performance of the PWE-S8’s 8” high-excursion subwoofer is a well-built class D amp. This amp also houses several features that help you to match the bass with the rest of the system. These include low-pass crossover, phase, and gain controls.
- RCA and auto-sensing speaker level inputs: Alpine purposed to beat competition by including more advanced speaker level inputs in addition to RCA inputs. These varied inputs make the PWE-S8 versatile – in terms of the types of systems it can work with.
- Wired remote control: From the comfort of your seat, get the subwoofer to amaze you with audio just as you desire. The wired remote control is a popular feature among the best powered car subwoofer brands. Alpine wants you to relax and be awed by the way this sub infuses ear-soothing lows into every song you play.
- Rugged cast metal enclosure: The road can get rough, but this won’t stop the music. Through hard knocks and swings, the PWE-S8’s strong cast metal body prevails to give you a long life of service. All the while, it protects the sub, amp, and other internal components from physical damage.
- Compact design that allows for flexible installation options.
- Excellent subwoofer engineering.
- Can work with almost any car audio system.
- Remote control comes with 15-inch cable.
- Easy-access audio signal inputs.
- Lacks protection circuit.
- Bass not as strong as bigger powered subs.
The PWE-S8’s biggest advantage is that it can fit is small spaces – for example an SUV’s hatch and behind a truck’s seat. The power and speaker input connections are pretty straightforward. Furthermore, almost everything you need for its installation comes in the box.
Don’t let space limitations hinder you from enjoying the thrill of having plenty of bass in the car. Alpine PWE-S8 beats all these limitations.
8. MTX TNE212D
You’d like to go big on bass. If you have space to fit a sizeable sub box and amplifier, you might find the kind of bass you are looking for in the TNE212D. This MTX masterpiece is different from the other alternatives you’ve met in this review. Notably, it doesn’t have an inbuilt amp; the amp comes separately but as part of the package.
- 200-400w RMS;1200W peak power
- Frequency response: 37-150 Hz
- Sensitivity: 86.4 dB
Features of MTX TNE212D
- Dual 12″ Terminator subwoofers: Terminator subs are built with focus on delivering accurate bass even during high-volume play. For these MTX subs, the engineers have used the Asymmetrical Linear Drive System, which facilitates the smooth, linear movement of the sub’s polypropylene cone. All these efforts yield tight and punchy bass.
- Bass-efficient MTX enclosure: Certainly, the big 12” subs generate massive low-frequency waves. These waves must be contained by a strong enclosure otherwise the output will be rattled and unsatisfactory. MTX knew this better and chose to use a 5/8” board for the sub box. Consequently, the enclosure can withstand thunderous bass waves. Besides, its 2-ohm impedance enables it to draw power efficiently from the amp.
- Mono amplifier: The power handling capabilities of the TNE212D are fairly good compared with competition. 400 watts RMS power ranks this sub system among the most powerful 12-inch dual subwoofers. The mono amp powering this system is quietly working hard behind the scenes to ensure that you get to enjoy great audio for long hours.
- Spider Plateau Venting for mechanical cooling: High-performance subs are prone to overheating in the absence of a well-thought-out cooling mechanism. MTX incorporated Spider Plateau Venting, an enclosure design detail that allows air in and out of the box to help with heat dissipation.
- High-tech subwoofer design.
- Ground-shaking bass.
- Efficient self-cooling mechanism.
- Thick enclosure material enhances durability and reproduction of quality bass.
- Complete subwoofer and amplifier installation kit.
- Amplifier comes separately, which increases installation time and space concerns.
- Some users find it too big and heavy.
The TNE212D is an attractive choice for any audiophile. If installing audio equipment doesn’t scare you, this sub + amp combo has great potential to revolutionize your listening experience.
Make your friends envious of your car audio system by installing the heavy-pounding MTX TNE212D today!
Factors to consider when choosing the best powered car subwoofer
The main difference between a powered subwoofer and an unpowered subwoofer is the inclusion of an amplifier. This additional feature means you have to consider the peculiarities of installing and using a powered sub.
Power handling, frequency response range, and sensitivity are common considerations for both types of subs. We’ll go over the main things to remember about these three factors before looking at those factors that are unique to powered subs.
It’s an indication of how loud and powerful the sub’s bass can get. Experts seem to agree that anything above 150 watts RMS is an indication of good bass. If you are targeting bigger bass, go for subs with higher power handling ratings. Pioneer TS-WX1210A, for example, has a 350 watts RMS power rating. With this kind of power, you probably don’t need to turn the bass past 50%. Anything more would win you trophies in bass competitions.
Power handling capacity and sensitivity should be considered in the same context. You can’t think about one without bringing the other into the picture. Sensitivity reflects the speaker’s efficiency in using the available power. A higher sensitivity means the speaker can produce more sound with lesser power. It’s better to have a speaker with higher sensitivity and lower RMS power rating than one with low sensitivity and a higher RMS rating.
Subwoofers primarily enhance the lower-end frequencies. 20Hz is considered the lowest frequency a human ear can take. There are subs that go this low. Some reach 25Hz while others only get to around 30Hz. If you are looking for very deep bass, speakers with lower frequency limits around 20Hz will more likely than not prove impressive. On the other hand, speakers with frequency floors around 30Hz will give you better mid-bass such that you are fine even without woofers in the system.
The following additional considerations are even more important when selecting powered subs:
One of the main objectives of designing a powered sub is to make it easier to add a subwoofer in an existing audio system, regardless of the size of the car. In fact, many users who look for powered subs own cars that have some space limitations.
The most compact powered subs, including Rockville RW10CA and Alpine PWE-S8, can fit under the driver’s seat. Other powered subs come with big enclosures, which are better for bigger bass, but require bigger installation space – mostly in the trunk.
It’s inherent to check the dimensions of the enclosure to ensure that it’ll fit in the space available in your car.
You’ve to consider whether you can install the sub system alone, or you’ll need to pay for professional installation. The sophistication of the sub design and your electrical installation skills will determine which way you go.
For compact and simply designed powered subs like Alpine PWE-S8, installation is easy even for someone with beginner skills. Other bigger and more sophisticated models like MTX TNE212D and Dual Electronics BP1204 need experienced hands.
Sound customization controls
Due to the peculiar design of a powered sub (subwoofer and amp in one enclosure), the presence and/or accessibility of audio control features might not always be obvious.
On some models, these controls are integrated into the design of the amp. This means you need to have the sub within easy reach to access the controls. Some models, however, come with remote bass control to make it easy to dial in the bass as you wish from the comfort of the driver’s seat. If you go for the bigger powered subs, ensure that it has remote control capabilities since you’ll install it far away from a hand’s reach.
With a good understanding of the above 6 factors, you are set for a successful selection process for the best powered car subwoofer.
We selected Rockville RW10CA for the top position because…
It’s compact enough to fit in tight spaces. Most users who search for powered subs are trying to beat installation space limitations. This explains why the RW10CA is wildly popular among owners of small cars and SUVs.
It has convincing power capabilities. For such a small sub, 200 watts RMS and 800 watts MAX power handling is a great deal.
Finally, the sub’s relatively lower price makes it quite attractive to bass lovers who wish to add a little bass to their car’s factory audio system without spending too much.
What’s your top pick?
Michael Evanchuk is a San Francisco-based sound engineer with 20 years’ experience installing, troubleshooting, and repairing commercial, automotive, and household sound equipment. Evanchuk owns an auto stereo center, where he offers highly competitive car audio installation and repair services. He has written dozens of articles on different sound engineering topics, all of which have been published in leading journals, blogs, and websites.