Enclosed Vs Free Air Subwoofer: Which Is The Better Choice?

Subwoofers are a must-have for anyone who wants to enjoy decent bass in their car sound system. A subwoofer is a speaker that is specially designed to reproduce bass. Bass is technically known as low-frequency sound. When shopping for a new subwoofer for your car, you’ll come across enclosed and free air subwoofers. It can be quite challenging to choose between these two subwoofer options. Read on to know the key differences between enclosed and free to air subwoofers.

What Is An Enclosed Subwoofer?

An enclosed subwoofer is basically a subwoofer that is built in a subwoofer box. The subwoofer box of an enclosed subwoofer can be either sealed or ported. A sealed box is one that is fully closed to ensure air doesn’t get in or out of the subwoofer box. In a ported box, there’s a hole that allows air to flow into and out of the subwoofer box as the cone moves inward and outward. A powered sub box allows for louder bass whereas a sealed sub box allows for tighter bass.

An enclosed subwoofer comes as either a powered or passive subwoofer. An enclosed powered subwoofer comes with an inbuilt amplifier. The amplifier is built within the subwoofer box. Thus, you won’t have to connect it to an external amplifier. You can connect it directly to the head unit. However, it needs a power connection to the car battery for powering the amplifier. On the other hand, an enclosed passive subwoofer requires a connection to an external amplifier since it doesn’t have an inbuilt amp. However, an enclosed passive subwoofer doesn’t need a power connection.

What Are The Advantages Of An Enclosed Subwoofer?

An enclosed sub comes with various advantages over a free air sub. Let’s look at some of those advantages:

Tight bass

An enclosed subwoofer is designed to move more air on the outer surface of the cone than the inner surface. As such, it’s able to reproduce tighter bass than a free air subwoofer. This is especially true when the subwoofer is enclosed in a seal sub box. A sealed sub box is airtight such that there is reduced air movement within the sub box, thereby allowing for tighter bass.

Booming bass

If you want a subwoofer that can assist you in winning a car music competition, then an enclosed sub is the one to consider. Enclosed subs are built to deliver booming bass. A powerful enclosed sub can deliver earthshaking bass to win a competition.

What Are The Shortcomings Of An Enclosed Subwoofer?

While enclosed subs come with some advantages, they also come with a number of shortcomings. These shortcomings include:

Takes a lot of space

An enclosed sub comes with a sub box. The sub box takes a lot of space in the car. The larger the subwoofer, the larger the sub box. Thus, if you’ll need a large sub, you’ll consequently have to work with a larger box. In this case, you may have to sacrifice some space in your trunk. Thus, you need to have a very spacious trunk to fit in a large sub box. If your car has limited space in the trunk, then an enclose sub might not work for you. If you want to install multiple enclosed subs, then they may take up all the trunk space.

More expensive

Generally, an enclosed subwoofer of the same size and power as a free air sub comes with a higher price tag than a free air subwoofer. The extra cost is usually as a result of the subwoofer enclosure. An enclosed sub that comes with an inbuilt amplifier is even more expensive. Thus, if you’re working on a tight budget, you may need to consider a free air subwoofer.

Demands a lot of power

Enclosed subs also come with the disadvantage of demanding more power. The enclosed design means more airtightness within the sub box. The airtightness surrounding the sub means that it takes a lot of power from the amplifier to move the voice coil and cone.

What Is A Free Air Subwoofer?

A free air sub is a subwoofer that doesn’t have a sub box. This type of a subwoofer works like a passive speaker. It doesn’t come with its own amplifier. Thus, you’ll need to connect it to an external amplifier to power it.

What Are The Advantages Of A Free Air Subwoofer?

A free air sub comes with some advantages over an enclosed sub. Let’s look at these advantages:

Space-saving

One of the key benefits of free air subs is that they’re space-saving. You can easily mount the speaker on the car door. Since the sub doesn’t come with a sub box, it’s ideal for installation in cars with limited space. You can even install multiple free air subs in your car with ease. You can choose to install one sub in each door and add speakers and tweeters on the dashboard. This way, you’ll have a full range speaker system with multiple subwoofers.

Less costly

A free air sub is generally more affordable than an enclosed subwoofer of the same size and power. This is because it doesn’t come with a subwoofer enclosure and also doesn’t come with of an inbuilt amplifier. Thus, if you’re working on a tight budget and already have an external amplifier, then this is the subwoofer to go for.

Doesn’t demand a lot of power

A free air subwoofer works in a more open-air environment. Thus, it moves air more easily than an enclosed sub. As such, it demands less power from the car amp than an enclosed subwoofer of the same size and power rating.

What Are The Shortcomings Of A Free Air Subwoofer?

While a free air sub comes with some advantages over an enclosed sub, it also comes with some shortcomings. Let’s look at some of these shortcomings:

Bass is not tight

Free air subs operate in an open-air environment. Thus, they don’t deliver tight bass like enclosed subs. They’re not ideal for anyone looking for the tightest and most accurate bass.

Bass is not booming

A free air sub may not win a car music competition. It doesn’t deliver booming and earthshaking bass that is deep enough to win a serious car music competition. Thus, it’s only ideal for basic bass needs and not the best for a bass enthusiast who needs earthshaking bass.

So which is better between an Enclosed vs free air Subwoofer?

The best option between the two will depend on your preferences. Either option is great for certain preferences. For instance, if you want tight bass, booming bass, and the car space is not an issue, then you should go for an enclosed subwoofer. On the other hand, if you have limited car space and are working under a tight budget, then a free air subwoofer would be your best bet.

Michael Evanchuk
 

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. He enjoys swimming and boat riding during his leisure time.

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