Adding a subwoofer to your car music system can allow for a smooth and entertaining music experience. Subwoofers make this possible for they add bass, something that regular speakers can’t. While all subwoofers are basically designed to deliver bass, they’re designed differently. The most common subwoofer designs today are shallow mount subwoofers and regular subwoofers. Each design has its own pros and cons. Thus, it’s important to understand their key differences to know the one to choose between the two designs.
The Basics of Shallow Mount Subwoofers
Shallow mount subs are a type of subwoofers designed to have a low mounting depth. Thus, they’re ideally designed to fit in small, tight spaces. These subwoofers are ideal for anyone who needs bass in a small car or where space is a challenge. They’re lightweight, compact, and flat. Despite being small in size, they’re capable of adding decent bass in any car.
The Basics of Regular Subwoofers
Regular subs are ordinary subwoofers that are ideally designed without considerations about space. Thus, they generally have a large mounting depth, making them larger in size than the special shallow mount subs. Their larger size makes them bulky and require ample space for installation. They’re commonly used in SUVs and PSVs. You’ll also find them in trunks of regular cars such as sedans and station wagons.
Shallow Mount Vs Regular Subs
Shallow mount and regular subwoofer designs differ in terms of design and features. Here’re some of the key differences between these two subwoofer designs:
Type of Subwoofer Box
It’s advisable to enclose a subwoofer in a sub box for better bass response. Both shallow mount and regular subs can be enclosed in sub boxes. However, they require different types of sub boxes in terms of size. For instance, shallow mount subs require smaller, compact, and flatter enclosures whereas regular subs require larger, bulky, and cubic boxes. The differences in terms of subwoofer box sizes is due to the overall difference in the dimensions of the two subwoofer designs.
Regular subwoofers have the potential of delivering a wider frequency range than shallow mount subs. The reason for the wider frequency range of regular subs is due to their design that allows for optimum operation under most circumstances. Shallow mount subs have a simpler design, making them accommodate a limited frequency range.
Since shallow mount subs are smaller in terms of dimension, they consume less power. Consequently, they have a lower power output. Thus, they don’t demand a lot of power from an amplifier. On the other hand, regular subs are large in size, thereby consuming more power. Consequently, their power out is higher and demand a lot of power from the amp. Some regular subs can actually make the car lights dim due to taking a lot of power from the battery, thereby demanding the use of capacitors to deal with the problem.
Sensitivity is another crucial difference notable between these two kinds of subwoofers. Shallow mount subs usually have lower sensitivity than regular subs. Regular subs have a higher sensitivity because they’re designed to respond more quickly to the slightest power variations than shallow mount subs. Thus, regular subs have the ability to sustain higher power inputs and deliver better sound quality.
Where to Install
These two kinds of subwoofers are ideal for different areas of application. Regular subwoofers are ideal for installation in the car trunk, especially where space is not an issue. Regular subs are also ideal for use in outdoor sound systems. On the other hand, shallow mount subs are ideal for installation in tight car spaces such as beneath the seat and in the back dash. They’re also ideal for use in tight indoor spaces such as the bathroom and kitchen.
Shallow mount subwoofers are designed for compactness, making them demand less installation space than regular subwoofers. Thus, you can install shallow mount subs in most car spaces whereas regular subs can only fit in larger car spaces. Due to their smaller size, shallow mount subs are lighter, making them more portable than regular ones. Generally, shallow mount subwoofers have a diameter of between 8 to 12 inches. On the other hand, regular subwoofers have a diameter of as much as 15 inches.
Quality of Bass Output
Regular subs deliver richer bass with more clarity. However, shallow mount subs are designed to save on space, thereby affecting their bass output in terms of quality. Thus, regular subs are ideal for users who want deeper and earthshaking bass.
Ease of Installation
The shallow mount type of subwoofers are easier to install due to their compactness and lightweight nature. You’ll only need a few installation hardware to mount them. Thus, anyone can easily mount them without requiring expert installation skills. You’ll also need fewer tools and lesser time to install them. However, regular subs are more challenging to install due to their bulkiness and size. You may have to modify some locations to install them. Thus, they’re complex to install and require advanced installation skills, combined with more installation hardware and tools. Moreover, you’ll have to sacrifice more time and space to install regular subs.
Regular subwoofers are often more expensive than shallow mount ones due to their larger size. Their larger size increases their cost of production due to the use of more materials. Since regular subwoofers are more common than shallow mount subs, their price range is wider. As such, the cheapest regular sub may be less expensive than the cheapest shallow mount option.
Durability and Maintenance Considerations
Regular and shallow mount subs also differ in terms of durability. Basically, shallow mount subs come with more compact enclosures than regular subs. Thus, a shallow mount kind of a subwoofer is more likely to get damaged from impact than a regular one. The bigger enclosure of regular subs offer them more protection in the event of an impact. However, the quality of the materials used in making the enclosure will determine the overall durability of either kind of subwoofer. You can enhance the durability of either kind of subwoofer by mounting it properly and protecting it with a grill to cover the exposed cone. The compact design of shallow mount subs actually makes them easier to maintain as you can easily clean them and fix any problems. On the other hand, regular subs are more challenging to maintain as it takes more time to clean them and their complex design makes it more challenging to fix issues that may arise.
The design of shallow mount and regular types of subwoofers also differs. Generally, the shallow mount type of subs feature a streamlined design, making them fit in their installation location seamlessly. On the other hand, the larger size of regular subs makes them more noticeable and unsightly, such that you’d have to place them within the trunk to hide them.
Which One Should You Choose Between A Shallow Mount Subwoofer And A Regular Subwoofer?
Upon going through the differences between the two kinds of subwoofers, it’s clear than each option has its strengths and weaknesses. Here, your ultimate choice should depend on your personal preferences. For instance, if you need a more powerful bass response, then you should go for a regular sub. In this case, the most powerful regular sub can easily win a car music competition than the most powerful shallow mount sub.
Also, if your car space is limited, then you’d find it easier working with a shallow mount sub than a regular one. With a large, regular subwoofer, you’ll have to sacrifice a lot of space in your car. If you constantly like removing and reinstalling a subwoofer from your car, then a shallow mount subwoofer will be easier to work with for its more portable and easier to remove and reinstall. Also, if you don’t possess special installation skills, a shallow mount sub will work better for you.
Moreover, if you mind the interior aesthetics of your car, then a shallow mount sub will work better for you. Also, if you’re working on a tight budget, a shallow mount sub will be your best bet. When it comes to durability, a regular subwoofer is less likely to suffer damage from impact. In conclusion, the best option between a shallow mount and a regular subwoofer will all depend on your personal preferences.
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.