A car music system never sounds complete without bass. While you may have the best car speakers installed, you’ll still miss out on important music details that can only be found in bass. Bass makes it possible to enjoy music details such as drum beats and bass guitar effects. Although you might be desiring to add bass in your car, the available space might not allow you to install just any subwoofer you come across. In this case, you’d need to invest in a shallow mount subwoofer. This kind of subwoofer is specially designed for mounting in tight spaces such as under the seats, in the door panels, and on the back dash. The mounting depth of this subwoofer type is shallow, making it possible to fit it in tight spaces. However, not all shallow mount car subwoofers are made equal. Thus, you need to make an informed decision when buying. With that said, here’s a review and buying guide of the best shallow mount subwoofer available today.
How We Chose the Best Shallow Mount Subs
There’re dozens of subwoofer manufacturers specializing in designing and manufacturing shallow mount car subs. While all these manufacturers aim at manufacturing subwoofers that can fit in tight spaces, some of the subwoofers are better than others. With that said, how can you differentiate the best ones from all the available models in the market today? It’s simple! We wrote this review with your needs in mind. We decided to gather the best models and review them to assist you in making the best choice. This was possible as a result of our intense research and real-life testing of different shallow mount car subs. The subwoofers we included in our review are the ones that have the most desirable features. Thus, you can rest assured of making the best choice from the subwoofers we’ve included in our review.
Top 7 Shallow Mount Subwoofers
If you’re planning to invest in the shallow mount type of subwoofers for your car, you don’t have to struggle to look for the best model. We’ve made everything easier for you and assure you of getting the best value for your money. Here’re the best shallow mount car subwoofers available today.
Comparison Table of Best Shallow Mount Subwoofer
1. Pioneer TS-SWX2502
Pioneer is a big brand in music equipment manufacturing industry. The brand is respected for quality products. Pioneer has designed the TS-SWX2502 shallow mount 10-inch subwoofer to fit in most cars without taking much space. Being only six inches deep, the subwoofer can fit in most standard car spaces. Let’s look at some of the features that made us list this subwoofer as the top choice.
Its Most Desirable Features
- Oversized cone– The subwoofer comes with an oversized cone. It’s designed in a manner that features a large surface area without altering the external dimensions. The large cone surface makes it possible for the subwoofer to deliver louder low frequencies by moving larger volumes of air. Moreover, the cone is made of MICA resin for enhanced durability.
- Angled terminals– The terminals for attaching the speaker cables in this subwoofer are angled. They’re designed as push terminals, making it easier to attach speaker cables. The angled terminals make it possible to connect the speaker cables in a way that the cable won’t be bent. As such, the angled terminals also save on space and make it easier to install the subwoofer.
- Unique enclosure design– The subwoofer comes with an innovatively designed subwoofer enclosure. The enclosure is sealed for tighter bass. Moreover, the enclosure is designed in such a way that it’s easy to fit in tight car spaces. The enclosure surface is carpeted to make it scratch-resistant and to reduce the chances of slipping.
- Dual spider– Another desirable feature about this subwoofer is its dual spider. The dual spider allows the cone to be more stable such that it’s able to move more air without going out of place. Moreover, the dual spider is designed in such a way that it enhances the linear cone movement.
- Powerful performance– Despite being small in size, the subwoofer is designed for powerful performance. It has a power handling rating of 300 watts nominal power and 1200 watts peak power. Thus, you can push it hard without distorting easily.
- Fiberboard construction
- Can fit in most cars
- Mounting screws are provided
- Easy to install
- Ideal for all music genres
- You’d need to buy a grille separately
- Not very loud
Do you desire to enjoy hard-hitting and tight bass from a compact subwoofer? If so, the Pioneer TS-SWX2502 subwoofer won’t disappoint.
2. Rockford Fosgate R2 Ultra
If you want to add bass to your car but lack enough space for a regular subwoofer, the Rockford Fosgate R2 Ultra has been designed to satisfy your desires. Measuring 10 inches in size, this shallow mount car subwoofer has what it takes to get featured as the second in our review. Find out below why we considered reviewing it.
Its Most Desirable Features
- Dual voice coil– The subwoofer comes loaded with a dual voice coil with an impedance rating of 4 ohms. The dual voice coil design makes it possible to wire the subwoofer in different configurations. You can connect it to other subwoofers either in series or in parallel. Moreover, the dual voice coil allows the subwoofer to output both stereo channels in a stereo setup.
- Elevated motor structure– You’ll easily fit this subwoofer in tight spaces, thanks to its elevated motor structure. The elevated motor structure makes the speaker have an extremely shallow mounting depth for fitting in the tightest spaces. You can comfortably install it in the door panel due to its compactness.
- Stamped subwoofer basket– The subwoofer components are housed in a stamped cast basket. It’s designed in such a way that it allows for sufficient spider venting. The venting allows for the motor to remain cool under heavy and prolonged usage.
- Designed for tight bass– Another major benefit that comes with this subwoofer is its design for tight bass. It’s designed for use with a sealed subwoofer enclosure. A sealed enclosure allows for tight bass.
- Polypropylene cone– The subwoofer comes with a mica-injected polypropylene cone. Mica injection makes the cone stronger and more durable. The cone is able to maintain its shape regardless of how long you play music. Moreover, the cone performance is further enhanced by the foam surround for deeper bass.
- Very affordable
- Slim design
- Remains cool after prolonged use
- Can fit in most door panels and beneath most car seats
- You’ll need to get an enclosure separately
- Only ideal for sealed subwoofer enclosures
When compared to other subwoofers of its kind, the Rockford Fosgate R2 Ultra wins when it comes to affordability. If you don’t want to break the bank, then this is the right subwoofer for you.
3. Jl Audio 10tw3-d4
If you haul a lot of luggage in your car, then you might not have enough space for installing a huge subwoofer. If that’s the case, the Jl Audio 10tw3-d4 subwoofer is specially designed for you. It delivers decent bass without taking much space, thanks to its shallow mount design. Let’s look at other desirable features that this subwoofer boasts about.
Its Most Desirable Features
- Extremely shallow mounting depth– The mounting depth of this subwoofer is just 3.25 inches. It’s designed to function effortlessly with just minimal airspace behind it. Thus, you can install it in extremely tight spaces. Moreover, you can mount it in a very small enclosure for tight bass effects.
- Tough subwoofer cone– The subwoofer comes with a tough, high-performance cone. It’s specially made to withstand resonance such that it doesn’t flex easily when driving it hard for a prolonged period. Also, the cone material, which is made of polypropylene, is extremely durable.
- Large subwoofer surround– Another feature you’ll appreciate about this subwoofer is its large surround. The surround complements the cone performance. Its large surface area allows the cone to move large volumes of air seamlessly. It’s also made of a durable rubber material.
- Cast alloy framing– The subwoofer comes housed in a cast alloy framing. Despite the frame being narrow, it’s extremely strong, thereby giving the subwoofer components a stable housing. Its strong nature guarantees the subwoofer a longer lifespan.
- Unique tube suspension technology– The subwoofer features a concentric tube suspension. This technology allows the subwoofer to have a large coil while eliminating the need to include a top plate, thereby reducing the depth of the subwoofer.
- Wide power handling
- Thin profile
- Produces accurate bass
- Stable housing
- Easy to install
- Higher price range
- Not the best for an audiophile
While the Jl Audio 10tw3-d4 subwoofer may not win a car music competition, it is ideal for basic bass needs, considering that it delivers accurate and clear bass.
4. Infinity Reference REF1200S
The latest technology employed by Infinity Reference when designing its subwoofers ensures enhanced flexibility during installation. Its shallow mount REF1200S model hasn’t been left behind. It employs the best technologies that Infinity has to offer. Here’re some of the reasons why you should consider this subwoofer in your shopping list.
Its Most Desirable Features
- Selectable impedance– The subwoofer is designed as both a 2-ohm and 4-ohm subwoofer. This is made possible by its selectable impedance switch. You can comfortably switch between either 2 or 4-ohm impedance depending on the configuration you want during installation.
- Low-profile design– The subwoofer is designed for low-profile installation. Its top-mount depth is just 3.25 inches. Thus, you can easily fit it in shallow enclosures or shallow car spaces.
- Wide frequency response– Reference REF1200S, being one of the best shallow mount subwoofer, boasts of having a wide frequency range of between 27 to 175 Hz. Thus, it’s capable of hitting the kind of lows you’ve been missing in your music.
- Ultra-wide– The subwoofer measures 12 inches in diameter. Thus, it’s wide enough for most bass needs. Its wide cone allows it to move more air for enhanced bass. After all, reproducing lows demands moving a large volume of air, and this is where this subwoofer outperforms its competitors.
- Reliability testing– Another noteworthy feature of this subwoofer is that it has undergone thorough reliability testing under harsh conditions. It’s frozen, baked, blasted with UV light, and driven at full power when testing it. Thus, you’re assured of a subwoofer that will serve you for many years to come.
- Flexibility during installation
- Exceptional bass response
- High power handling
- Slim and stylish
- Sounds clean
- Doesn’t come with a protective grille
- Its bass is not earthshaking
- Not the best for a bass enthusiast
The feature that stands out most about the Infinity Reference REF1200S is its smart selectable impedance. Thus, it’s the most ideal choice for anyone who wants flexibility during installation and to draw out maximum power from an amplifier.
5. MB Quart DS1-254
Although the MB Quart is a little known manufacturer, its DS1-254 model has managed to outshine several legendary brands. It comes packed with several desirable features. Here’re the features that this subwoofer boasts about.
Its Most Desirable Features
- Vented subwoofer housing– The subwoofer is housed in a specially vented basket. The basket is vented in such a way that it allows cool air to circulate throughout the interior components. Moreover, the frame is made of aluminum material. Thus, you can use the subwoofer for a prolonged playtime without worrying about overheating.
- Powerful bass– The subwoofer has a power rating of 400 watts max power and 200 watts RMS. Thus, it’s capable of producing massive and high-quality bass. Moreover, it reproduces decent bass from all music genres.
- 3.1 inches mounting– The mounting depth of this subwoofer is quite shallow, with just 3.1 inches of mounting depth. Thus, it’s versatile enough for mounting in most cars with limited space.
- Versatile installation options– Another feature to boast about this subwoofer is its versatile installation options, thanks to the dual voice coils. You can install it alongside other subwoofers in series or parallel as you deem best.
- High-temperature coils– This subwoofer is made of high-temperature copper voice coils. They tolerate prolonged usage without overheating. Thus, you can enjoy your favorite music at optimum performance for a prolonged period.
- Shallow design
- Very affordable
- High-quality bass
- 2-inch voice coils
- Thermal-formed polypropylene cone
- Pops at high volume
- Only ideal for tight bass
- May not win a serious competition
Considering its affordability, the MB Quart DS1-254 subwoofer is worth your consideration for all basic bass needs, especially for anyone seeking for an upgrade but is working under a tight budget.
6. Kenwood Excelon KFC-XW1200F
If you’ve been using music equipment for some years now, then you’ve definitely heard about Kenwood. Being one of the most legendary music equipment manufacturers, Kenwood has not been left behind in the world of shallow mount automotive subwoofers. Its Excelon KFC-XW1200F subwoofer has numerous features that make it worth your consideration. Let’s look at its hits and misses.
Its Most Desirable Features
- Carbon glass fiber cone– The cone of this subwoofer is made of composite carbon glass fiber. This cone material allows for quick response when hitting lows without flexing. Consequently, you’re assured of optimum performance in extreme conditions.
- Butyl rubber surround– Another desirable feature in this subwoofer is its butyl rubber surround. It’s designed to enhance the cone movement and minimizing distortion that results from resonance. Thus, it works hand in hand with the cone for enhanced bass reproduction.
- Cast aluminum basket– The subwoofer is housed in a shallow cast aluminum basket. The basket is solid enough to offer the subwoofer with maximum support, combined with enhanced protection of the interior components.
- Silver-plated terminals– If you like simplicity in installing a subwoofer, you’ll appreciate the push terminals that come with this subwoofer. They make it more convenient to connect or disconnect the speaker cables. The silver-plated terminals also allow for excellent conduction.
- Ideal for sealed and ported boxes– You’ll have the freedom to choose whether to use a sealed or ported subwoofer box with this subwoofer. If you need tight and accurate bass, then you can go with a sealed box. On the other hand, if you need loud and booming bass, then go with a ported box.
- Mounting hardware is provided
- 12-inch subwoofer diameter
- Rubber concealing ring
- Honeycomb cone pattern
- Wide frequency response
- No protective grille
- Not ideal for playing loudly
- Sounds distorted at high volume
If you’re just working on your first upgrade and all you need is basic bass, then you’ll find the Kenwood Excelon KFC-XW1200F as a good starter subwoofer.
7. Alpine Swr-t12
Although we’ve listed the Alpine subwoofer among the last on our list, it’s still one of the best performing subwoofers you can find today. It outshines other subwoofers out there based on its performance. Let’s look at its desirable features.
Its Most Desirable Features
- Aluminum cone– Aluminum is a rigid material. The fact that this subwoofer features an aluminum cone makes it perform more superbly than its competitors. The cone is also designed to be lightweight for easier movement.
- Santoprene rubber surround– This subwoofer comes with a santoprene rubber surround. Santoprene is a thermoplastic material that enhances the flexibility of the surround. It also enhances the durability of the surround in extreme weather conditions. The surround also features multi-roll technology for enhanced excursions.
- Massive power handling– The subwoofer is capable of handling up to 1200 watts peak power and up to 600 watts RMS power. Thus, investing in this speaker assures you of massive power handling, especially if you like pushing your music system hard.
- Patented radial venting– Alpine has integrated its patented radial venting technology into this subwoofer. It features a heat sink and airflow system that reduces heat within the subwoofer, especially when driving it hard for prolonged times.
- Powerful magnet– The subwoofer boasts of featuring a powerful neodymium magnet. Although the magnet utilizes a thin profile design, it’s more powerful than standard magnets of the same size. The magnet allows for enhanced power handling and more control.
- Clean, accurate bass
- Heavy-duty assembly
- Installation flexibility
- Cast aluminum frame
- Dual-sided motor structure
- Higher price range
- Pops and distorts at high volume
- Not ideal for hard-hitting music genres
If you don’t spend minding an extra coin for quality, then you should consider the Alpine Swr-t12 in your shopping list.
What You Should Consider When Buying the Best Shallow Mount Subwoofer
From the above review, it’s evident that each shallow mount automotive subwoofer comes with several desirable features and a number of shortcomings. Thus, these subwoofers are not made equal. It’ll help to learn the factors to consider when making a purchase. Here’re the most important factors you should consider before spending your money on a shallow mount sub:
You’ve most likely landed on this page because you need a subwoofer that can fit in a tight space, probably beneath the seat or in the door panel. In this case, a shallow mount subwoofer with the least mounting depth will be your best bet. A subwoofer with the least mounting depth will allow you to fit it in an extremely tight space or enclosure. A narrow mounting depth doesn’t require a lot of air space such that you can fit the subwoofer in a compact enclosure to save on space. Moreover, a narrower mounting depth allows for tighter and more accurate bass.
Type of Enclosure
Subwoofer enclosures are either ported or sealed. Some shallow mount subs come with an enclosure while others don’t have one. Also, some of these subwoofers are designed to only support either a ported or sealed enclosure, while others can work with both enclosures. The determining factor should be the kind of bass you want. If you need accurate and tight bass, then you should go for a sub that comes with a sealed enclosure or one that supports a sealed enclosure. On the other hand, if you need louder and more booming bass, then you’d rather go with a sub that supports the use of a ported enclosure. You can also install a subwoofer without using an enclosure, especially when mounting it in the door panel.
Number of Voice Coils
Some subwoofers come with a single voice coil while others feature a dual voice coil. While the number of voice coils doesn’t determine the overall performance of a subwoofer, it determines the flexibility of installation. This is especially important when wiring multiple subwoofers. When wiring multiple subwoofers with a single voice coil, you can only wire them in parallel. On the other hand, when wiring multiple subwoofers with a dual voice coil, you can wire them either in series or parallel. Thus, with a dual voice coil, you’ll enjoy multiple wiring options.
The impedance rating of a subwoofer determines the amount of power it’ll draw from the amplifier. Basically, impedance is used in measuring the resistance of a subwoofer to current. The lower the impedance rating of a subwoofer, the higher the resistance and the more power-hungry it is. For instance, a subwoofer with an impedance rating of 2 ohms will demand more power than a 4-ohm subwoofer. If you have a very powerful amplifier, then you can opt for a subwoofer that has a lower impedance rating. However, if you’re dealing with a weak amplifier, then you should go for a subwoofer with a higher impedance rating as it won’t require much power.
The power handling of a shallow mount car subwoofer also matters. Power handling comes in terms of both peak power and RMS power. The peak power rating is the maximum amount of power surge that the subwoofer can sustain. On the other hand, RMS power is the continuous amount of power that the subwoofer can handle. In this case, RMS power is a more important consideration to make than peak power. The higher the RMS power rating, the harder you can push the subwoofer without distortion. On a similar note, a higher RMS power rating demands a more powerful amplifier. Also, avoid overpowering the subwoofer beyond its power handling capability to avoid distortion or even permanent damage.
The frequency range of a subwoofer determines how low it can play. If the subwoofer has a wide frequency range, it can hit a wider range of lows than a subwoofer with a narrow frequency range. However, if you need extremely deep bass, go for a subwoofer that can hit the lowest lows.
Yet another important consideration to make when choosing the best shallow mount automotive subwoofer is venting. A subwoofer does a lot of heavy work to move large volumes of air when reproducing low frequencies. Thus, its components, especially the voice coil, are prone to overheating when driving it hard for a prolonged period. As such, you should ensure the subwoofer you choose has proper venting. The subwoofer housing should be properly vented to allow for free air circulation throughout the interior components. As air circulates within the subwoofer, it cools the voice coil and other components to prevent them from burning out.
Durability of the Subwoofer Materials
The overall durability of the subwoofer matters. After all, you don’t have money to waste buying a new subwoofer now and then. Thus, consider a subwoofer whose components are made of durable materials. For instance, ensure the cone is made of a lightweight but rigid material for easier cone movement with reduced distortion. Also, ensure the surround is made of a material that doesn’t tear and wear easily. The voice coil should be made of a high-temperature material to sustain prolonged usage. Another important component to consider is the subwoofer housing. The housing should be strong and stable enough to keep the components in place and to protect them from damage.
Ease of Installation
As a busy person, you obviously want a subwoofer that you can install easily and quickly. A subwoofer that is easy to mount without having to tear up anything would be your best bet. The best subwoofer is the one whose installation process is as easy as plug and play. Ensure the subwoofer you choose comes with mounting hardware for easier installation. Also, the subwoofer should have terminals that make it easier to attach the speaker cables without soldering.
A car music system can only sound complete with decent bass. However, some car spaces are limited. As you have seen in this review and buying guide, the shallow mount kind of subwoofers are a great option for adding bass in cars with limited space. Since we’ve reviewed the best shallow mount subwoofer from the dozens available in the market, you’ll find it easier to choose a subwoofer that will give you the best value for your money.
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.