Low Budget Car Audio: Subwoofer Guide

By | April 2, 2012

Previously: Low Budget Car Audio: How Cheap Can I Be?

To recap the previous article, what I’m getting into is some good guidelines of how to save money with car audio purchases while not scraping the bottom of the barrel. As with many things, you generally get what you pay for, but we all have to start somewhere. Many times the funds just aren’t there to get the sound system we really want, but we still want to upgrade from the factory parts. Last time I didn’t want to get into subwoofers, so here we go with some basics to understand before buying subwoofers.

Aurasound Subwoofer Cross Section

Aurasound MR-12.4 Subwoofer Cross Section

Expectations – Let’s Be Realistic

First thing, the less care and effort put into the install, the lower the performance, reliability, and overall long-term enjoyment you can expect from your system. Don’t be one of those people who runs his amplifier wire through the door jam and grounds the amp by stuffing bare wires under the seatbelt bolt. Taking on your own amateur car audio installation can be a chance to better yourself, and low budget gear doesn’t deserve a rush job install. Take pride in your work and ask others for help when you don’t know.

Second, we need to face the fact that low budget subwoofers generally are not going to get very loud for very long. If you’re looking for hair trick bass, dropping $50 per sub is not the best decision. Here are some reasons that won’t work, even if you shoehorn 4, 6, 8, or more cheap subs into your vehicle.

What Do Cheap Subs Lack?

  • Long-throw excursion – this is just as important as cone area if you want to feel the bass and be heard down the street
  • Power handling – cheap subs don’t have the oversized voice coils to handle abuse from amplifiers driven past their limits
  • Mechanical durability – broken tinsel leads, torn spiders, or worse will end your fun

This doesn’t mean we can’t still have fun with cheap subs, but we need to lower our expectations and take care with the volume knob. Cheap subwoofers can still sound good in an appropriately designed enclosure. By appropriately designed enclosure, 99% of the time this does not include an off-the-shelf ported/vented enclosure. Especially with cheap brands, this also includes the loaded enclosures in which the subwoofer and box come from the same company. If you’re set on buying a generic ported enclosure, talk to an expert for advice on what size enclosure is an acceptable match for your subwoofer. If you haven’t bought a subwoofer yet, this is the best time to match the subwoofer to the enclosure.

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Barry Schanz

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