Written By Jon Langston
Published Oct. 14, 2021

Why would you need a subwoofer? Today’s music, especially hip-hop and rap, is mainly highs and lows, hills and valleys. Most of the sonic excitement comes from the beat, and that means the bass. Unfortunately, most stock car audio systems lack a big bottom end. Cranking the bass settings up on your car stereo only puts more pressure on your stock speakers, and they’re not designed to handle that much reverberation. Too much vibration will tear your speaker’s cones, resulting in a flapping, scratchy sound no matter the music — or the volume level. A 12-inch subwoofer strikes the ideal balance of great sound, versatility, and affordability, bringing a phat bottom end to your car without draining your wallet.

Best 12-inch Subwoofers Reviews & Recommendations

It would be easy to choose the highest-priced, most fully-featured product on the market and name it the “best overall.” But most of us want the best balance of functions and features with a price that makes sense, and this Rockford Fosgate 12-inch subwoofer nails it on all counts. The P3D4-12 12-inch, dual 4-ohm subwoofer is the flagship of Rockford Fosgate’s Punch P3 series. Featuring innovative parabolic cone designs, oversized surrounds, and large motor assemblies, Punch subwoofers deliver deep, loud, aggressive bass, delivering 1200 watts of peak power. P3 subwoofers feature anodized aluminum cones and dust caps that provide superior heat dissipation, along with spider venting to keep the motor cool.

One of the most renowned names in car audio, Rockford Fosgate is an American company with a name you can trust. And you won’t have to miss your next car payment to afford the Punch P3.

Specs
  • Model P3D4-12
  • Power 1200 watts peak
  • Cutout Diameter 11.25 inches
  • Mounting Depth 6.66 inches
PROS

Pounding, aggressive bass

1,200 watts of peak power

10-AWG nickel plated push terminals

Diamond cut cast aluminum trim ring with optional grille

CONS

Not pricey, but not inexpensive either

Big and heavy (11 pounds)

BOSS Audio is known for producing great speakers at affordable prices and true to form, this CX122 sub packs a serious punch without denting your wallet. It features a custom-tooled, high-efficiency injection cone, with a 2-inch copper voice coil. The shallow mounting depth gives it more versatility than some larger subs. And while the sound quality isn’t what you’ll hear with higher-priced subwoofers, most users claim to be surprisingly impressed with the level of volume and slap.

If you’re not a true audiophile, these subs will add boom to your bass without blowing up your wallet.

Specs
  • Model CX122
  • Power 1,400 watts peak
  • Cutout Diameter 11.1 inches
  • Mounting Depth 4 1/4 inches
PROS

Shallow mounting depth

Easy to install

Reliable brand name

Also available in a 1,000-watt version that costs even less

CONS

Spend a little more, you’ll get a lot more

Sound quality not on par with higher priced subs

With a large, high-energy Strontium magnet, the HIPPOXL122R features a dual-impedance, black anodized voice coil former made of spun-lace Kevlar, as well as a Kevlar fiber-reinforced non-pressed paper cone with industrial textured finish. This extra-strong cone will resist cracks and pops and is reinforced with contrast stitching. The dual poly Nomex Spiders carry the stitched hard-wired high-voltage tinsel leads to 10-gauge copper speaker wire. The sub is encased in a heavy-duty cast aluminum basket.

For high-performance, pounding bass from cones that should pump for years, Massive Audio’s Hippo series is the way to go. You’ll pay a lot, but the quality here is simply top-notch.

Specs
  • Model HIPPOXL 122R
  • Power 6,000 watts peak
  • Cutout Diameter 11.14 inches
  • Mounting Depth 12 inches
PROS

Heavy-duty, textured cast aluminum basket

Fantastic looks

Available in a variety of sizes, power levels, and impedances

CONS

Extremely pricey; for true audio enthusiasts only

Big and heavy (70 pounds shipping weight)

The Pioneer A-Series 12-inch 1,500-Watt Dual Voice-Coil Subwoofer is designed to match Pioneer’s A-Series car audio speakers to provide seamless and smooth sound characteristics. Its shallow mounting depth makes it very versatile. With dynamic, high-impact bass that lets you hear and feel the music. Careful engineering of the entire motor structure and suspension system (voice coil, magnet, surround, and spider) of this subwoofer maintains a high level of linearity, even during high output.

With fiber and mica interlaced injection-molded polypropylene cone construction and butyl rubber surround, with a poly-cotton dual spider, it also has an oversized 60-ounce double-stacked magnet and vented pole yoke for increased power handling. At press time, Pioneer was thorwing in a pair of earbuds with every purchase.

Specs
  • Model TS-A300D4
  • Power 1,500 watts peak
  • Cutout Diameter 12 inches
  • Mounting Depth 6.9 inches
PROS

Extremely affordable

Well-regarded brand name

Shallow mounting depth

CONS

Claimed 1,500 watts of power might be an exaggeration

Dubious customer service

Best For Jeeps and Convertibles

If you like to ride around with the top down, this might be the sub for you. The Toro Tech Force12s is a 12-inch, dual 2-ohm car audio subwoofer that cranks out 2000 watts RMS / 4000 watts max. With 8-gauge oxygen-free, silver-tinned, pure copper wire, it features heavy-duty triple tinsel leads and double-stacked, 350-ounce strontium ferrite magnets. The 3-inch, 4-layer high-temperature voice coil provides extended playing and enhanced cooling. The T-yoke design features a black anodized finish, heavy-duty textured cast aluminum basket, reinforced non-pressed paper cone, and oversized mirror-image triple poly Nomex spiders.

Effectively, you get premium performance at an affordable price. Who wouldn’t love that? Toro Tech products are designed and engineered in the USA by audio enthusiasts just like you.

Specs
  • Model 12S
  • Power 4,000 watts peak
  • Cutout Diameter 12.68 inches
  • Mounting Depth 7.72 inches
PROS

Remarkable sound quality

Made in the USA

Less expensive than comparable competition

CONS

Require a serious amplifier to drive power

Not cheap

More power than most of us will ever need

How We Selected the Best 12-inch Subwoofers

“We like the cars, the cars that go ‘BOOM!’” Today’s popular music requires a thumping bass. There are dozens of audio companies making fantastic car stereo products these days, but we chose to stick with well-known brands and widely available products, with prices all up and down the range. There are plenty of inexpensive, no-name options, but we avoided off-brands in favor of trusted, recognizable names like Pioneer and Rockford Fosgate. 12-inch subwoofers are large; even though all the subs in our list are 12 inches in diameter, we chose those with various mounting depths and cutout diameters to provide some sizing options. Bear in mind, most 12-inch subs are sold as the speaker only, and will require a speaker box or enclosure. You can purchase one, or handy DIY folks can make their own.

Our product selections, rankings, and awards for this story are based on research. While we haven’t conducted real-world testing on all of these products yet, we’ve looked at consumer testimonials and data, tutorials, and general discussions on social media and in forums. We also consider price and specification in the context of the segment. And, of course, we rely on our institutional knowledge of the automotive landscape to weed out weak products.

Buying Guide/What to Look For 

Why Do You Need a 12-Inch Subwoofer?

Apart from a quality amplifier, you need quality speakers in order to get quality music. However, ordinary speakers cannot produce booming bass. If you try to achieve that popular sound by pairing your car’s stock speakers with a high-end audio system and crank the bass to 11, there’s a good chance you’ll blow out your speakers. That’s why you need a subwoofer.

Small subwoofers, like 8-inch or 10-inch, are smaller and more affordable but you might not get that thumping bass that you desire. The largest ones are also not ideal, since they cannot be installed in small spaces and can be quite expensive. You need something compact, yet powerful. The 12-inch subwoofer offers the perfect blend of quality bass, compact size, easy installation.

What to Consider When Buying 12-inch Subwoofers

Types 

To get the best bass and sound quality in your car, you need to have the best subwoofer that’s compatible with your system and that suits your preference. While there are many types out there, it is virtually impossible to find one that combines all the best attributes. However, knowing the types of subwoofers will help you choose the one that will help you enjoy your music more.

Dual vs. Single Voice Coil Subwoofers

Voice coils are wires wrapped around the speaker and help connect the subwoofer to the amplifier, allowing it to be powered. Single voice coil subwoofers are inexpensive but they have a problem of not working with many amplifiers. Dual voice coil subwoofers, on the other hand, work with a variety of amplifiers, but they are typically more expensive. You can find a good amplifier for either of these subwoofers, although it would be easier to find the best dual voice coil subwoofers.

Sealed vs. Ported Subwoofers

This is how the subwoofer is enclosed. Sealed subwoofers keep the air locked in tightly, producing a clear, punchy, and responsive sound. For this reason, the bass is controlled and very clear. However, they consume a lot of power. Ported subwoofers allow air to move in and out freely. These types of woofers are more popular and power-efficient. 

Passive and Powered Subwoofers

Passive subwoofers are powered by an external amplifier, much like old loudspeakers. These types of subwoofers produce a cleaner sound, and they are more flexible when it comes to the wiring configuration. They also consume a lot of power. Powered subwoofers feature a speaker and amplifier encased in one setup. The sound quality is not as good as passive, but they do not require much power to operate.

Key Features

To enjoy the best quality music in your car, you must have the correct combination of musical equipment. One of the main devices you should have is the right subwoofer with the right features. This is because a good subwoofer produces not only air-moving bass, but also quality sound. While size, budget, and ease of installation are some of the considerations, you also need to consider the following to get the best sound.

Power Handling Capabilities

Power handling refers to how much power the subwoofer can handle consistently over time. It is indicated on the speaker as RMS (root mean square). The higher the RMS, the more powerful and loud the bass of the subwoofer will be.

However, the deeper the bass of the subwoofer, the more power it consumes. Make sure your audio system currency is compatible with that of the sub. A subwoofer with lower currency requirements than your audio system will overheat or burn the coil, while if you choose one with more power than your system can handle, it won’t produce enough sound.

Voice Coils

The voice coil is indicated as either DVC (double voice coil) or SVC (single voice coil) on your subwoofer. The number of voice coils you buy is based purely on your preference. For example, if you want to attach other devices to your stereo system, a DVC would be a better choice.

If you are looking for a powerful subwoofer, the real consideration should be the ohm load on the coil. Ohms measure the electrical resistivity of a device. Assuming a constant power supply, the lower the ohm count, the more powerful the subwoofer.

Sensitivity 

This is the amount of power your device needs in order to produce volume. In other words, it is the amount of sound it can produce per watt. It is indicated as dB on your subwoofer. The dB rating on subs ranges from 80dB to 99dB.

It is important to note that subwoofers do not need to be very sensitive to avoid muffling and distortion of the sound.  For quality sound, the ideal sensitivity of a subwoofer should be around 90dB.

Tips and Tricks

We’ve installed a ton of car audio equipment in our day, and we’ve learned a few things about subs and speakers along the way. The first thing to consider is whether you need the subwoofer, amplifier, and enclosure system separately, or if you want all of them in one setup. Then you will choose between a powered or a passive sub.

But a great subwoofer doesn’t instantly translate to killer sound quality. There are other considerations, such as compatibility with your audio system, your other speakers, and the power of your amp. To get quality sound, ensure your system is compatible with your subwoofer and the power supply is enough to sustain the system requirements for all your speakers.

  • Just because an amp claims a “peak” power doesn’t mean you should crank that much power through your subwoofer. Your stereo system (and possibly the sub itself) probably can’t handle it.
  • Your amp should supply between 125 and 200 percent of the total RMS on your subwoofer.
  • Determine if you need a 2-ohm or 4-ohm sub. This will depend on your amplifier.
  • If you are buying a high-power sub, make sure it has a motor cooling system to ensure it does not heat up.

Best 12-Inch Subwoofer FAQs:

The first step of improving the sound for music lovers is to get a quality stereo system that includes a subwoofer. However, for some people, it is hard to choose the best subwoofer because there are so many types. This is mainly due to the technicality of the terms used in electronic systems. Here we answer some of the most commonly asked questions regarding subwoofers.

Q. What are shallow-mount subwoofers?

A shallow-mount sub is just like an ordinary subwoofer but in a package that doesn’t take up as much space. It is lightweight compared to regular subwoofers, which are deep and heavy. This ensures it can be installed in small spaces, like behind a rear seat rather than in a trunk.

Q. How can I know my subwoofer will deliver air-moving bass?

If you need a subwoofer with a hard-hitting bass without compromising on the sound quality, check its power handling capabilities, the material of the cone, and the surrounding. Polypropylene cone and rubber surrounding coupled with high power handling capacity deliver the best sound and bass.

Q. What is the best amplifier for a 12-inch subwoofer?

Before buying an amp, check the RMS rating of your subwoofer. The amp you buy should have a rating of between 75 and 150 percent of the RMS power rating on your subwoofer.

Q. Can I install a subwoofer on my own?

The ease of installing a subwoofer depends on its type. Powered subwoofers are easy to install as long as you follow the instructions in the manual provided, while passive ones may need a professional installer for a clean installation.

Our Top Pick

Our favorite 12-inch subwoofer is the Rockford Fosgate P3D4-12 Punch P3. It’s the ideal combination of a respected brand, superior materials and workmanship, and it comes in at a relatively affordable price. You can pay more (a lot more) and get bigger power and more features. But most of us will never need that much bass or power. You can also spend far less and pick up our Best Value award winner, the BOSS Audio Systems CX122. But one tasty jam cranked up to 11, and you may need to replace your sub sooner than you’d wanted to.

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