15 Inch Subwoofer Buying Guide
What is a Subwoofer?
Subwoofers are specifically designed to omit low frequencies, and no matter what kind of music you enjoy listening to, or how soft or loud you want your listening experience to be, a good quality subwoofer can totally improve the overall experience, and with very little effort. Car speakers that come with your purchase are usually quite small, and they have a lot of trouble producing low-frequency sound to add realism and depth to your music. A sub can absolutely make the difference between good-sounding music and great-sounding music.
There are so many kinds of ways that you can add a sub to your vehicle. The way that is right for you is going to depend upon a lot of different factors, and this includes your personal musical tastes, your budget, and how much space there is available in your vehicle.
What kind of sub should you get?
Here are some scenarios below of what customers looking for a subwoofer might be thinking. Choose which of these best suits your own personal intentions.
- I would like components to add to my system, so that it’s totally personalized. If this is true for you, then you want to look for component subs. A component sub is only the speaker itself, and it’s going to need to be mounted in a subwoofer enclosure. This is usually referred to as the box. You’re also going to need to power the sub with an external amplifier. Component subs come in a wide range of sizes, and there are models that are designed to operate at either low or high power. There are also various impedance and voice coil setups to choose from, and this allows you to pick and choose among various models that match to your system design. When you want to create your own system from the ground up, then beginning with a subwoofer is a great place to start.
- I want something that is easy and ‘off the shelf’; like a sub/enclosure combo. If this statement is true for you, then you want to look for enclosed subs. Enclosed subs are pre-mounted into a box that is designed to accommodate your sub. Buying this kind of model eliminates the need to choose an enclosure for your sub, and this means that you won’t have to do as much work when it comes to designing and building a system. The flip side to this is that you’ll be very limited when it comes to the number of speakers and box-type choices that you have. You’re going to need an external amp to power the sub, no matter what.
- I’m looking for a simple, space-saving bass system. If this is the case for you, then you definitely want to go with a powered sub. A powered sub combines both an amplifier and subwoofer in one enclosure. Because the amplifier is built-in, there will only be one piece of equipment to find a place for and install. There are many powered subs that can very easily be used as bass producers, and their small drivers and amplifiers may not give you all the sound power that you want if you’re looking to get some really huge bass. That being said, they are relatively simple to install and their small size makes them a great addition to your factory sound system.
- I want a subwoofer that will blend-in with the interior of my car. If this is true for you, then you’re going to love a vehicle-specific sub, either unpowered or powered. These kinds of subs are made to fit with the specific requirements of various cars, trucks, and SUVs, and they’re often color-matched as well, so they blend with your vehicle’s interior. Similar to powered subs, they may not be the best choice in terms of really big bass, but they’ll work really well for most listening needs, and they don’t take up a lot of interior space.
- I want a great bass system, but I don’t feel like sweating the details. If this is true for you, then look into bass packages. There are all kinds of packages that you can get which make selecting the right components so much easier. There are some packages that come with everything that you need, right down to the speaker wire.
Features to Look For in a Subwoofer
When you’re looking for a good subwoofer, it’s smart to look for ratings and reviews before you purchase one. When you learn from others, you’ll be more informed about which subwoofers on the market are the best. You also want to keep the following features in mind when conducting your search.
- Driver Size: The larger the driver is, the deeper the bass is going to be. But when you get a small driver, you have a faster response time. When the driver is too large, you may not get enough rapid sounds to keep up with the rhythms. The driver size that you choose is a matter of personal preference, in the end. With an 8 inch subwoofer you’re not going to be paying as much, but it won’t deliver the heart-thumping bass that you may want. The most common driver sizes that you will find are 10 or 12 inch, and that’s because these sizes are able to keep up with any track, while reliably reproducing the lower sounds. But if it’s an earth-shattering bass that you’re after, then a 15 inch or 18 inch subwoofer might be the right choice for you.
- Frequency Response: The human ear is capable of hearing sounds as low as 20 hertz. Hz is a unit of measurement of sound wave frequency, and subwoofers that can create sounds that are close to the lowest level are going to be the most expensive. That’s because what you’re paying for is excellent quality. A good subwoofer that comes at a more affordable price is going to come in at about 35 hertz.
Type of Enclosure
The enclosure of the subwoofer is the box that holds the speaker. The design of this box is going to impact the subwoofer’s performance. The most popular configurations that you’ll find reflect bass reflex and acoustic suspension.
- Bass Reflex: This uses the sound from the back side of the diaphragm to enhance the efficiency of the system when at lower frequencies. With a bass reflex enclosure you get a tuned port to add to and extend the bass response. These are highly efficient in terms of energy use, but they are not as accurate as acoustic suspension subwoofers.
- Acoustic Suspension: This is for reducing bass distortion. Acoustic suspension subwoofers will use a sealed enclosure to provide a greater bass response. This will give you accurate bass results, but it requires more amp power than bass reflex speakers.
The crossover is the electric circuit built into a subwoofer, or any speaker system, and it divides the audio signals and sends the appropriate ones to each speaker. Say that you have a three-way speaker setup, the woofer receives the lowest frequencies, and then the midrange driver gets the mid frequencies, while the tweeter gets the highest frequencies. The crossover boosts the speaker’s performance and will protect each speaker from receiving the wrong frequency. That way each speaker only gets what it can handle. With a good subwoofer, you’ll get a crossover frequency of about 100 hertz.
Getting a large subwoofer doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to fulfill all of your needs. They can range in size from 4 to 20 inches, and even though the biggest ones are going to give you the most intense bass, they can also be quite heavy and obtrusive. If you’re looking for a subwoofer for a small apartment, a 20 inch model is not going to be the smart choice because the size and volume are going to be too great.
With smaller subwoofers you can get adequate bass while also enjoying convenience and a compact size. You should also consider in-wall subwoofers that are going to be built into the walls or ceiling, as this will allow you more floor space. You need to begin by measuring the available space that you have and then try out different models and hear the sound quality that they produce.
A 15 inch subwoofer is the epitome of power and performance when it comes to your sound system. We highlighted the top rated subwoofers on the market, and then in our buyer’s guide we discussed what kinds of features you should look out for when finding the right sub for you.