For those that scan quickly, my recommendation for the best 12 inch subwoofer is the Rockford Fosgate P3D4-12 Punch.
The first system I ever put together in my car had three 12 inch subwoofers in a box. I can remember driving to high school with my sister and picking up her friends. I’m sure they thought as highly of it as I did! It was way too much for what I needed. But I was young and wanted to impress people. Oh the days of being young with no regards!
Those days are long gone but I still enjoy some low end frequencies to round out my car stereo. I’m going to look at some options for subs and help you compare them. Subs are easy to install if you want to do it yourself.
What Should I Look for in a 12 Inch Subwoofer?
Subs vary from each other in a variety of ways. Some respond to amplification differently than others due to construction. Let’s look at some of the technical differences.
- Power – Speakers consume power (measured in watts) to move the driver. A speaker has a normal power draw and a peak power draw.
- RMS (Root Mean Square) – This is how much power a speaker will use continuously. You’ll need an amp that can provide this at a minimum.
- Peak – This is the maximum power the speaker will draw.
- Sensitivity – Give a speaker 1 watt of energy and measure how loud (in decibels or db) it is 1 meter away. This measures how well the speaker converts electrical energy to sound. The more decibels it makes the more efficient the speaker is.
- Frequency Response – This measures the volume a speaker emits at different frequencies. Look for a subwoofer that can reproduce very low frequencies. Humans can hear to about 20hz but not much below that. At that point you may feel it but not hear it.
- Voice Coils – Having a DVC (dual voice coil) enables you to wire the sub to match the ohm rating of an amplifier. DVC doesn’t make more sound than SVC (single voice coil). I suggest a DVC if you eventually want to have multiple subs later. You’ll have more wiring flexibility later.
- Impedance or resistance – A speaker restricts the flow of electricity. We call this impedance and we measure it in Ohms. A 4 Ohm sub won’t produce as much sound (although it’s not far off) as a 2 Ohm sub when it’s given the same amount of power. Choose a 2 Ohm sub for louder output but a 4 Ohm will still meet your expectations.
Rockford Fosgate P3D4-12 Punch
Rockford Fosgate makes three levels of subwoofers ranging from good, better, to best. These are Prime, Punch, and Power. Then within Punch they make the P1, P2, and P3. This sub is a 4-Ohm DVC and is the highest performer within the Punch line of products.
It’s a strong performer because it has big magnets. The shipping weight is almost 21 pounds! Buyers say their rear view mirror vibrates when they turn up the music loud. A lot of people will install a couple of these subs in a box and are impressed with how loud they get.
Many describe this sub as giving quality bass over quantity. One reason is because it adheres to the CEA-2031 standard for loudspeakers. Manufacturers test RMS power against this standard. This makes it easier to compare speakers against a standard.
A few users did report issues when they received the sub. Seals and surrounds had separated from the cone. In this case I suggest working with the manufacturer for a fix.
- The P3D4 is the highest performing product in the Punch lineup. That means higher quality and quantity bass.
- It meets the CEA-2031 standard for loudspeakers. This means the power rating is certified and you can easily compare it to others that meet the standard.
- Many users have positive things to say about Rockford’s customer service. They call in with technical questions and customer service takes care of them.
- Some buyers blew the sub a few months after use. They could have driven them too hard or wired them incorrectly.
I don’t remember Rockville being around in the 90’s when I first got into mobile audio. Back then it was JL Audio, Rockford Fosgate, and MTX. Those companies are still around. Rockford has entered the market since then with a wide variety of audio products.
This is a 4-Ohm DVC sub that hits very hard for its price point. People are very satisfied with the sub in custom boxes and sealed enclosures. Many will install two of them in a box for even more of a slam. Their rear view mirrors shake from the vibration!
A few people do mention that their sub died when fed the RMS power for long amounts of time. Rockford lists CEA / RMS / Peak Watts as 1,000 / 2,000, 4,000. You may want to make sure you keep the power around 500-800 watts if you want to keep it a while. Also double check with the manufacturer to size the amplifier.
- This sub presents your value option for good performance.
- It’ll really slam when you put it in a sealed box around 2.2 cu ft. It can use a little more space but this should be an optimal balance.
- This is a very high bang for your buck subwoofer.
- Some people complain the sub can’t handle the rated RMS power for very long before blowing. Rockville made some adjustments between the V1 and the V2 to fix this issue. The V2 may suffer from some of the same problem. My advice is to stay under the rated RMS power.
JL Audio 12W0V3-4
JL has been in the mobile audio game a while and have a long history of successful products. The W0v3 sub is a SVC 4 Ohm sub that’ll perform well if you give it up to 300 Watts of power. JL recommends a sealed enclosure of 1.375 cubic feet.
Speakers heat up when you apply power to them. They do a good job of converting energy into sound waves but they also make heat from that energy. JL uses innovative and patented designs to help keep the speaker cool as it’s working.
People know JL for their clean and tight bass. One way they achieve this is by reducing distortion. All speakers distort but JL distorts less than others. Less distortion means cleaner bass as you turn up the volume.
Users love how loud and clean these subs are. The sound is crisp, clear, and well defined even when you turn the volume up. Make sure you build or buy a box around the 1.375 cubic feet for the best performance.
- This is your high quality option that costs a little more. You are paying for quality here.
- You don’t need a lot of power to make this sub perform well. That means you can use a smaller amplifier.
- This sub outputs clean and well defined bass and does it very well.
- The one negative is that if you’re on a tight budget this may not be an option for you.
Skar Audio SDR-12 D2
Skar Audio operates out of Tampa, Florida and believe their customers are the first priority. The SDR line is their most popular and highest selling line of subs. This 2 Ohm DVC subwoofer has an RMS power of 600 Watts and peak of 1,200.
Users love the deep bass these subs produce. It’s a bass that will make items in the car jump and move. It’ll handle power very well but you don’t want to exceed RMS for very long. Like any sub they will warm up and overheat if given too much power.
A few people mention their speaker blew after a few days of use. It’s hard to say what the problem was but it could have been too much power or incorrectly wiring it.
You’ll want a sealed box that’s between 1 – 1.25 cubic feet. Use a quality amp, keep the power at RMS, and you’ll have a system that will produce the low end you’re looking for.
- This sub is your solid performer at a value price option.
- Skar built this sub very solid and made it very durable to last a long time.
- RMS power of 600 Watts is easy to hit with a quality amplifier. You don’t need a lot more power than that.
- Being dual voice coil, that gives you more options to wire additional subs together.
- Some users experienced a blown sub after a few days. This could have been from overpowering them.
Planet Audio AC12D
This ia 4 Ohm dual voice coil sub with a recommended sealed box of 1.25 cubic feet. Planet Audio designed the sub’s voice coil to be able to manage heat efficiently. This helps the sub keep output as constant as possible without decreasing volume. You’ll only see this during long play periods.
Did your car come with a factory subwoofer but it’s damaged now? This sub is a good option if you need to replace a blow factory sub in a car. This is your budget choice. The price point is well below others in it’s same class. It’s definitely budget friendly.
Some describe the sub output as weak. This depends on factors such as source signal, amplifier size, and wiring configuration. Each installation will be different but you may have a different experience.
- This is going to be your budget option if you’ve got to keep your spend at a certain level.
- Plant Audio gives a 3 year warranty for this sub. That’s a great length of time to warranty a subwoofer.
- The sub may not be able to handle the rated 1800 max watts. I’d keep the power well under that rating.
- Some people describe poor sound quality and distortion.
My recommendation for the best 12” sub is the Rockford Fosgate P3D4-12 Punch. Performance is very solid for its price point and quality. Rockford Fosgate has a strong reputation and a long history.
It’s a DVC (dual voice coil) so It will give you extra wiring flexibility if you want to add more subs later. Rockford Fosgate recommends a 1 cubic foot enclosure. That’s smaller than others and it will take up less space in your car.
If you’re on a budget I recommend the Skar Audio SDR-12. It has excellent performance and will save you a little bit of money over others. Skar has a large team of engineers improving products and taking care of customers.
I trust that I’ve helped you in your selection process and explained some of the differences between each of these products. Enjoy thumping to some tunes!