Shallow Mount Subwoofer Buyer’s Guide
Whether you opt for one of the best shallow mount subs that we’ve covered above (like the Rockford Fosgate one we featured), or if you’re planning on checking out any of the countless shallow mount subs we haven’t discussed, there’s a few things you’ll need to know before you head to your local car audio store.
What is a Shallow Mount Subwoofer?
A shallow mount subwoofer provides the same functionality of a traditional subwoofer in a smaller package. Regular subwoofers are deep and heavy, and their size can make it difficult or impossible to mount them in small spaces. The traditional route to take for those interested in a subwoofer in their vehicle is to build or buy a subwoofer box that their new subwoofer will fit into and then be placed in their car or truck. Most people end up putting these subwoofer boxes in the truck of their vehicle since there’s more space there usually and it’s out of sight and not taking up interior space.
The interesting thing with subs and the low frequencies of music is that these sound waves are not directional or sensitive like the other portions of the sound frequency. For example, the front speakers in a vehicle are critical in the overall sound presentation and the placement of those speakers is super important. You will see serious car audio enthusiasts who actually forego speakers inside their front doors and instead place speakers on specially created front pillars.
They do this based on the principle that these higher frequencies coming out of these front speakers need to be placed as close to ear height as possible for best performance. When we say best performance, we’re referring to those factors that produce fantastic sound reproduction and thrilling listening. You will hear terms like soundstage and imaging. They sound like fancy terms, but just think of it as the realism of your music sounding like the performers are actually in front of you on stage performing just like a live performance in the real world. Yes, speaker placement is that critical and, when done right, it can deliver fantastic sound experiences in your vehicle.
Back to the point here is that, thankfully, the low frequencies that subwoofers pound out don’t need this type of careful attention and you can just throw subs under seats or in trunks and it makes absolutely no difference. It’s all about getting that sub-bass to hit you and have you feel it just as you hear the rest of the music. That’s the magic that you want and that delivers an awesome dynamic listening experience. Now, let’s get back to the shallow mount subwoofers story.
Speaker companies recognized that for certain applications, a traditional sub wasn’t practical, and they’ve developed subwoofers that require 4” or less of mounting clearance to remedy the problem.
These shallow subs can easily be mounted in rear decks, along the sides of trunks, or in slim boxes that allow you to enjoy powerful bass without sacrificing much space.
How Do They Compare to Regular Subwoofers?
Compared to a traditional sub, shallow subs are much lighter and more portable, in addition to being thinner. They’re easier to mount, they can be mounted virtually anywhere, and they’re also much more portable than a traditional sub.
On the other hand, shallow mount subwoofers represent a significant departure from the design of traditional subwoofers. What you gain in ease of installation and space savings, you lose in sound quality.
Simply put, shallow mount subwoofers will never be able to compare to a traditional sub in terms of bass response or overall sound quality. That said, they’re still an ideal option for those who are looking to add full, deep bass to their car, but can’t install a traditional subwoofer for whatever reason.
If you’re looking to buy a regular subwoofer, have a look at our list of best subwoofer for car.
When you’re evaluating different options, there’s a few key metrics you’ll want to look at so you can ensure you’re comparing apples to apples, and selecting the best shallow mount subwoofer for your needs.
Subwoofer Size Considerations:
The size of the subwoofer is the most important consideration you’ll need to make when shopping for a new sub. You’ll find subwoofers in 8”, 10”, 12” and 15” sizes, and each size brings it’s own characteristics, pros and cons.
Smaller subwoofers, like an 8” or a 10” are the most responsive and punchy option. They’re a great choice for those who listen to heavy rock or fast paced electronic music. They can bring balance to a sound system, and provide good bass without overwhelming the system. But, if you’re looking for powerful bass that will turn heads, you’ll want to look for a larger sub. The 10-inch subs are a great option, don’t get us wrong. There are plenty of great choices out there that are really rocking and will round out a car audio system beautifully with great low bass. For example, both JL Audio and Rockford Fosgate offer shallow sub choices in this size. And, as you can imagine, because JL Audio and Rockford Fosgate are awesome brands, these shallow subs are also something to to really enjoy. We do talk about JL Audio and Rockford Fosgate shallow choices above in our reviews, but not in 10″ size. But, definitely feel free to look at that size if it makes sense for your system.
12” subwoofers are arguably the most popular option on the market, as they offer the “best of both worlds.” A 12” sub provides deep and powerful bass, but it’s still responsive enough to handle faster paced music, such as hard rock and metal. The 12-in sub is arguably the most popular size out there for folks that are looking for a dedicated sub-bass component to their car audio system. So, as a result, there are tons of choices out there from many manufacturers. So, whether you want to spend a little bit of money to get some boom or you are an audiophile and want an awesome sub to round out an incredible system, this size has a lot of action in the market.
15” subwoofers are the largest and most powerful option, and they’re typically reserved for the true bass heads among us. A 15” sub provides the deepest and most powerful bass of any subwoofer. But, they’re large size makes them far less responsive, and they tend to muddy up or overwhelm any faster paced music. 15” subs are most popular for today’s 808 heavy hip-hop. This is the size that really hits hard, when you want to go low, stay low, and pound out some heavy bass. Even though they’re more extreme than 12s, 15s are fairly prominent in the industry and you have a good amount of choices to find one that you like and that fits your budget.
18″ subwoofers do exists and make up the extreme end of super bass heavy car audio. We are probably oversimplifying but not much at all in saying that this side of the spectrum of subwoofers encompasses basically car audio show cars and those that are simply want to simply annoy others with massive booms and show off their ride. The former folks will use products that are meant for shows and achieving high sound pressure levels (SPL), while the latter are those that like driving around with the the devastating bass and lows that is only possible from these massively sized subwoofers.
This is the territory, where you drive down the street or even on a noisy highway with the windows up and people will know there’s something special happening. Obviously, we’d like to say to “keep it clean” out there and don’t be one of those annoying hacks that disturbs a residential neighborhood with the sick frequencies or other annoying behavior. Yes, you get an 18 (or two!) to be heard and to put on a jaw-dropping show. But, like with anything in life, there’s a way to do things with good style and not make people have a negative impression of our hobby and passion.
Subwoofer Power Handling and Peak Power:
Peak power refers to the amount of power shallow mount subwoofers can handle without any damage occurring to the subwoofer. This metric is a good indicator of how powerful the sub is compared to the competition.
Subwoofer Sensitivity (in decibels or dB):
A speaker’s sensitivity is another important metric to consider. Sensitivity is measured by how loud the speaker is with only one watt of power driving the speaker. If you’re not using an external amplifier, a high sensitivity speaker will provide you with more volume and power. If you’re using an amp, a speaker with lower sensitivity will be better for your needs.
The frequency range refers to the different frequencies the speaker is able to reproduce. A broad frequency range makes for a more versatile speaker, but that’s less of a concern when shopping for a subwoofer.
The frequency range is measured in hertz (Hz) and subwoofers usually have a frequency range between 20-200Hz. An average subwoofer may not be able to dip below the 100Hz range, while more expensive, professional quality subwoofers can dip as low as 20Hz.
Our Final Word
Thanks to shallow mount subwoofers, it’s easier than ever to achieve deep, powerful bass in your car, regardless of what you drive. While there are some trade-offs with a shallow mount subwoofer, the benefits greatly outweigh the drawbacks for most applications.
When you’re shopping for the best shallow mount subwoofer for your needs, be sure to evaluate important factors like the specs, build quality and overall sound of the sub before making your purchase. Brands also matter greatly as always, so look especially at brands like Rockford Fosgate, JL Audio, and other top brands that have the best frequency response and components used like rubber surround in their construction.
Other subs to also consider: