If you desire the window-rattling bass that only a subwoofer can provide, but you just don’t have the trunk space to spare, fear not! A Free Air subwoofer will give you subterranean bass, without taking up tons of space.
With a free air subwoofer, your car’s trunk acts as the enclosure for the bass to resonate in, so you don’t need to build or buy one. Not only will it save you space, but it’s also a cheaper option. It’s simple to mount, saving you hours building a box.
If you’re confused about which subwoofer to choose, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! These in-depth reviews will help you narrow down your options and find the best free air subwoofer to suit your needs.
Comparison (updated in 2020)
|Best Overall||Pioneer TS-SW2002D2 Subwoofer||CHECK PRICE|
|Best Value||Pyle Car Subwoofer||CHECK PRICE|
|Premium Choice||JBL CS1214 Car Subwoofers||CHECK PRICE|
|Skar Audio D2 Dual 2 Ohm Car Subwoofer||CHECK PRICE|
|Planet Audio AC10D Car Subwoofer||CHECK PRICE|
The 10 Best Free Air Subwoofers
1. Pioneer TS-SW2002D2 Subwoofer — Best Overall
Pioneer is at the top of the car-audio game, and its TS-SW2002D2 free air subwoofer is no different. It’s an 8-inch, shallow-mount-masterpiece that has an RMS rating of 150 watts. The mounting depth is a real advantage — it’s less than half of a typical subwoofer — making it the perfect design for the bass-loving audiophile who cannot compromise on space availability in their vehicle.
Pioneers mica injection-molded resin cone produces accurate bass, with a beautiful sleek modern aesthetic. It utilizes an oversized cone structure, which provides a greater surface area. This allows the woofer to produce deeper and louder bass by moving more air, without changing its standard external dimension. This makes installation a breeze.
2. Pyle Car Subwoofer — Best Value
If you’re looking for big sound without a big cost, the Pyle 8-inch speaker is the best free air subwoofer for the money. Aesthetically, it may not be much to look at, but it has many of the high-end features of other speakers on this list, for a fraction of the cost. Power output for the Pyle is not an issue: It has an RMS rating of 400 watts and will peak at 800 watts, which is plenty of bass to shake the windows.
It has a high-quality, non-pressed paper cone and treated foam surround, nestled inside a classy stamped black steel basket. Materials are made to ensure a deep bass punch. This is all set on a 40-ounce heavy-duty magnet to provide high power output, with a vented motor construction for efficient cooling.
3. JBL CS1214 Car Subwoofers — Premium Choice
For deep and low bass that really kicks, sometimes one subwoofer is not enough. This pair of 12-inch subwoofers from JBL is sure to shake the windows. JBL is a trusted brand in the audio world in general, so you can be sure of great quality and reliability. These woofers have a combined RMS rating of 500 watts and a peak rating of 2000 watts.
In a free air application, two subwoofers will give you the bass response that can sometimes be lacking without an enclosure. You may find the 12-inch size to be an issue, with a pair already using up precious space, but the added bass kick is well worth the compromise. These speakers stay out of our top two spots purely because of the high cost; however, the extra power you get will be worth it.
4. Skar Audio D2 Dual 2 Ohm Car Subwoofer
This 8-inch subwoofer from Skar Audio really packs a punch. With an RMS rating of 400 watts, it offers decent bass output in a small but capable package. The materials are top of its class — a competition-grade pressed paper cone cradled inside a rubber butyl surround and a 2-inch high-temperature copper voice coil.
This subwoofer is designed to be clear and crisp, while still providing clear, tight, and accurate low frequencies. Don’t be fooled by its small size: A massive triple stack motor assembly with heat-venting will give you all the bass you could desire. That said, 8-inch subs may take EQ tweaking in order to get the bass response just right.
5. Planet Audio AC10D Car Subwoofer
Planet Audio makes quality audio at an affordable price. This 10-inch subwoofer is an easy-mounting, high-power bass driver that won’t break the bank. It has a maximum power rating of 1,500 watts that is sure to loosen a few bolts. It features a resilient polypropylene cone housed inside a flexible foam surround, providing durability and efficiency. It sits inside a solid die-cast frame and has durable voice coils made to withstand high temperatures. All this is topped off by a three-year warranty for extra peace of mind.
Without a dedicated enclosure, however, this speaker can become muddy and boomy. This is an important consideration for free air applications, as you want a tight-sounding subwoofer to make up for the lack of enclosure.
6. BOSS Audio Systems CXX8 Car Subwoofer
This 8-inch speaker from Boss Audio is an affordable subwoofer with a great name behind it. It features a durable polypropylene cone housed inside a rubber surround, all nestled inside a rigid stamped metal basket. A sleek metallic black finish gives it a great aesthetic for a free air application, in which the speaker is not hidden inside a box.
A maximum output of 600 watts is respectable output for an 8-inch speaker. That said, its lack of bass output can be a real drawback for free air use. While it does have a warranty, there seems to be a lack of quality control at Boss, with many users reporting problems soon after purchase.
7. Rockford Fosgate R2SD2-10 Subwoofer
Rockford Fosgate is one of the undisputed kings of car audio, and this 10-inch subwoofer is an affordable option for the audio enthusiast seeking a trusted brand. It has a power rating of 200 watts RMS and a peak power of 400 watts, which may not be enough for true bass aficionados.
Its shallow dimensions make it great for free air application, while its 10-inch size will not compromise on bass output. It features a high-quality mica-injected polypropylene cone for clean and accurate bass reproduction. A stamped metal basket with spider venting, usually reserved for traditional depth baskets, will keep it nice and cool. It’s a reliable speaker from a reliable car audio brand, albeit with meager power output.
8. Kicker 10C104 Comp Subwoofer
Kicker offers car speakers well known for being good value for the money. This 10-inch sub will kick. It has a super-rigid injection-molded cone, with 360-degree back bracing for sustained durability. A vented pole piece and coil-cooling perimeter vented steel basket will make sure it stays nice and cool. The cone is seated inside a ribbed surround for high strength and high excursion (the travel that the cone has to do from a stationary position). It has an RMS rating of 150 watts, which is on the low side, especially for free air use.
The Kicker looks as good as it sounds, with a unique molded cone and yellow stitched surround, providing a great aesthetic look in your trunk.
9. MB Quart DS1-204 Subwoofer
MB Quart is a brand for audiophiles on a budget, and this speaker offers a great point-of-entry for beginner sound enthusiasts. It’s a fairly bland-looking 8-inch subwoofer, though, with a disappointing RMS rating of 200 watts. It will stay nice and cool, however: It features a vented aluminum former and high-temperature voice coils. It also has a stamped metal basket and poly-cotton-blended spider.
Its affordability predictably comes with low-quality materials, which will probably not last as long as several other speakers on this list in a similar price bracket. Low bass response, combined with a low power output, means it will likely underperform in a free air situation.
10. JBL Stage 810 Subwoofer
JBL has a subwoofer for all budget levels, and this one comes in for the budget-conscious audiophile. It features a lightweight polypropylene cone inside a hi-roll rubber surround. With a 200-watt RMS power rating and 8-inch dimensions, if you’re looking for a ton of thump, this subwoofer probably won’t cut it.
It will require EQ tweaking in order to get sufficient bass response and tends to distort even at low volumes. That and the low-quality materials could be a deciding factor. It is a JBL, though, and its affordable price with a great name behind it make it an attractive option.
A free air subwoofer provides bass without loss of space. It’s quick and easy to install and saves you the extra cost and hassle of a custom-made enclosure. While it may not give you the tight, controlled bass-punch, a speaker inside an enclosure will, with the right installation, be a suitable option if space is an issue.
Put simply, it’s designed to provide low bass frequencies without the use of a custom enclosure. A traditional enclosure is made with MDF board, which is fairly heavy and will add extra weight to your vehicle. A free air subwoofer is usually mounted in the rear of the car or on a specially constructed board placed between the backseats and trunk, known as a “baffle.” The board makes an airtight seal that acts as a substitute speaker enclosure. You’ll need to make sure this baffle is as airtight as possible to prevent sound “bleeding” and frequency cancellation.
While a free air subwoofer will save you space and money, it can be a challenge to find the right one to suit your needs. When used for free air, a subwoofer needs to be able to deliver tight bass with plenty of power, because a lack of enclosure requires more power output. There are several factors to consider when purchasing a free air subwoofer. Let’s take an in-depth look at each one to help you make an informed decision.
The first important consideration is how to mount your subwoofer:
The easiest method is a back seat installation. This consists of simply mounting the subwoofer onto the back seats, which requires little modification to your car. However, it can be difficult to get sufficient air-lock with this method, and items placed in your trunk will affect the sound.
The second common method is a rear deck installation — this involves mounting your subwoofer onto the existing back panel in a sedan or hatchback. A rear deck installation is great, as it mitigates the need to build a separate mounting board. However, you may still need to alter the mounting area, and you’ll need to check how much surface area is available in order to choose the right speaker size. This configuration will work best with a pair of small subwoofers rather than a single larger one.
The last option is a baffle installation. This requires an extra board to mount the speaker onto and is placed just behind the backseats. The mounting-board creates a small enclosure-like area for the bass frequencies to move around in. Remember to make sure it’s sealed tight from the cabin area to ensure optimal bass response.
This is the most important factor to consider, but more power doesn’t necessarily mean more volume. However, in a free air application, the more power, the better. This is because a free air subwoofer has more air to push around and more space in which to do it. The movement of the cone is what creates most of the bass, so a free air speaker needs as much power as it can get. An enclosure is more forgiving and doesn’t require as much power, as it can be specifically built and designed to optimize and control the bass output.
It goes without saying that you’ll want the best materials possible within your budget. With a free air subwoofer, materials are an even more important consideration. The speaker is not protected by an enclosure, so it is vulnerable to whatever you put into your trunk. Items placed inside your trunk will affect sound quality too. A free air subwoofer relies on the cone to move air at high power, so the stronger the cone material, the better. It will also benefit from a bulkier suspension for dealing with the high force of the cone movement. This is also another reason to go for a bigger dimension subwoofer, if possible.
“Breaking-In” Your Subwoofer
Free air or not, a brand-new subwoofer must always be “broken-in” before being pushed too hard. This is a simple process to help your speaker perform optimally. You need to play music through your woofer at low-to-medium volume levels for three or four hours after installation. This will prevent the voice coils from overheating in the long term and thus extend the life of your subwoofer. Over-driving the speaker too soon could result in poor sound performance and ultimately, in premature failure.
The top place of our reviews goes to the Pioneer-TS-SW2002D2. It’s a shallow-mount, 8-inch speaker built to punch and built to last. It has a strong and durable mica injection-molded cone, which offers the longevity and strength that a free air subwoofer needs. With an RMS rating of 150 watts, it will give you plenty of bass without loss of space.
The Pyle 8-inch speaker is our top choice of free air subwoofer for the money. It offers big sound without a big price, with an RMS rating of 400 watts. Its vented motor construction will keep it cool, no matter the application. For audiophiles on a budget, it offers the most boom for your buck.
A free air subwoofer has several key aspects to consider before buying, and this can be a confusing road to navigate. Hopefully, our in-depth reviews have done the heavy lifting for you and made it easier to choose the right speaker for your unique needs.
- Comparison (updated in 2020)
- The 10 Best Free Air Subwoofers
- 1. Pioneer TS-SW2002D2 Subwoofer — Best Overall
- 2. Pyle Car Subwoofer — Best Value
- 3. JBL CS1214 Car Subwoofers — Premium Choice
- 4. Skar Audio D2 Dual 2 Ohm Car Subwoofer
- 5. Planet Audio AC10D Car Subwoofer
- 6. BOSS Audio Systems CXX8 Car Subwoofer
- 7. Rockford Fosgate R2SD2-10 Subwoofer
- 8. Kicker 10C104 Comp Subwoofer
- 9. MB Quart DS1-204 Subwoofer
- 10. JBL Stage 810 Subwoofer
- Buyers Guide