Power and Bass in One Spacious Package – Reviewing Best 12-Inch Subwoofers in 2019
Having a great sound booming from your speakers usually requires some compromises. You may have the best setup in the world, but your 8-inch woofers will pack only so much punch.
Well, I have some extraordinary news to share with you.
If your rider has enough room to store a 12-inch sub, all of the compromises you need to make are practically out of the window.
But, as you can probably guess different woofers coming from different manufacturers also feature different qualities.So, let us take a look at the seven best entries currently on the market and try to find the best 12 inch subwoofer for your car.
In a hurry? The test winner after 32 hours of research:
Last Updated: October 1, 2019
By Barry Allen: This article has been updated to reflect the most accurate information regarding best 12-inch subwoofers available for those who are interested in improving their sound output & quality. The best 5 available have changed, and information has been added to assist individuals in finding the best 12-inch subwoofers currently available on the market. The FAQ has also been updated.
Want to get the best 12-inch subwoofer?
Keep an Eye Out for These Specifications:
But before we proceed to our contenders, let’s set some things straight. A good sub is as good as a sum of its parts. If you want to get the best unit, you need to take a couple of key specs into consideration.
Let's explore some of the key considerations you should make before spending your hard-earned bucks.
Yeah, in the world of woofers, it's all about power – the more you get, the better. Well, when you're buying a sub, you will need to keep track of two specs to determine just how much power will your future unit be able to use.
- RMS power – Essentially, RMS power indicates regular power coping capability, or in other words, the amount of juice your sub can handle on a continuous basis.
- Peak power – Peak power is the maximum amount of power your speaker can handle at any given moment. The moment is the key word here – putting through all this power on a continuous basis will get your woofer fried.
Sensitivity is often described as subwoofers' second most crucial spec, and it roughly describes the sub's ability to convert the power into output. The model with the higher sensitivity requires much lower power to produce the same output as the ones with the lower sensitivity.
Speaker sensibility is described in decibels (dB), and yeah, your goal is to get as many as you can.
Frequency is the spec that tells you how wide is the range of sounds your speakers will be able to reproduce. Since we're talking about the subwoofers, you should look for the units that allow you to play the lowest possible frequencies you can imagine.
The best woofers usually feature the frequency range with the lower end clocking somewhere between 20 and 30 Hz.
Keep in mind, though, that the quality you will eventually get depends on quite a few different factors like…
The type of the enclosure
The enclosures have such a substantial impact on the output quality that we could spend quite a lot of time chatting about this issue.
But, let’s not get into too much detail.
The most important thing you should know is that enclosures can be roughly divided into two major groups:
- Sealed enclosures – A tight package that produces the deepest and the most precise sound reproduction on the market.
- Ported enclosure – Also known as the bandpass enclosures, ported enclosures are able to produce a much louder sound, albeit at the sake of quality.
Still, use this partition only as a guideline, not as a rule. For instance, a high-quality sub with the ported enclosure will produce a much better sound than a bargain bin sealed box.
The number of voice coils
The number of coils doesn't precisely have an impact on the output quality but does a lot of heavy lifting in terms of usability and versatility.
Namely, the dual-coil speakers can be used both in series and parallel setups which gives you a lot more freedom when putting your car system together.
Unfortunately, single-coil woofers don't offer nearly as much configuration options.
Dimensions of the woofer
As I already mentioned, the bigger your subwoofer is, the better and stronger bass reproduction you’re going to get. Although the ultimate output quality depends on the variety of things, you can’t escape the fact that the more room the manufacturer gets to play with, things can only get better.
Well, if you have decided to invest into a 12-inch woofer, you will be glad to know that these dimensions stand at the very top of the sub food chain, with only the 15-inch woofers standing above them.
The smaller sized units (6 and 10 inches in diameter) can still produce an excellent output, but the chances only become slighter once you go down the dimension ladder.
Impedance is the spec that describes the level of resistance the subwoofer will bring into the system. This number is purely technical and above anything affects the speaker’s compatibility.
The most of the subwoofers currently on the market feature the impedance of 4 Ohms, although 2-Ohm and 8-Ohm varieties are far from unusual.
If you have a problem deciding between all these options, it would be best to find a unit that will allow you to switch between different impedance settings.
Best 12-inch subwoofers reviewed
Now that we've covered some of the essential features that make a good subwoofer, let's go through some of the strongest contenders in the 12-inch sub market.
1. Rockford Fosgate P3D4-12 Punch P3 DVC
Our Rating: 90/100
Rockford Fosgate is a name that requires no introduction in the world of automotive audio systems – we are talking about a genuine industry powerhouse that has, in one way or another, touched millions of vehicles all around the world.
With the things as they are, it is only natural that my expectations are always set to extremely high whenever I get the opportunity to open some of their packages.
What’s really impressive in this whole story is that these expectations are almost always met. Rockford Fosgate P3D4-12 Punch P3 is no exception.
The quality P3D4-12 Punch P3 puts on the table can be easily observed even if you take a slight look at the unit. For a start, the cone is made from solid anodized aluminum pieces that feel pretty solid but remain very light.
The other components are equally as satisfying. The dust cap is made from the same material as the cone and feels rock-solid while the vertically mounted surround is capable of increasing the cone's efficiency by a full 25%.
This whole foundation is only made better by the fact that P3D4-12 Punch P3 looks very good. The woofer features some beautiful chrome elements that look rather nice in a sports sedan, and there is also something people from Rockford Fosgate like to call FlexFit design.
What this intriguing name describes is a slotted mounting system that allows you to easily adjust the angle of the sub once you mount it. Believe me, this small inclusion makes all the difference in the world.
Speaking in terms of heat dissipation, the semi-vented design allows an excellent level of breathability and makes sure the woofer won't overheat no matter what kind of bass you put through it.
As for the performance, the first thing I’ve noticed that P3D4-12 Punch P3 sounds incredibly loud – so much so that at some instances, the bass was overwhelming even for me. But, for the most part, 600 Watts RMS produced a pretty consistent performance and loud reproduction even at the lowest of frequencies.
The rest of the specs are solid as well. The frequency response of 28-250 Hz, the sensitivity of 85 dB and the peak power of 1200 watts all allow for a very strong and versatile performance that doesn't have a problem precisely reproducing bass lines even if you turn the dial to eleven.
All in all, a pretty well-rounded product whose only flaws are slight balancing issues.
2. Pioneer TS-A300D4 12 Inch
Our Rating: 89/100
Although not as highly regarded as Rockford Fosgate, Pioneer is known for continually releasing the products that manage to stir the water in the often stale car woofer market and keep the game interesting.
Pioneer TS-A300D4 is definitely one of these products, and its primary purpose looks like giving Rockford Fosgate P3D4-12 Punch P3 a run for its money.
Are we dealing with a genuine surprise that’s able to knock the king of the throne?
Let’s try to find out.
There is no denying that Pioneer TS-A300D4 is one incredibly sleek and well-built piece of hardware. The main star of the show here is definitely a quality black cone made of mica-injected molded resin that allows consistent airflow and produces deep and satisfying bass.
However, keep in mind that we are talking about a shallow-mount sub so your power expectations should be set to reasonable.
If you on the other hand own a smaller vehicle and need a punchy unit to fit a small sealed enclosure, you will hardly find a tighter unit than this.
I was also very pleasantly surprised with a somewhat oversized double-stacked magnet and vented pole yoke that do a fantastic job when it comes to power handling.
Overall, the unit has some inherent limitations, but everything I’ve seen so far works to push these limits to the breaking point.
As you would expect, all these rock-solid building blocks produce equally as satisfying performance. For a start, the unit does a great job compensating for a somewhat limiting RMS of only 400 watts with incredibly tight and precise bass reproduction.
However, don't think for a second this bad boy is underpowered. The peak power of as much as 1500 watts makes sure you will be able to produce teeth-shattering noise when the opportunity requires.
Throw into equation incredibly good frequency range (20-125 Hz) and excellent sensitivity (93 dB), and you'll get a great piece of sound equipment with very few shortcomings. Well, except for the inherent ones.
3. Skar Audio EVL-12 D2 12"
Although it is far from obscure, Skar is a brand that still needs to prove a lot of things in the world of audio equipment. You don’t need to worry about that, though.
The company with the name Skar that call its flagship lineup of woofers EVL doesn’t lack attitude to compete with the industry heavy hitters. The question remains how well does that excessive edge translate to real-life quality.
Well, let’s try to find out.
It doesn’t take more than a look to see that EVL-12 D2 tries very hard to leave a good impression from the get-go. And indeed, everything about its look screams edgy and ambitious.
For example, instead of the traditional closed-cone setup we’ve got so used to by now, this time we get an advanced cooling design that allows the woofer to explore some completely new power grounds without getting toasted.
Throw into the mix the high-temperature 3-inch voice coil designed to make the most of this design, and you will get a sub that promises good sound reproduction at low frequencies.
Finally, I have to mention that all of the used materials, be that high-grade paper cone or high roll foam surround are pretty solid and well-put-together.
So far, so good.
When it comes to the actual performance, EVL-12 D2 is, unfortunately, a completely different beast, and I have to point out – not for lack of trying.
All of the building blocks of an excellent subwoofer are here. For a start, EVL-12 D2 pack some very serious power – the unit's RMS power clocks at 1250 Watts, the peak power climbs to pretty impressive 2500 Watts, and frequency response range goes as low as 25 Hz. Trust us when we say that this sub will make the bed shake!
The real problem is the way the unit handles these admittedly impressive specs.
Namely, the more power you try to put through the woofer you’ll see the sound quality dropping like a brick. The same can be said about the system’s durability. There are a lot of users who have reported problems after pushing their subs to the peak power.
As long as you keep the things in the regular terms, however, the speaker works like a clock. The bass is deep and precise, and even the mid-range volume produces a satisfying tremor in the vehicle.
4. American Bass USA XFL 1244
With over 35 years in the industry, it can be easily said that American Bass is a long-standing and reputable brand with a loyal army of followers.
It is also very tough to deny that the company has seen some better days and, in spite of all the good will, mostly competes in the entry-level car audio market.
Still, the potential for greatness is still here, and it seems a company only needs one right product to get back in shape. Is American Bass USA XFL 1244 that faithful product?
Judging by the look – hardly. As a matter of fact, except for the almost leather-like dust cover, the unit looks as by-the-numbers as it gets.
Still, as much as I like my subs looking cool, I have to admit that I always considered build quality way more important, and in this regard, XFL 1244 excels.
All of the components used for production feel solid and durable. For instance, the basket is made from die-cast aluminum, the cone from carbon-Kevlar reinforced non-press paper, and you also get a very pleasant inclusion of high-density foam surround.
All these things only speak on the behalf of the dedication the American Bass put into the product and I have no choice but to give a nod to the company for the effort.
When it comes to the actual performance, American Bass USA XFL 1244 is not too shabby either. The unit features dual voice-coils, incredible frequency response range of 15 - 250 Hz, solid sensitivity of 89.6 dB, RMS power handling of 1000 Watts, and peak power handling of 2000 Watts.
What's even more intriguing is that, unlike the previous product, all these specs are pretty well used. The sound quality remained quite good even as I went below the usual 32 Hz mark, and the blast I managed to put through the speaker literally shook my ride.
You will also be excited to know that the bass reproduction is very precise, so even if you are RHCP fan, you won't miss any of the faster lines.
The only thing I found offputting was the system's endurance when you expose it to more power and push the sub to its limit. Although I haven't experienced any severe issues, the noticeable tremors are a good indicator that you should keep the sub on the reasonable settings.
5. 12W0V3-4 - JL Audio 12"
Our Rating: 83/100
When I talked about the current offer of 10-inch subwoofers, one of the products I've talked about was 10W0V3-4 – this unit’s smaller, 10-inch cousin.
And if you remember, my general impression was pretty mixed. Essentially, 10W0V3-4 was a typical budget unit with all the compromises an affordable price tag entails.
The product I’m going to cover now features virtually all the same building blocks as its sibling. This time, though, the diameter has been stretched to 12 inches.
Does this upgrade bring some tangible change to the table or we are still talking about the regular entry-level mixed bag.
Speaking in the strictly visual sense, I can easily say that 12W0V3-4 is a true joy to watch. I mean, who can say no to a trendy, sleek piece of audio equipment that fits like a glove to your sports sedan. Especially at such an affordable price point.
And you know what – the bad quality isn’t bad either. The speaker is made from some very cool materials like, for instance, durable mineral-filled polypropylene that was used for building the cone.
But the low price point had to be reached one way or another so you can expect to see some compromises along the way. This time we are talking about a single-coil 4-Ohm setup that makes building a functional configuration much harder than it’s supposed to be.
The rest of the specs are far more pleasing but not too extraordinary. The RMS power handling clocks at 300 Watts, and the peak power rating barely climbs to 600 Watts, which is as average as it gets. The pleasant surprise comes in the form of frequency range whose lower end stretches to rather good 22 Hz.
So, we can pretty much agree that the increase in size we have seen from the previous JL’s model I’ve covered pretty much amounts to nothing.
Unsurprisingly, the resulting performance is somewhat compromised.
Don't get me wrong; the sound you are able to put through the speaker is loud and produces earth-shattering deep bass. But, you lack a lot of refinement you can find in the more expensive models.
Still, if you don’t push the speaker to the limit, and even more important, you are concerned with monetary constraints, the amount of audio crispness is more than satisfying for this price range.
6. Kicker 12" 800 Watt CompVR 4 Ohm DVC Subwoofer
Our Rating: 80/100
Over the last couple of years, the market for automotive audio equipment has become very competitive.
With so many players trying to get a piece of cake and the range of products that roughly offer similar functionalities, standing out means that you either have to have some serious brand power, great value for the money or extraordinary set of features.
Unfortunately, this unit lacks all of the things mentioned above.
But, if I have to give a special shout-out to some standout feature, that would be sub's classic but very aggressive design. Seriously, if you want to show that your speaker has enough strength to throw a punch, this is the look you should go with.
This situation is greatly helped by the fact that the cone was made from very solid injection molded polypropylene that looks like it can keep the whole thing together even if you turn the dial to eleven or hit a couple of bumps along the way.
Also, I should mention that the speaker uses high-temp dual voice coils which are always nice to see but not exactly the selling point this sub desperately needs.
But, I don't want to be overly critical. All the building blocks I've seen so far are more than reliable and do nothing to compromise the unit's performance.
Much like its technical specs, the performance of this sub is very much in line with countless other products that can be found in this price range.
The unit features decent RMS power handling of 400 Watts (200 Watts per coil) and the peak power handling that will allow you occasional bursts of joy. Don’t expect to blow up the roof of your vehicle with this unit, though.
The frequency range is actually quite decent and clocks between 25 - 500 Hz. However, expect to lose a great deal of precision if you play some faster lines below 30 Hz.
The sensitivity of 86.9 dB is quite good and allows for some darn good power handling capabilities.
So overall, this product may lack any sensible standout features, but it does nothing horribly either. Throw into the mix a handsome price tag and you may some value here.
7. Kenwood KFC-W3016PS 12-Inch 2000W Subwoofer
Our Rating: 75/100
Kenwood KFC-W3016PS is dirt cheap; there's no other way around it. It will almost certainly find a wide audience that can't invest too much money to fill their vehicles with earth-shattering noise.
Its overall value, however, will ultimately be determined by the number of things the manufacturer had to leave on the drawing board to reach such a low price point.
So, let’s start the dissection and see what’s left in the package after all the budget cuts this sub went through.
Actually, the more things than I expected. For a start, the overall design of this thing is very solid and does a great job hiding the fact we are talking about an entry-level unit.
And then, there is the choice of the materials which is also quite decent. For instance, the coil was made out of polypropylene cone with rubber surround, which is quite nice.
But, don't put too much trust in the quality of the electrical components and the overall craftsmanship. Due to insanely overambitious power handling estimations the manufacturer, for lack of a better term, botched, this bad boy explodes like a firecracker as soon as you push it to its limits.
But, as long as you play by the self-imposed rules and don't try to blow the roof off your vehicle, you should keep the sub intact.
Finally, let’s talk about the performance – like the rest of this product it’s quite decent. If you are willing to accept the limitations of a single voice coil setup you will be able to squeeze quite a lot of joy out of the 400 Watts RMS rating.
Just don't ever try to test the peak power rating of 2000 Watts – it's ridiculously overestimated, and it will send your sub on the short way to the junkyard.
The sound quality is solid if slightly underwhelming. For instance, the frequency range will allow you to hit 27 Hz, but the lower you get the audio distortion will only get worse.
In the casual frequency range, though, the bass lines are reasonably clear and precise. As for the loudness – well it’s what you expect from a shallow-mounted unit.
Best 12-inch Subwoofers - Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is the best 12-inch subwoofer for me?
A: It really depends on your personal preferences. Some people lack space, so they opt for shallow-mounted units. Some prefer loudness, other precision. So, it would be the best idea to make a shortlist of requirements and use the buying guide I gave you above to find the right pick. That said, it is hard to deny that Rockford Fosgate P3D4-12 Punch P3 features some very sweet specs that have a very broad appeal.
Q: How much power my sub needs, and how much it can handle?
A: The amount of power a subwoofer can handle on a continuous basis is called RMS power handling, and the more you get it, the better. However, more power doesn't always produce louder or the more precise audio. The ability of the speaker to efficiently translate the power to booming sound is called sensitivity, and it's measured in decibels (dB). Higher sensitivity rating means you will be able to get away even with the lower RMS power handling.
Q: How does what I want to listen to influence what I should get?
A: The different types of music put different requirements on the speakers, and although they are primarily concerned with lower frequencies and bass lines, subwoofers are really no different. Here’s a short breakdown of the different sub sizes and appropriate music genres:
8-inch – Country, punk, alternative, classic rock, drum n bass
10-inch – Heavy metal, pop, jazz, blues
12-inch - Rap, house, RnB, funk, dance
15-inch – Dubstep, hip hop, rap, EDM
Q: Do I need to hire a professional to install my subwoofer?
A: Well, unless you are highly experienced in the car customization, that would be the best idea. Still, take some time to learn the ways to upgrade your vehicle yourself. It's an incredibly exciting hobby that will keep you hooked for the rest of your life.
After it's all said and done, we recommend:
As you can see from my review, passing the title of the best 12-inch subwoofer to some of these products was extremely hard. All of them have their unique strengths and deserve their piece of the market cake. However, only one of them can be my number one, so I eventually went with Rockford Fosgate P3D4-12 Punch P3. It features the best all-around specs, produces incredibly satisfying bass and packs just enough versatility to edge out the competition. Hat’s off to the winner.