Best Shallow Mount Subwoofer in 2021: Compact But Mighty
Let me tell you a little story about how I got my first shallow mount subwoofer:
I went and bought a truck – a used one, for that matter – and much like any other vehicle of its kind, it had a less-than-stellar audio system. Okay, I'll be sincere – it was terrible.
So, I tried to do something about it.
I started browsing the market in search of something capable of delivering thundering bass, but all I found were subwoofer boxes that would never fit inside my truck – not unless I was willing to sacrifice boot space to set it up.
And then I found it:
The best shallow mount subwoofer of my dreams – oh-so-compact, yet powerful enough to make my poor truck’s doors rattle!
Then stick around – I might have something similar in store for you!
In a hurry? The test winner after 27 hours of research:
PIONEER TS-SW2502S4 10-Inch Shallow-Mount Subwoofer
Why is it better?
Last Updated: June 1, 2021
By Barry Allen: This article has been updated to reflect the most accurate information regarding best shallow mount subwoofers available for those who are interested in boosting their car cockpit audio performance. The best 5 available have changed, and information has been added to assist individuals in finding the current shallow mount subwoofers currently available on the market. The FAQ has also been updated.
- Best Shallow Mount Subwoofers: Top 6 Table
- Best Shallow Mount Subwoofers Reviews
- 1. Best 8-Inch Shallow Mount Subwoofer: PIONEER TS-SW2502S4 10-Inch
- 2. Rockford Fosgate P3SD2-8 8" Punch Series Shallow Mount Subwoofer
- 3. Best 10-Inch Shallow Mount Subwoofer: Alpine SWR-T10
- 4. JL Audio 10TW3-D4 Shallow Mount Subwoofer
- 5. Best 12-Inch Shallow Mount Subwoofer: Kenwood Excelon KFC-XW1200F
- 6. Skar Audio VD-12 D2 12" Subwoofer
- Buyer’s Guide: How To Pick The Best Shallow Mount Subwoofer
- After it's all said and done, we recommend:
Best Shallow Mount Subwoofers: Top 6 Table
PIONEER TS-SW2502S4 10-Inch Shallow-Mount Subwoofer
20 – 125 Hz
Rockford Fosgate P3SD2-8 8" Punch Series Shallow Mount Subwoofer
38 - 250 Hz
Alpine SWR-T10 10-Inch Shallow Mount Subwoofer
25 – 200 Hz
JL Audio 10TW3-D4
24 - 200 Hz
Kenwood Excelon KFC-XW1200F Shallow Mount Subwoofer
30 - 700 Hz
Skar Audio VD-12 D2 12" Shallow Mount Subwoofer
25 - 300 Hz
Best Shallow Mount Subwoofers Reviews
Now that you’ve had a chance to go over the basics, it’s time to get up close and personal with the best shallow mount subwoofers on the market!
1. Best 8-Inch Shallow Mount Subwoofer: PIONEER TS-SW2502S4 10-Inch
Our Rating: 87/100
I think we can all agree that Pioneer is one of the most easily recognizable names in the audio equipment industry – and the car audio market, in particular.
Designed to fit – and perform – where a traditional, hefty subwoofer can’t, the Pioneer TS-SW2502S4 is a prime example of everything that this brand can do.
I mean, can you honestly say that you’re shocked to see it right at the very top of my list of the best shallow-mount subwoofers?
Yeah, I didn’t so.
Much like the rest of the line, it’s designed to give you more installation options – and in a wide range of vehicles, too. Pioneer went above and beyond to make this shallow-mount subwoofer as slim as possible without affecting its powerful sound.
So, the compact, space-saving design that requires a mounting depth of merely 3.1 inches shouldn’t come as a shock.
What is outstanding about it, though, is the oversized cone structure. The large cone and gasket surfaces are there to ensure that the subwoofer’s capable of moving more air without changes to its external dimensions.
The highly-rigid, 10-inch cone is constructed out of MICA injection-molded resin, which, as you’ll see later, is a considerable plus performance-wise.
If you’re working with a tight space where every inch counts, you’ll be glad to know that it requires an enclosure of 0.35 to 0.70 cubic feet, depending on whether you opt for a sealed or ported one.
Now, this is where that oversized, reinforced cone structure I previously mentioned comes to play:
The oversized nature of the cone allows the subwoofer to pump out insane amounts of sound and deliver bass levels comparable to those of a full-sized sub by merely moving more air. And with the added rigidness, it’s able to maintain accuracy and clarity, and quite a bit of depth, at all volume levels.
It has an excellent frequency response range, too, hitting the perfect lower-end limit of 20 Hz, which is impressive for any subwoofer – let alone one as that’s as compact as this. Granted, it tops at 125 Hz, but after putting it to the test, I can say that there’s no room for complaints there.
Add the RMS power of 300 watts – and peak power of 1200 watts – and the 91-dB sensitivity into the mix, and you know that you’re in for quite a treat. It has the potential to go crazy loud, if that’s what you like – and hits hard, too.
Overall, if you want to up your bass game – but don’t have a lot of room to work with – the Pioneer TS-SW2502S4 might be an excellent fit.
2. Rockford Fosgate P3SD2-8 8" Punch Series Shallow Mount Subwoofer
The P3SD2 might be one of the most compact subwoofers of the Rockford Fosgate’s entire Punch Series, but don’t let that fool you – it hits much harder than what you’d expect from a speaker its size.
Anyway, if you’re trying to improve your car’s sound system, but don’t have a lot of spare space at your disposal, I highly recommend getting this 8-inch shallow mount subwoofer.
Granted, it costs a fair bit more than the previous model, but I’d say it’s worth it – you’ll find out why soon enough!
I already told you that the P3SD2 is the smallest in its line, so the fact that it features a mounting depth of fewer than three inches – 2.66 inches, to be precise – shouldn’t come as a surprise. It’s designed to fit where most other subwoofers couldn’t, and it does so perfectly:
A sealed enclosure installed behind a car seat or in door panels – whichever spot you pick, you’ll barely notice that it’s there.
Construction-wise, it combines a hybrid stamp-cast basket with an anodized aluminum cone and dust cap, and nickel-plated push terminals in its design. Plus, it comes with a unique spider venting system that keeps the motor cool even when you’re pushing the sub to the max.
Considering that it has a power of 150 watts – with 300 watts of peak power – it’s not as impressive as some other subwoofers I’ll talk about today. Even more so, its 82-dB sensitivity is nothing to call home about, either.
Does that mean that it’s not worth recommending, though?
Absolutely not; it still manages to add depth to your music with its tight-sounding bass.
I mean, sure, it can’t quite compare to its larger relatives – you won’t have your socks knocked off with bone-rattling bass notes – but it’s perfect for adding some balance to your current sound system.
It’s punchy and responsive, and it does produce sharp and pronounced distortion-free bass – just not as much as a larger-sized sub. Plus, it gives you – and your amplifier – some freedom wiring-wise with its dual 2-Ohm voice coil configuration.
All in all, as long as you keep your expectations in check, though, I think you’ll be pretty impressed with it.
3. Best 10-Inch Shallow Mount Subwoofer: Alpine SWR-T10
If you’re working with a limited subwoofer-shopping budget here, you should probably scratch this one off your list, and move on – the Alpine SWR-T10 is a lot of things, but budget-friendly isn’t one of them.
However, if you’re okay with paying a bit more to get one of the best 10-inch shallow mount subwoofers on the market, then you might want to stick around and see if it’s genuinely worth the money.
Let’s check it out!
I want to start with the build materials used in Alpine SWR-T10’s construction:
This model comes fitted with an aluminum woofer cone, lightweight, yet rigid enough to improve its responsiveness.
The cone is nested within a Santoprene rubber surround, which adds to its overall durability – and makes the cone more flexible, too.
Another notable aspect of its design – something unique to Type-R subwoofers – is the finned aluminum heat sink that ensures rapid heat dissipation and keeps the subwoofer cool even when you push it to the max.
And all that fits within a frame compact enough to require no more than 3.25 inches of mounting depth.
How about that?
Thanks to its outstanding power ratings, you’re bound to turn some heads with these shallow Alpine speakers. The 600-watt RMS power doesn’t even begin to cover it – this thing can go all the way up to 1800 watts at its peak power! It comes with 83-dB sensitivity, which, although not as impressive, still packs a punch when combined with the sheer power-handling abilities of these shallow mount speakers.
The frequency response clocks in at 28 Hz in the lower end, and goes up to 200 Hz – not ideal, but still dips below the 30-Hz limit, so I’ll let it slide. Plus, I have no reason to complain – the sound it produced was nothing short of amazing:
It gets super loud and hits extra hard – but also does an excellent job at maintaining richness and clarity of sound. It’s ridiculous what it does for a driver its size!
So, if you want a top-of-the-line shallow mount subwoofer ready to go above and beyond to ensure impressive bass response – without compromising its small footprint – you probably won’t find many that can compete with the SWR-T10.
4. JL Audio 10TW3-D4 Shallow Mount Subwoofer
Another not-so-affordable option – but one that’s certainly worth considering – is the JL Audio 10TW3-D4:
A member of the Thin-Line Series, with a super shallow design, robust construction with quality materials, and solid bass, it’s a 10-inch subwoofer to keep an eye on in this race.
And here’s why!
Measuring approximately 10 x 3.25 inches, it’s pretty evident that this 10-inch sub belongs to the JL Audio’s Thin-Line Series.
Its mounting depth is no more than 3.25 inches so that it won’t take up a lot of space. I’d say that the patented Concentric Tube construction is the key feature that gives it its outstandingly compressed depth.
Another thing I noticed – besides its ultra-shallow design, that is – was how well-made it felt. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, though – JL Audio is known for using nothing but quality components and materials for its speakers.
At its very core, it features a molded, MICA-filled polypropylene cone, combined with a rubber surround, and a cast alloy frame. Both the dust cap and the rear cap are made of aluminum alloy, and “decorated” with nothing but a simple JL Audio logo.
My only gripe is, and always will be that it has a single voice coil – what a bummer, huh?
I know I’ve pointed out its small stature more than once, so let me get one thing straight:
Wait until you install it in your car and turn up the volume. I can pretty guarantee that you’ll be surprised by its sound.
It can produce quite deep and solid bass, while also remaining super clean and crisp – but that’s something to be expected from JL Audio’s 10-inch drivers. What I didn’t expect, though, was that its ability to rattle a few bones when pushed to the limit!
Its design is a massive part of it – the cone’s ability to withstand resonance during prolonged use, and the ability to move large amounts of air, are nothing short of impressive.
I was somewhat disappointed with its 82-dB sensitivity, though – I guess I expected more from it at this price point.
On the plus side, the RMS rating of 400 watts does make up for it to an extent – hopefully enough not to write it off your list just yet.
5. Best 12-Inch Shallow Mount Subwoofer: Kenwood Excelon KFC-XW1200F
If you’re looking for a single 12-inch shallow mount subwoofer that will rock your world without necessarily burning a hole in your wallet along the way, look no further – I think you’re going to love the Kenwood Excelon KFC-W1200F.
What makes it so unique, you ask?
Well, stick around and find out!
Durability and construction quality are, by far, some of Kenwood Excelon’s most notable features, combining carbon-glass fiber, butyl rubber, and cast aluminum in its design:
This single voice coil 12-inch subwoofer features a composite cone made of carbon-glass fiber, complete with a unique honeycomb pattern. The cone is followed up by a firm butyl rubber surround, and a robust, cast aluminum basket.
Together, these features work to improve the responsiveness of subwoofers while also keeping distortion and resonance to a minimum. Plus, they amount to improved heat distribution, even when you’re pushing it to its limits.
As for mounting depth, at nearly four inches, it sits a bit deeper than you’d expect from the best shallow mount subwoofers. It still maintains a shallow footprint, though, and is slim enough for all applications.
So, I won’t hold it against it.
Overall, you won’t have to worry about its durability, quality of construction, or even weight for that matter – it all checks out.
Boasting 350 watts of RMS power – with its peak power spiking up to 1400 watts – the power ratings of these subwoofers are nothing short of amazing.
Here’s where it gets even better:
That wattage is further coupled with 91-dB sensitivity. So, yes, it’s safe to say that this 12-inch Kenwood subwoofer gets pretty darn loud!
Frequency-wise, it ranges from 30 to 700 Hz:
While I do appreciate the relatively wide frequency range – for a sub, that is – I wish that they sacrificed some of its higher range if it meant going a bit lower. Don’t get me wrong; 30 Hz in the lower end is still good enough. But, you’d be surprised to hear how much of a difference dipping below that limit could make.
It is what it is, though, and honestly, I can’t complain about its performance:
Bass hits hard and goes deep while remaining tight and clean throughout the lower range. It’s easily one of the cleanest sounding subwoofers in its price range – and one of the best subwoofers for trucks, too.
6. Skar Audio VD-12 D2 12" Subwoofer
Our Rating: 84/100
Skar Audio still has a long way ahead of it until it catches up with some of the other brands you’ve seen today. That doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve a spot in my round-up of the best shallow mount subwoofers, though.
So, last one up is a 12-inch shallow mount subwoofer coming from Skar Audio – the VD-12 D2. And I saved it for last to give you one more budget-friendly option before I wrap things up.
Do all the budget cuts made in the production amount to lower-quality subwoofers?
Let’s check it out together!
I wasn’t too thrilled about its not so shallow mounting depth of 4.92 inches – I think that we can pretty much agree that there are some far slimmer subwoofers on the market right now. So, yes, it might be a bit bulky, but that, in my opinion, is something to be expected from Skar Audio’s ambitious designs.
A competition-grade pressed paper cone and a high-roll foam surround, as well as a single-stack ferrite magnet, are a part of this bulky design. And I know that pressed paper doesn’t sound as cool as molded resin or aluminum, but believe me, it holds its ground.
Despite these small gripes I have with its design, I still consider it an excellent subwoofer for truck.
As mentioned previously, the VD-12 D2 is one of those small, pocket-friendly upgrades you could make in your trucks' audio system.
The subwoofer features RMS power of 500 watts, coupled with 86.7-dB sensitivity, which, in itself, tells you a bit about how loud it can get during everyday use.
You could push it to 800 watts – but keep in mind that we’re talking about peak power ratings here.
The frequency response range of 25 Hz to 300 Hz is yet another good indicator of its performance – it’s capable of diving much deeper than some far more expensive subwoofers you’ve seen today.
So, yes, it hits nice, and produces deep, accurate bass – at times, it hits the lower ranges with such power, that you not only hear it but feel it, too. It does need a short break-in period, though, so be patient with it.
Buyer’s Guide: How To Pick The Best Shallow Mount Subwoofer
So, you’ve seen what the market has to offer, which means that there’s a big decision ahead of you:
Which one of these will be the best shallow mount subwoofer for your setup?
Well, the thing is, a subwoofer is only as good as its components and specifications are. And while it’s far from rocket science, particular factors might be a bit confusing, especially for an inexperienced shopper.
To spare you the headache of comparing all these different options and trying to figure out what is what, I took the time to put together the ultimate shallow mount subwoofer buying guide for you!
With subwoofers, it’s all about power – you can’t get that booming sound without it.
But here’s the tricky part:
All subwoofers have two different power specifications, RMS and peak power ratings, and you’ll have to pay attention to both.
The RMS refers to the subwoofer’s continuous power – what it can handle during prolonged use, without running the risk of damage – and is a pretty good indicator of how powerful the subwoofer is realistically speaking.
Peak power, however, refers to the peak wattage that the subwoofer could reach during short bursts.
Sensitivity is another key factor here – in fact, it’s the second most important spec to consider, besides the subwoofer’s actual power.
So, what is a subwoofer’s sensitivity – and why does it matter so much?
Directly related to loudness, this rating measures the efficiency of subwoofers in converting power into volume. It’s measured in decibels (dB), and yes, you should aim to get as high of a rating as you possibly can – the higher the sensitivity, the better the output volume:
Driven by a set amount of power, subwoofers with higher sensitivity should be able to produce much higher volume levels than their low-sensitivity counterparts.
Granted, it mostly matters if you don’t have an external amplifier – if you do, you could get away with using a subwoofer with a slightly lower sensitivity.
Measured in hertz (Hz), frequency range refers to the speaker’s ability to produce sound within a specific field – an indicator of its frequency limits, if you will. And sure, speaking in broad terms, the more extensive the frequency range, the more versatile the speaker.
However, we’re talking about subwoofers here – and that means that you should focus your attention on their low-end
A broad frequency range is less of a concern here:
The key to a good subwoofer isn’t in its ability to cover the full range of human hearing – it’s in its ability to produce accurate low-frequency sounds.
And since the focus is on the lower end of the sound spectrum, you should aim to get a subwoofer that hits the lowest possible end of the frequency range and dips down to 20 to 30 Hz.
When it comes to subwoofer speakers, size does matter. The choice among 8-inch, 10-inch, and 12-inch subwoofers will arguably be one of the most important decisions you’ll make while shopping for a new shallow mount subwoofer.
The most compact out of the bunch, 8-inch shallow mount subwoofers are known for their responsive and punchy sound – and are an excellent choice for those who mostly listen to fast-paced music.
The 10-inch subwoofers are considered the middle ground – they add balance to your sound system, and pack enough bass without coming off as overwhelming. Being so well-rounded, these 10-inch shallow mount subwoofers are always a safe bet, so be sure to check them out.
If you prefer thundering, bone-rattling bass that will turn heads wherever you go, you should probably opt for 12-inch shallow mount subwoofers. Due to their exceptional versatility, more extensive frequency coverage, and strong bass production, they’re a massive hit among music enthusiasts.
On that note, impedance is the measurement of how easily the subwoofer will translate these signals coming from the amplifier into actual sound – or how much resistance it’s bringing into the system.
I’m going to spare you the unnecessary details here, and get straight to the point:
Most subwoofers you’ll come across in your search will most likely have either 4-Ohm or 2-Ohm impedance – and in some instances, you might even find 8-Ohm options. Now’s probably a good time to mention that there are speakers that will let you switch between different impedance ratings, as well.
Every amplifier is designed to work with specific impedance, so this isn’t necessarily a matter of what’s better – there are purely technical ratings, and if anything, they dictate the subwoofer’s compatibility:
The key is to find what works with your amplifier.
Number Of Voice Coils
You have two options here – you can either go with a single or dual voice coil subwoofer configuration.
What’s the difference, you ask?
Well, with a dual voice coil, you’re getting a bit more freedom and flexibility with your wiring configuration, since you
can wire these subwoofers in both parallel and series setups. Plus, they make the most of the amplifier and its available power.
Single voice coil subwoofers, on the other hand, are your recommended option for upgrading your audio system on a budget.
After it's all said and done, we recommend:
PIONEER TS-SW2502S4 10-Inch Shallow-Mount Subwoofer
Why is it better?
I always recommend that you make that final choice your own. After all, you know your preferences, and your existing audio system better than anyone, so you can probably tell which of these would be a good fit. But you know me – I have to give my two cents before I wrap things up.
After weighing all the strengths and weaknesses of the speakers I’ve shown you today, I can confidently say that my vote goes to the Pioneer TS-SW2002D2 8-inch Shallow-Mount Subwoofer – it’s the best shallow mount subwoofer out of the bunch.