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Decisions about your car’s sound system shouldn’t be made lightly! Choosing the specs that are right for you and your vehicle is serious business, and you should consider all the angles before you buy any component, especially when it comes to subwoofers.
Your choice of subwoofers is ultimately about what fits your preferences and lifestyle. What kind of music do you like on your speakers while you’re cruising through town or on the highway? What kind of vehicle do you drive and how much room do you have in it? And how much power can your audio system handle to produce the best quality sound? All of these questions come down to this: Do you get a 12-inch subwoofer or a 15-inch subwoofer?
Deciding between a 12-inch and a 15-inch subwoofer really doesn’t come down just to those three inches. Both sizes can give you high quality sound if they’re the right fit for your car, correctly installed, and sufficiently powered. It really comes down to a couple of things: Air displacement and frequency. Sound is carried through the air, and a 15-inch subwoofer displaces more air than a 12-inch subwoofer does. That’s particularly important if you’re interested in a bass “response,” which means how well a speaker can present lower-frequency sounds. The bigger subwoofers have the ability to deliver lower-frequency sounds better than the smaller ones, which is important if you’re into bass-oriented music like hip-hop or rap, which rely on the low end of the frequency spectrum.
This does not mean that a 12-inch can’t give you good bass sound—it just means that it shares the stage with the higher-frequencies, presenting a fuller spectrum of sound. A 12-inch resonance is crisper and sharper and accommodates the more delicate sounds that are carried on higher frequencies; if your style of music isn’t bass-oriented, the 12-inch is the one for you.
All things being equal, the cars we drive aren’t equal. Some are bigger than others. That’s an important distinction to remember when choosing subwoofers.
Obviously, you need sufficient room in the cab of your car to accommodate your audio system. So the first rule-of-thumb is space: the 15-inch varieties require more space to fit and they can overcrowd a smaller vehicle. And, since the larger one displaces more air, that air needs room to travel to deliver a neat bass sound—excess of deep sound in a small area is not as enjoyable. The 15-inches may also be more difficult to install than the 12-inch subwoofers. On the other hand, even a neat sound from a 12-inch may be lost in a large space, especially the deeper tones. Larger vehicles, such as SUVs and trucks, may simply give the sound more room to vibrate. Moreover, your car’s interior is something else to consider: Some structures are more appealing to the 15s than others. Don't forget you need a little room for your passengers to relax while they enjoy your music, for crying out loud.
You may have noticed that a lot of subwoofers are advertised by their wattage. You do have a lot of choices about how much power your subwoofer can crank out, but you need to choose wisely: More power isn’t necessarily better. There are two kinds of power to consider when selecting subwoofers: RMS Power (Root Mean Square), and Peak Power. RMS refers to the amount of power that is continuously going through your speaker, whereas Peak Power is the short bursts of sound, like deep bass guitar, that require higher wattage to produce a neat cadence. (Peak Power is often the one you hear about the most, but it doesn’t mean that it’s the most important). If there’s too much difference between RMS and Peak Power, it can result in sound distortion, and the wrong amount of wattage can actually damage your system. Most 12-inch systems start around 400-500 watts, while the 15-inch can range up to 2,000 watts or even more. Ironically, 12-systems usually cost a bit more than the 15s, since they produce a finer quality of sound for all frequencies. But there really isn’t a big difference in price, so you shouldn’t base your decision on that particular aspect.
That’s a pretty simple equation, but it may not be quite as easy as you think. Genius Audio can help. We have some of the best sound specialists around to help you select what’s perfect for you. Then you can count on us to get you the best quality products available. Regardless of what you need for your car audio system—car audio amplifiers, speakers, car audio tweeters, head units, and car audio dsp—Genius has it all, and at amazing prices. After all, as a car audio enthusiast you spend a lot of time in your car; you need the best equipment to enjoy your time there.