One of the biggest arguments between car audio lovers, that I see on a daily basis, is if the enclosure really makes a difference when it comes to output? This subject comes up constantly when individuals start their “brand bashing.” Does the brand of your subwoofer matter, or will the right enclosure make any subwoofer perform despite brand?
In this post, we’ll look at how subwoofer enclosure design and placement will affect how your subwoofer sounds and pounds. We will also look into some other tips (bending the rules) to get the most output of your subwoofer setup.
The Perfect Scenario
For subwoofer output, the perfect scenario would be to build an enclosure that meets the parameters set forth by the sub’s manufacturer, to obtain optimum performance from said subwoofer. In reality, we know that this isn’t always the case. There are plenty of variables, like available space and vehicle type, that will determine how we need to build our enclosure and there’s bound to be a roadblock or two in our way. This is why we, as car audio addicts, need to find creative ways to “cheat the system” in order to get our subwoofers to sound the way we want.
Manufacturer Enclosure Specs: Are They Set In Stone?
When you look at the enclosure specifications given by the manufacturer, do you see them as gospel or a rigid set of specs? If so, you may find yourself scratching your head when your subwoofer doesn’t sound the way you think it should. This can be for many reasons, as I stated in the previous paragraph. For myself, I see the manufacturer’s subwoofer enclosure requirements as just a guideline for the enclosure. The specifications do not have to be as written by the manufacturer, so loosen up a bit. In the following few paragraphs, I’ll explain why this is my thinking process behind their “specs.”
In my experience in building subwoofer enclosures for myself and others, I’ve found that building a box is a tad bigger (roughly 15%) than the recommended volume, given the space, of course, you can make the subwoofer perform a little more efficiently. This efficiency translates into more output per watt of power, or for those non-technical people, more bass on the same power, or a little less. Of course, there is a caveat to this thinking. Build the box too big, and you can kiss your subwoofer goodbye. I’ve witnessed many subwoofers meet their demise simply because the enclosure was way too big. And even though the owner had their system properly tuned and sending clean, correct power to their subs, they still burned up. Also, going any further than about 15% larger than spec, you will begin to diminish the subwoofer’s performance and the sound will suffer.
What If There Is Not Enough Space?
Can a big subwoofer live at peace in a smaller-then-recommended enclosure? Some will say no, but I disagree. When you’ve done all the calculations and find out that your vehicle cannot support the optimal size enclosure for your subwoofer, what do you do? I guess you can throw everything away and forget your system, or, you can build the enclosure as you calculated, then add a little more power to your subwoofer to compensate for the loss in overall volume. Problem solved.
Enclosure Cheat Sheet
This post includes a few ways to make an enclosure work regardless of it is within manufacturer specifications or not. Here is a quick list of ways to cheat the enclosure building system to get your subwoofer to sound great and still perform the way it was designed.
- Make the box bigger. Adding a little volume to the enclosure will make your subwoofer more efficient and increase its output on its recommended power or a little less, but be cautious. There is still the possibility of building the enclosure too big, which will lessen your subwoofer’s performance or cause damage.
- Enclosure too small, or less than optimal volume. Keep in mind, the enclosure cannot be extremely smaller than what is necessary for your subwoofer to function properly. If the enclosure is too small, the subwoofer will be unable to move through its full range, thus making the voice coils overheat. But, if the enclosure is within a reasonable volume, you can simply add a little more power than recommended to help the subwoofer overcome the lack of interior enclosure volume.
- If your enclosure is as small as it can be made already and it just isn’t tuned to where you would like it. You can simply decrease the port area to compensate for the lack of interior enclosure volume. This “cheat” can be a tricky one. The reason? If the port area decreases by too much, you will increase port noise. Also, it can have a detrimental effect on subwoofer performance.
- Think about subwoofer and port placement. Depending on vehicle type, the placement of both the subwoofers and the enclosure’s port(s) will have a lasting effect on output. Some vehicles prefer subwoofers facing up with a rear-firing port, and others prefer subwoofers and port rear-facing. Experiment with placement within your vehicle. You’ll find that changing things up may add to your overall bass experience.
The way your subwoofer enclosure is built will have an effect on the overall performance of your subwoofer. But, if the variables are not in your favor, there are several things you can try to “cheat the system” and make an unfavorable enclosure function the way you want it to.
Another option to consider. If you don’t want to build or design your own subwoofer enclosure, let Down4Sound Shop do it for you. We have our “Pro-Fab” enclosure line ready for you to throw your subwoofers into and boom right away, or we can build you a custom enclosure that meets all of your needs. Either way, we have you covered.
I hope this post has given you some ideas as to how to adjust your enclosure design and work with what you have rather than going back to the drawing board. If you have any other suggestions or comments, please leave them below.