You are here because you wish to gain some insight into what might be the best free air subwoofer available to you.
For whatever reason, you don't wish to install an enclosed subwoofer in your trunk. Perhaps you don't wish to take up the trunk space with a box, as you would like to use most of your trunk for it's *gasp* intended purpose - transporting stuff.
If that's the case, you're in luck:
You can still have yourself some satisfyingly accurate, crisp bass, with a number of options: a Shallow Mount subwoofer, a Powered subwoofer; or, a third and equally viable option, a Free Air Subwoofer. The following is a look at what the best free air subwoofer has to offer.
What Is A Free Air Subwoofer?
Free Air Subwoofers are subwoofers designed to work efficiently in a large sealed enclosure, ie. without the use of a sealed box.
A Free Air Subwoofer is typically designed to be mounted on the rear deck of your trunk, or right behind your rear seats.
The benefit of this type of subwoofer is that it is much simpler to install than it's boxed counterparts. Perfect for those of us who wish to avoid the hassle of building and/or buying and fitting a boxed subwoofer (and the added downside of having to carry extra weight).
And, of course, as highlighted in in the introduction, a huge benefit is the freeing up of your trunk for other uses - storing items for a long trip, carrying your groceries, etc.
With a Free Air Subwoofer, the whole idea is that the trunk itself will act as the enclosure or 'box'. That is because Free Air Subwoofers work in an infinite baffle situation.
What Is Infinite Baffle?
Simply put, Infinite Baffle (or IB) is a general term used for larger than usual sealed enclosures. In car audio speak, we are typically referring to the full space of your car's trunk.
Although not ideal, for certain situations, free air subwoofers can also be mounted in a door panel, making the door itself the enclosure.
It's worth noting, the trunk (or door) should be well isolated from the cabin space for a truly optimal sound. Sound leakage will impact the deepness of your bass output.
Rattling can also be an issue if you like to crank up the volume, but certain materials (such a foam strips) can be used to dampen any stubborn vibration.
It's also worth nothing that a free air subwoofer will not suit every trunk. Typically, they work best in sedan type vehicles.
Free Air vs Sealed
So, you're probably wondering how free air enclosures fare against sealed enclosures.
A free air sub's efficiency can vary between brands but, generally speaking, produce a lower output compared to a sealed sub. The main difference between the two is that a free air subwoofer gets it's damping from your car's suspension as opposed to the air pressure within a box with a sealed sub.
Broadly speaking, a sealed subwoofer will produce a deeper and more responsive sound output than a free air subwoofer, albeit at the cost of trunk space.
Additionally, filling your trunk will naturally impact you free air subwoofer's sound output - but, assuming your trunk is usually empty, shouldn't be a huge deal.
Of course, the quality can also vary based on the type of subwoofer you choose, so it's important to choose wisely.
What To Look For
Certain subwoofers have specific characteristics depending on what kind of space they are designed for. While there can be some overlap between subwoofers suitable for free air or closed environments, you definitely want to consider subwoofers that are designed to work for your specific enclosure.
For example, one characteristic of a sub designed for Free Air use is that it will tend to have stiffer suspension.
Fortunately, there are definitely some great subwoofers that do produce some accurate and crispy clean bass even in Free Air spaces, but one in particular seems to stand out:
Our Choice For Best Free Air Subwoofer:
Designed in 2010, yet still a favorite today, the hugely popular Kicker Comp 12 inch subwoofer is built with both quality and value in mind. The sub manages to deliver excellent bang for buck, and some satisfyingly hard hitting bass.
Sporting the classic yellow logo and double stitching, this Kicker 10C124 subwoofer consists of a thick woofer cone, strong steel 360-degree back bracing, with coil-cooling perimeter venting. Simply put, we are talking about the type of durable construction you'd expect from Kicker.
The subwoofer measures at 12 inches (although it also comes in other sizes) and is capable of handling a fairly sufficient 150 Watts RMS with 300 Watts Peak. Furthermore, with it's 4 Ohm impedance - it's certainly compatible with most amplifiers out there.
Importantly, while this subwoofer is a great choice for both sealed and ported enclosures. It's also an excellent sub for your free air setup, and for this reason is our favorite choice for such an environment.
Finally, retailing at about $65, this sub should fit into most people's budgets. You can hardly expect a competition subwoofer at this price range, but the value provided by this subwoofer makes it a popular choice for good reason, and is a perfect choice for any factory upgrade.