For bass heads, no car stereo is complete without a good aftermarket subwoofer. A quality aftermarket subwoofer allows you to enjoy very low frequencies up to 20 Hz and sometimes even lower. Furthermore, a subwoofer helps to open up the soundstage to a level that standard car speakers might struggle to achieve.
However, for your subwoofer to live to its full potential, you’ll need to choose the right type of enclosure before placing the sub in the trunk. A subwoofer box is designed to prevent sound waves from interfering with the driver’s cone, which is key to better bass.
Ideally, a subwoofer box helps regulate the movement of air in and out of the box, thus resulting in a powerful bass. Without the enclosure, the subwoofer rarely delivers tight bass, and it compromises your chances of enjoying some cool bass.
In this article, we’ll help you familiarize yourself with a sealed box vs ported box to help you evaluate which is the best subwoofer box for your application. So if you’ve wondering been wondering what’s the difference between ported and sealed box, we have the answers for you!
An Overview of Sealed Subwoofer Enclosure
A sealed enclosure, just as the name suggests, is completely sealed to add a new layer to your bass. Generally, sealed enclosures do not come with any port or vent, a design that facilitates tighter bass response. The interaction between the woofer cone and trapped air allows the subwoofer to provide a near-flat frequency response and extended bass response.
The trapped air also acts as a shock absorber while allowing the woofer cone to move back and forth in a more controlled manner. A sealed enclosure also ensures that there will be no movement of air in or out of the subwoofer, thus ensuring that you get to enjoy much tighter bass.
Generally, a sealed sub box is effortless to build since there is no port to configure. This also means that it is easy to integrate into the trunk and basically any listening environment without resulting in a noticeable visual impact.
The major downside of having a sealed subwoofer box in the trunk is that it tends to be more power-hungry. A sealed subwoofer box provides a tighter bass, so you’ll need a more powerful amplifier to sustain the sound quality. In addition, the air pressure inside the sealed box makes it hard for the cone to move with ease and reproduce sound.
Advantages of sealed subwoofer boxes
- Most sealed subs are compact in nature so they won’t take up much space in your car trunk
- They are also cheaper
- Tighter bass
- Easy to build
Disadvantages of sealed subwoofer boxes
- Sealed subwoofers need more power for maximum performance
- Not as boomy
What’s a Ported Subwoofer Enclosure?
Ported enclosures come with a small hole/vent at the front or back of the box, which helps to relieve the pressure inside the box. Ported subwoofers also utilize this vent to enhance and add more punch to the bass output. The port also helps redirect both the sound coming from the rear and front of the cone, thus resulting in a more pronounced bass.
Generally, the interaction of air pressure between inside and outside of the subwoofer results in an increase in bass output. This means that ported enclosures play louder than their sealed counterpart, making them popular for music genres that require more bass, such as rap, rock, heavy metal, and hip hop.
Another obvious advantage of a ported subwoofer is that it allows the cone to move more freely while allowing it to run cooler than most sealed units. It is also critical to highlight that a ported enclosure requires a considerably smaller amplifier to drive the subwoofer, thereby increasing its efficiency.
However, the main downside of ported enclosures is that they are not as accurate and tight as is the case with a sealed box. Generally, ported enclosures are also more complex to build since you have to take into account the port measurements.
If port tuning is done incorrectly, the box will be prone to port noise or worse still lead to cone damage or failure. What’s more ported enclosures are generally bulkier than ported subwoofers, so they might not fit in all vehicles.
Advantages of ported subwoofer boxes
- Great power handling—ported subwoofers do not require much power
- Boomy and loud bass
- The bass is also stronger
Disadvantages of ported subwoofer boxes
- Bass is less accurate
- Requires more space – may not be the most ideal option for small vehicles
- Complex design and relatively harder to tune
Ported vs Sealed Subwoofer Box—Which is Better?
Ideally, sealed enclosures are best suited for small-to-medium-sized cars or those who aren’t willing to sacrifice space in the trunk. A sealed subwoofer also gives an assurance of tight bass that is also more accurate than that of its ported counterpart.
They are also considered a more economical option, especially when working with a single subwoofer. In addition, a sealed subwoofer is a good choice for bass lovers with little car spaces or those looking to save more space in the storage compartment.
On the other hand, ported subwoofer boxes are ideal for car audio enthusiasts who enjoy playing loud music or those who have extra space to spare. So, if you’re looking forward to participating in some kind of bass competition using your car, a ported sub is the way to go.
Ported enclosures are specially designed to deliver head-turning bass, but the sound quality is much on the lower side compared to a sealed setup. For instance, when working with a music genre like rock, a sealed sub will let you enjoy a more emphatic performance while allowing you to experience every note more accurately. On the contrary, a ported sub will play more loudly, but it may occasionally miss some key elements.
Ultimately each type of subwoofer box delivers different results with different genres of music. So before deciding which design is best for you, you may want to evaluate your sound requirements, available power options, and even budget projections.
And since each subwoofer box provides some good bass performance depending on set criteria, the debate of sealed vs ported subwoofer is an inconclusive one, and we may not be in a position to expressly state which is better between the two designs. We, therefore, leave you to make an informed decision based on your preferences.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Does a ported subwoofer enclosure hit harder than a sealed enclosure?
Yes. Ported subwoofers are typically louder than sealed ones. This is attributed to the vent that allows air to escape from the subwoofer box. However, sealed subwoofer boxes still provide an enhanced bass experience thanks to their accurate bass response.
Q: Which way should the subwoofer port face in the trunk?
For the best bass performance, it is crucial to place the sub in the most ideal spot and face the port in the direction that will deliver the most bass. The most preferred subwoofer positioning in the trunk is facing the port away from the driver and passenger’s seats. Please read our comprehensive guide for more insights on which way to face the subwoofer in the trunk.
The Bottom Line
Choosing between a sealed enclosure vs ported depends on a range of factors, including the space you have in your trunk, the kind of music you love to listen to, your budget, among other considerations. Additionally, your personal preference is going to play a significant role in determining your choice of subwoofer box.
If you are not a fan of subwoofer boxes, a free-air subwoofer is yet another subwoofer design that’s worth considering. A free air subwoofer is designed to deliver maximum bass without requiring a subwoofer box, and the good thing is that you can use your trunk as the infinite baffle.