Brandon Hart writes about technology, including about gaming and building computers.
I began working in a car audio installation store before I even learned to drive. That passion has taken me from getting my car to thump as loud as I could to now having a good amount of sound, and most importantly for me, quality.
That said, if you're coming here looking for a good 12-inch sub recommendation, then you're probably looking for either a good sound quality or SQ subwoofer or an SPL or sound pressure level sub. SPL subwoofers are for those of you who want as much impact and feel to your bass as possible.
Rockford Fosgate P3D4-12 Punch Subwoofer
If you're looking for a sub for around $150, the Rockford Fosgate P3D4-12 Punch is the place you should start. It gives you better value than many of those store options twice its price.
I love the sound. It's fantastic. If you're looking to thump, the punch rattles. Better yet it's built to last. That's something you don't get with similarly priced models that go this hard. To make it last a bit longer give it a bit of a breaking end period before you're ready to throw it up to 100%.
This particular model comes with either a 2 or 4 ohm option. The 2 ohm can be wired from 1 or 4 while the 4 can be wired 2 or 8. 8 is a good option if you're going for multiple subs.
The venting for this model is top notch with an aluminum cone that takes heat directly away from the copper and aluminum voice coils. This results in a consistently good bass that can hit those deep lows without having those bottoming out issues.
The Final Word
Overall, $150 isn't cheap. However, I think you'll agree that going with something like this out of the starting line is better than getting something cheap for $50 you'll have to return later. Plus, this thumps harder and sounds better than those expensive in-store models you've seen. Compared to other models in its price range, it's difficult to beat.
Testing a Pair of Punches
Dual BP1204 12-Inch 1100-Watt Illumination Bandpass Subwoofer
Here's a good option for a starting enthusiast who has around $150 to spend. It comes with a pre-designed studio enclosure that lights up and handles up to 1,100 watts of peak power.
While it certainly won't beat the sound quality of pricier individual subs at this price point, it does do a good job for everything it comes with. You are taking a chance with the lesser known brand here in Dual Electronics, but I feel like it sounds good.
The blue illumination allows for color-coordinated installs. I've seen a 4pc Blue LED Lighting kit to this as well, which really makes your car stand out. If you don't add additional lighting, then it looks good, but isn't what I'd call overly distracting.
These subs are nailed and glued with added bracing and carpet covering so they shouldn't move at all. The acoustic chamber has been computer-tuned to increase the efficiency of its output.
The Dual BP1204 sub also comes with a one-year warranty so you don't have to worry about a lemon product.
Overall it's a good buy for the money if you have space.
BP1204 Manufacturer's Specs
- Watts RMS: 600 watts
- Watts Peak: 1,100 watts
- Sensitivity: 89 dB
- Frequency Response: 25 to 200 Hz
- Impedance: 4 ohms
- Height: 14.2 inches
- Width: 29.5 inches
- Depth: 14.2 inches
Watts RMS: 600 watts
Watts Peak: 1,100 watts
Sensitivity: 89 dB
Frequency Response: 25 to 200 Hz
Impedance: 4 ohms
Height: 14.2 inches
Width: 29.5 inches
Depth: 14.2 inches
Testing the Dual Electronics BP1204
Kicker 10C124 Comp 12-Inch Subwoofer 4 SVC
Kicker has a few 12" sun options from $60 to $110 that area all pretty good bang for your buck. The one I'm featuring here is the one I'm most familiar with in the Kicker 10C124.
I've heard people give Kicker a hard time in the past. However, that's hardly fair considering their pricing. For the money, they are hard to beat, which is the reason that a lot of people buy them.
For build quality, the 10C124 it features a super-rigid injection molded coin with extra bracing.
Overall, if you're looking for good sound for under $100, this is the model I'd point to at right around $75.
RMS Power Range (Watts)
Peak Power Handling (Watts)
Top Mount Depth (inches)
27 - 500 Hz
Sealed box volume:
1.25 - 3.5 cu. ft.
Ported box volume:
1.75 - 2.25 cu. ft.
Testing the Kicker Comp 12" 10C124
Cheap and Knocks Hard
If you're looking for a budget build or entry-level system that gives you good sound and quality, the Pioneer TSW126M is a good place to look. For around $40 a piece they can seriously knock. The bass is clean and deep for the price you pay.
This is a good option for those of you who want something to get up and going. For a test of how it sounds, see the video below.
Pioneer TSW126M Specs
Max Music Power (Nominal)
1,300 W (350W)
20 Hz to 125 Hz
Testing the Pioneer TSW126M
Sealed vs. Ported Enclosure
With your subwoofer, a sealed enclosure is more forgiving and better for SQ audiophiles while a ported enclosure is generally for those looking to maximize output.
If you're looking to upgrade the quality of your audio system, then you might just be surprised to see the results you can get with a decent subwoofer. Below I've taken a little of the guesswork out of finding a good subwoofer and built a list of my top eight 12-inch subs/
If you're looking for a smaller subwoofer, then I also highly recommend you take a look at my post on the best 10-inch subwoofers.
Mistakes That Kill Your Bass!
Don't think you're getting enough bass and quality out of your subwoofers? Here are a few things you should make sure you're not doing.
- Wiring Issues: Double check that all of your speakers have the same polarity.
- Phase Issues: Try flipping the polarity on your Subwoofer or speakers when compared to the other. The sub and speakers don't need to be wired in the same polarity. Try it! Also, try moving your subwoofer around before you permanently install to make sure you've positioned it correctly.
- Box and Installation: Consider what your frequency response will look like for the speaker you're using. Don't put a large sub in a small space. Pick the right type of box and make sure it's sealed correctly. Use straight and accurate cuts, seal all the corners, and brace your box properly.
For these eight, I took into consideration subs available at all price ranges and put them in order of where I'd purchase them if I were in the market.
While not all of these are considered quality subs, they are a good value at their respective price points.
Don't like the list? Leave a comment or vote to change it. I'll leave a poll below the list where you can voice your opinion. Don't forget to leave me a comment if there's a sub you feel should be featured here.
Kicker 11S12L72 12-Inch 1500W 2 Ohm Car Subwoofer
Kicker's square subs pack more punch because of their extra cone area.
If you have the money and want the best under $200, then in my opinion this is it. They use reliable stitched surround for minimizing the cone flex.
Another nice feature is that it's heat-dissipating as you get a solid pole piece and high-temp coil wire that improves its durability.
Kicker CompVR 07CVR124
These subwoofers are loud for what you spend and provide decent sound quality. Don't expect it to be on par with the $200 subs as it's not. But at its price point, it's my favorite.
Infinity Reference 1262w 12-Inch 1200-Watt High-Performance Subwoofer
You get a surprisingly clean sound from these budget 12-inch subs. This would fall more into the range of a SQ subwoofer and not a pure sound output sub.
Kenwood KFC-W3012 12-Inch Performance Series Subwoofer
When you are looking for performance and reliability, Kenwood products can't be beat. The Kenwood KFC-W3012 12-inch subwoofer is literally a step above the rest in its category. Kenwood is one of the three largest selling brands of audio entertainment products in the U.S.
This super powerful and sturdy sub can handle 1200W of power. The polypropylene cone with diamond array pattern helps to reduce surface waves on the diaphragm, thus reducing vibration, and allowing for crystal clear sound.
By using urethane, a material with high internal loss, it allows the user to have more bass with less distortion..
KFC-W3012 Manufacturer's Specifications
- 12-inch, 4-ohm subwoofer with 1200 watts maximum power handling (400 watts rated)
- Polypropylene cone with diamond array pattern and urethane surround
- Improved cosmetic design, shallower mounting depth and longer cone excursion
- 8AWG wire-capable push terminals for quick system setup
- 86dB sensitivity, 39Hz - 300Hz frequency response
Pyle PL1290BL 12-Inch 1200 Watt DVC Subwoofer
Although I can't list the price they actually have these for on Amazon, for the money these Pyle Blue Wave series speakers can't be beat.
A customer on Amazon said the following about them, "I had my doubts about these subs at first, but after installing them all my doubts were rattled out of me by the insane bass they put out."
The Pyle PL1290 BL 12-Inch subwoofers not only sound great they look great too. Order two and you might just bounce out of your seat.
Pioneer TS-W302R 12-Inch Subwoofer With 800-Watt Maximum Power
These new 12-inch subwoofers from Pioneer have been upgraded with a new look and with new features to give it stronger performance. Pioneer's TS-W302R handles up to 800 watts and features a lightweight IMPP Composite Cone Woofer to reduce distortion.
To the right, there are some additional easy-access accessories so that you can bundle everything you need together.
Manufacturer's Product Details
- 12" 4-ohm Subwoofer
- Injection-molded polypropylene composite cone with urethane surround
- Power range: 50-150 watts RMS (800 watts peak power)
- Sensitivity: 97 dB
- Mounting depth: 5-3/4"
MTX TNP212D2 Dual 12-Inch Subwoofer and Amplifier
MTX created this series of amplified sub system in order to beat out the inferior quality woofer systems. Because they built the enclosure to perfect specification with the subs and amp, you get everything you need without the worry of putting together a subpar system.
Manufacturer's Product Details
- Complete amplified bass package bundles 2 x 12 subwoofer enclosure and mono block amplifier
- TNA251 amplifier delivers 250 watts x 1 at 2 ohms; 150 watts x 1 at 4 ohms
- Variable low- and high-pass filters offer 40Hz?400Hz range for sound shaping
- TNE212D2 enclosure features dual 12-inch Terminator subwoofers with 1200 watts max power
- Enclosure boasts 5/8" MDF construction, aviation-grade black carpet, and embroidered Terminator logo
What You Get for Your Money
TNP212D2 Subwoofer Enclosure, TNA251 Mono Block Amplifier, remote bass control, cables/installation hardware, and remote bass control
Voice Your Opinion!
Thanks for taking the time to read. If you didn't find what you are looking for, then please comment and let me know what great option you've come up with.
Love Rays from California on March 18, 2020:
Dual, Pyle, Kenwood, Pioneer, all garbage. Dual and Pyle can be found at Walmart and even on the tightest budget, it is absolute trash. As for Kenwood and Pioneer, only go with their head-units, their speakers and subwoofers should be avoided even if on a budget. On a budget, the Rockford Punch p3 is the only thing on this list I would look at. A single 10 or 12 and 400-600 watts is enough for anyone wanting to add good bass to their existing system, especially in a ported box built to specs. Even a single JL WO is better than most of the generic junk on this bad list and doesn’t need a lot of power to sound great. There are a lot of great brands out there, but you won’t find it on this list. You can find great subwoofers from entry level to competition level on downforsoundshop or soundsolutionsaudio.
Kristen Brown on March 18, 2020:
What a great article share. A great contribution especially for someone looking forward to buying a car subwoofer, amplifier and enclosure. If anybody wants to install a new one, this is the most effective share, that will be very helpful for best choice. Thanks a lot for the post.
Anny3250 on November 16, 2019:
You are kept very helpful share about subwoofer, it is also demantable post for who want to upgrade their old subwoofer. Thanks for the post.
About more: https://compactcarsubwoofer.blogspot.com/
leondb on October 14, 2019:
Agreed, this list is not great at all. It looks like what you see people trying to get rid of in classifieds. Much much better brands out there... Sundown, Skar, CT Sound, SSA, FI, DC, ftw.
Peter Gomes on September 03, 2019:
Thanks you very much for post, This the best guide post for car audio sound system include
details. It is a very effective and helpful share for beginners. Author keeps all think at this share.
Joshua on August 31, 2019:
Have you thought about ct audio?
Marc on June 10, 2019:
What about the W7 by JL?
Andre on March 03, 2019:
Image Dynamics IDQ, Morel, JBL GTi are seriously great Sound quality with ultra low hz and small enclosure specs
james brown on February 06, 2019:
Orion Hcca 12" Woofer Dual Voice Coil 2500w Rms - HCCA122
Tony on February 02, 2019:
JL Audio hands down. Very expensive, but very efficient, loud and clean. Power handling is not as much as the sundown audio, but for the watts, it sounds louder. Although Sundown is still a great subwoofer it just needs more power.
Ryan on January 12, 2019:
American bass fxl 12 a little more expensive but hit hard and are fully rebuildible with a screwdriver and glue for the surround
Bill on January 03, 2019:
Every single sub on this list is junk lmao
Daniel Leyva on November 08, 2018:
Planet Audio subs bang hard. Are dirt cheap and last long. Best budget sub.
Adam mills on November 06, 2018:
I have two 12 inch Kicker Comp ours in a sealed box running off a Class D kicker 1200 watt mono amp with a capacitor and I've upgraded my alternator then I've ran all new 6 by 9 kicker door speakers with two 3.25 mid-range Memphis speakers in the dash all those running off a dual 4-channel 1100 watt amplifier then 4 kicker Dome tweeters running off my Kenwood head unit. I have a friend that has two JL Audio 12 I don't know much about JL Audio but he's offering a good deal Should I stick with kicker or go with JL Audio all opinions are welcome thank you
Tom on August 17, 2018:
What about db drive subs
Blu on July 16, 2018:
This list must of been made by someone in high school with 0 knowledge of car audio. To name a few brands that put out bread SQ and Spl look at , NVX, SUNDOWN, SKAR AUDIO, FI, this author just looked at specs and seen number like 96db sensitivity, when infact that should only be looked at when shopping for door speakers or mids. There are a lot better subs on the market with better prices the ones on this list.
Augie on April 12, 2018:
Why isnt JL Audio 12W0 not here at $129 a piece in a dual 12 inch sub wedge ported box is a beast at its price point matched with a 2x 400 punch .
Chris on March 12, 2018:
I've got an Alpine SWS-10D2 which does pretty well considering it's closer to a budget-minded subwoofer. However, I've demoed the RF P2 and P3 subs and they're fantastic in most vehicle cabs. They're not overly bulky and they can handle good power. The P3 is also reasonably priced at around $150 new. The only other sub I'll currently consider is the Kicker 11S12L72, though it's roughly $50 more than the P3. If I'm trying to keep the costs reasonable, I'd get a P3 with a stable 500W RMS amp (I own a Pioneer GM-8601 which does exactly that at a good price). I like the Alpine 10" I have and I'm waiting to install my new stereo deck to see how it does without compressed frequencies. However, if it doesn't tick up in sound quality with the new deck I'll be looking to sell it and pick up that RF P3.
Sam on March 11, 2018:
I used to have the RE audio se 15" running off a kenwood d class mono block in a ported box at 33hz, was an insane combo and definitely will by buying re audio again unless there is something better i havent heard of
Palmer on February 26, 2018:
I went from 2 12' kicker cvrs on pioneer gm9601. Amp is 1 ohm sustainable. Original hookup at shop. Those amps can do work for real. Busted box and blew amp. Same amp 2 12' comp r's and horn ported rhino box. Them sh!+$ bang bang.
billy on December 07, 2017:
Joey3000 on November 24, 2017:
Soundqubed will always be the best subs for the money hands down. Also note for SQ a ported box will always sound better than sealed if done properly. There is a reason why all audiophile grade home theater subs costing thousands of dollars are in ported designed boxes
spinsherrif on October 23, 2017:
Pioneer champion series
Mitchell on September 13, 2017:
I thing the best sub is the Phoenix Gold elite 12 it has cool leds in the center and has great sound quality. It can hang with the best 15s on the market
Phil mahooters on July 06, 2017:
AEaudio SX pro 12 is one of the best subs I have ever heard.
Issa on April 12, 2017:
Pioneer TS-3003D4 needs to be mentioned
TwinkieVille225 on February 07, 2017:
Nvx. Best over all to me. I love the vcw122. Game changer in my books
Ryan on August 11, 2016:
WetSounds XS-XXXv2 12 inch kills anything.
Matt on July 16, 2016:
Orion XTR not too much power, very loud. hands down orion all day
Tank on June 26, 2016:
Well, I'm not going to say all your top picks are top subs, but I have 3 Polk audio 12's at 1.33 ohms. I believe they will give each one of the top subs a good run, they are so under rated, they make JL like bad when I pull up.
Kelso on June 22, 2016:
Orion HCCA hands down, check em out!
Mrgetitin on June 07, 2016:
Alpine type R's all the way
Zxen on May 12, 2016:
Try peavey lomax 15. Hehe
Jason texas on May 04, 2016:
Um Power acoustik all the way. Bout 50 bucks each. And they pound with the right amp and box. Gothic series or the bamf. Bamf are bout 100 each.
BMP on April 26, 2016:
I have had most of these subs listed over the years and on this list the L7 is top with the P3 a close second however, Sundown makes the best sounding subs for the price in my opinion. I have 3 SA 12" subs in a ram quad cab. The difference in them from my old system (3 L7 12") is very noticeable. They slam so hard down low its insane. Just my 2 cents
Dan on December 03, 2015:
What do u think about the quality of the kicker product now that they are assembled out of the U.S. I had a 15 that lasted a couple of years but eventually blew beyond repair. I am now weary when considering their subs again. I think my next set will be the p3s.
les on November 15, 2015:
American Bass XFL15 about $220 bucks 1000rms are great for the price
Ssh on September 28, 2015:
Spl gorilla 12, 80 bucks ea. My buddy runs 2 on a fosgate r-500 an its louder than my type s alpines or cvr's by far on his amp
dbassh3d on September 21, 2015:
Sound Qubed Audio are pretty good. I have 2 hds215's and they bang!!! They are rated for 600 rms and taking 2000 watts for both. Stroker2000.1 amp. And a mechman 270 amp alternator + big 3 & 2 yellow tops
Saving2ndBass on May 25, 2015:
Sundown Audio SA-12 is definitely a top pick
Mike on May 12, 2015:
Nothing beats my kraco subs. Insane volume and clarity. I got mine out of an old firebird I bought and restored them. RTV silicone is great for patching them up.
This new stuff just doesn't compare to classic sound..
Deon on May 09, 2015:
Kicker is marginally overpriced, bang for your buck look into soundqubed like swerv said. Go compare those subs with any mainstream and you'll be surprised, way better prices on more powerful subs, don't believe me, ask the internet, oh and if you do go look keep in mind that SQ is one of the few under rated brands in terms of rms.
Swerv573 on April 26, 2015:
Look into soundqud and funky pup
dingleberry on October 30, 2013:
I chose other because once you buy a Morel, you won't need to upgrade, therefore making it better value.