Jeep Wrangler Stereo Upgrade

Jeep Wrangler Stereo Upgrade Double Din Installed
Sony Double Din Installed in 2013 Jeep Wrangler
Sony Double Din Installed in 2013 Jeep Wrangler

Thinking about a Jeep Wrangler stereo upgrade, but not quite sure where to start?

Be sure to check out my other Jeep Wrangler stereo upgrade articles which can be found here. Looking to upgrade your 2018+ Wrangler JL/JLU stereo? Check out this article here.

If you own a 2007 up JK 2 door or 4 door Unlimited, you know what I’m talking about.  At lower volume levels the Jeep Wrangler stereo is tolerable.  However, as soon as you try to crank it up – like when the is top off – forget it.  You can’t turn it up loud enough to hear over the wind noise.

You may also notice this other annoying peculiarity in your Jeep Wrangler stereo.  As you turn the volume up, the only frequencies that seem to get any louder are upper mid range and treble frequencies.  The bass level stays kind of flat.  This self attenuation feature is to prevent you from blowing stock speakers and to save Jeep the cost of having to replace them under warranty.

There are a number of things working against you with the factory Jeep Wrangler stereo.  Luckily, it’s relatively easy to overhaul this system and do a Jeep Wrangler stereo upgrade.

Where to start with your Jeep Wrangler stereo upgrade?

We see a lot of Jeep Wrangler’s in our shop and for the most part, we’re replacing and upgrading everything – head unit, speakers, amp, subwoofer.  I realize, that’s not always in everyone’s budget and for a lot of people out there, you may have to do your Jeep Wrangler stereo upgrade in different phases.  I recommend you start with what is going to give you the biggest impact and biggest improvement overall – the subwoofer.

Even if you installed the best 6.5″ speakers money could buy, they would still be incapable of reproducing the natural frequency range so effectively produced by an aftermarket subwoofer.

When adding a subwoofer to a upgrade a Jeep Wrangler stereo, most of my customers are looking to keep the installation discreet for a couple reasons.

  1. There’s not exactly a ton of extra cargo space in these things to begin with.
  2. They’re such easy targets for theft (I will address this as well later on in the post – there is an easy way to add an alarm to these vehicles.  I recommend you protect your investment and you can do so without any additional remote control.  The alarm I recommend works off the factory key).

For a Jeep Wrangler stereo upgrade, I highly recommend installing JL Audio’s Stealthbox subwoofer.


Stealth Subwoofer Enclosure by JL Audio for 2 door model Jeep Wrangler 07 up
Stealth Subwoofer Enclosure by JL Audio for 2 door model Jeep Wrangler 07 up

They offer it for both the two door model and 4 door unlimited.  Check it out.

JL Audio offers a Stealth Subwoofer Enclosure for 2007 and up Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
Stealth Subwoofer Enclosure by JL Audio for 4 door model Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 07 up

Note – if you have the factory subwoofer enclosure in the Unlimited model (2011 and up), you will also want to purchase these two additional Mopar parts to replace the trim that goes around the seat belt bolt. A plain (without subwooofer) passenger side rear cargo trim panel (part #1PU12DX9AG) and a cover for the upper seat belt / roll bar (part #1PU18DX9AD) from Jeep/Mopar parts.  If you have the rear 12 volt outlet as well, you will lose that feature.

If you start your Jeep Wrangler stereo upgrade by adding one of these options, you will also need to add a separate amplifier as well.  Additionally, if you’re going to be running this off the stock head unit, I also highly recommend using Audio Controls LC2i line output converter.  This product helps to correct any factory attenuation that occurs in the signal being fed to your new amplifier and subwoofer.  In this scenario, with the factory Jeep head unit maintained, we’re still receiving audio signal from the factory stereo.  The same factory stereo that limits the increase in bass frequencies as you turn the volume up.  Because of that attenuation feature, it’s beneficial to have a line output converter that is designed to integrate with such a head unit.  The Audio Control LC2i will provide a more seamless and smooth increase in subwoofer volume as you turn your stock volume knob up.  If you’re doing an aftermarket head unit at the same time, don’t worry about this aspect.  Replacing the stereo also addresses this annoying attenuation feature.

Either way you go with your Jeep Wrangler stereo upgrade, you will want to have a separate subwoofer control knob.

Bass Knob Jeep Wrangler
Bass knob for Jeep Wrangler stereo upgrade

I think this is a must in any installation, factory head unit or aftermarket.  Especially if you listen to a variety of music.  Every recording is different; some songs have more bass, some have less.  A bass knob gives you an easy way to tweak the bass level on the fly from song to song for ultimate listening enjoyment.  In the Jeep Wrangler, there is room right in front of the center console behind the shifter for such a knob.

Let’s talk amplifiers for your Jeep Wrangler stereo upgrade

Okay, so hopefully I’ve convinced you to invest in one of the subwoofers discussed above in order to upgrade your Jeep Wrangler stereo.  And by now you realize you will also need an amplifier to power it up.  If you see yourself also eventually upgrading and amplifying the speakers (highly recommended) then you’ll want to buy yourself a nice, high powered, yet small, 5 channel amplifier.  Remember, space is limited in these vehicles.

My favorite amp for a Jeep Wrangler stereo upgrade is the Alpine PDXV9.

Alpine PDXV9, perfect 5 channel amp for Wrangler Stereo Upgrades
Alpine PDXV9, perfect 5 channel amp for a Jeep Wrangler stereo upgrade.

This baby puts out 100 watts X 4 RMS to the interior speakers and a whopping 500 watts RMS to the subwoofer.  For comparison, most stock head units put out around 10 -15 watts RMS per channel, aftermarket head units are around 18 watts RMS per channel.  So in terms of power and output, this is a huge upgrade.

If you’re building your system in stages, you can always wire up the amp for the subwoofer channel only until you invest in some higher quality interior speakers.  The bass knob for this amp is the RUX-KNOB, pictured above in my own Jeep Wrangler center console area.

There is room to mount the amp under the passenger or driver seat in either the 2 door or 4 door model.

If you’re feeling a little sticker shock on the price of the amp, I do have an alternative suggestion.  Consider purchasing an Alpine head unit like the CDE-153BT and using the Alpine KTP-445A power pack amplifier.  It’s very tiny, compact amplifier that is easy to install and it will boost power to your interior speakers to 45 watts x 4.  It’s designed specifically for Alpine head units.  It’s pretty easy on the wallet too.  You could then purchase a mono or single channel amplifier such as JL Audio’s XD 600/1V2 for the Unlimited enclosure or the XD 300/1V2 for the 2 door enclosure.  Both of these JL Audio amps will work with the HD-RLC bass knob.

Let’s talk about your source for your Jeep Wrangler stereo upgrade

One thing I always stress with customers in my own shop is this.  The source of your music is like the heart of your stereo system.  You could buy and install the best car audio speakers and amplifiers money can buy, but if it’s all being pushed through a crummy, basic stock head unit, it’s like taking two steps forward and one step back.  You’re still limited to the sound quality and capability of your source.  Technically speaking, you could install something like JL Audio’s Cleansweep processor and keep the stock head unit.  However, it’s really not the same as an aftermarket head unit.  That’s just cleaning up and leveling out what’s already there.  The Cleansweep is not really capable of improving detail and resolution.  That still comes down to your head unit’s digital to analog convertor.

Desirable features like detail, richness and vibrancy come across in the quality of your head unit’s digital to analog convertor.  Because of this, I highly recommend replacing the stock head unit.  If you have the budget, I recommend you go for a nice double din touch screen head unit.

Double Din Jeep Wrangler
Double Din Sony in my Jeep Wrangler

Having the large touch screen just makes it so much easier to access and search all your music sources.  Connect an iPod and search by artist, playlist, song title, etc.  Stream Pandora from your phone and search by channel and category.

Whether you decide to go for a single din or double din head unit, you need to be aware of some key features that will be beneficial to your Jeep Wrangler stereo upgrade.  When shopping for head units, look for features like these:

  • 3 high voltage RCA preouts 4-5 volts (the higher the sensitivity here, the more kick and efficiency you will get out of your amplifier)
  • Bluetooth (seriously, everyone should have this feature by now.  It’ so convenient and in some states legally required for making and receiving calls.  Android users – this feature will also allow you to stream your music pre-amp level which is better sound quality than through a head phone jack connection)
  • USB (best sound quality for iPod or iPhone.  In general, try to avoid connecting any device via headphone jack.  When you connect via the head phone jack, this uses the amplifier in the device, as well as the amplifier in your stereo – so it’s like amplifying an amplifier – not the cleanest way to listen to your tunes)
  • Steering Wheel Control Capability (most Jeep Wranglers stereos have this and it’s a really nice feature to retain – consider PAC Audios RP4-CH11 to make your installation easier)

Jeep Wrangler owners should consider the new Alpine X009-WRA which is the biggest, baddest and coolest double din head unit I think you’ll ever see for a Jeep Wrangler. However, it isn’t cheap so if the cost of this head unit is beyond your budget, you can check out this post for help selecting the best double din head unit.  Or if you’re interested in a navigation double din stereo, check out this post.

Update 5/10/15 – Be sure to check out my post on the Pioneer AVH-X4100NEX.  This model is new for 2015 and is both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible and has a detachable face – ideal for Wranglers!

Speakers for Jeep Wrangler stereo upgrade

Okay, so we’ve addressed the subwoofer, the amplifier and we’ve addressed your source for your Jeep Wrangler stereo upgrade.  Now let’s talk about speakers.  The stock Jeep Wrangler stereo system was redesigned in 2007.  This redesign eliminated the previous standard issue front 4″x6″ speaker housing.  We can now accommodate a standard 6.5″ component system.

I can haz tweeters?
I can has tweeters?

Thanks to the assistance of one of Alpine’s engineers, who worked with Jeep on this redesign, Wrangler owners now have standard sized speakers front and rear.

Jeep Front Speakers
Jeep Front Speakers – Don’t believe Crutchfield, you can fit a 6.5″ there no problem.

The rear sound bar accommodates 6.5″ coaxial speakers.

Jeep Rear Coaxial Speakers
Jeep Rear 6.5″ Coaxial Speakers

Previous model Jeeps were very limited in speaker size and thus potential output – it’s not exactly easy to find a good quality, high power handling 4″ x 6″ speaker.  Luckily for 2007 and up Jeep Wrangler owners, it’s pretty easy to find good quality, high power handling 6.5″ speakers.

Pick the best of the best

When it comes to purchasing car stereo equipment for your Jeep Wrangler stereo upgrade, I always recommend to cherry pick among brands.  Alpine tends to excel in those PDX series amps – they’re the best sounding, high powered, compact amplifiers I’ve heard in the past 14 years.  JL Audio tends to excel in their XD series amplifiers and their American made subwoofers and Stealthbox enclosures.

Every company excels in a couple areas.  It varies from brand to brand and price point to price point and that also changes from year to year.  However, when it comes to speakers, I recommend choosing a company that specializes in speakers.

Morel is one such company, they excel in speakers.  That is all they do.  From $100 speakers to $10,000 speakers and everything in between.  So for speakers in your Jeep Wrangler stereo upgrade, I recommend Morel.

Morel has a few different series speakers in their line up and I will describe the pros and con’s of each.

Morel Maximo Series – Entry level

Morel Maximo Series ranging from 80 - 90 watts RMS
Morel Maximo Series ranging from 80 – 90 watts RMS

The Morel Maximo series are considered entry level, but they’re an excellent value and perform well against other entry level brand speakers.  The tweeter is very detailed, yet still smooth and the mid range is a clear improvement over stock.  These speakers are pretty efficient and will perform with limited power output.  However they can also handle a decent amount of power and thus perform even better with proper amplification.  In the front, you could do the Maximo6 and in the rear, the Maximo6C.  The mid range is not as clean as what you will find in the next level up from the Tempo series.  However, you will still find these speakers give you a night and day difference in performance and quality over stock.

Morel Tempo Series – Mid level

Morel Tempo Series speakers, handle between 110 - 120 watts RMS
Morel Tempo Series speakers, handle between 110 – 120 watts RMS

These are some of my favorite speakers that we sell in our shop.  The tweeter is very smooth and mellow, and the mid range is very warm, clean and punchy.  However, these babies really need an amplifier to perform and achieve their full potential.  Capable of 110 – 120 watts RMS, that Alpine PDXV9 will do them well.  In the front, you could use the Tempo6 components and in the rears, the Tempo6c coaxes.  If you prefer more detail in your tweeter, consider the Hybrid series.

Morel Hybrid Series – High end


Morel Hybrid series speakers are very smooth, detailed, accurate and warm.  Handling between 100 - 140 watts RMS.
Morel Hybrid series speakers are very smooth, detailed, accurate and warm. Handling between 100 – 140 watts RMS.

The Morel Hybrid series speakers are really quite awesome.  The tweeter is very open and airy, yet incredibly smooth and delicate to the ears.  The mid range is clean, accurate, warm and natural.  This is what we have in our own Jeep Wrangler, but honestly there’s no way I can appreciate the full quality of these when the top is off.  Here in Connecticut, we typically have the top off for only 3-4 months out of the year, so we definitely have plenty of time during the rest of the year to appreciate their performance and quality.  In the front, you could use the Hybrid 602’s and in the rear, the Hybrid Integra 602’s.

Ultimate performance and quality does come at a premium price.  For practicality purposes, many of my customers choose the Tempo series or Maximo series and are quite happy with their choice.  Keep in mind, speakers are just one piece of the puzzle in your Jeep Wrangler stereo upgrade.

Installation gear for your Jeep Wrangler stereo upgrade

Whenever you install an aftermarket amplifier in a vehicle, you will need quality power and ground cable, a fuse, fuse holder, speaker wire and RCA cables.  Always choose 100 percent oxygen free copper.  We use Stinger wire and Stinger RCA cables in our own shop.  If you’re installing the amp under the front passenger seat, you can get away with 6 foot RCA’s.

Metra and Best Kits both make a double din dash kit for this car, however we prefer the fit and finish of the Best Kits BKCDK642 kit.

Depending on whether or not your car has steering wheel controls, you will probably want to buy a PAC Audio interface harness.  The C2R-CHY4 is fine if you do not have steering wheel controls (provides retained accessory power, turns on any stock amp if equipped and if being retained) or go for the combo piece RP4-CH11 if you do have steering wheel controls.

Sound deadening material – Dynamat definitely helps to cut down on rattles and reverberations in all vehicles.  I highly recommend it to any customer who is upgrading their stereo.  In the Wrangler, I would recommend a Trunk kit and a Wedge pack.  Definitely do the back cargo area and sound bar area.  It really does improve sound quality, cut down on rattles and road noise.  Overall, it helps to give you a cleaner bass and mid range response.

Protecting your investment – get an OEM style alarm for your Jeep Wrangler

These vehicles are easy targets for theft so you want to think about protecting what you’ve invested in your Jeep Wrangler stereo upgrade.  Consider the add on alarm available from DEI aka Directed Electronics (parent company of Viper).

3903T Jeep Add on Alarm System
3903T Jeep Add on Alarm System

The 3903T is an aftermarket alarm designed to work with your factory Jeep key.  It adds basic alarm features such as a shock sensor, starter kill relay and it also comes with a standard outboard 6 tone siren.  Besides the 3903T, Jeep owners should really add the 508D proximity sensor.

When properly installed, the 508D creates a radar bubble around the vehicle.  The sensor can be installed under the center console.  You really want it towards the center of the vehicle for best performance.  If that field is disturbed – say by someone reaching into the open vehicle – the alarm goes off.  It’s a great theft deterrent.

It’s very important to have this type of product professionally installed.  You need to adjust the proximity field to the point where it is effective and not over sensitive.  It’s easy to over do it.  If the radar bubble is too large, the alarm will go off anytime anyone walks by your car in a parking lot.

Here is another cool product to consider from Tuffy.  Keep in mind, it does require modification to the JL Audio Stealthbox Unlimited enclosure.  That enclosure sits higher than the Tuffy security deck is designed for (speaking from experience here).

Protect your stuff in your Jeep Wrangler when the top is off
Protect your stuff in your Jeep Wrangler when the top is off

Tuffy offers this product for several model Jeeps, please refer to their website to order the correct one for your vehicle.

In my own 2 door Wrangler, we’ve removed the backseat and have fabricated a custom down firing subwoofer enclosure mounted where the backseat was.  Next Spring, we will be installing the Tuffy Security Deck.  Note, if you have the 2 door like we do with backseat removed, you will want to order the 4 door model security deck to cover the full cargo area.

Jeep Wrangler Stereo Upgrade Conclusion

As you can see, it’s not that difficult or complicated to upgrade the stereo in a Jeep Wrangler.  We do it all the time at our shop in Brookfield, CT.

If you have to build your system in phases, I would recommend starting with the subwoofer.  Add in the frequency range that you’re missing.  Next step would be an aftermarket head unit.  This gives you more output and control over the stock speakers.  Most aftermarket head units have crossovers built in.  This feature will allow you to filter out the bass that would normally go to the stock speakers.  This will allow them to play only mid range and treble frequencies while the subwoofer plays all the bass.  After that, I recommend upgrading your speakers and lastly, make sure you amplify those speakers.

The end result?  Investing in these quality car audio products, and having them properly installed and tuned, will do wonders for your Jeep Wrangler driving experience.  When you upgrade the stereo in your Jeep Wrangler, you’ll be able to crank it up and actually hear and enjoy the stereo system.

Don’t forget to check out my other Jeep Wrangler stereo upgrade articles which can be found here.

Best Car Speakers for Bass

Best Car Speakers for Bass

Looking for the Best Car Speakers for Bass?

You don't have to sacrifice your cargo space to improve car audio sound quality
Looking for the best car speakers for bass?  You don’t have to sacrifice your trunk.

Estimated read time: 10 minutes 38 seconds.  Want to read later?

This is kind of a trick question.  The best car speakers for bass are….subwoofers!  Adding a subwoofer to your car audio system is one of the easiest way to enhance your car sound system.  You’ve simply got to add back in what’s missing. I’m talking about a bass. And to accurately reproduce those natural bass frequencies, you need a large surface area.  Something larger than your average 6.5″ car speaker.  Additionally, you’ll also need a decent amount of power to push this speaker.  In other words, you’ll need an external amplifier.

Now, before you cringe at the words “amplifier” and “subwoofer” – like most of my adult/professional/non teenaged customers do when they first hear me say this – let me describe what adding a subwoofer actually does and doesn’t do. And If you think you’re too old for a subwoofer, think again. I think it’s safe to say that everyone – regardless of age, demographic, gender, etc. – can appreciate accurate and natural sound reproduction.

Adding a subwoofer enhances your car audio system by creating more natural and lively sound reproduction. You’re just adding back in what’s missing.  These lower bass frequencies naturally occur when someone is playing a bass guitar, or pedaling a kick drum or strumming a cello.

Even premium 6.5″ car speakers are typically missing an audible presence of a whole range of naturally occurring frequencies. These frequencies are usually at the lower end of the spectrum, around 40 – 80 hertz, also known as bass.  This lower frequency range is best reproduced by a speaker with a large surface area. Subwoofers are able to produce these frequencies with an audible presence with the assistance of an external audio amplifier.

Adding a subwoofer to your car audio system doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be rattling your rear view mirror and trunk lid or drawing attention to your car at stop lights. You could if you wanted to, but most people are not trying show off – they’re concerned with how it sounds on the inside of the vehicle.  You’re looking for an easy way to improve your car stereo system, right?  Know that when installed, set up and tuned properly, that’s exactly what adding a subwoofer will do for you.

Normally in my showroom, I just demonstrate this on our sound board. It’s fun to watch a customer’s initial cringe shift to raised eyebrows, pleasant surprise and curiosity. Most people don’t realize this is what they’re missing until they hear it.

Once they hear what a subwoofer can do, the next obstacle is understanding how putting a speaker in their trunk accomplishes this. They’re next question is, “I have to put that in my trunk? I don’t understand, why can’t I just put better speakers in my car to get that kind of sound?”

Great question. Let’s explain why.

The human ear is capable of hearing frequencies in the range of 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz. What we are actually hearing are pressure waves. The lower the frequency, the longer and larger the wave length. 20 Hz is 20 cycles per second. The higher the frequency, the tighter and shorter the wave length. 20,000 Hz is 20,000 cycles per second.

Hertz or Sound Waves Explained Visually
Hertz or Sound Waves Explained Visually Courtesy of

The average size of a car speaker these days is 6.5″.  So let’s look at what frequencies the average 6.5″ speaker is capable of reproducing. Let’s take a basic 6.5″ coaxial speaker like this Alpine Type S speaker.

Example of Entry Level 6.5" Coaxial Car Audio Replacement Speakers
Example of Entry Level 6.5″ Coaxial Car Audio Replacement Speakers

This speaker is considered an upgrade over your average stock speakers. According to Alpine, it is capable of frequencies in the range of 70Hz – 22,000Hz. Notice it starts at 70Hz. So for arguments sake, right off the bat you are missing between 20Hz -69 Hz. Alpine may tell you the frequency range the speaker is capable of, but they don’t tell you at what sound pressure level or what volume? This will depend on the amplifier and how much power is being put to the speaker. Yet, even with the recommended 75 watts RMS power supplied, it may only be capable of reproducing 70Hz at a minimal audio level.  One that may be hard to hear compared to the audio level of the other frequencies it is reproducing.

This is going to be pretty much the same story for any 6.5″ speaker. Even a set of premium Morel Hybrid 2 way speakers that are capable of frequencies as low as 50 Hz are going to be audibly lacking in this lower bass frequency range when compared to a 10″ or 12″ subwoofer.  The difference is in the audible level. Especially in an automobile which generates road noise and tire noise in the 40 – 60 Hz range. You need to be able to reproduce these frequencies with enough volume to overcome things like road noise and still be noticeably present and naturally blended into the volume level of the rest of the audio system.

So how much do you need?

How much of this natural frequency range is missing? In my experience, for most vehicles, you would want to add an amp and subwoofer in the 250 – 600 watt RMS range. It will really depend on what type of car you have and what kind of space you have to work with.

I would say that most pick up trucks and hatchbacks would benefit from a single subwoofer, either an 8″ or 10″ around 250 – 400 watt RMS. Some personal favorites are from JL Audio.

JL Audio is one of the few American car audio companies out there that:

  1. has maintained itself as a privately held company with original co-founder Lucio Proni still heavily involved in the designing and engineering of high fidelity audio products for Home, Car, Powersports and Marine application for more than 20 years
  2. continues to design and manufacture products in the USA
  3. has maintained consistent focus on quality, performance and providing innovative solutions

My favorite space saving, but high performing 8″ subwoofer is the 8w3 which JL offers in this great enclosure which measures in at only 18 5/8″ x 11″ x 5 1/8″.

JL Audio's CP108LG
JL Audio’s CP108LG is a great option for adding bass to a tight space

The 8″ CP108LG-W3V3 is a ported enclosure. Ported enclosures tend to be more efficient than sealed and tend to provide more output in the 50 Hz range compared to a sealed enclosure. However, sealed enclosures tend to be tighter and punchier than ported. If you have room for slightly more than this, consider their 400 watt RMS 10″ TW3 subwoofer conveniently offered in their own enclosure, either in an angled hatchback style or flat rectangular box.

The 10″ TW3 enclosure shown below is sealed. Because it is a 10″, larger surface area, it does extend slightly lower and deeper than the 8″ option discussed above.

JL Audio's 10" TW3 offers sound quality and performance in a unique space saving design.
JL Audio’s 10″ TW3 offers sound quality and performance in a unique space saving design.

The TW3 line is a perfect example of the many innovations we’ve seen from JL Audio.  Everyone wants the best car speakers for bass, but very few people want to give up a large amount of trunk space to achieve this. The design of the TW3 subwoofers is unique to JL Audio. They first debuted the technology in 2007 with their TW5 series. They hold several patents on the technology and have started implementing it in several new subwoofer models. The end result is a very shallow subwoofer that requires very little airspace to operate from and yet still delivers an outstanding performance. They’ve managed to accomplish this without sacrificing sound quality and this is something I truly feel is unique to JL Audio.

JL Audio TW3, new shallow mount sub revealed at CES 2012
JL Audio TW3, new shallow mount sub revealed at CES 2012

If you have very little space to work with and a small open cab such as a 2 door mini cooper or single cab pickup truck (don’t put this in a trunk of a large 4 door sedan and expect to be thoroughly impressed) consider the 6″ W3 microsub which is the smallest, best sounding subwoofer with prefabricated enclosure that I have heard professionally. Like the 8″ microsub enclosure discussed above, this is also a ported enclosure.

6" W3 with microsub enclosure. The ultimate compact subwoofer and enclosure - this is great for small cabin vehicles and tight spaces.
6″ W3 with microsub enclosure. The ultimate compact subwoofer and enclosure – this is great for small cabin vehicles and tight spaces.

What works best in sedans or coupes?

The options mentioned above are probably best for open cabin vehicles such as wagons, SUV’s, pickup trucks or hatchbacks. When your only placement option for a subwoofer is in the trunk of a sedan or coupe (which is sealed and closed off to the interior cabin), you’re better off going for more power and/or more surface area. Some vehicles conveniently have a center armrest/skibag area that can be folded down and act as a port into the cabin. In this case, you may find the 10″ TW3 performs well with the armrest open, but shut the armrest and maybe not so much. So to err on the side of caution, in sedans and coupes I usually recommend going with either a single 12″ subwoofer or two 10″ subwoofers and staying in the 400 – 600 watt RMS range.

Consider JL Audio’s new TW1 subwoofer offered conveniently offered in dual 10″ or dual 12″ enclosures

JL Audio’s new TW1 subwoofers handle slightly less power than the TW3 at 300 watts RMS a piece, however they require even less volume to perform. The TW3 operates in an enclosure with a volume of .5 cubic feet. The TW1 only requires .35 cubic feet. That’s the same as the 8″ W3!

JL Audio's new TW1 subwoofer requires only .35 cubic feet to perform!
JL Audio’s new TW1 subwoofer requires only .35 cubic feet to perform!

To learn more about JL Audio’s patent pending, space saving design and performance, check out this video featuring JL Audio’s own Manville Smith, VP or Marketing.

For a space saving, sound quality subwoofer enclosure in a sedan or coupe, I would recommend either the dual 10″ TW1 enclosure or dual 12″ TW1 enclosure.

Dual 10" TW1 Enclosure - 600 watts of power handling, 20" of subwoofer in a little over 1 cubic foot!
Dual 10″ TW1 Enclosure – 600 watts of power handling, 20″ of subwoofer in a little over 1 cubic foot! Also, made in America!

This new enclosure from JL Audio is the most impressive I have seen and heard to date. It’s sound reproduction is tight, punchy and natural. In my own 2 door coupe, I have two 10″ TW3’s, but I could definitely use a little more trunk space and am considering swapping those out for this awesome enclosure. The dual 10″ TW1 enclosure measures only 22″ x 11 3/4″ x 7 5/16″. The dual 12″ TW1 enclosure measures only 26 1/4″ x 14″ x 8 7/8″.

The reason I have focused largely on space saving designs is this is what most of my own customers are looking for.  They want the best car speakers for bass, but they don’t want to take up previous trunk space.  They’re looking for innovative solutions that provide performance and sound quality without sacrificing their trunk in the process. JL Audio has wisely committed to this path and has countless vehicle specific options as well known as a JL Audio Stealthbox.

For many consumers, there may not be a Stealthbox available for their vehicle. Even if there is, they may find the additional cost prohibitive. That is why I focused largely on these universal, space saving designs that deliver top quality sound and performance. If a Stealthbox is available for your vehicle and within your budget, I highly recommend them.

Things to consider when adding a subwoofer to your stock car stereo system

You will need a separate amplifier to power this new subwoofer and that amplifier will need to receive an audio signal from your stock stereo. There are a few ways to do this. Some amplifiers have a line output adapter built right into them like the JX series from JL Audio or V power series from Alpine. This allows you to tap into the positive and negative of existing full range speakers (or if present stock subwoofer) and send audio to the amp.

There is a potential drawback to using this feature, however. Many stock audio systems typically have their own self attenuator designed to prevent you from distorting and thus damaging the stock speakers. One way to tell if your car does this is to turn the bass up to an audible level and turn the volume up. Focus on listening to the bass, the mid range and treble independently as you turn the volume up. See if you notice that certain frequencies appear louder than others. What you may find is the bass pretty much stays at the same constant audible level while only mid range and treble audio levels appear boosted. I can tell you my stock 2013 Jeep Wrangler stereo definitely has this built in. It’s annoying and there’s two ways to work around this when adding a subwoofer to a stock stereo.

One solution is you can add a separate bass knob. I suggest this option either way only because bass levels naturally vary from recording to recording and you’ll want to have a way to adjust that. Your stock stereo most likely will not have any kind of subwoofer control. I have seen this option in a few Honda’s and Acura’s that actually have a stock subwoofer, so check to see if you have a stock subwoofer and stock subwoofer audio adjustment level. It would be right along with the bass, mid range, treble, balance, fader adjustments, but it’s not a common feature among stock stereos. You will definitely want to have a way to independently adjust your newly added frequency range in an easy manner.

Example of PAC LC1 bass knob installed in a BMW 3 series
Example of PAC LC1 universal bass knob installed in a BMW 3 series

Most amplifiers offer their own convenient plug in bass knob. Between Alpine and JL Audio, I do believe the JL Audio style knob is much cleaner and more discreet. It’s more easily disassembled and designed to be mounted in a stealth manner like the photo above. Please note, JL Audio has two different bass knob model numbers. The HD-RLC is for their XD and HD series amplifiers while their RBC1 is for their JX and Slash series amplifiers. There are also universal bass knob options such as the LC1 from PAC shown in the image above.

Don’t want to be playing with the bass knob every time you crank it up? Consider using Audio Controls advanced line output convertor, the LC2i.

Audio Control LC2i is an advanced line output convertor specifically designed to compensate for an bass attenuation created by a stock audio system.
Audio Control LC2i is an advanced line output convertor specifically designed to compensate for an bass attenuation created by a stock audio system.

This cool little interface has circuitry within it designed to compensate and correct any bass attenuation created by a stock audio system. I highly recommend using this outboard line output convertor (along with a bass knob) if your stock audio system has self attenuation properties. It provides a more seamless integration when adding a subwoofer to a stock audio system.

The devil is in the details

So now you know the best car speakers for bass are subwoofers and you know that subwoofers don’t have to take up all your cargo space.  There are a few more details to be aware of in order to achieve the bass response you are looking for.  Everything needs to be installed correctly and the amplifier needs to be properly tuned.

If you are bringing this to a professional, it’s important that they understand what you are trying to achieve. In this post, I’m really focusing on sound quality and audio enhancement. I like to reassure my own customers that any subwoofer added will be tuned in a way that is blended with the rest of the audio system. If you’re going to tackle this installation yourself, you may want to read my post on how to do just that – installing an amp and subwoofer with a stock audio system along with the post on how to tune a subwoofer amplifier.

Ready to shop for car speakers with bass? Check out these compact subwoofers options from Amazon.