Ported vs. Sealed Subwoofers: Which Is Better For You?
If you really want to enjoy your car's stereo system, then you need a subwoofer, period. The only problem is, there are 2 types of subwoofers — ported and sealed subwoofers.
As their names suggest, ported subwoofers feature an opening or port on the box, while sealed subwoofers are completely sealed off.
Each of these 2 types of subwoofers has their advantages and disadvantages, which make it perfect for one type of car owner or the other.
To be able to choose the right subwoofer, therefore, you'll need to understand these differences between the two. The following side by side comparison takes a look at these features.
A ported subwoofer is any subwoofer box with an opening. This opening allows the box to create a boomy sound with louder basses and a heavier overall sound with more punch.
The secret behind the ported subwoofer is the opening or port in the box. This hole allows the escape of air into the surroundings and creates this boom effect as a result.
Sound, as we know, are frequencies within a certain sonic range, and which the human ear can hear. This means that any vibrations in this range will get picked up by the ear.
A subwoofer is already tuned to only play deep bass sounds. Depending on the size of the vent on the subwoofer though, these deep bass sounds will get increased with a resonant frequency which is directly proportional to the diameter of the hole.
As the sounds from the front of the cone fill your car with heavy bass, the back of the cone also vibrates, although it's inside the box. These vibrations are then passed out through the vent on the box.
The sounds coming out from the port are a little behind in time than those coming from the front of the cone, and this creates its own subwoofer effect.
Just like you can blow air over an empty bottle to create sounds, so too does a subwoofer whistle, but the pitch of its whistle will depend on the size of its hole and it is called resonance.
- Louder and boomy bass. When you hear some cars or trucks with loud boomy bass, especially the kind that shakes the entire car's chassis, then rest assured that you're listening to a ported subwoofer. They are loud, thumping, and presents that distinct subwoofer sound we've all come to love.
- Uses little power to get loud. It's amazing how much bass you can create by using ported subwoofers. Once the size of the port matches the sizes of the woofer and the box, then a natural reverberation takes place, which increases bass levels of a song without any extra power. This is the beauty of the ported subwoofer. It does not strain your car's power supply to create loud bass sounds.
- Perfect boom for dance music. Different kinds of dance music have over the years, become known for heavy basses. This includes R&B, Rap music, and electro beats, which all feature heavy boomy bass as part of their sound today.
- Larger box sizes. The first disadvantage of a ported subwoofer is that you need a larger box to accommodate its vent or multiple vents, depending on the design. This could be a problem when installing the subwoofer in certain cars which might lack enough space.
- Not perfect for all music types. While ported subwoofers are great for Rap music, R&B and dance songs generally, they are not ideal for classical music, classic rock songs, and a few others.
Subwoofers traditionally started out in sealed boxes and this continues to this day. Sealed boxes are characterized by being completely closed up or sealed, without any possibility for the air inside to interact with the air outside.
This means that the air inside a sealed subwoofer is practically cut off from the environment and this comes with a few advantages of its own. The first advantage is that the boxes are smaller than that of ported subwoofers.
Another advantage is reproducing tighter and more accurate bass signals, which means a more flat speaker response or higher quality of music.
Since the air inside a sealed subwoofer remains trapped, it acts as a sort of spring for the sound driver's cone. This smooths out the sound and prevents strains, as well as producing tighter bass sounds.
With a sealed subwoofer, you get the lower bass signals of a song properly reproduced, and there is no emphasis on any particular frequency range, as is the case with ported subwoofers.
This makes the sound lack that characteristic boom of a ported subwoofer, but it also gains the full sound spectrum reproduction of sound, typical of studio-quality speaker systems.
Sealed subwoofers additionally produce less sound volume than their ported counterparts. This is because the trapped air can't affect the outside world to increase the overall vibrations in the air.
The sealed air additionally limits the subwoofer's volume by acting as a sort of spring and this leads to the situation where you'll need more power to reproduce an equal amount of sound volume as with a ported subwoofer.
- Tighter and more accurate bass. Since there is no open hole for the air inside the box to interact with the outside world, and since the air also dampens the vibrations of the driver's cone, the resulting bass is clean, straight to the point, hard-hitting and tight.
- Smaller box size. A lack of ports on sealed subwoofers make their boxes relatively smaller. This is an advantage for certain installations in which the car lacks enough space.
- Great frequency response. Asides from not producing boomy sounds, sealed subwoofers produce a better frequency response than ported ones. This means that they are preferable to audio purists and experts who just want to listen to music that is as clean as possible.
- Can handle high power. Sealed subwoofers may not normally be loud and boomy, but when more power gets applied, then you'll appreciate that tough and tight subwoofer bass sound that so many audiophiles have come to love.
- Easy to DIY. Some people love to do everything. For the DIYer, a sealed subwoofer box is easier to build and helps you avoid the complex calculations involved with creating a hole in ported subwoofers.
- Needs more power for louder bass. Sealed subwoofers can get loud and aggressive, but it doesn't happen on their own as happens with ported boxes. They need more power from the amplifier before they'll get loud.
- Not the best for dance music. A sealed subwoofer is great for music genres like classics and folk songs, but it just doesn't measure up to ported subwoofers when it's time for Hip-hop or Tecno music.
Making the Right Choice
In order to choose the right type of subwoofer for your car, you'll need to consider the entire situation, including the features of each type of subwoofer. These features are once again listed below for your convenience.
Flat and accurate
Average to poor
Ported and sealed subwoofers might both be subwoofers, but they have their differences, and this makes them ideal for different situations.
The final choice, therefore, depends on you. If you are into R&B, Rap Music, or Electronic Dance Music, then what you need is, without doubt, a ported subwoofer.
For those who are into love songs, classical music, Jazz, classic rock and pop music, the ideal subwoofer is always a sealed one.