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What is the Best Position for a Subwoofer in a Car?

Are you are thinking of getting a new subwoofer and wondering what the best position for a subwoofer in your car, truck, or SUV is? You’ve come to the right place. Where to place your sub in a car is a question we get asked frequently. Knowing how and where to place subwoofers is arguably the second most important decision after deciding which sub you’ll buy to get the bass sound you seek.

Understanding Bass Versus Treble Sound Frequencies in Music

Bass frequencies are the low sounds you hear in music. Think bass guitar, kick drum, tuba, etc. Bass frequencies aren’t as directional as high-end frequencies. If you aim your tweeters–which play the highest frequencies–in a direction where they don’t point facing towards you, most of the high-end sound won’t get transmitted to your ears.

Humans have a much more difficult time discerning the location from where low frequencies originate. This means you have more flexibility where you place and aim the sub in your vehicle. However, you can’t position the sub just anywhere without affecting the bass response, punch, and sound quality.

Finding the Best Position for a Sub

The best placement takes several things into consideration.

  • The space available in the car. Is there room for an enclosure?
  • How the bass sounds. Sound waves will be reflected back to the listener based upon placement.
  • Can rattling be minimized?
  • Is the subwoofer in a sealed enclosure or ported enclosure?
  • Are you willing to give up trunk space?
  • Can a sub fit under or behind your vehicle seat?
  • The ideal position for a Subwoofer
  • Where Should I Place a Subwoofer in a Truck?

Can you put a Subwoofer in the Trunk?

Yes. This is the place where most car subwoofers are mounted. The trunks of most cars provide the space needed to fit a large sub and amplifier. Since the direction of the low-frequency sound wave is less noticeable to the human ear, the bass will still sound like it is coming from the same point that the mid-frequencies and higher frequencies are, from the front of the car. This is only if you correctly set your subwoofer’s crossover frequency. If you cross the frequency too high, the mid-range frequencies will play in the sub, and you’ll hear these sounds coming from behind you, which creates an abnormal listening experience.

Some people worry that the sound will be muted or diminished in the trunk. Bass travels through materials easily, including the seatback and rear deck material. If your trunk is soundproofed or sealed, however, you might lose a bit of volume. In these cases, you can alleviate the issue by punching or drilling a few small holes in the rear deck’s wooden panel and covering them with an acoustically neutral material (also known as speaker cloth).

Align the holes with existing slots located within the rear deck’s sheet metal. Do not cut or modify metal on the rear deck as this can compromise the integrity of the vehicle.

In a trunk, there are several placement options. Many audiophiles like to corner load the sub box to get more output from the speaker. Then there is the question of which direction to point the speaker cone.

Should a Car Subwoofer Face Front or Back?

Maybe you’ve thought, “Does it matter which direction a subwoofer faces?” The answer is yes.

The challenge with facing the subwoofers forward in the trunk of your car is that the subs do not have enough air space around them, as they are getting “choked off” by the seats. In a car with a trunk, the interior listening space of the car is the area between the dashboard and the rear seats. If you place a sub enclosure right behind the rear seat, the sound waves will be suppressed by the foam and cloth fabric (or leather) from the seats. This is not the ideal position to get the best bass response.

What is the Ideal Position for a Car Subwoofer?

Common sense would tell you that you should get the sub as close as possible to the passengers. This is incorrect. Most enclosures, as a general rule, will sound the loudest when placed in the far extreme corners of the vehicle. This means the area near the taillights or against the side panels of the trunk or hatch area. This placement is called “corner loading.”

Install the subwoofer in an enclosure facing the very rear of the vehicle. Optimally, within one foot. This allows for the rear wave to exit into the cabin of the car. The front wave will reflect off the rear of the vehicle, reinforcing the rear wave.

One audiophile, Ken Runner, found the following in his testing with both ear and measuring instruments to judge.

  1. A subwoofer box at the front of the trunk with speakers aiming forward or up through the rear deck resulted in poor car bass response; Results were much better with the trunk open.
  2. A sub box at the front of the trunk with speakers aiming backward resulted in better bass response. Results were slightly better with the trunk open.
  3. A sub box at the back of the trunk with speakers aiming forward resulted in better in-car bass, and there was no difference with the trunk open.
  4. A sub box at the back of the trunk with speakers aiming backward resulted in the best bass response and got less bass with the trunk open. (This is the best option but reduces the functionality to store items like grocery bags and golf clubs in the trunk.)

Under Seat Subwoofer vs. Trunk Subwoofer

A sub can be placed under a seat or in the trunk. You will experience a difference in sound depending on which type of speaker and location you choose. Typically, a larger speaker will need to be in the trunk. These larger speaker sizes will create louder sounds and reproduce lower frequencies. It will also eat up a large portion of the cargo space. You’ll need to consider how much you use your trunk for storage.

The under the seat subwoofers are usually selected by those who do not have space in their car trunk, but still want better bass and sound from their music. There are also other considerations.

Under-the-seat subwoofers are typically easier to install and often more affordable. They are typically lighter and more portable. Because they are under the seat, there is a concern that a passenger might accidentally damage the speaker through contact, impact, or even drink spills. They won’t output as much bass as a trunk-mounted subwoofer, but they will still dramatically improve your audio system’s performance.

Where Should I Place a Subwoofer in a Truck?

Usually, the best location for a subwoofer in a truck is behind the seat. To place it here, you may need to remove the seat from your truck first. Experiment with the direction in which the speaker fires to get a sound that pleases you.

What is the Best Position for a Subwoofer in an SUV?

Many people place large subwoofer enclosure in an SUV against the back hatch/door. At that point, several schools of thought come into play on where to point the sub. Many SUV owners prefer a ported enclosure with the speaker facing up and port back, with subs as close as possible to the hatch without interfering with the port (consider a 2″ to 3″ space).

Ultimately Sub Placement is up to Your Ears

Subwoofer positioning for the best quality bass is something you will have to experiment with. Try different areas and different orientations of the subwoofer system. You may find that simply turning the speaker enclosure around gives you more bass from the same location. Make sure when you are listening in your car, you have the trunk or hatchback closed since this is how you will be experiencing your car audio system when driving.

See the next car subwoofer article: What does a subwoofer enclosure do?

Find A Subwoofer Enclosure

Vented subwoofer enclosures for hatchbacks and SUVs
Amplified loaded enclosures for cars with trunks
Compact subwoofer enclosures for trucks
• Shallow subwoofer enclosures for compact cars and under seats