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Ten Most Badass Subwoofers


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#1 Mark LaFountain

Mark LaFountain

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Posted 21 April 2010 - 07:36 PM

There are many ways to develop a list of top subwoofers. You can go by type, price points, size, power handling, looks, excursion and so forth. We're starting with a truly scientific approach with only one criterion: badass-ness! Actually it's slightly more serious than that. We wanted to highlight some of the best, brightest, most innovative or extreme or simply unorthodox products in the history of the subwoofer. So we sat around with tech editor Chris Yato and the Dr. Of Doom (aka Gary Bell) to select our 10. Instead of posting different lists we combined everything to form this single list. It's not meant to be comprehensive. From the start we decided that we would run a series on top subwoofers based on different ways of categorizing them, so stay tuned for that. Meanwhile here are the most badass with some also-rans.JL Audio W7JL set out to do something different—and big. Like some of the other woofers on this list the W7 IS innovation. The main idea was simple, maximize the surface area. This led to a very unique mounting system and an ultra clean look—the mounting scheme hides the screws which are under the surround, allowing for the most cone area for the given exterior diameter. The W7's design, price and massive low frequency output make it one of the most coveted woofers of the last 20 years.Cerwin Vega StrokerYou don't hear the name as much anymore, but back in the day everyone wanted or at least admired the Stroker subs. And that was because of its power. The distinctive look stood out and demanded attention. The high power handling and high efficiency helped push through SPL records of the day.The new Stroker uses a massive 3” dual voice coils to handle a 1200 watts RMS. Kicker Solo-BaricThey were the first to make the square woofer. The idea was that you would have more cone area working to produce bass. The Solo-Baric ( the round one, which would later also be available as a square sub) had a big part in the evolution of car subwoofers. This woofer had some of the traits of a "pair of woofers in an isobaric setup" = Higher power handling, increased mass, low Vas and this allowed for the woofer to play low in a smaller box than any of its competitors. The trade off was efficiency. This woofer was at the forefront of the  "small box" woofer movement.MTX JackhammerThis is like the Clarion 32" (see below), but built to take power. You probably saw Mad Mike install one in a vehicle on Pimp my Ride. The JackHammer deserves to be called a SuperWoofer. The T9922 is designed for high SPL, but also sound quality. The 300+ pound subwoofer is available with dual 2Ω voice coils for SPL mode, or with dual 4Ω voice coils for what they call SQL. A replaceable cone assembly allows for switching between "every day" listening (SQL), and competition (SPL). Rockford Power T215D2A bit of a sentimental choice. With a triple stacked 304 ounce magnet motor assembly, this is a massive sub that's also one of the more sexy designs. That's part of the reason it's on the list. Features include embedded 12 gauge tinsel leads/dual 8 AWG slot loaded wiring terminal, and mirror image symmetrical spiders.
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Digital Designs 9500Their uncompromising design dared both the competitors and extreme ground pounders to try to break them! The 9515 was the first to have tinsel leads woven into the spider, thus eliminating tinsel lead slap with high excursion woofers. While some big name car audio companies started putting less effort into the competition scene smaller companies like DD continued to refine and push limits in the early 2000s. These woofers paved the way and inspired the current generation of startup "SPL" subwoofer companies.JBL W15GTiA dominating subwoofer that handles 800 watts RMS. It features the company's Symmetrical Field Geometry for linear cone travel. The cone is made of Kevlar-impregnated paper. It also sets itself apart from the competition with its somehow aggressive looking design.Focal 13WSThis was made for the front of your car. The 13WS mini sub is perfect for adding some bass to the front sound stage. What's better than upfront bass? It features a 22mm (0.9") high linearity voice coil and neodymium magnet. Put a bunch together for great sound and a unique look.JL Audio 13TW5Part of the reason this new thin subwoofer is part of the list has to do with the fact that JL Audio patented the idea way back when. And when they finally produced the 13TW5, it proved that the wait was worth it.Aura NRT-18-8If you can install a JackHammer in your truck, then you can certainly build the right size box for this powerhouse. The Aura 18" woofer has a high-temperature neodymium ring magnet, an underhung 4" edgewound aluminum voice coil and dual over-size spiders. It wouldn't be the first time someone used a pro sound woofer in car audio.Close But No Cigar!PPI Flat pistonThis was the woofer that pushed the DB Drag world record well into the 160s. Alma Gates Bronco created excitement and helped grow car audio and DB drag racing in the 90s. Although the woofer never had real success in the retail world it will always be part of the history of car audio.JL Audio W6 The Dr. Of Doom wanted this in the top 10. He made a convincing case: "The W6 plays low and loud in almost any enclosure. Unlike the average woofer of the day, the W6s worked in any box you could fit them in. Installers liked it, customers loved it and the competition community almost required it for many years! This woofer has stood the test of time and has to be on the all time best seller list!" In addition, our reviewer Eric Holdaway called it the best sounding woofer he tested for CAE. I have a feeling you'll see this subwoofer on another list soon.Phoenix Gold CycloneAn $850 bass pump? The idea was that without the limitations of a normal voice coil, the motor could move as much air as three 12" woofers. It was unique, it created a buzz—then it disappeared.Clarion 32"One of the rarest woofers on the list. Seeing one (or more!) in a car caused grown men to giggle. Although the low power handling never allowed for massive SPL numbers. The look and ultra low frequency output always drew a crowd and sparked a conversation.Bazooka Bass TubeVery unorthodox, to the point of impracticality, especially when you consider how you might install this in your vehicle. But it does work logistically in certain large vehicles. Fasten it against a large panel in the back of a truck and it can look like it belongs. It can set you apart. Available passive or amplified.

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