When driving around, there’s nothing more satisfying than a thumping bassline that you can feel under your skin.
It adds an extra dimension to your music that brings your tunes to life, which is why subwoofers are such an essential investment.
However, if you’re limited on trunk space, it can be hard to justify taking up precious room for a large and bulky subwoofer.
This is where free air subwoofers come into the picture, allowing you to enjoy punchy bass without taking up excess space.
They’re not the most common subs on the market, which is why we’ve broken down the best free air subwoofers so you can find your perfect match.
Quick List: Top 8 Free Air Subwoofers
- JBL Stage 810 Sub – Best Budget Option
- Rockville MS10LW Marine Free Air Sub
- Infinity Reference REF1200S Subwoofer
- JBL Stadium 1224 Free Air Sub – Best Overall
- Pioneer TS-SW2002D2 Subwoofer
- Kicker 44CWCD84 Sub – Best 8-Inch
- Kicker 10C104 Free Air Sub – Best 10-Inch
- CT Sounds Tropo V2.0 Sub
Researching Free Air Subwoofers
When researching free air subwoofers, we focused our efforts on balancing durable construction, great sound quality, and affordability. All the subs on this list can deliver punchy bass without breaking the bank, making it more accessible than ever to create an immersive audio experience.
We wanted to make sure that all kinds of vehicles are covered, so we found free air subwoofers from 8 to 12 inches, allowing you to accommodate to the size of your car or truck. We even found the best marine free air subwoofer on the market so boating enthusiasts can take their fishing trips to the next level.
Durable construction was a huge priority of ours, and we focused on free air subs that can handle low frequencies at high pressure without compromising on sound quality. Many also include superior temperature regulating design to make sure that you can get hours of use.
Free air subwoofers are amazing because of their simplicity, so we found the best units with simple installation, flexible controls, and in some cases adjustable impedance, allowing you to fit your sub to your space. No matter what kind of amplifier you have, there’s a free air subwoofer on this list that is compatible and can produce excellent bass.
Above all, we sought out subs with punchy, powerful bass and detailed sound that can be felt as much as heard.
The Best Free Air Subwoofers in 2020
1. JBL Stage 810 Sub – Best Budget Option
The JBL Stage 810 is our pick for the best budget-friendly free air subwoofer, due to its damage-resistant construction and reliable playback.
✔️ What we like: A durable, budget-friendly sub that performs well in day to day usage.
❌ What we don’t like: Struggles with bass-heavy music genres.
- Value for money
- Intensive quality control
- High quality transducers
The Stage 810 is the perfect combination of compact size and large sound, featuring an 8-inch driver and the capacity to support 200W RMS. It also allows you flexibility over installation, with the option for either free air or enclosed setups. With a 4 Ohm impedance, it can work with many amplifiers on the market while maintaining efficiency and powerful, punchy bass.
While small, it has a durable design that includes a polypropylene cone, nitrile rubber surround, and 1.5-inch voice coil. The cone and surround are stiff and durable, allowing them to withstand high pressure output while maintaining great quality sound from 38 to 200Hz.
The voice coil picks up all the details of your music across the lower frequencies, while its coiled airflow design allows temperature regulation and prevents overheating.
JBL is a renowned audio brand, and they subject all their units to intensive testing before allowing them on the market. The Stage 810 is no different, and it is subjected to comprehensive quality control that includes being frozen, shaken, blasted with UV light, and played at full power for days on end.
This rigorous testing ensures that the sub can handle heavy duty usage and will never let you down.
They also use JBL sound engineers to tune the high quality transducers, allowing this subwoofer to achieve the famous JBL sound that has minimal distortion and high sound pressure level.
Our only complaint is that due to the more limited frequency response, the Stage 810 struggles with very bass-heavy genres like hip hop.
However, if you’re looking for an affordable free air subwoofer that will give you reliable playback day in day out, the JBL Stage 810 should be top of your list.
2. Rockville MS10LW Marine Free Air Sub
If you’re looking for a marine free air subwoofer to add to your boat, look no further than the high quality MS10LW by Rockville.
✔️ What we like: A durable and powerful marine subwoofer that can get the boat party started.
❌ What we don’t like: The LED lights.
- Waterproof and damage resistant basket
- Double stacked magnet
- Huge volume potential
Ahoy there! The MS10LW is the perfect addition to your boat for those times when you’re looking to enjoy high quality music out at sea. It’s constructed from a molded ABS plastic basket that is waterproof and completely resistant to damage, allowing it to perform well even with the wear and tear of being on your boat.
Rockville even jumped on it to make sure it won’t break under pressure conditions, so you can be certain of quality and reliability.
This is an incredibly powerful free air subwoofer, with a 10-inch driver that can support up to 1200W RMS, more than loud enough to be heard from miles away. A lot of its power comes from a double stacked 80z magnet that is almost twice as large as those in other marine free air subwoofers.
You won’t find a comparable sound, especially considering it covers the extended frequency range from 30Hz to 4Khz.
Luckily, the sub isn’t just powerful, and you can be sure of high quality bass and simple installation with the MS10LW. It has a polypropylene cone with rubber edging and a 4 layer dual voice coil that reproduces highly accurate sound, free from distortion.
It also has 4 Ohm impedance, which allows you better efficiency and simple installation with your audio setup.
While the MS10LW free air sub includes LED lights, some users have reported issues with their functionality. Some of them have a short life, while others need to be bypassed to function correctly. However, this is easy to overlook for a high quality marine sub with punchy bass.
3. Infinity Reference REF1200S Subwoofer
The REF1200S by Infinity Reference is a great option if you’re looking for a 12-inch subwoofer that’s user-friendly and reliable.
✔️ What we like: A compact sub with flexible installation and detailed bass.
❌ What we don’t like: It struggles at the lowest frequencies.
- Selectable impedance
- Intensive reliability testing
- Compact design
While the REF1200S is a 12-inch subwoofer, it also has a compact design that allows it to be installed in smaller spaces in your car or truck. It has a shallow mount design that is simple to install and won’t steal your precious trunk space.
You also have the flexibility to install this sub in the free air or enclosed configuration, depending on your space limitations and bass needs.
One of the best features of the Infinity Reference subwoofer is that it has selectable impedance, allowing you to choose between 2 or 4 Ohm. This allows you to adjust according to your amplifier and audio setup, providing greater flexibility and simplicity of installation.
It’s also super durable, because, like JBL, Infinity Reference submits their subwoofers to intense reliability tests. These include freezing, baking, shaking, UV light exposure, and full operation for several days. After these intense tests, you can be sure that this free air subwoofer can withstand any heavy use that you wish to inflict on it.
While the REF1200S has a decent frequency response from 27 to 175Hz, some users have reported that it doesn’t perform its best at the lowest frequencies. This isn’t the correct subwoofer for you if you’re looking for a hugely powerful, wall-shaking bass.
However, if you prioritize reliability, musical sound, and natural bass, then the REF1200S sub by Infinity Reference is the one for you.
4. JBL Stadium 1224 Free Air Sub – Best Overall
The Stadium 1224 by JBL is our pick for the best overall free air subwoofer, due to its simple but high quality design and great bass sound.
✔️ What we like: A superior free air subwoofer with flexible installation and great sound.
❌ What we don’t like: The price.
- Smart Selectable Impedance switch
- Superior voice coil design
- Large frequency response
The Stadium 1224 is powerful and durable, with a 12-inch driver that can handle up to 500W RMS of power. Covering the large frequency range of 25 to 175Hz, the JBL sub can comfortably deliver low frequencies with detail and quality.
This subwoofer has a simple but high quality design that allows for powerful but clean bass without distortion. It has a firm polypropylene cone, rubber surround, and 2.5-inch voice coil that cools itself with aero-cooling design.
This allows the Stadium 1224 to handle high output and powerful bass while regulating its own temperature and preserving the integrity of the subwoofer. The coil itself is also oversized, which gives it superior power handling and punchier bass.
Simple installation is one of the main draws of the JBL subwoofer. It gives you flexibility of setup, with the option for either free air or enclosed configurations. It also includes a Smart Selectable Impedance switch that can vary the impedance from 2 to 4 Ohm.
This allows you to optimize the subwoofer according to your amplifier, no matter what make or model it is.
The terminals of the sub also accept up to 10-gauge wire, which is ideal if you have long wire runs and don’t want to lose the high output and powerful bass.
Our only criticism of the Stadium 1224 free air sub is that it is the most expensive free air subwoofer on this list. However, it’s definitely a worthy investment if you’re looking for the perfect combination of durability, punchy bass, and simple installation.
5. Pioneer TS-SW2002D2 Subwoofer
The TS-SW2002D2 by Pioneer is a definite step up from a stock subwoofer, featuring durable design and decent bass.
✔️ What we like: A reliable and affordable upgrade from a factory car subwoofer.
❌ What we don’t like: Occasional rattling at higher volumes.
- Small and compact
- Huge frequency response
- Mica-injected resin cone
The TS-SW2002D2 is a pint-sized subwoofer with an 8-inch driver and shallow mount design that can fit easily in small spaces. At less than 3 inches in width, it affords you the versatility to enjoy punchy bass in a compact space. You have flexibility with the installation of the Pioneer sub, because it can be installed as free air or in an enclosure, depending on your space limitations and needs.
While it’s small, it doesn’t lack on volume, with the ability to handle up to 150W RMS through a multitude of different amplifiers. The 2 Ohm voice coil can be wired for 1 or 4 Ohm setups, allowing you to configure according to your amp.
It can handle a generous frequency response from 20 to 200Hz, which is more than enough to pick up on those lower frequencies that will get your car shaking.
It’s also an exceptionally durable free air subwoofer, featuring a Mica-injected resin cone that is both firm and lightweight, allowing it to fire under high pressure without distorting the sound. This design can move more air than other models, allowing for a deeper and stronger bass response that is as powerful as it is accurate.
You’re not going to find audiophile-quality sound with the TS-SW2002D2, but it performs well as a definite step up from a stock subwoofer.
Our only criticism is that you may experience some rattling at the higher volumes with the Pioneer subwoofer. However, if you’re looking to upgrade your car sound system and want an entry-level free air subwoofer, the TS-SW2002D2 by Pioneer won’t let you down.
6. Kicker 44CWCD84 Sub – Best 8-inch
The 44CWCD84 by Kicker is our pick for the best 8-inch free air subwoofer, due to its superior heavy duty design and good quality bass.
✔️ What we like: A slim but durable subwoofer with a definitive thumping bass.
❌ What we don’t like: More complicated installation.
- Superior cone design
- Highly durable
Sometimes it’s all in the name, and the brand Kicker hints at the thumping bass that its subwoofers are more than capable of. The 44CWCD84 is no different, delivering a punchy sound with audible thump that adds an extra dimension to your favorite tracks. This is despite its compact 8-inch driver design, which doesn’t hint at the impressive 200W RMS that it’s capable of producing.
Like the other free air subwoofers on this list, the Kicker sub allows flexibility over installation. You can choose free air or enclosed setup, while the 4 Ohm voice coil is highly efficient and compatible with a multitude of amplifiers.
Some users have reported that installation is a little more difficult with the 44CWCD84, due to some discrepancies with the predrilled holes in the mounting brackets, but you’ll be fine if you know what you’re doing.
The Kicker subwoofer has a durable design that can withstand heavy duty use without overheating or compromising on sound quality. It features a superior injection-molded polypropylene cone with perimeter thermal venting, a ribbed polyurethane surround, stamped steel basket, and spring-loaded speaker terminals.
This design allows for high excursion, precise sound with minimal distortion, and extended playback without damaging either the unit or your sound system.
If you’re looking for a small but powerful free air subwoofer that has a very durable design, you can’t go wrong with the 44CWCD84 by Kicker.
7. Kicker 10C104 Free Air Sub – Best 10-Inch
Our pick for the best 10-inch free air subwoofer is the 10C104 by Kicker, for its durable design that won’t break the bank.
✔️ What we like: A subwoofer that balances high quality construction and affordability.
❌ What we don’t like: A long break in time.
- Heavy duty construction
- Large frequency response
- Superior temperature regulation
The 10C104 is designed for heavy duty use, featuring an extremely durable design that can withstand consistent use for long periods of time. This includes an injection-molded cone with a 360 degree back bracing that is optimized for rigidity, a high temperature wire coil that can withstand high pressure with accuracy and precision, and a vented pole piece that allows the dissipation of heat.
The sturdy steel basket also regulates temperatures through its coil-cooling perimeter venting, preventing the Kicker sub from overheating.
The construction of the 10C104 is rounded off by a ribbed surround that increases excursion, spiralead tinsel-lead material that maintains durability, and an attractive yellow stitched surround. This free air subwoofer can withstand even the loudest and deepest bass, comfortably handling up to 150W RMS from the 10-inch driver.
It covers an extended frequency response from 30 to 500Hz, allowing you to enjoy the thumping bass of your favorite tunes as you drive around the block or go on road trips.
Installation is a breeze with the Kicker sub. It includes nickel-plated push terminals that are easy to hook up and 4 Ohm impedance that is efficient and compatible with many amplifiers. You also have the flexibility to choose between a free air or enclosed configuration with the 10C104 Kicker sub.
Our only complaint is that this sub has a long break in time, so you’ll need to be patient for many hours to achieve the best quality sound.
8. CT Sounds Tropo V2.0 Sub
The Tropo V2.0 by CT Sounds is designed to withstand seriously heavy use while still delivering clean and accurate bass.
✔️ What we like: A heavy duty sub with powerful volume and punchy bass.
❌ What we don’t like: It struggles with the lowest lows.
- Enormous volume capabilities
- Competition grade construction
- Double stacked Y35 magnet
CT Sounds has a variety of different subwoofer lines and the Tropo series places an emphasis on covering the low frequencies with high volume and punchy bass. You can expect volume with this sub, featuring a 12-inch driver that can handle up to 600W RMS. This thunderous bass is more than enough to get the party mood started in your car or truck.
A lot of the Tropo’s power comes from its double stacked Y35 magnet that is of a high grade and can handle the high pressure of low frequencies with ease. Other durable design elements include a heavy duty stamp steel basket, foam surround, double-stitched competition-grade paper cone, and dual high temperature voice coils.
These elements work together to deliver a bass that is clean and free from distortion, without compromising on its power. The CT Sounds sub is classified as competition-grade due to its quality construction, so you can be sure of durability.
The CT Sounds sub delivers powerful bass, but some users have reported that it struggles with frequencies less than 35Hz. Therefore, if you’re a lover of bass-heavy genres that rely on the lowest frequencies, this may not be the best free air sub for you.
A Guide to Choosing a Free Air Subwoofer
So, what’s the deal with impedance?
You may have noticed that all the free air subwoofers on this list have a different impedance that ranges from 2 to 4 Ohm. If you’re inexperienced in the audio world, this may mean very little to you, but it’s an important factor to take into consideration.
Free air subwoofers really do need external amplifiers to achieve their best possible sound. Without an enclosure to boost the sound quality, the combination of a high quality amp and insulated vehicle can take the sound quality from average to amazing.
You need to match the impedance of your subwoofer to your amplifier for the most efficient operation, which is why we’ve found free air subwoofers with multiple different impedance levels. Some of them even include adjustable impedance, which could be a great idea if you think you will change or upgrade your amplifier in the future.
How important is durability?
Durability was one of our very top priorities when searching for free air subwoofers. It’s important to choose a sub that can withstand heavy duty use without overheating or distorting the sound quality. You also want a unit that will give you years of use so you can get real bang for your buck.
Many of the subwoofers on this list include durable design elements like heavy duty cone design, rigid rubber or foam surround, and premium voice coils that can withstand high temperatures and cool themselves.
Some of the subs come from brands that subject their products to extremely high intensity tests to ensure quality standards. This could include prolonged exposure to UV light, ongoing playback at full volume, and freezing, just to name a few. These subwoofers are sure to give you years of seamless operation without the fear that they will give out on you.
Choosing a subwoofer with durable design is ultimately about investing in the long term, so it should be an important consideration.
What kind of sound are you looking for?
While you may be constrained by space limitations, you should also ask yourself exactly what kind of bass you are looking to experience.
The subwoofers on this list range in size from 8 to 12 inches, with different amplification capabilities. If you have a smaller to medium sized car or truck, you can probably get away with an 8-inch sub, but a larger driver size is going to give you a more immersive sound.
There are different qualities of bass to be found as well. Some of the subwoofers on this list focus on a punchy bass that gets under your skin and covers the lowest frequencies, allowing you to feel the sound as you hear it.
Others have more limited frequency ranges but focus on a natural, musical sound that is a natural extension of your car radio. Your preference may depend on the genre of music that you prefer, because bass-heavy genres like hip hop will do better at the lowest frequencies.
With free air subwoofers, you should ideally optimize your vehicle for this audio configuration. Without a ported or sealed enclosure providing insulation and improving the sound quality, the sound is going to lack in comparison.
Thankfully, you can get around this by insulating your vehicle with a material like Dynamat. You could also set up your vehicle with a baffle board configuration to achieve a higher quality sound.
The Ultimate Free Air Subwoofers on the Market
Just because you are restricted on space in your vehicle doesn’t mean that you have to miss out on an immersive bass experience.
A subwoofer is an essential addition to any audio system, taking your music from okay to excellent and fully-dimensional.
Thankfully, free air subwoofers can solve this problem, by eliminating the need for a lot of installation space while adding extra bass.
We’ve found the best free air subwoofers on the market, so you can add a little bass to your car, truck, or boat, without breaking the bank or compromising on sound quality.
- Best Subwoofers for Music – 7 Great Subs To Enhance Your Listening Experience in 2021
- Best 8-inch Subwoofers For All Budgets & Uses
- Best 15-Inch Subwoofers For Cars & Home Theaters
- Best 12 Inch Subwoofer: 6 Great Subwoofers for Home or Car Audio (All Budgets)
- 9 Best Car Subwoofers To Enhance Your Daily Commute in 2020 (Top Options Only)
Simon is a music lover, musical instrument player and passionate audio afficionado. When he is not playing the guitar or listening to music he is either eating tacos or snoring too loudly.