If you’re a driver looking to give your car audio extra power and thump, you’ve probably heard of sealed and ported boxes.
But which box is better for your setup, and which one will give you stronger bass? Let’s find out.
Ported enclosures hit harder and create deeper bass thanks to the vented design but require a larger and more complicated construction. Sealed enclosures have a smoother and more accurate bass response but are less powerful than ported subwoofers.
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Tip: When installing a sealed or ported box for your subwoofer, consider the size of the box in relation to the size of the subwoofer, and the installation location.
Vented subwoofers require more space around the port, so if your trunk is smaller, the better option may be to use a smaller box or install a sealed subwoofer instead.
In this article, I will explore the differences between sealed and ported boxes, so you can decide which type is better for your setup and which will give you more satisfactional bass.
Will a Sealed or Ported Subwoofer Produce Stronger Bass?
Subwoofers are an essential component of any good car audio system. They are designed to reproduce the lowest frequencies in audio, providing a sense of depth and fullness to the sound.
Most subwoofers require an enclosure to give the maximum performance they can deliver.
Without an enclosure, the subwoofer is in an “infinite baffle” configuration, which has a smooth and clean frequency response but doesn’t have as much volume output or power handling as the same subwoofer in an enclosure.
There are two main types of enclosures for subwoofers: sealed and ported.
Both have specific characteristics and trade-offs, and their choice depends on the desired frequency response and output level.
Sealed enclosures, also known as acoustic suspension enclosures, are the simpler of the two types.
They have no vents or ports of any kind, and the air in the enclosure acts like a spring to help control the movement of the cone of the subwoofer.
Sealed enclosures are one of the most accurate-sounding enclosures when built properly, as they have an intense and smooth bass response and good power handling.
They also have a tight, hard-hitting sound that is great for music with more upper, punchy bass.
There are three main variations of sealed enclosures which mainly depends on the subwoofer size used, which defines the internal volume:
#1. Small sealed enclosures have a very tight bass response, smooth low-frequency roll-off, and high power handling. Their typical internal volume is 1.25 to 2.5 cubic feet (0.03-0.07 m³).
They are great for music with more upper, punchy bass but have limited lower bass response because there is less air in the enclosure, which acts like a stronger spring that limits the subwoofer’s cone movement.
Small sealed subs are often used as underseat or for small spaces. An excellent example is 10″ Kenwood Excelon P-XW1002B with a shallow driver (link to Amazon).
#2. Medium sealed enclosures have deeper bass, a smooth frequency response, and a volume of 2.5 to 4 cubic feet (0.07-0.11 m³).
They have slightly lower bass than small sealed enclosures and are suitable for music with deeper, thumpy bass.
This is because the larger air volume in the enclosure has a softer spring effect, allowing larger cone movements.
They are great when you want more accurate kicks, but they can handle proportionally less power than a small sealed enclosure, depending on the size of the box and the subwoofer’s design.
Sealed enclosures can also have low impedance subs, such as the JBL Stage with its impressive 12″ subwoofer (link to Amazon).
#3. Large sealed enclosures act like giant pillow that absorbs and damp low frequencies.
The internal volume of a large sealed enclosure is usually greater than 4 cubic feet (0.11 m³), and they are often dual subs with two drivers.
This results in a slightly less accurate, rounder bass response at the lowest frequencies but also excellent power-handling capabilities.
Large sealed enclosures are good for music with deep and dynamic bass and are great for larger subwoofers that require a lot of power.
If you want to use a large sealed sub but do not want to shake the entire neighborhood, I recommend Rockford Fosgate Prime R2-2X12 Dual (link to Amazon). It makes excellent bass that is pleasant to listen to, with just 500W RMS.
Ported enclosures, also called bass reflex enclosures, have vents or ports that allow the rear sound waves to couple with the front sound waves for greater output.
This increase in bass response, known as an additional oomph around the tuning frequency, makes them extremely popular for genres like hip-hop and rap, which require more bass.
Ported enclosures are typically used to get more output from the same power of an amplifier than a sealed enclosure because they are more efficient.
They often have more overall power output than a sealed enclosure, which means they can play louder.
The subwoofers used in the ported boxes are often low impedance, which makes them the most powerful boxes on the market.
Such an amount of power creates the heavy shaking effect you experience as soon as you turn them on.
However, there are some trade-offs to consider with ported enclosures. They are harder to build and usually require more airspace than sealed enclosures.
The porting parameters must also be very accurate, as faulty construction can result in port noise or poor performance.
You can often notice this in cars with DIY-made subs when you hear the vehicle shaking while making strange noises but not much of a bass.
Additionally, the lower bass response of a ported enclosure rolls off at a higher rate (24 dB/octave) than a sealed enclosure (12 dB/octave), which means it may not be as tight or precise.
One I can recommend to anyone is the SKAR from the EVL series (link to Amazon).
In conclusion, sealed and ported enclosures are the two main types of enclosures for subwoofers.
Sealed enclosures have a smooth and deep bass response, good power handling, and a tight, hard-hitting sound but limited lower bass response and output, meaning they do not hit as hard as ported subwoofers.
Ported enclosures have an increased output around the tuning frequency and are more powerful than sealed enclosures, thanks to which they produce stronger bass but are harder to build and require more airspace.
Also, the bass produced by ported subs is of lower accuracy.
The choice between sealed and ported enclosures depends on the desired frequency response and output level.
Choosing the suitable enclosure for the desired performance and characteristics is important to get the most out of your subwoofer. However, before starting shopping, you must decide what you expect from the new subwoofer.
What Is the Difference Between Sealed and Ported Enclosures?
Sealed enclosures, also called acoustic suspension enclosures, have no vents or ports and rely on the air in the enclosure to act as a spring to control the movement of the subwoofer’s cone.
They have a deep bass response, good power handling, and a tight, hard-hitting sound.
Ported enclosures, also called bass reflex enclosures, have vents or ports that allow the rear sound wave to couple with the front sound wave of the subwoofer for greater output.
This results in an increased output around the tuning frequency and more overall output than a sealed enclosure, but it also results in lower bass quality.
Which Is Better, Sealed or Ported Enclosures?
There is no definitive answer to this question, as it depends on the desired frequency response and output level.
- The sealed enclosure is the way to go if you need a precise, smooth bass.
- The ported enclosure is the best choice if you want a loud, heavy bass.
How Do I Choose the Right Size Enclosure for My Subwoofer?
The enclosure size will affect the subwoofer’s overall performance, so choosing the right size is important.
When you do not buy a complete set, always refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations or use an online calculator to determine the optimal size for your specific subwoofer.
Factors to consider include the size and power handling of the subwoofer, as well as the desired frequency response and output level.
If the enclosure is too large, it can decrease the subwoofer’s performance, while a too small one will not be able to contain the sound and can lead to distortion.
In both cases, the bass will be far from what you expect.
Why My Ported Enclosure Is Making a Lot of Noise?
If your ported enclosure makes a lot of noise, it could be due to faulty construction or improper porting parameters.
Some common issues include using a port that is too small or too large or not allowing enough space between the port and the walls of the enclosure.
To fix the problem, you may need to modify the enclosure’s design or consult a professional.
It’s also a good idea to double-check the manufacturer’s recommendations to ensure you are using the correct size and type of port for your subwoofer.
Can I Use a Sealed Enclosure for a Subwoofer Designed for a Ported Enclosure, or Vice Versa?
You can use most subwoofers with either enclosure but remember about customized design in each case.
For the same sub, the sealed box will be smaller than the ported one, so check the manufacturer’s box recommendation.
Can I Build My Own Enclosure for My Subwoofer?
You can build your own enclosure for a subwoofer. However, remember that the enclosure significantly impacts the subwoofer’s performance, so you must design and construct it properly.
As I mentioned earlier, always refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations for the size and type of box best suited for your specific subwoofer.
You should also be familiar with the basic principles of enclosure design, such as how the internal volume and porting parameters affect the frequency response and output level.
If you’re not confident in your ability to build an enclosure, consult a professional like CarAudioFabrication, where Mark offers many completed and customized designs.
You can also purchase a pre-made enclosure for your specific speaker on Amazon.