When you’re deciding between two 10s and two 12s for your car audio setup, the decision is based on space and volume.
Assuming that you have the same watts for both subs, you’ll typically use 10s when the sound quality matters.
When you want something loud with an extra attack, stepping up to the 12s will accomplish your goal.
The issue to consider is placement. If you have two 10s, it’s easier to fit the subwoofers under the rear seat to maximize your space.
When two 12s are what you’ve got, the cabinet might need to go in the trunk for smaller cars and trucks.
Here are some other points to consider if you’re debating about the subs you want to add to your system.
2 10s or 2 12s?
When designing or upgrading a vehicular audio system, subwoofer size often dictates loudness. That means two 12s will sound louder than two 10s. If your music doesn’t need a deeper bass or fast attack, you’ll receive more sound consistency by going with the smaller subs.
Your audio system should reflect the music you prefer to hear when driving. If you’re out on the road, the tires singing on the pavement can interfere with how your ears interpret frequencies.
That’s why it is sometimes more important to focus on high-quality volume instead of a robust EQ.
When you listen to hip-hop, heavy metal, or dubstep (EDM), it’s usually better to install two 12s for your system.
These speakers hit deeper and lower in the frequency range, producing clarity without harmful distortion.
You’ll get a heavy buzz from the vibration at louder volume levels, but it will still be a pleasant experience.
If you prefer something more authentic and budget-friendly, you can get away with using two 10s on most systems.
There won’t be as much low-end with that setup, but it works better for most rock, pop, folk, country, and similar genres. It’ll give you an emphasis on the beat with excellent tone along with the bass Hz output.
When your goal is to create a comprehensive system with decent versatility, it’s usually better to stick with the 10s.
If you want to feel more of the bass when it hits, you’ll want to put in some 12s instead – even if that means you throw them in your trunk.
■ Two 10s vs. Two 12s: How Much Does the Cone Size Matter?
When comparing two 10s vs. two 12s, the only option you have is to work with the same manufacturer using a similar model.
Outside of that direct comparison, you’ll find too much variation to make a definitive choice between these two subs.
Here are some of the general rules that you can follow when listening to these two sub sizes to determine if you can tell a definitive difference.
|Frequency Output||• When you run two 12s instead of two 10s, most models will dip about 5 Hz deeper into the sound spectrum. |
• Although that doesn’t sound like much, it can make a difference if your 10s only reach 40 Hz and the 12s can hit 35 Hz.
|Sound Output||• The added cone size and power for 12s will give it approximately 5% more clarity volume compared to 10s. |
• This option only works with direct brand designs. You can find one 10-inch sub from a premium manufacturer sounds better than two discounted 12s from a company with a less reliable reputation.
|Size and Installation||• If space is an issue in your vehicle, you should always use the subs that work best with the installation area. |
• That means smaller cabs do well with 10s, while larger interiors can support the 12s.
• The one exception might be a hatchback with extra back-end space to fit sealed 12s with directional benefits.
|Tightness and Definition||• Most 10s have a tighter EQ profile than most 12s. |
• The differences aren’t much in this comparison area.
• You can enhance both by using a ported box – assuming that it fits in the installation space.
■ How Noticeable Are the Differences Between Two 10s and Two 12s?
Although everyone claims to be an audiophile and says that they can tell the difference between two 10s and two 12s, the average listener won’t experience many changes.
If anything, you’ll feel the beat more because the added cone size on the 12s can deliver more vibration and movement.
Think about it in this way. If you have two 10s in your setup, you could listen to music on a volume level of 7 with clarity and depth.
When you have two 12s, the structure could go up to 8 while offering the same benefits.
Since the price difference between two 10s and two 12s can be significant, it’s often wiser to go with the smaller subs.
How to Make the Bass Sound Its Best
When you add subwoofers to your audio setup, the music’s emotion and energy seem to interact with your body in unique ways.
Although you can’t dance around when you drive, you might tap your fingers on the steering wheel or feel your head bobbing along with the beat when the bass hits.
Whether you decide to roll with two 10s or two 12s doesn’t matter much if you don’t have your subs tuned correctly.
If you follow these steps, you’ll get the exact bass sounds you want from those speakers while hitting the different ranges you prefer with precision.
Before you get started, you’ll want to set your speaker level.
Since distortion is your enemy, the amp’s gain should be set at the proper rate to eliminate as much of it as possible.
Once that step is accomplished, here are the other focus areas you’ll want to manage with your installation.
1. Eliminate all of the distortions.
With your amp on the low setting, play some music. Turn up the volume until you hear distortion enter the soundscape.
Once you hit that limit, back off until everything sounds clean again. You’ll want to mark that level since that’s where your receiver wants to operate.
Now you’ll turn the gain up until you hear distortion. Once you reach that level, back it off until it goes away.
This process lets you know what each max setting is so that you can enjoy your music while driving.
2. Start flattening the signal.
You can achieve this step by turning the amp’s gain to the lowest point. Next, turn on the low-pass filter, setting it as high as it will go.
If your equipment comes with a bass boost, you’ll want to turn it off to get the results you want.
After you get the setup finished, adjust your tone control to the zero setting. It might be called “middle” or “zero” on your equipment. If it comes with a booster or a crossover filter, they’ll need to get turned off.
3. Adjust the gain and low-pass filter.
You’ll want to play music through the receiver at 25% volume. Turn up the gain on the amp until the subs overpower all of the other speakers without distortion.
As you listen, slowly adjust the low-pass filter until the mid-range and high-frequency tones disappear from the sound profile. This step ensures that the subwoofers are only playing the notes that you want to hear.
In most setups, you should leave the low drums and bass to pulse through the subs. Everything else, including the vocals and other percussion instruments, should go to the other speakers.
4. Manage your boost and subsonic filter.
Although it can be fun to kick the bass boost up to its highest levels, a little goes a long way on most subs. If you decide to use this feature or setting, it’s typically where the most distortion originates.
If you hear distortion while working with these settings, you’ll want to lower the amp’s gain until it goes away. The goal should be to feel the beat more than hear the unwanted sounds in your mix.
If you have a ported subwoofer, subsonic filters can tame the louder low notes to prevent problems.
Although you’ll need to fine-tune all of them to get the right EQ, the system will perform at whatever levels you prefer. You’ll want to keep making adjustments until you get to the place that matches your personal taste.
5. Match the subs level to the volume.
On the final step, you’ll want to turn up the receiver volume until it reaches the max level without distortion. Once you hit that level, slowly turn up the gain until you get the bass balanced with the rest of the music.
Whether you’re running two 10s or two 12s at that stage shouldn’t matter because you’ve maximized the output to your preferences.
A Final Thought About Two 10s or Two 12s
The acoustic space within your vehicle can interfere with how subs perform. They don’t always combine the sounds in constructive ways because of how the sound waves interact with your environment.
If you have two 10s that seem to lack punch, you can reverse the speaker leads on your subs to deliver a better result.
Taking this step will change the backward and forward movements, potentially putting the waves together into better flows.
Before taking that step, you might want to read the warranty information for your speakers. If you change the wiring profile, it could void some or all of the protections you receive.