When your vehicle has some extra space to use for the audio system, you have a couple of options to consider for your subs.
You can typically put three 10s or two 12s into the same cabinet area. Although the dimensions would be different for each setup, the overall square footage would be similar.
If you use the smaller speakers, the lower mass can move with slightly more efficiency. That process enables a more accurate waveform when you want specific sound outcomes for your music.
When you choose the larger ones, you’ll want to ensure that they get sealed and brace to avoid losing the energy you create.
3 10s vs 2 12s – Would 3 10s or 2 12s Sealed Be Louder?
Although three 10s would give you more total surface area to use, the two 12s would still sound louder when sealed. If you went with the smaller subs, you’d have more of a surrounding effect from the cabinet because there is less mass in the way of its acceleration.
The differences between the three 10s and two 12s are almost negligible.
Although people have preferences based on space or manufacturer, the result of having slightly more surface area across multiple speakers won’t give you much of a change.
Your one advantage for using three 10s with your setup is to have less overall mass for the speakers.
When you look at the two 12s for subs instead, you’ll end up with more airflow that can pass over the speaker to give you a slightly higher output.
That means your sub installation’s most critical aspect when considering three 10s or two 12s is the cabinet.
Your box must be firmly braced, exceptionally rigid, and 100% sealed. If you have any gaps at all, you’ll end up losing the energy your subs create.
You’ll also want to review the amplifier power for your subwoofers when setting up the system. Most people agree (as do I) that you cannot have too much clean power running to your speakers.
Although you don’t want to overcharge them based on their setup, you can still put more than the minimum to make the audio feel effortless.
As a final step, you’ll want to make sure that you’ve got your stiffening caps in place since more significant ampere numbers require plenty of instant currents to create the results you want.
What About All the People Who Say That Square inches Matter?
Although you could compare one brand’s 10s to another’s 12s to get some better results (or vice-versa), the only way to tell if one sub installation is better than the other is to compare the manufacturers directly.
That means you’ll need to select the make and model of the subs you want before starting to look at three 10s vs. two 12s for your setup.
When taking the average surface area of three 10s into account, you’ll get about 236 square inches.
Some brands might give you a little more or less, depending on the design they use for the speakers. If you work with 12s, you’ll end up getting a median of 226 square inches.
Is that change (10 square inches) enough to provide a meaningful difference in your cabin? In most situations, the answer is “no.”
Some people might think that they hear a more complete audio experience, but what they’re actually getting is more of a reflective bounce from the produced sound waves.
With three speakers instead of two, you’re getting a few more pings around the cabin with your music.
The same result occurs with the attack. Although the two 12s will deliver more airflow, that advantage only lasts until the sound waves start reflecting off of the surfaces.
That’s why your cabinet is what is necessary for a great setup, whether you do something shallow mount or more expressive.
If you don’t have a proper box, you’ll find that both the three 10s and the two 12s will sound rather lousy.
When the installation is right, you’ll end up being about even. If anything, that makes the three 10s a better solution since you’re getting the third sub for your setup.
The cost difference could be in the $300 to $500 range if you go with 10s instead of 12s, so that issue might be something to consider when managing your setup.
How to Find the Best Subwoofer for Your Vehicle
You know that subwoofers are the speakers dedicated to delivering the lowest frequencies in the music you love.
Whether you prefer classical or heavy metal, you’ll get more out of the system when you install a high-quality set of subs.
That’s because a stock car audio system delivers speakers that are too small to correctly replicate the low-frequency sounds you want when driving.
It only takes one subwoofer to make a big difference in the audio performance, which means having two or three can give you some tremendous advantages!
■ The Best Way to Find the Subs I Need for My Car
If you’re looking to find the best subs for your vehicle, either with three 10s, two 12s, or another setup, here are the different preferences you’ll want to review.
|I want my subs to blend into the interior.||• If you want this design, you’ll want to purchase vehicle-specific subwoofers. |
• They’re designed to match the specific interior of your make and model.
• You won’t get a massive bass hit with them, but it could deliver above-average sound with three 10s or two 12s.
|I don’t want to be bothered by the installation details.||• When you want a great audio system RIGHT NOW, the best solution is to purchase a bass package online or from a local dealer. |
• If you have the speakers shipped to your home, you’ll want to verify with a local installer that they’ll do the work.
|I want to save space with my subwoofer installation.||• If you want to save space, powered subs are your best option. |
• It’s a simplified installation that works well with three 10s or two 12s.
• You can even step down to 8s for a smaller vehicle to save more and still get a decent sound.
|I prefer a 100% custom (bespoke) sub setup.||• You’ll want to look at component subs if this option is your preference. |
• The most important part of this transaction is the box for your speakers.
• If you purchase a stock product meant to fit your size, you’ll want to take the time (or have your installer do it) to seal each seam to ensure airflow loss doesn’t occur.
|I want the most effortless installation possible for my vehicle.||• When you want to DIY your installation without dealing with a lot of building or shaping, a sub and enclosure combination is your best option. |
• The speakers come pre-mounted to their boxes, eliminating the step of designing and building the system.
• Choosing this option also means you have fewer box types and subwoofers to use for your audio system.
What Specs Should I Consider for My Subs?
Once you know the system or subwoofers you want to purchase, you’ll want to start comparing each product’s specs to ensure you’re getting the best deal possible.
Here are some of the best information items to review.
1. Frequency Range
This spec lets you know how low your subs can play. The actual performance will be variable, especially when using a sealed speaker.
When you have a mounted enclosure, you’ll get deeper and more accurate sounds than if you run with a shallow mount.
With this rating, you’ll know how much power is needed to produce a specific sound.
The speakers with the higher numbers in this category require less juice to create the same audio as subs with a lower figure.
Systems that generate a massive attack need lots of power to make that result happen.
There is no substitute for a high number here! Instead of paying attention to the peak ratings, look for the RMS numbers on the units you prefer.
The RMS specification measures continuous power output and handling, making it more realistic than the peak power ratings.
4. Voice Coils
A dual voice coil sub is a popular choice because you’ll have more flexibility with the speaker’s wiring. Most subwoofers have a single-coil, requiring a specific connection.
Most subwoofers that you’ll find today come with a 4-ohm impedance rating. When you start shopping around, you’ll find that options at 2 ohms or 8 ohms are also available today.
You’ll want to look for an amp that matches your power rating and this spec to ensure you’ve got what your vehicle requires.
The Verdict: Three 10s or Two 12s?
The best subwoofer for your vehicle could come with 3 10s or 2 12s. It all depends on what you prefer and how the installation can proceed in your car.
For me, I prefer to go with the three 10s. I like how they look when installed, especially with a custom enclosure. When they get mounted in the right spot, I feel like there isn’t anything better!
I’ve also seen setups with two 12s that are outstanding.
That’s why it depends on your preference. Since the options are slight, it might be better to choose the most affordable option when comparing the same subs from a specific brand.