Tag: subs

How to Match a Subwoofer and an Amplifier

As you scavenge deeper into the realm of car audio, you begin to realize that figuring out the proper amplifier/subwoofer setup is a lot harder than just matching power ratings. As you sift through all of the different manufacturers, you might notice that the word “ohms” appears often.  Have you found yourself wondering, “Well the subwoofer is 2 ohms, so I should probably get an amplifier at 2 ohms?” In most cases you would be incorrect, for various reasons. To avoid confusion, we’ll let scientists deal with Ohm’s Law and instead focus on the actual matching process. In this article I will explain to you how to match a subwoofer and amplifier so you do not end up blowing any fuses, mentally or physically.

There are a few criteria we have to look at first. For example, the distinction between a monoblock amplifier and a 2-channel amplifier, as well as the difference of a single voice coil subwoofer versus a dual voice coil subwoofer. I will discuss these categorically and explain each one, so when it is all said and done, you just have to match up your equipment in a chart to find the answer! Let’s start with some terminology:

Channels

This does not refer to the channels that you switch between on your TV while trying to find the Lakers game, and it does not refer to a channel that is filled with water. In the audio world, the word “channel” refers to the stream of data on one line, or in the case of amplifiers, one cable of power. A single channel amplifier has one terminal that distributes power to a speaker, while a two channel amplifier has two terminals that distribute power. Likewise with 4 and 5 channels amplifiers, it’s the number of routes available for information or power to flow.

If you have ever heard the terms “mono” and “stereo” you most likely link that to a sound system. If music is recorded in “stereo,” it means that it has a left and right side, so the left side might output the sound of the guitar while the right side pumps out the vocals. Stereo is effectively 2-channels, so the recording engineers can choose to have certain music play on one side or the other at any given time.

Bridging

When you bridge two channels together, they create one channel. This is used most often in 2 or 4 channel amplifiers. If you have two channels but only want to run one speaker, the channels can be bridged, or wired together, to create one single channel. It’s exactly like a wooden bridge in that it connects two paths together as one (Learn more about amplifier bridging).

Monoblock and Class D Amplifiers

Monoblock and Class D amplifiers have only one channel that is typically used for powering one subwoofer at lower frequencies. I find this type of amp to be the best choice for running one or two subwoofers. How do you run two subwoofers off of an amplifier that has only one channel? This can be a headache for those who do not know the difference between series and parallel wiring. If you have two subwoofers, you can wire the subwoofers together in series or parallel and then wire them to the amplifier.

Two Channel Amplifiers

A two channel amplifier can be wired in a few different ways because it has two channels which you can bridge together to create one channel. You can run one channel to each subwoofer, which acts as though each sub has its own monoblock amplifier hooked up to it. You can bridge the channels together into one channel and run one subwoofer or more, but this option forces you to run the amplifier at a 4 ohm load. While two-channel amps are a good option, I prefer to run a monoblock amplifier system.

Four Channel Amplifiers

A four channel amplifier has, well, four channels. This type of amplifier is mostly used to power speakers, not subwoofers. The average car has four speakers, two in the front and two in the back. Each channel connects to one speaker. Simple enough, right? But we can make this somewhat complicated by using subwoofers instead and bridging the channels together. If you have four channels (1,2,3,4), you can bridge channels 1 and 2 together, and then bridge channel 3 and 4 together. So you end up with two channels total. You cannot bridge those two channels into one channel; it will end up destroying your amplifier. The majority of the time, when a channel has been bridged, it turns into a four ohm channel. So if you have two channels, each at 2 ohms, and then bridge them together, it turns into four ohms (I will address ohms soon, so don’t worry!).

Single/Dual Voice Coil Subwoofers

Now I have to introduce the two major types of voice coils, Single Voice Coil (SCV) and the Dual Voice Coil (DVC). You will see this a lot as you look through different subwoofers. A SVC subwoofer has one voice coil and one set of terminals, one positive (+) and one negative (-). A DVC subwoofer has two voice coils, each with its own set of terminals. Because of this, DVC subwoofers offer more wiring options than SVC speakers. You will see that most DVC subwoofers can be wired at two different ohm levels, unlike a SVC which can be wired at only one ohm level. There is little to no difference in sound quality between the two types of subwoofers.

Ohm

First let’s check the dictionary’s definition of an ohm. “A unit of electrical resistance equal to that of a conductor in which a current of one ampere is produced by a potential of one volt across its terminals.” Confusing right? Don’t worry, sometimes I have trouble understanding it too! Basically, it’s the resistance to the flow of energy. The higher the ohm, the more resistance. So, 2 ohms has less resistance than 4 ohms. Amplifiers often give their power ratings at 2 ohms and 4 ohms. You will notice that the power rating at 4 ohms is less than the power rating at 2 ohms, or even 1 ohm on some amplifiers. The goal is to buy an amplifier and subwoofers that will give you the most power when you wire them together.

Parallel Wiring

If you have two parallel lines, it usually means they run next to each other but never touch. Parallel wiring is similar to it. If you wire in parallel, you would hook all of the positive speaker terminals together on one line, and all of the negative speaker terminals on the other.

Series Wiring

Series wiring can become a bit confusing. You take a single current path and arrange it among all of the components. It effectively makes a chain, so everything is hooked together as one. The parallel wiring, you would hook together similar terminals only, instead of wiring everything together.

Series/Parallel Wiring Charts

Single Subwoofer Wiring

OHMS Voice Coil Parallel Series
1 Ohm DVC 0.5 Ohms 2 Ohms
2 Ohm DVC 1 Ohm 4 Ohms
4 Ohm DVC 2 Ohms 8 Ohms
6 Ohm DVC 3 Ohms 12 Ohms
4 Ohm SVC N/A 4 Ohms
8 Ohm SVC N/A 8 Ohms

Dual Subwoofer Wiring

OHMS Voice Coil Parallel Series
1 Ohm DVC 1 Ohm 4 Ohm
2 Ohm DVC 0.5 Ohm 2 Ohm
4 Ohm DVC 1 Ohm 4 Ohm
6 Ohm DVC 1.5 Ohm 6 Ohm
4 Ohm SVC 2 Ohm 8 Ohm
8 Ohm SVC 4 Ohm N/A

Combining Subs and Amps

Hopefully you have a greater understanding after reading the terminology section. This next section is aimed at helping you find the perfect amplifier and subwoofer combination. If you did not understand any of the terminology, the subwoofer wiring chart will help you out. The chart is based on a one channel amplifier wiring setup. If you have two subwoofers, it assumes you are wiring them to a single channel. If you have two subwoofers and two channels, you would look at the “1 Sub” section, because each sub gets its own channel. In the end, the power of the amplifier needs to equal the power of the subwoofers. For example, and amplifier that has 400 watts should be paired with one subwoofer that runs at 400 watts, or two subwoofers that run at 200 watts each. Regardless of the combination, the main goal is to equal out the power while running the products at their respective continuous power ratings.

Alright, so let’s say you buy two Kicker 10CVR124 subwoofers. Each sub has an RMS power rating of 400 watts, and each subwoofer is a 4 ohms, Dual voice coil sub. Scan the chart for 2 subwoofers, then find the matching ohm level and voice coil type. So, we look for the DVC (Dual Voice Coil) and then the 4 Ohms right next to it. From here we see that It lists the ohm levels that wiring these subwoofers together in series or parallel will produce. So looking at the chart it says these two subwoofers can be wired in parallel at 1 ohm or series at 4 ohms. Remember what I said about the ohms? The lower ohm level has less resistance. So let’s choose a 1 ohm stable amplifier to give these subwoofers the most power! Because each subwoofer runs at 400 watts RMS, we need to find an amplifier that runs at around 800 watts RMS.

Let’s look at a Monoblock, or single channel amplifier. The Rockford Fosgate R750-1D monoblock amplifier puts out 750 watts at 1 ohm at one channel. While it is not exactly 800 watts, we do not have to be perfect. Just don’t go too much over or under. As it is, this would be a near perfect match. If you decided to wire the subs at 4 ohms, you would have to find an amplifier that puts out 800 watts of power at 4 ohms, which can be very expensive.

Let’s keep the same subwoofers but choose a two channel amplifier. Assume we will not bridge the channels. This changes things a bit, because you need to act as though you have one subwoofer instead of two given that each subwoofer has its own channel. So in this case, we look at the chart for 1 subwoofer, with a dual voice coil, at 4 ohms. It says in Parallel it wires to 2 ohms, and in series it wires at 8 ohms. Lets choose the 2 ohm stable amp to get the most power. I found an RE Audio CTX-1600.2 amplifier which has 700 watts of power bridged at 4 ohms (each channel has 350 watts of power at 2 ohms). Each subwoofer gets one channel, so each subwoofer gets 350 watts to it. This is just about right since each subwoofer has an RMS power rating of 400 watts.

If you took the same amplifier and bridged the channels together, once bridged they stay at 4 ohms. So while these subwoofers would still work, you would have to look back at the 2 subwoofer chart. It has to be wired in series, because this amplifier is not 1 ohm stable.

I would not recommend a 4-Channel amplifier for subwoofers, but if you have to have one, just know that you will not be able to find an amplifier that puts out 400 watts each channel. However, you could bridge each of the channels together, making it a 2 channel amplifier. In this case you would need to bridge a 4-Channel amp with power levels at 200 watts per channel. Once bridged it turns into 400 watts at 2 channels. Does this work with our subs? According to the chart, a bridged four channel amp is classified as a two channel amp. Since each sub gets a channel, you will also look at the 1 Sub section on the chart. The chart tells us that a 4 ohm dual voice coil wires to 2 ohms or 8 ohms, not 4 ohms. Since the subwoofers we choose can only be wired at 4 ohms, you would need to find a different set of subwoofers that are suitable for 2 or 8 ohm loads.

Now you should be ready to start building your own system. Besides an amplifier and subwoofers, you will need to purchase speaker wire, wiring kits among other install accessories. Call us at 1-877-BUY-SONIC if you have any questions along the way.

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The Subwoofer Buying Guide

Add a Subwoofer to Your System for Deep Lows

 Buying a Subwoofer

Add Bass to Your System with a New Subwoofer

To add some extra bump to your vehicle’s sound system, all you need to do is add a subwoofer to your system. Car subwoofers provide depth to the sound of your music by supplying accurate bass beats to supplement the high frequency musical tunes. We carry car subs in a variety of shapes and sizes to suit your specific needs. However, buying a subwoofer is a more complex process than picking one at random, throwing it in your car and wiring it up. Some research is highly recommended so that you can choose the perfect subwoofer for your system. When choosing car subwoofers, you also need keep in mind things like the amount of space in your vehicle’s cab or trunk and what kind music you listen to. Most car audio enthusiasts take particular pride in their woofers. When buying a subwoofer there’s a couple things you may want to consider before pulling that “Checkout” trigger.

What Does a Subwoofer Do?

Subwoofers Displace Air to Create Sound Waves

Let’s start by talking a bit about how subwoofers create bass. This will help you make a better decision when picking out how many subwoofers you want, and what sizes you want the drivers to be. Simply put, subwoofers create bass by moving air. Each time the subwoofer moves back and forth, it’s creating displacement. The size of the driver and how much power is running through the woofers motor determines how much overall bass output you’ll get. Two 250W 10″ subwoofers will be louder than one 12″ subwoofer handling 500W because the two 10″ subwoofers are displacing more air.

Buying multiple subwoofers is a great way to double the surface area that’s being moved, but it’s not the only factor that determines how much bass you’ll be getting. The power handling of the subwoofer is very important in this process as well.

What Size Subwoofer?

NVX NSW124 Subwoofer

When looking for your ideal subwoofer, it is also important to note the physical size of the subwoofer you want. As with everything in car audio, space is not always readily available, and subwoofer sizes can vary from slim fit subs to 18″ behemoths. The size of your subwoofer (the diameter) is important to know for installation processes and if you are planning to purchase or build an enclosure. The most popular subwoofer sizes are 10″ and 12″. Other common subwoofer sizes are 6.5″, 8″, 13″, 15″ and 18″.

It is also critical for you to be aware of the mounting depth space you have to work with and what the mounting depth of the subwoofer is that you are planning on purchasing. If you buy a subwoofer that has a mounting depth greater than you have to work with, you’ll either have to get a different subwoofer or do some serious modifications.

Bigger is Better?

In the case of car subwoofers, bigger is not necessarily better. The best subwoofers have high sensitivity ratings. These measure how effectively a speaker converts power into sound. Subs with a higher sensitivity rating will play louder, given a set amount of input power.

To demonstrate, consider the following example. If “SUBWOOFER A” has a relatively lower power rating than “Subwoofer B”, but“SUBWOOFER A” has a relatively higher sensitivity rating, then “SUBWOOFER A” will play louder (assuming the sensitivity differences are substantial). Therefore, a smaller subwoofer with higher sensitivity ratings can boom louder than a larger subwoofer with lower sensitivity.

What Kind of Power Do You Need?

The RMS power handling rating refers to the amount of power a car subwoofer can handle on a continuous basis. Ignore the peak power ratings, these ratings are merely a marketing scheme used to grab your attention. They are totally insignificant when trying to match up an amplifier with subs and speakers.

We recommend slightly over-powering your subwoofer based on its recommended RMS power rating. This will help prevent accidentally over-powering or blowing your sub. You should select a subwoofer based on the amount of power output generated by your amplifier, the sub’s impedance and the voice coil specifications.

What Else Do You Need to Know?

Impedance

The impedance measures the load value (in ohms) that the speakers present to the amplifier, or the amount of resistance to the current flow. Car subwoofer impedance can be rated at a 2 ohm, 4 ohm, or an 8 ohm load. When you are trying to match up a subwoofer’s power rating with an amplifier, be sure the power ratings are estimated at the same ohm load.

Voice Coils Provides the Push to Move the ConeVoice Coils

A voice coil is the coil of wire attached to the cone. Driving a current through the voice coil produces a magnetic field, which in turn moves the cone. The number of voice coils allow for different wiring configurations. The type of voice coil setups includes single, dual, or quad voice coil. Dual voice coil subs have more wiring flexibility than single voice coils subs; however, single voice coil subwoofers provide easier hookup options for wiring multiple subwoofers in parallel or series. You may run a dual voice coil (DVC) sub in parallel, series, or combination. A quad voice coil has four voice coils and is equal to two dual voice coil subwoofers (in terms of wiring capabilities).

Cone Material

Paper cones natural sounding bass. Some of the best sounding bass, but the least durable cone material. This is why you commonly see materials such as polypropylene being used for cones. Polypropylene tends to be more durable than paper, but also retains some natural sound. Finally, you’ll find titanium cones and other materials in some premium woofers. This is all used for specific reasons depending on the manufacturer, and can provide different sounding bass.

Do I need an Enclosure?

Component subwoofers should be mounted in an enclosure for optimal performance. We advise you to choose a sealed, ported or bandpass box based on your subwoofer specifications and available vehicle space. We also offer premade package deals underSubwoofers with Enclosures. These Enclosed Subwoofer Systems include subwoofers prebuilt into a box.

If space is at a premium, we offer powered subs, which are essentially enclosures loaded with an amplifier and a woofer. We also offer vehicle specific subs that are specially designed to save space and match the interior of your vehicle. For the ultimate luxury, check out our BassForms fiberglass enclosures featuring a lifetime warranty.

Price

Make sure you plan your budget ahead of time. To power your car subwoofer, you will need an amplifier, speaker wire, wiring kits and other install accessories. If you need help along the way, give us a call at 1-877-289-7664.

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