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What Is an Underseat Subwoofer?

By Solomon Lander
Updated May 16, 2024
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An underseat subwoofer is a speaker that is designed to reproduce low-frequency bass signals. Most subwoofers are relatively large, but underseat designs have a small and slim enclosure. This makes them perfect for installation in cars where the owner does not want to have his or her trunk space taken up by large speakers and enclosures.

Car audio enthusiasts use subwoofer drivers to augment the bass response of a car sound system. These drivers typically reproduce frequencies below 100 hertz. This frequency band includes such things as bass guitars, kick drums, low notes from a pipe organ and the sounds made by impacts or explosions. It typically is felt as much as it is heard.

The challenge inherent in using a subwoofer is that it tends to be a large and heavy unit that frequently also requires a large enclosure. This makes it difficult to install in smaller cars or cars where the owner requires the use of his or her trunk. An underseat subwoofer solves this problem by providing a small and self-contained box that can, by definition, fit under a car or truck's front seat. In fact, underseat subwoofers are even smaller than the tube subwoofer units that can be installed in a vehicle's trunk. Most underseat units also feature a powered subwoofer, saving the owner from having to install an external amplifier.

Installing an underseat subwoofer system comes with a key drawback, however. Generally speaking, bigger subwoofers in bigger boxes generate both louder bass and extend to lower frequencies, and underseat systems are small boxes with small subwoofer drivers. As such, they are less efficient producers of bass signals than their larger cousins. For this reason, these systems typically are used as last resorts for car or truck owners who desire more bass but have no other way to get it.

A bass transducer, or shaker, can be an alternative to the underseat subwoofer in space-constrained car audio systems. Instead of having a speaker that generates bass signals that move through the air, this device connects directly to the chair frame or the floor pad and vibrates it. The effect of the transducers tends to be concentrated to the area that is directly connected to them. In other words, a transducer connected to the driver's seat will transmit the bass signal to the driver but not to the passenger. As with the underseat subwoofer, transducer technology represents a compromise between performance and size.

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Discussion Comments

By starrynight — On Feb 10, 2012

A friend of mine was looking for a subwoofer for his car awhile ago. Originally, he was thinking about going with an underseat subwoofer. He thought that it would probably be cheaper than regular subwoofer, since it's so much smaller.

Wrong! There isn't really a price difference between underseat subwoofers and the regular ones. I think if it were me, and I had enough trunk space, I would just go with the regular subwoofer. More bass for the same price!

By Azuza — On Feb 09, 2012

@SZappers - Yeah, I've found that really strong subwoofers seem to be a teenage car enthusiast thing. However, I can see why the average person might like an underseat subwoofer.

You have to admit, the factory stereo system in most cars isn't that great. I can see the appeal in kicking up the bass just a little bit! Plus, an underseat subwoofer doesn't take up much space, so its' not really that big of a deal to have in your car. A trunk subwoofer, on the other hand, is quite the commitment.

By SZapper — On Feb 08, 2012

Ah, subwoofers. When I was in high school, all my friends were obsessed with getting more bass for their car stereo system. They all had those gigantic trunk subwoofers. Some of them were so big they couldn't fit anything else in their trunks.

I personally don't really see the point. In fact, I used to have a few friends who I would refuse to ride with. Their subwoofers were so strong the vibrations actually hurt my chest! It was ridiculous.

I think I could probably deal with a small, underseat subwoofer though, since it isn't as strong as a larger subwoofer.

By kylee07drg — On Feb 08, 2012

I drive a compact car with a small trunk, and this crushed my husband's dreams of installing an intense subwoofer. So, he had to settle for the underseat kind.

We had to use what little space we had in the trunk for things like groceries and luggage. We needed every bit of it in order to haul anything in my car.

Personally, I'm happy with the sound that the underseat subwoofer provides. My husband would have liked something bolder, but since I don't let him blast the stereo in my car anyway, I think it's an ideal setup.

By Oceana — On Feb 07, 2012

@seag47 – It is most likely that the people whose cars shake with bass have bigger subwoofers. I have an underseat subwoofer, and I don't think it could shake my car, even if I turned it up all the way.

Mine is not the kind designed to vibrate the seat, though. I'm with you on that; it would feel weird. Mine just gives me a really nice bass sound, and it's like listening to a surround sound system on a television.

Since I'm not a headbanger or a bass blaster, I have no need for powerful subwoofers. This one is just perfect for enhancing the bass and giving the sound added depth.

By seag47 — On Feb 07, 2012

I wouldn't want to feel my seat or floor vibrating with bass! That would be annoying, and it might even tickle.

I do like it when a car stereo system has a good balance between treble and bass. It is nice to be able to hear the bass and drums as though you are at a concert.

However, I don't like to feel them in my body. That makes me feel vulnerable and scared.

I hate it when cars drive by my house and I can hear the frame of the vehicle shaking because the music is so loud. I wonder how they concentrate on driving like that?

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