Car Subwoofers

Ported vs. Sealed Subwoofer- Which To Choose?

Mike Cross
Updated October 18, 2020

Ported Enclosure

First, we are going to start by explaining what a ported subwoofer enclosure is. This name might not be familiar to you if you are just getting into car audio. Another name for ported enclosures is vented enclosure. That is because, if you make things simple, a ported enclosure has a vent or space for air to flow in and out of. The port also serves another purpose though. That purpose is making the bass louder or more thump.

Ported subwoofer cases though can be very hard to make. That is because the port or hole has to be just the right size to work with your sub. If the port is not built to the right specifications, then the sound you get may be reduced. Tuning the port is a science and you have to get the perfect length and width. If the port is too far off on the design, then it can damage the subwoofer in the enclosure and cause it to fail. That is because an improper enclosure will cause unnecessary stress on the subwoofer in it, and reduce the quality of the sound.

For making a ported enclosure the ports or vents can be any shape. They can be round, square, triangular, rectangular or any custom shape you can think of as long as they are made to the right size. Outside of being louder, there are other advantages to a ported enclosure. Ported enclosures are generally more efficient regarding the amplifier power necessary to make the subwoofers perform. This allows you to use a smaller amplifier than you would need with a comparable sealed enclosure. Also, when choosing a ported enclosure there is another advantage and that is the air flowing in and out of the port help to keep the subwoofer cooler. Subwoofers in a ported enclosure are a bit more reliable and will last longer than they would in a sealed box simply because they run cooler. This is assuming that the ported enclosure is made right.

Sealed Enclosure

Now we will move on to explaining what a sealed enclosure is. This one is much simpler than a ported enclosure. A sealed enclosure is, like the name suggests, an enclosure that is sealed all the way around the subwoofer. It is a box of any shape that can fit the sub into it. For sealed enclosures, there is not much science behind making them. They are a lot easier to build than vented enclosures. Sealed enclosures don’t make your sub any louder. So, why might you want one then? If you have a sub don’t you want booming bass? Well, no not always. Some people don’t want to have a mirror rattling bass. For those people, a sealed enclosure might be the right choice.

The first advantage of a sealed enclosure is that it reproduces the low frequencies more accurately than ported enclosures because the air inside the box acts as a shock absorber, allowing the subwoofer to move back and forth in more control. This will enhance the listening experience greatly by providing more defined low-frequency passages such as kick drums. If the music you are listening too has more of this kind of sound, then a sealed enclosure might lead to a better experience.

There are some downsides to sealed enclosures though. The downsides to the sealed are the advantages to the ported. The first is sealed enclosures might take more power from the amp to get the same effect out of the sub. They also run a little hotter because there is no airflow. This means that a subwoofer in a sealed enclosure won’t last as long as the same sub in a properly made ported enclosure. This effect normally isn’t noticeable though unless you are listening to your music a lot. It takes some time to build up heat, so just a car ride through town won’t lead to enough heat being made to cause any more wear.

Ported vs. Sealed Subwoofer- Which To Choose
Ported vs. Sealed Subwoofer- Which To Choose

Which to Choose

So, now we get to the hard part of which one is right for you. Well, the answer sadly is it depends on the situation. One of the first things to consider is the amount of space you have. Ported subwoofer enclosures take up a decent amount more space than sealed subwoofer enclosures. That is because you have to have more room to add to the port. The next thing you should consider is your skill level of the building. If you are making the enclosure yourself sealed are a lot easier to make. If you are buying an enclosure, then sealed will be cheaper than ported because they are smaller and again easier to make.

The next big thing to consider when trying to choose between sealed versus ported enclosures is the subwoofer you have and its specifications. Here are some key terms that you need to know when making or picking an enclosure.

Driver Displacement – Driver displacement is the amount of space displaced inside the enclosure after the subwoofer has been installed. The enclosure’s volume before the subwoofer is installed minus the driver displacement of each subwoofer will give you a final volume for your enclosure which should be as close to manufacturer spec as possible. You need to know this to know how big to build the enclosure. 

Frequency Response – which is the frequency range that a subwoofer can reproduce under normal circumstances denoted in Hertz (Hz).

Recommended Enclosure Volume – The amount of space inside the enclosure after the subwoofer has been installed that the manufacturer of a subwoofer recommends for the subwoofer to perform to their maximum potential.

Subwoofer Mounting Depth – the amount of depth from the bottom of the mounting flange to the back of the subwoofer. You need to make sure that your enclosure depth is slightly greater than the mounting depth of your subwoofer. By doing this it will ensure that there is a good seal between the mounting flange and the enclosure.

Bottom & Top Depth – This is an advance spec, and if you are using it then you are probably are making a wedge-style enclosure. Wedge enclosures are not a perfect square or rectangle. Instead, these style enclosures are wider at the bottom than they are at the top creating an angle that is usually meant to match closely to the angle of a rear seat so the enclosure fits nicely up against the back of the seat inside a trunk.

The last thing to consider is the type of music you are going to listen too. If you are going to be listening to rock mostly or music with a lot of basses, then you might want to go with the ported for the better bass sound. However, if you listen to a lot of pop or rap that doesn’t have much bass, then a sealed enclosure might suit you better.

Conclusion

So, now you know the differences between ported enclosure versus a vented enclosure. You know ported enclosures are bigger and harder to make, but they offer louder and deeper bass. They also use less power and can help your sub last longer from the extra airflow. On the other hand, you know that sealed enclosures help make higher frequencies sound better. You also know that sealed enclosures are easier to make and smaller, but they might require more power and create more heat. Lastly, you know what things to consider when trying to choose an enclosure for your subwoofer. Since both choices have there pros and cons, only you can determine what is right for you and your listening style between sealed enclosures vs ported enclosures. Luckily for you, you now know everything you need to know to make that decision.

Mike Cross
Life is too short to drive with stock audio

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