Are you considering upgrading your sound system at home and adding a car subwoofer? However, the question is, can a car subwoofer be used at home?
The short answer is yes, you can use a car subwoofer in your home audio setup. However, there are some things to consider before attempting to do so. Most importantly, you get a dedicated box/enclosure that is well-designed and matched to the subwoofer. Next, the car subwoofers are usually passive, so you’ll have to connect with a dedicated amp.
In addition, you have to take care of a few considerations, but with a few additional equipment and modifications, you can enjoy the sound coming from your car subwoofer at home.
This article will discuss everything in detail, including the differences between car and home subwoofers and how to set them up. I’ll discuss all the points in the setup section, such as power supply consideration, amp, placement, wiring, connectivity, and other settings.
So without any further ado, let’s start.
Differences Between Car and Home Subwoofers
Despite having the same primary role of producing sound, car and home subwoofers differ based on their designs, working efficiency, impedance, and size.
The below factors will highlight the difference between both types.
Most car subwoofers are sold as raw drivers or open-air (outdoor) speakers without an enclosure. It helps in effortlessly setting up the subwoofer in the car trunk or doors, while the car trunk serves as the enclosure.
Since a home subwoofer has a variety of drivers installed, it includes an enclosure. In some home subs, the box serves as the speaker’s part. The chamber gives a stable platform to drivers to eliminate excessive vibration.
Active vs. Passive
The primary difference in setting the car and home subwoofer apart is their dependency on an amplifier. Car subwoofers are usually more passive than active. It means they need an external amplifier to power the speaker.
On the other hand, home subwoofers are active and don’t need an external amplifier. It indicates they have their internal amplification. The higher the wattage a subwoofer withdraws from the amplifier, the better and more powerful the booming sound will be.
That’s why most passive subwoofers (cars) are passive since they have to withdraw power from the external amplifier, while the active subwoofers don’t have to worry about the amplification.
Car subwoofers are often tuned to stream music at higher frequency settings, louder than lower ones, since it takes less energy. However, it can vary. You will also find car subs with higher dB output, between 50-60 Hz.
On the other hand, home subwoofers use the available cabinet size and additional voltage. It leads home subs to play music at any frequency, depending on its particular ability. In-home subwoofers, there might be a dB spike at a specific frequency.
Even passionate audiophiles shy away from discussing impedance since they need help understanding the basic concept. In a nutshell, impedance is the resistance (opposition) applied to the flow of electric current.
Impedance is measured in Ohms. In other words, impedance is the load a subwoofer draws from a receiver/amplifier.
Compared to home speakers, car subwoofers have low impedance. The average impedance car subwoofers have 4 Ohms, low or high amperage designs. In contrast, home subwoofers have a nominal impedance of 8 Ohms. The lower the impedance, the easier the audio signals flow through the subwoofer.
The lower impedance also indicates that the subwoofer withdraws less power to produce higher wattage units. That’s why most car subwoofers are connected to batteries, delivering up to 12 volts. You rarely find a car subwoofer with more than 4 Ohms nominal impedance.
Lower resistance also contributes to noise distortions and bass reflections. You can crank your car subwoofer at the highest volume levels, knowing the amplifier will power it. In contrast, a home subwoofer can effortlessly deliver the loudest volume levels with a nominal impedance of 6-8 Ohms without the need to connect an amplifier.
Size And Placement
Size has always significantly differed between a car and a home subwoofer. Home subwoofers are more significant since they need more power to produce louder sounds and fill large listening rooms. Another reason for the large home subwoofers is that they carry an internal amplifier, and the driver needs space to push air.
Car subwoofers, on the other hand, are small since they have to fit in the trunk, rear deck, or door. A small home sub will work in small rooms, while a large room will need a larger one.
Positioning a home subwoofer is also straightforward. Regular listeners can get the optimal sound output with two speakers and a subwoofer. There is little space involved when setting up a car speaker. Depending on your car size, you can add 4-6 speakers.
Efficiency And Volume
Another thing that sets car and home subwoofers apart is efficiency. Efficiency tells how loud a subwoofer can get at a given wattage power level. Usually, home subwoofers are more efficient than car subwoofers.
For instance, a home subwoofer can effortlessly produce 90-96 dB sound at 1-watt power. In contrast, a car subwoofer will need a much higher power wattage to deliver the same loudness level.
The difference between the efficiency levels lies in the design. A home subwoofer is designed to bring in and out more air to power large listening rooms. On the other hand, the listening area of a car subwoofer is relatively smaller than a home stereo system.
How to Use a Car Subwoofer at Home?
Below is the step-by-step process of how to power a car subwoofer at home;
You don’t want to fry up your subwoofer by powering it on 110 volts, do you? As discussed earlier, a car subwoofer is designed to run on 12 volts of the car battery.
While setting up a car subwoofer at home, the first thing to do is control the power supply. For this, get a power converter to convert the 110 to 12 volts. Plug one end into the subwoofer while the other into the wall outlet.
Installing a car subwoofer in the car was a different scenario than installing it in a home stereo system. No matter what type of subwoofer you have for the home theater system, an enclosure is a must. You should have some kind of enclosure even an infinite baffle enclosure.
Having a good-quality enclosure ensures better sound quality which is the most important thing. It will also improve the room’s aesthetics, speaker durability, and placement options.
If you can afford and have the skill it is highly recommended to make a proper enclosure based on the size and design of the subwoofer. MDF wood is highly recommended because it is strong, durable, and most importantly limits the distortion of sound waves.
If you do not have the time or skill then it is recommended to get help from someone who has the skill.
Connect the Subwoofer to Car Amplifier
The next thing to do is connect the subwoofer to the car amplifier. Since the subwoofer is passive, while the rest of the home speakers are active, ensure they are compatible. Run a separate connection while connecting the sub to the car amp.
Get a 12-16 gauge speaker wire to connect the amplifier to the subwoofer. Ensure to read the subwoofer’s manual before establishing the connection.
Connect the Subwoofer to the Home Amplifier
To connect the subwoofer to the home amplifier:
- Join the input terminal of the subwoofer’s audio.
- Use U-shaped brackets under the terminal and twist-to-tight.
- Connect the output terminals of the home amplifier.
- Tie the red cord to the red terminal, while the black to the black one.
Connect With The Other Speakers
Lastly, connect the subwoofer with the rest of the speakers. Use RCA cables while connecting the subwoofer with the speakers. For a power-pack sound performance, two speakers on the right & left sides are necessary.
Keep the subwoofer in the center. To prevent acoustic interference, position the sub facing the listening area. Connect the power inverter to the power outlet and stream music. Be ready because your neighbors will be banging at your door.
The addition of a subwoofer in the home audio setup is very important. However, with plenty of options, it might not be clear which subwoofer performs best. Or someone who cannot afford or does not want to get a new one and make the car subwoofers to work thinks about using the car subwoofers for home.
And that is fine; you can use a car subwoofer at home. But it will not be as simple as it seems; you must make a few adjustments.
For example, you must check compatibility with home audio equipment, Select appropriate amplifiers and wiring, adjust settings for optimal performance, match the power requirements, buy/build a new enclosure, and more.
The most important thing is the skill and experience. It will be very difficult if you are a beginner or doing it for the first time. So considering all these things, you have to decide whether or not to use car subwoofers in home audio setups.