Sealed vs Ported Subwoofer

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Updated October 26, 2022

Deciding on the best speakers for your car or home theatre system is no simple task. From understanding impedance ratings, power supply, and speaker size, there’s no shortage of details to construct a stellar listening experience. One factor that goes into choosing the best subwoofer is the enclosure type. To help you further understand how to do this, we will compare the differences between sealed vs ported subwoofers below.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • The type of subwoofer enclosure impacts the speaker’s bass sound, size, volume level, and longevity.
  • A sealed design is smaller and airtight, resulting in more precise and punchy bass notes.
  • Ported designs indicate larger boxes with a built-in vent, making the sound louder and more rumbly.

For further reading, we have articles explaining front-firing vs down-firing subwoofers and subwoofers with shallow vs regular mounts.

Insider Tip

Always consider the size of the room/space that the subwoofer will occupy. Often, a smaller subwoofer is optimal for smaller rooms.

Differences Between Ported Subwoofer Box vs Sealed

If it’s bass you desire, subwoofers are the only path to achieve an adequate low-frequency range. And to enhance the bass sound, you must select the right enclosure type.

The design differences between ported and sealed subwoofers significantly impact the sound.

Sealed enclosures should be thought of, literally, as sealed boxes. They are airtight, trapping all the sound waves from the back of the speaker. On the other hand, ported subwoofer designs come with a vent.

There’s also a significant difference in the enclosure sizes between each type of subwoofer. Ported boxes have a larger enclosure, while sealed tend to be smaller.

So those are the objective differences. Now, it’s time to compare.

For more helpful resources on speaker specs, we have another article covering the differences between single and dual voice coil subwoofers.

Sound Quality

Each type of enclosure enhances specific elements of the bass sound. Therefore, the answer to sound quality is, of course, to know yourself.

Sealed subwoofer enclosures provide a punchier, deeper sound. With sealed subwoofers, listeners get precision because the compartment is more pressurized. These are often great for cinematic experiences, where you try to distinguish every sound. They also can be great for pluckier music, like country or bluegrass.

Alternatively, the port noise gives a boom, but it’s more indistinct. The vent supports the low bass response and makes the sound louder and boomier with a greater resonant frequency. Often, a ported unit is ideal for heavy metal, EDM, or hip-hop music.

Warning

When hooking up a sound system, always match the impedance levels of the subwoofer to the amplifier.

Also, for those trying to optimize sound quality, it’s essential to know the differences between a subwoofer vs amplifier, as each component impacts the output.

Convenience

For those who don’t care to lug, sealed subwoofers are easier to carry, store, and find room for because ported subwoofers are larger and clunkier.

Longevity

Because of the pressurization, a sealed enclosure can experience driver fatigue. On the other hand, speakers in port enclosures often last longer because there’s more room in the box and less pressure.

STAT: Ported speakers are more likely to produce frequencies that drop below 20 Hz. (source)

Sealed vs Ported Subwoofer FAQs

Is a 2-Ohm sub or 4-Ohm sub better for a bass response?

First, ensuring that the speaker has a compatible impedance to the amplifier power is crucial. Once that's established, it's essential to understand that more power does not guarantee better sound. For example, a 2-Ohm speaker will be louder, but the bass will likely experience greater distortion and may be overpowering.

Does the size of the subwoofer box affect the sound?

The larger the box, the more vibration. Therefore, size leads to a louder volume and more resonant response.

Is a sealed or ported subwoofer better for a car audio system?

From a size standpoint, a sealed unit makes more sense since cars are often space-limited.
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