In this tough economy everyone wants to make sure they’re getting their money’s worth, especially for luxury expenditures like car audio products. Technically they’re not absolute necessities, but of course, we think of subwoofers and so forth as being essential elements in a custom, or any, car!
Most customers when choosing subwoofers are looking for loud, clean and affordable. The main thing to keep in mind when choosing a subwoofer is the type of vehicle you have, the type of music you listen to, and how much space are you willing to sacrifice in the vehicle to fit the subwoofer. There’s no way of getting around the loss of space. Aftermarket subs require two things, an amplifier and a box for the subwoofer to mount into. Note for new enthusiasts: You will notice in some cars and trucks that have a factory woofer already installed, that these woofers are designed for filler sound and not for the booming bass most of us are looking for. Also you might wonder why if you already have a factory woofer, factory amp, and a factory cutout why you can’t just replace the tiny factory woofer with an aftermarket one and run it off the factory setup. Well, the factory amp is only designed to power the factory woofer; and the factory woofer is designed to be in a free air environment, whereas the aftermarket subwoofers should be put into a box as per the manufacturer’s instructions for best performance.
So we’re going to look at the PowerBass 12” XL-124D, which most definitely fits one of the main criteria people look at when buying a woofer. That is, it’s very affordable ($139). The XL woofer line is designed for the enthusiast that appreciates tight, accurate bass reproduction and it’s designed to work well in a small sealed enclosure, or a larger ported box. The XL-124D is a dual 4-ohm woofer that features the company’s custom turbine-style frame constructed of polycarbonate and glass fiber. It’s a showy basket that should display well, and that supports dual stacked magnets. The XL-124D utilizes a combination of perimeter and pole venting which helps keep air circulating over the voice coil to keep things cool. It has a paper cone for high output with low distortion.
I was pretty excited to test the woofer in two types of enclosures which PowerBass supplied us with (see more below). And I was quite pleased with the terminal screws that seemed to help secure the thicker 12-gauge wire I was using to hook up the dual voice coil setup. Also with the low frequency response between 26hz-450hz and with the nominal power handling from 450RMS/800 Peak, it’s easily obtainable with most basic amplifiers, which won’t break the bank on a recommended amplifier. The mounting depth on the woofer is within average about 5.5 inches so it will fit in smaller spaces and basic over-the-counter subwoofer boxes.
In this setup I used a 2005 Chevrolet Trailblazer with a Pioneer AVIC-N1 head unit to power the system and an Alpine MRP-M1000 mono channel amplifier to power the subwoofer. I also had two boxes to choose from, on was a custom built box which was quite large, and was constructed out of ¾inch MDF and vented to produce about 30 Hz overall, and the other was a basic off-the-shelf ported box which was a little more reasonable in size, and fit nicely in the test vehicle. The vented and ported enclosures are more efficient and result in an increase of bass output at certain frequencies. Although vented and ported enclosures have an output advantage at certain frequencies, they also have a steeper roll off. The amp I was running was an alpine MRP-1000, which is a very common amplifier that isn’t too pricey, and will more than handle this woofer with ease. I set up the amplifier gains using a TPI-440 handheld digital oscilloscope and the Autosound 2000 test CD to set the levels of the amp properly for maintaining a nice sine wave to prevent clipping. All of these parts were easily obtained through Mobile Solutions website.
After setting the gains on the amplifiers I put in my Outkast CD and tuned to some heavy bass tracks like “The Way You Move” and tried the woofer in both boxes.
I was impressed by the performance in the different enclosures. The bass response was significantly more noticeable in the custom built box, as you might expect, but both boxes helped the woofer perform well even under high pressure. In both cases the woofer was wired in parallel to bring the ohm rating down to 2 ohms. I had to adjust the frequency on the amp a little when the sub was in the custom built box to get the optimum sound and eliminate some distortion that I was hearing, but a little damping material in the box did help to reduce the sonic reflection inside the box. When I switched the subwoofer to the generic box, which was a little more reasonable in size, by comparison I did enjoy the sound much more, as it had a little tighter bass response.
Overall in both box configurations the sub did perform well after some slight tweaking on the amp frequency side, but the sound did improve much more as the sub woofer was broken in, which the manufacturer recommends about 40 hours at 1/3 the excursion which is how far the woofer extends out during the bass notes. I did prefer the generic box over the custom built one hands down, but part of the reason for that was based on the convenience of the smaller size and finish of the box. This is much more of a real-world application and I took that into consideration. If you want big impact you’ll enjoy the XL-124D in the larger ported box, but you will have to sacrifice significant space. Of course, you could have both, as we did for the evaluation and switch according to type of use. This subwoofer did work very well in either configuration. In the right type of box, this woofer will boom! And if you’re looking for value bass, this subwoofer will definitely serve. For the price, this is the right deal.