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If you’re a sound enthusiast, the world of subwoofers can be confusing. There are different types of subwoofers, sometimes called subs, and different ways to use them, and one of the most popular questions is: Should I buy a sealed vs. ported subwoofer? Which one is better?
There’s no way you’ll go wrong with either a sealed or a ported subwoofer. Both types have their strengths and weaknesses, but the ultimate decision will depend on your preference and how much space you have for a subwoofer.
I’ve written several articles about this topic, and all have been well-received by readers over the years. This article will explore the differences between sealed and ported subwoofers, which will help you to decide which is best for your vehicle or home.
Table of Contents
- Sealed box vs. Ported box [Subwoofer Difference]
- Sealed boxes – For Deep and Precise Bass
- Ported boxes – For Forceful Bass
- Sealed box vs. Ported box [Detail Comparison]
Sealed box vs. Ported box [Subwoofer Difference]
A sealed box is a completely airtight box while the ported has a small hole below the cone that allows restricted air movement. Although sealed subs aren’t known for handling loud sounds because of the airtight box, it gives a richer experience. Ported subs, on the other hand, are known for their higher reverberance and booming bass.
Sealed subwoofers are more easily hidden inside furniture, making them a better choice for home theater systems requiring hidden speakers and a clean-looking décor. Ported subwoofers are substantially more prominent.
A sealed subwoofer is better equipped to handle the demands if you prefer to crank it to reference playback levels and beyond. They also tend to have a flatter frequency response than ported boxes, which can be advantageous for music listening. They produce a tighter bass with a lower frequency. In short, it does not overpower the audio.
A ported box generally has more output capability at low frequencies than its sealed counterpart. The port also redirects the sound, giving it a much higher volume to it. They can also produce higher sound pressure levels (SPLs) in small rooms.
Sealed boxes – For Deep and Precise Bass
Sealed subwoofers provide a rich, consistent sound for you. Their compact size is also a plus for small rooms. When designing or making your box, it’s essential to have proper knowledge and information in that field. Let’s learn more about sealed subwoofers.
A sealed subwoofer box is designed with a specific purpose in mind: to produce deep, accurate bass. They provide a gentler bass roll-off than their ported counterpart.
They’re excellent for producing cinema-level bars at high volumes because they require more power but deliver good transient responses and an excellent overall sound output due to their tightness.
Timing is an important aspect to consider, especially when it comes to music. You want your subwoofer to sync up as closely as possible to the main speakers when it comes to the lower notes. Even if it doesn’t have a severe upper-bass bump like many ported subs, it’ll sound more natural than a ported model.
The group delay will be much more consistent with what we’re used to hearing from our speakers. As bass frequencies get lower, it becomes harder for a speaker to produce those higher harmonics.
- Better at convincingly rendering instrumentals.
- Exhibit less phase rotation.
- Have a more accurate frequency response.
- Have a lower group delay.
- It comes in compact, constrained sizes.
- Less efficient than ported designs because they deliver less air into the port, meaning you will need more power from an external amplifier than if you were using a ported design.
- Cannot produce loud bass due to its design
Ported boxes – For Forceful Bass
Ported subwoofers may not be as compact as their sealed counterpart, but they win in the powerful bass category. Their size and design help greatly with this feature and ensure you don’t need an external amplifier for larger rooms.
The roll-off of a ported box is much faster than with a sealed box. The greater volume and surface area of the port creates a larger space for the air to move through.
The longer path length allows the subwoofer to reach deeper frequencies. Only specific frequencies can pass through the port because of its dimensions—the ones between the wavelengths of the subwoofer’s operating frequency range.
But, you might need to get a bigger woofer if you want to get those lower bass tones.
Ported subwoofers might have a little trouble with timing as well. Since they are bigger, resulting in more space for the air to move around, the air might not sync up with the speakers as accurately as sealed subs.
If the resonance frequency is low enough, you might not be able to tell the difference.
Another issue is chuffing. This is when some people hear the sound of the air itself coming out of the port, which is not pleasant.
- Less power is needed for optimum performance
- More efficient than sealed sub
- More reliable.
- There is less distortion
- Amplifiers are optional
- There is more profound bass response without sacrificing clarity or accuracy
- Bass can easily overpower other instruments
- Outside air can affect the quality
- Internal pressure build-up can damage the cone
Sealed box vs. Ported box [Detail Comparison]
There are several considerations when choosing between sealed and ported subwoofers, and the type of subwoofer you choose will depend on your preferences, playback levels, and space available.
1. Sound Quality
Sealed Subwoofers are known for their high-quality sound because they have gentler roll-off bass and better transient response. Their bass is less heavy and chest-thumping. A sealed box has a woofer generally lighter than the ported box. This allows for more rich, “tighter” sound.
Ported boxes are known for producing extraordinarily low frequencies. There’s no back pressure in a ported box. The air inside the box gets out through ports very quickly, which results in fast roll-off bass.
2. Driver Displacement
The main variables affecting how much bass a box will produce are total driver displacement volume and driver excursion amplitude. A sealed box has a finite volume and acts as a sealed environment.
Sealed boxes are inherently more efficient than ported boxes, but their performance per watt is worse. With a ported box, there’s a pathway for the air to escape—it can pass through the hole in the port plate. This makes it easier for the air to get out of the box, which means less work is needed to push it back out again.
You can push the ported box subwoofer harder with less power than a sealed one, which typically makes them louder. A sealed enclosure will sound tighter than ported enclosures because there’s less low-end resonance due to the cancellation between pressure waves bouncing inside.
It’ll also have less acoustic power (which some people consider Bass Distortion) because of this tightness and how much energy goes toward compression instead of the outward movement of air in a ported enclosure.
3. Frequency Response
Frequency response, or “how low it goes,” is a common term in audio engineering. The frequency response refers to the range between low frequencies (bass) vs. high ones (treble/sizzle). Typically, you want these values close together, so there isn’t too much overlap between having “too much bass” and nothing.
Both sealed and ported box subwoofer are popular choices for sound systems because they offer different frequency responses. The sealed subwoofer is better at low-frequency sounds, while the ported box model is better at mid- and high-frequency sounds.
The most apparent difference between the two types of subwoofers is how their sound is produced. A sealed box subwoofer uses the air already in the box to produce sound, while a port in the back of a ported box subwoofer leads to an opening outside the box that is used to produce sound.
This difference has implications for how each subwoofer performs at different frequencies. Sealed boxes generally offer better performance at lower frequencies than ported boxes.
Newbies should consider buying a sealed box subwoofer if they want something that will perform well with hip-hop or EDM. If they’re looking for something they can use to hear what’s happening in movies and music accurately, they should consider getting a ported box instead.
4. Room Size Matters
Sealed subwoofers sound best when placed near a wall, floor, or corner. They are relatively easy to place but can be challenging to integrate with your living space if you have small kids or live in an apartment (or both).
Sealed subwoofers won’t perform well in large spaces since they can’t reach the deep and high bass levels that ported subs can.
Similarly, a ported subwoofer is not the ideal choice for a small room since they would be too loud and bass-heavy. They would be an annoyance when watching movies on your home theater system, since the dialogues would get drowned out by the bass.
We’ve looked at what sealed and ported subwoofers are and how they differ. We also explained why some people prefer one type over another and how much power each speaker type needs to perform well.
Using a subwoofer is a great way to add depth and bass to your music, making it more exciting. With the proper setup, you can enhance the bass in your car, living room, or any other place you like to listen to music.
Ultimately, it’s up to you which type of speaker works best with your specific setup. As long as you’re happy with the sound from your speakers, you have made the right choice. Whichever one it may be will undoubtedly provide an excellent listening experience.
Hello, my name is James Longman.
I’m a writer and editor at AudioReputation. I disassembled my first portable AM/FM radio when I was only 8. At the age of 11, I burned the circuit board on my old boombox cassette player. I’m not going to explain how but it was reckless and stupid.
Since then, I have become much more careful around radios, boomboxes, and other audio devices (at least, I like to think so) but I have never lost the passion for audio equipment. Throughout 20 years of my professional career, I’ve been working for various audio equipment manufacturers and even started building speakers on my own in my little workshop.
I love the work we do here at AudioReputation. Testing, comparing, and evaluating all kinds of audio devices (speakers, soundbars, headphones, home theater systems, etc.) is something I truly enjoy. I try to be unbiased and give you my honest opinion on every piece of equipment I test. Still, you should take my reviews with a pinch of salt and always be just a little bit skeptical. The fact that I liked some speaker or soundbar doesn’t mean that you are going to love it. If you have the opportunity, you should test it/hear it before buying it.