The main problem with installing a subwoofer on your boat is space constraints. Trying to install a 12-inch speaker where there isn’t enough room means you’re going to lose limited space that might be needed for other items.
The space issue is even worse when you consider putting the subwoofer in an enclosure.
Large subwoofers require larger enclosures, which can weigh over 40 lbs!
The weight and space make installing and running big subwoofers more expensive, especially when you need to hire a technician for the job.
This is where free air subwoofers come in. Fortunately, you can get the much-needed bass while saving space with free air marine subwoofers.
These subwoofers are usually smaller than other competition speaker options, and they don’t need mounting boxes like larger options.
In this article, we will discuss the top five contenders for the best free air subwoofers which are ideal for your boat and car. But first, let’s look at what’s a free air subwoofer as well as their pros and cons.
Top 3 Picks
1. Best Overall: KICKER KMF124 12″ Marine Subwoofer with LED
Kicker is among the best car stereo and speaker manufacturers in the market. This brand has been around for over four decades, and they’ve mastered the art of creating quality products at a reasonable price.
Power: 175 Watts
It’s no wonder Kicker subwoofers are among the best-selling subs on Amazon as well as your local store. People seem to like them for their high-tech engineering and affordability.
Design & Features
With the latest technology in the sound industry, the KICKER KMF124, a 12 free air marine subwoofer promises better performance than any other Kicker marine subwoofer on the market.
Its 12-Inch size and just 9 pounds weight makes it a lightweight subwoofer that can be installed almost anywhere without a cabinet.
It comes with an updated injection-molded SoloKon that eliminates audio distortion, using a 360-degree back bracing mechanism.
The speaker is also round in shape, and hence it can produce serious, thumping bass that rivals boxed options.
Affordable and boasting of the latest technology, this kicker marine subwoofer is lightweight and has an excellent shape.
It promises a generous audio output, handling up to 2000 watts with 1000-watts RMS power. As such, you’ll enjoy amazing lows and super crisp highs.
It also performs great with a big ported box, though you don’t necessarily need one.
It features high-quality components
Durable and affordable
Offers a generous 2000-watts peak power
Its 15-inch size makes it not too big or small
Little distortion at maximum volume on high frequencies
Verdict: Whether you want to install the Kicker 10CVX154 subwoofer on your car or boat, it will deliver a solid audio performance for the price. It’s easy to install after reading the instruction manual, but you can consider watching a few videos online if it seems challenging.
2. Best Design: Fusion MS-SW10 Marine Grade Subwoofer
Another winner from Fusion, the MS-SW10 marine-grade subwoofer, is designed for people who love boating and music.
Power: 400 Watts
It’s a powerful 10-inch sub that has undergone rigorous testing, making sure it’s ready to rock in all extremities of a marine environment.
It also comes at a bargain price compared to other units on the list, though it’s only sold as a single unit and not a pair.
Design & Features
This 10-inch subwoofer comes with a water-resistant design that complies with ASTM standards for salt/fog-resistant and UV-stability.
That means that the MS-SW10 can deliver great audio performance even when exposed to the elements for a prolonged period.
The installation process is pretty simple, though there’s no manual to guide you through the entire process. However, there’s a measuring template to help you mark and cut the speaker opening accurately.
Before securely mounting it with some rear room and open-air at the front, the Fusion MS-SW10 sounds terrible. However, it hits hard and delivers a nice deep tone when securely mounted, complimenting a medium-sized system to perfection.
Each speaker subwoofer can deliver 130 watts RMS power while reaching up to 400 watts peak.
That allows it to pump out crisp and accurate bass, with excellent high-end response in all conditions. You can also pair it with a Fusion amplifier like the MS-AM402 for the best audio performance on the water.
Affordable price and durable construction
Easy to install
Great sound with a solid bass
Not installation manual
The coil may burn if you play at maximum volume for a prolonged time
Verdict: If you love boats and music, the Fusion MS-SW10 marine subwoofer is among the most affordable options for you. It works well with other components in your system, giving you deep, rich sound in all weather conditions. Moreover, you don’t need to be an audio expert to install.
3. Best Under A Budget: Rockford Fosgate P1S4-10 Punch Series Subwoofer
Rockford Fosgate showcases their great commitment to sonic excellence with the Punch Series of subwoofers, amps and speakers.
As such, the punch components will deliver an impressive sound for anyone who likes to listen to potent, powerful music.
Power: 250 Watts
Design & Features
The engineers at Rockford Fosgate created the P1S4-10 sub to deliver the kind of power that you crave on your ride.
Its comes with a responsive paper cone reinforced with Kevlar fibres mainly used in bulletproof vests, giving you the best in both worlds.
This Rockford Fosgate free air subwoofer also uses a new technique to attach its oversized rubber surround on its cone, increasing the cone area by up 25%.
That ensures the sub can push in more air for enhanced bass performance.
With a bumped backplate and an extended pole piece, the P1S4-10 has enough room for the heavy excursion. T
hat enables it to deliver deep lows without bottoming out. It works equally well with all subwoofer box designs, be it ported or sealed enclosure, so you can easily choose the bass you want your system to have.
When it comes to power handling, this Rockford Fosgate free air amplifier can comfortably handle 250 watts RMS power and 500 watts max. For that, you need a mono amplifier rated at 200-375 watts RMS (4 ohms) to drive a single P1S4-10 subwoofer.
Quality construction and attractive look
Nice sound quality
Decent price range
Easy to install
No heart-thumping bass
Verdict: While the Rockford Fosgate P1S4-10 isn’t the best sounding subwoofer on the market, it’s the most affordable choice on the list. It weighs less than 1.5 kgs, making it easy to install on your car or boat without any technical knowledge on audio systems.
4. Most Durable: JL Audio M10IB5-4 Marine Subwoofer
When it comes to car audio systems, JL Audio is among the most legendary manufacturers that have been in the market since 1975.
Power: 250 Watts
The brand has carved a name for their audio equipment in the market, offering every from speakers and amplifiers to subwoofers and other accessories. The M10iB5-4 is one of JL Audio’s best free-air marine subwoofers.
Design & Features
With a build quality that reflects JL Audio’s commitment to excellent engineering, the M10iB5-4 is built for marine life from top to bottom.
It boasts of a corrosion-resistant basket surrounding its external structure, giving it extra protection for durability.
The sub’s marine-grade fibre spider and synthetic rubber surround give it top performance while keeping off the corrosive effects of salt, moisture and sun. As such, the JL Audio M10iB5-4 is an all-weather marine subwoofer suitable for both fresh and saltwater.
The M10iB5-4 subwoofer comes with a great motor structure that gives it an extended cone movement, allowing you to hear both low and loud bass.
As a free air marine subwoofer, you can install it in a storage locker, a bulkhead or under a seat.
Provided you have some space, this subwoofer will give you a great bass with precise and smooth musical flow.
Even better, it can handle up 500 watts peak power and 250 watts RMS power, allowing your audio system to play loud and clean sound at all listening levels.
Corrosion and UV-resistant technology
Durable, stainless steel mounting hardware
Long linear excursion to reduce distortion
Great power handling capability (250watts RMS)
Doesn’t feature an inbuilt crossover
Verdict: This JL Free air marine subwoofer is an excellent choice for anyone who wants deep bass notes in a low-frequency sub. It’s engineered to perform well in marine conditions, maintaining full-range audio spectrum in fresh and salty water. Additionally, it’s optimized to work with a large air volume behind it.[
5. Best Bass: Alpine SWR-M100 Marine Subwoofer
Alpine is among the world’s leading manufacturers of navigational, audio and electronic automobile products. The company has mastered the art of giving top-notch products at affordable prices, with the SWR-M100 marine subwoofer being among their best products.
This 10-inch subwoofer comes in a great design, with innovative features that enable it to deliver an impressive pounding bass. Even better, it comes at a very affordable price.
Design & Features
The Alpine SWR-M100 marine subwoofer features a moulded polypropylene cone combined with a Santoprene rubber surround for great performance.
It also comes with a waterproof rubber mounting gasket that allows consistent bass performance.
This marine sub also comes with a CRC motor and airflow management system to keep it cool under heavy load. It’s also ASTM certified for salt, fog and UV-resistance, meaning you can trust the subwoofer to handle harsh outdoor conditions.
As a free air marine subwoofer, the SWR-M100 works with virtually all types of enclosures, whether it’s a vented or sealed enclosure.
It can hit as low as 36Hz, with its power handling capability reaching up to 900 watts max and 300 watts continuously.
At high volumes, the sound is excellent, and it’s almost like you have multiple speakers on the boat. To top it all, it’s bass performance is very similar to what high-end car stereos can deliver.
Strong frame and waterproof mounting gasket
Deep, high output bass
Great aesthetics and durable construction
It might distort if you crank up the amp
Verdict: If you want a subwoofer that vibrates your brains out, then the Fusion SWR-M100 is not for you. However, it’s among the best subwoofers for anyone in need of good quality bass on their car or boat. You can install this free air subwoofer in a sealed box, but it works excellently without it.
So, What’s A Free Air Marine Subwoofer?
A free-air marine subwoofer is a simple subwoofer mounting system that eliminates the need for large speaker enclosures.
The subwoofers deliver good audio performance without a mounting box, making it easy to install one on the rear deck, between the back seats. Of course, you can design your own subwoofer box as well.
By the nature of your boat’s dimensions, you’re likely to end up mounting a free air subwoofer in locations where a box can’t be used.
The boat’s body makes an airtight seal with the speaker and turns any space behind it as an enclosure. That’s popularly known as an Infinite baffle (IB) design.
If planning to install it in your boat, you’ll need to ensure that the subwoofers you choose are marine grade and well enabled for both fresh and saltwater.
However, you can also install them in your car’s trunk. Here are the advantages and drawbacks of using free air subwoofers.
Free Air Subwoofers Pros and Cons
As earlier revealed, saving space is the main advantage of a free-air subwoofer. It can deliver a solid audio performance with enough bass, without having to bear the burden of adding weight to your boat with a heavy enclosure.
The speaker is also versatile in installation, allowing you to fit it in any location you need as long as there’s space behind the speaker.
You should note that free air subwoofers may compromise the sound quality, so not as good competitors in a sealed box.
However, you can also install a free air subwoofer in a sealed box to improve its performance – if you don’t mind carrying the burden of weight and space limitations.
Those who enjoy heart-thumping sound will also want to be gentle on the volume levels when using a free air subwoofer.
If you start playing the sub at maximum volume levels, there’s a big chance of damaging the speaker as it doesn’t have a nice air-spring. With that said, here are the best free air marine subwoofers on the market.
There you have it; the five best free air marine subwoofers available on the market today. These free air subwoofers are great for saving space in your vehicle, though not most of them can outdo the larger and more powerful boxed speakers out there. However, the five options above are decent enough to deliver excellent audio performance.