Ported VS Sealed Subwoofer: Which Is Really Better?

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The only effective way you’re really going to experience full, rich-sounding bass from your car stereo is by adding a subwoofer to your sound system.  Adding a subwoofer to your system will give it that extra kick it has been missing; a subwoofer will greatly extend your sound system’s bass response produced by your existing speakers and improves your music listening experience, no matter what kind of music you are playing.

Generally speaking, there are two major bass types, tight and hitting bass.  To that end, the music you prefer to listen to is the key factor determining which type of bass and ultimately which subwoofer box type is for you.

ported vs sealed subwoofer box

For the longest time, one evergreen question has basically dominated audiophiles forums and blogs – ported VS sealed subwoofer box, which is superior? There is no shortage of opinions on the subject, but unfortunately, there are many widespread misconceptions out there.

You might be hearing some people saying that vented subwoofers are solely designed for sound effects and are no good for music, or conversely that sealed boxes are musical but tend to be lacking in terms of bass depth.

And while there’s some debate over this topic, there’s certainly some truth to that, in my opinion.  Both ported and sealed subwoofers come with their own pros and cons.  At the risk of sounding abstract, the answer of which is superior is “it depends,” the pros and cons of each subwoofer enclosure type are discussed below.  That being said, you have to think carefully before choosing a box for your subwoofer(s).

Here, we decided to shed some light once and for all and see what exactly sets these two distinct subwoofer’s boxes apart. So we did extensive research on the subject and made our decision. Read on to find out what we chose – ported vs. sealed subwoofer: which one’s better?

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Sealed Enclosure : Pros and Cons

In this corner, we’ve got sealed subwoofer boxes! Sometimes referred to as closed.  Now, what sets sealed boxes apart is their relatively smaller size when compared to ported boxes.  Sealed subs are generally more compact than ported subs; thus, they fit in many vehicles. If space is an issue in your case, it would be a good idea to go with a sealed box.

Size isn’t the only factor that distinguishes sealed boxes from vented ones; there’s also sound. Actually, the trapped air inside one of these boxes acts like a shock absorber or a spring against the cone of the subwoofer; it restricts woofer movement, so it doesn’t over-exert itself in terms of cone motion, so all the notes get produced evenly, which results in tight, accurate bass.

Pros :
  • Typically,sealed subwoofer boxes are smaller.
  • Sound quality & accuracy are usually much better.
  • Excellent transient response.
Cons :
  • As for cons, it’s really difficult to think of any. I would say that the only major complaint worth mentioning is efficiency.Let me elaborate on what is happening inside a sealed box.
    Unlike ported boxes,the trapped air inside a sealed box greatly restricts cone movement – the rear wave dissipates inside the enclosure and offers no added value or potential benefits to the overall sound output.  That being said, you’ll certainly need a high powered amplifier to drive your subwoofer and compensate for the loss in efficiency.

Ported Enclosure: Pros and Cons

Undoubtedly, ported boxes can deliver louder, booming bass with more punch and reverberance than sealed boxes.  This is easily achieved with a ported subwoofer box without using any additional sound equalizer or digital processor.

This is due to the greater cone freedom of motion offered by ported boxes.  A vented enclosure is almost like a sealed box. It consists basically of a box with a relatively small hole in it.

Despite its simple design, a ported subwoofer box can be hard to get good, balanced sound output compared to a sealed box.

ported subwoofer

The trick in building a ported box is to get the right size enclosure and the right size vent.  The vent redirects sound from the back of the cone and adds it to the front’s sound, significantly increasing bass output loudness.

This increase makes it possible to run your subwoofer off a humble external amplifier and still get awesome results.  Another advantage to ported enclosures is their longevity due to the airflow that keeps the subwoofer cooler.

Pros :
  • Reduced distortion and cone excursion.
  • Ported boxes give you that extra bump required in certain types of music.  That bump is due to the air flowing in and out of the vent, resulting in a sound effect mildly resembling a whistle or blowing across (Over-blowing) the top of an empty bottle.
Cons :
  • The sound coming from inside the box through the vent can do more damage than good to certain types of music.
  • Ported boxes are more sensitive to climate changes such as humidity, temperature…etc.
  • Ported enclosures are also more sensitive to changes such as driver fatigue.
  • Because of high internal pressure that ported boxes should be able to support, they’re required to be solidly constructed which makes them a bit harder to design when compared to sealed boxes.

The Verdict 

Ported vs Sealed Subwoofers - Which one's better?

Now that we’ve talked about both sealed vs. ported subwoofer box, and the vastly different ways they cover low frequencies, it’s time to decide which one is better; they both clearly work and have their pros and cons – they can significantly improve the quality and efficiency of any sound system, and each has their own advantages to consider.

Basically, we came up with two distinct ways to determine which one of them will fulfill your needs.

Ported boxes have Booming bass. Sealed boxes, on the other hand, have high bass and play crisply.

If you want ground-pounding bass, a ported box is a way to go.  Otherwise, if you’re looking for a way to add some depth to your music, then a sealed subwoofer will do the job.

Having said that, a ported box offers much more loudness than a sealed box since porting dramatically increases system output at the vent’s resonant frequency, which significantly extends the sensitivity of the sub and allows for substantially big bass beats.

Now, in the end, if you want to skip all the technical jargon related to subwoofer boxes and don’t want to focus on whys and hows these two types of enclosures work, it basically boils down to a simple fact: sealed boxes are for sound quality whereas ported boxes are more for loudness.

However, there are some exceptions to this general rule of thumb.  Ultimately, and to put it plainly, we believe the quality of sound is far more a matter of good engineering and choosing the right tool for the job rather than a question of sealed vs. ported. Likes a sealed box can be loud, and a ported box can also be tweaked to sound as good as possible).

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