How to install a powered subwoofer (2024)

Learn how to install a powered sub and boost your bass

How to install a powered subwoofer (1)

by Crutchfield's Matt Freeman

Nov 15, 2023

Powered subwoofers include all the elements of a subwoofer system — subwoofer, amplifier, and enclosure — in one convenient package. Here's a look at how you install a typical powered subwoofer.

Please note: As with any amplifier installation, you'll also need an amplifier wiring kit. The proper size of kit will be listed in the accessories for each powered subwoofer. If you need any help or just have questions about adding a powered subwoofer, contact our advisors.

Find a place to mount your sub

Before you get started, find a suitable place in your vehicle to mount your sub. The sub’s built-in amplifier generates heat, so adequate ventilation is important. And you'll want to place it somewhere that's not too difficult to access.

Wiring kit and speaker wire

Your powered sub does not come with the necessary wiring, so be sure to purchase an amp wiring kit that includes the wiring and fuses you'll need.

Step 1: Disconnect the battery

First, disconnect the negative battery terminal to protect you and your gear during installation.

Step 2: Running power wire

Next, run the power cable from the battery to the powered sub. Some kits have the fuse assembly already put together. But if not, cut a short piece of the power cable, enough to cover the distance from the battery to the fuse holder location, and strip the insulation off both ends. Crimp the terminal ring from your wiring kit to one end, and attach the fuse holder to the other end. Strip the insulation from the end of the wire that leads to your amp and attach it to the other end of your fuse holder. It’s important to keep the fuse close to the battery since the lead between the terminal and the fuse is unprotected.

In most vehicles, you can pass the power cable through the firewall that separates the engine compartment from the main cabin using an existing entry point. Once you're inside the cabin, tuck the power cable under trim panels or your carpet along one side of your vehicle until you reach your powered sub location.

Step 3: Running turn-on wire and signal cables

After running the power wire, the next thing to do is run the turn-on wire and signal cables. Both the turn-on wire and RCA signal cables need to be connected to your stereo. Run these cables behind the dash to your stereo. The turn-on wire connects to a remote turn-on wire in your stereo's wiring harness. It's usually blue, but confirm this with your owner's manual. Plug the RCA cables into the appropriate RCA outputs on your stereo.

Run these wires, the turn-on wire, and the RCA cable, down the opposite side of the car from the power wire. This will prevent electrical noise from entering your system and spoiling your music.

All of this assumes you have an aftermarket stereo with preamp outputs. If you have a factory stereo then you'll get the signal to your powered sub a different way. You’ll want to make sure your amp has speaker-level inputs and "signal sensing" turn-on capability. In this case, you can just tap into the speaker wires behind your stereo, or possibly the rear deck speakers. Either way, this will get signal to the powered sub’s built-in amp.

Step 4: Connect the ground wire

The third primary connection is the ground wire. This wire should be connected to the vehicle's chassis. Look for a nearby bolt that you can fasten the ground cable to. The ground wire terminal should be in contact with the vehicle's bare metal. Sand away any paint at the contact point for the best connection.

Step 5: Make your wiring connections

Now, mount your powered sub and make your connections. Try to use gentle curves with your wires and cables when possible to prevent unnecessary wear and tear.

Before you fire it up to test, turn the built-in amp's gains all the way down. And reconnect your vehicle's negative battery terminal. Verify that the sub turns on when you start the car. Then you can play some music and set your gain and low-pass filter as explained in the video above.

If you have any questions about powered subwoofers, please give Crutchfield a call.

Read video transcript

Hi, my name is Matt, I'm a car A/V editor here at Crutchfield, and today we're installing a powered subwoofer in this 2021 Mazda CX-5. Now while each vehicle and each powered subwoofer is a little bit different, the process for installing a powered subwoofer is pretty much the same in any given vehicle.

Disconnect the negative battery cable

The first step in any installation is to disconnect the car's negative battery cable. That way, you're not going to cause any electrical shorts while you're doing your work.

Find a grommet leading into the cabin

Next, you want to find a grommet on the firewall of the vehicle that's already got wires running through it into the vehicle's cabin. We're going to poke a small hole in this grommet and run our power wire straight through it. Now when poking a hole in the grommet, we recommend using a grommet piercing tool, which has a hollow tube through which you can pass the wire from the engine compartment into the vehicle cabin.

Connect to the battery and install a fuse

Next you're going to connect your power wire to the car's positive battery terminal using a ring terminal. Next, you'll route the wire through the engine compartment so that it's neat and out of the way. We recommend sliding wire loom over the wire to keep it safe from nicks and scratches and to keep it looking really nice. You'll also want to make sure to install a fuse within 18 inches of the battery. Now with some of our amp kits the power wire already has the fuse holder installed; in others you'll have to install the fuse holder yourself. And with everything in place, you can secure the wire using cable ties.

Determine a location for the sub

Next, we're going to move into the vehicle cabin itself. The first thing we recommend is deciding on where you're going to mount the sub. You're not going to mount it yet, but having it in place will help you determine how you're going to route your wires through the vehicle. In our case, we've decided to put the powered sub in the cargo area.

Run the power wire

Now we can move on to routing the power wire. We're going to take our wire from under the dash and route it down the driver's side of the vehicle. To do that, we'll use some pry tools to pop up some of these floor trim panels, and in most vehicles these panels will just pop right out. A tool we recommend using when running power wire is a wire worm. This lets you thread the wire underneath other panels that you can't easily pop out of place.

Now the ground wire

Now we turn our attention to the ground wire. You'll want to find a grounding location that's as close to the powered sub as possible. You'll want to make sure that your ground wire is making solid contact with bare metal, so we recommend using an existing chassis bolt. If you absolutely can't find one, you can also drill a small pilot hole and use a self-tapping screw to create your own ground. We also recommend that at the grounding location you use sandpaper to scrape away some of the paint and expose bare metal. Bare metal will always make the best ground connection, and this is all very important because most problems in an audio system come from a bad ground.

Getting audio from the stereo

Next we need to get audio signal to our powered subwoofer. Now in this case, because we're keeping the factory stereo in place, we need to tap into one of the factory speaker wires. Now in most cases this means pulling the factory stereo from the dash and tapping into the factory speaker wire back there. In our case, this vehicle has an outboard factory amplifier so we're going to tap into the speaker wires on the output side of that amplifier. We also tend to recommend that you tap into the left and right rear channels to make sure you're getting a full-range signal, and make sure when you tap into the wires that you've correctly identified the positive and negative leads.

Now with any wiring, solder is going to give you your best connection. But if you're not comfortable with soldering we also recommend using Posi Taps. You slide one end of the Posi over the wire that you're tapping into, then screw the rest of it down onto that wire, which pierces it. Then you connect your new wire to the very top and screw that into place. With new speaker wires connected to the factory speaker wires, you can now run it down the opposite side of the vehicle from the power wire back to the powered sub's mounting location. Next, we'll make our wiring connections at the powered sub itself.

Now if you are connecting your powered subwoofer to an aftermarket stereo, instead of running speaker wires you're going to be running RCA patch cables from the preamp outputs of the stereo to the preamp inputs of the powered sub. You'll also be running a turn-on lead from the powered sub to the stereo, and this just sends a little signal to the powered sub when it's time for it to turn on and start playing.

Making connections to the subwoofer

With our power and signal wires all run, it's time to make the connections at the powered sub itself. Now in most cases, this means just plugging in the wires to the appropriate terminals on the powered sub, but in many cases, as with the JBL BassPro Nano, you'll be making wiring connections to a harness that then plugs into the powered sub. Once again, soldering is the preferred method for making these connections, however, butt connectors can work very well also. To do this you slide bare wire into either end of the butt connector and crimp the wires in place, and you'll repeat this process for the power and ground and right and left speaker channels.

Secure the sub

And with all wiring connections now made, we want to make sure to secure the powered sub in place. In our case, we're using self-adhesive velcro strips which grab right onto the carpet, but if we were looking for a more permanent installation, we could slide a piece of plywood under the carpet in the cargo area and screw the powered sub directly to it.

The bass knob

Many powered subs, like the BassPro Nano, come with a remote bass level knob. These simply plug into the power itself at one end and allow you to mount them wherever it's convenient at the other. Can be in a console, it can be under the dash, it can be in the glove box.

Re-connect the battery cable

With the wiring all in place and the sub secured, it's now time to reconnect the negative battery cable and adjust all the audio settings. First, you want to make sure that you have the auto turn on switch set to the right setting. In this case, we have ours turned to "on," which tells it to turn on when it senses signal from the speaker-level inputs. If we'd been using this with an aftermarket stereo and a remote turn-on lead, we would set this switch to "off."

Set the gain

Now we're going to set the gain, which matches the subwoofer's input sensitivity to the output level of the stereo connected to it. Now to set the gain, start by turning the gain down all the way to zero and make sure your remote bass knob is disconnected. Then you can put on some music with good bass content that you're familiar with and turn your stereo up to about three-quarters volume. Then you can slowly raise the gain until it's either as loud as you want it to be or you start to hear a little distortion. If you do start to hear a little distortion, back it off until the distortion goes away and you'll be all set.

Setting the low-pass filter

Next you want to set your low-pass filter. This basically determines which frequencies the sub is receiving. We generally recommend that you set it somewhere between 80 and 100 Hertz, but really it's just a matter of what sounds best to your ear.

The phase switch

All powered subs are also going to have a phase switch, which you can set either to 0 or 180. This again is a matter of what sounds best to your ear, so you can experiment with it at zero and it with 180 and leave it where you think it sounds best.

Bass boost

Many powered subs will also offer a bass boost, which lets you enhance the bass output. This again is a matter of taste, so you can turn it up and see if you like it, and if you don't, you turn it back down.

Recap and contact info

So we've covered the basics of installing a powered subwoofer, and remember, when you buy anything from us you get free lifetime tech support. So if you need help during your installation, you can give us a call. Thank you for watching.

Comments (144)

Please share your thoughts below.

  • David S Poe from Lake St Louis

    Posted on 8/8/2023

    This is the first and only article that I read that I can actually understand and do myself thanks for your knowledge and the time you put in for us to be able to do this ourselves . Appreciate you. Scott

  • Joel from Phoenix

    Posted on 6/29/2023

    Is there a way to get more vehicle specific info? I have a Camaro with amp in the trunk. I think it should be quite easy to run all the necessary wires right there other than maybe a power wire. Just temporarily I want the easiest and quickest install, doesn't even have to be pretty. Then later I'll do the entire thing using PAC Audio interface, etc.

    How to install a powered subwoofer (2)

    How to install a powered subwoofer (3)

    Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    on 6/30/2023

    Joel, Crutchfield's Vehicle Research Team spends a lot of time and effort in obtaining the right information about a car's system and possible upgrades. With questions like yours, it's always better to have a conversation with a real live human who has access to that research. Give us a call and talk to one of our Advisors. We can help you choose the right gear and give you the right advice on how to install it.

  • Ryan

    Posted on 4/8/2023

    I've recently installed a brand new sound system in a 2001 Tacoma. Pioneer Dmh160BT reciver. Pioneer tweeters and 4 way speakers (front doors only) and wired into Pioneer EX360 1000 watt max amp. All wiring new. I have installed the Kicker PT250 powered sub as my bass unit. All knobs are set as they should be.On commissioning, everything worked except no sound from the sub..Sub blue led light is on all wiring is correct, knobs are set as they should be, but no sound..any ideas about why nothing from sub? It's connected with Rockfor Fosgate RCA cables and high pass Rockfored wiring harness to Sub. One thing I did do was add a 1 amp fuse to the remote wire from the reciever, and spliced the two remote wires from each amp to the fuse. I do not believe this to be an issue as the Pioneer amp working as it should. I've checked voltage and continuity to sub and looks good. Any help is appreciated, before I start tearing things apart. Something I would line to be clear on is what the AC voltage should be from reciver ouput to inputs on Sub.

    How to install a powered subwoofer (4)

    How to install a powered subwoofer (5)

    Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    on 4/10/2023

    Ryan, You say "It's connected with Rockfor Fosgate RCA cables and high pass Rockfored wiring harness to Sub." That would probably be your issue: there are no low notes left for a subwoofer to play after a high-pass filter is engaged. Maybe that's not what you meant, but it sounds like the sub's not getting signal or it's malfunctioning. If you bought your gear from Crutchfield, you could call Tech Support for free help troubleshooting your system.

  • Tammy from Wadsworth Ohio

    Posted on 3/4/2023

    How can I add a 4 channel amplifier to this powered subwoofer? When they both need 8 gauge wire and fuse to the battery

    How to install a powered subwoofer (6)

    How to install a powered subwoofer (7)

    Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    on 3/6/2023

    Tammy, In a two-amplifier system, you can either run two power wires and fuses to the battery - or you could use a dual-amp power wiring kit to handle both amplifiers.

  • Maddy Moore from Lancaster

    Posted on 2/7/2023

    I'm installing a 10" kicker hideaway in my F150. Theres a plug that I can plug the sub into to play with the factory system. I am wondering if I need to run the power wore to the battery or if I can plug into my stock system and be ok

    How to install a powered subwoofer (8)

    How to install a powered subwoofer (9)

    Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    on 2/8/2023

    Maddy, If you're installing an aftermarket amp or powered sub, you'll need to run a separate fused power wire to the battery.

  • Grant Stewart from MONTEVALLO

    Posted on 1/4/2023

    I have installed the new 10 inch powered sub box from Rockford Fosgate in my 2015 Jeep Wrangler jk. It's the package with the 300 watt powered box. I didn't run a remote turn on wire, but instead I tapped into my front dash speakers behind my head unit. I did this because I am running a factory head unit. Am I correct in doing this? I have no RCA Cables connected at all. My only problem is it sounds a little weak. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    How to install a powered subwoofer (10)

    How to install a powered subwoofer (11)

    Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    on 1/5/2023

    Grant, The front channels you've tapped into probably carry a high-passed signal that contains little bass. Try the rear channels.

  • Paul Wilkerson from Austin

    Posted on 12/21/2022

    I am installing a 500W 4 channel Amp along with an inline AudioControl L7ci. I will run front and rear speakers to the LOC and use RCA to connect them to the Amp (factory stereo also I should mention). I just got ahold of a RF P300-10T subwoofer that I will also be installing. Do I only need to connect the speaker wire from the powered sub to the rear speaker wire in order to get the signal to the sub?

    How to install a powered subwoofer (12)

    How to install a powered subwoofer (13)

    Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    on 12/22/2022

    Paul, The way to connect together the gear you describe would be to wire that LOC's inputs to the factory stereo's 4-channel analog output, and connect both the 4-channel amp and the powered subwoofer's inputs to the LOC's outputs.

  • Chris

    Posted on 12/9/2022

    How do I connect this sub along with a 4 channel Alpine S-A32-f Amp? Can the sub get its signal from the rear speaker wires coming out of the amp? (I only have one RCA cable out of the head unit, so I am splitting the RCAs going into the alpine amp.)I'm using Alpine component speakers for front and alpine 2 ways for rear, can all speakers be spliced together at the head unit?

  • Jose Leal from Boise

    Posted on 10/30/2022

    Hello, I bought for my 1994 Chevy S10 pickup and aftermarket clarion radio, 2 door, and 2 dash speakers, and also the Rockford Fosgate Punch P300-10, along with the wire installation kit. I will get them in next week. I am not confused as to how to install the P300-10. Can I connect my 4 other speakers to the P300, or am I needing to buy a new Amplifyer for them? Please let me know, Thank you,Jose

    How to install a powered subwoofer (14)

    How to install a powered subwoofer (15)

    Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    on 10/30/2022

    Jose, That powered subwoofer is for low-frequency, bass sounds. Your four full-range speakers should be powered by the receiver or an additional 4-channel amplifier.

  • Hannah from Panama City

    Posted on 10/28/2022

    I'm installing a Rockford Fosgate P300-10 in my 2019 ford fusion hybrid se. I have a px6 (from phoenix automotive). What would be the best way to wire up the turn-on wire and signal cables? I've never done this before and I'm worried about doing it wrong since my car is a hybrid.

    How to install a powered subwoofer (16)

    How to install a powered subwoofer (17)

    Buck Pomerantz from Crutchfield

    on 10/28/2022

    Hannah, Step #2 in the video and the written script describes how to make those connections. If reviewing the article doesn't help, perhaps you should hire a professional installer to install your sub in your car.

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