2 Ohm Vs 4 Ohm Subwoofers – Which Is Better?

Got questions about 2 ohm and 4 ohms speakers & subwoofers? You’re in the right place!

Dig in as there’s a ton of great info and clear & helpful diagrams, too!

Which is best – 2 ohm or 4 ohm subwoofers?

which is better 2 ohm vs 4 ohm subwoofers

The basic answer is that you should use the subwoofer impedance best matched to your amplifier when possible. An amplifier will produce the most power it is capable of at the correct Ohm load it’s designed for.

The end result is you’ll get the most power for your money when matching the minimum impedance to the amp.

  • For a 2 ohm amp with its maximum power at 2 ohms, use a 2 ohm subwoofer or 2 ohm total speaker load when using multiple speakers.
  • For a 4 ohm amp with maximum power at 4 ohms, use a 4 ohm subwoofer or 4 ohm total speaker load with several speakers.

With the same power delivered to each, a 4 ohm speaker and identical 2 ohm speaker will produce the same amount of volume. The problem is that each one will affect how much power you’ll get.

2 ohm and 4 ohm speakers aren’t really “better” than one another – it depends on how they’re used, the amplifier, and some other details I’ll cover as we go.

**Note: It is true that a low impedance speaker will draw twice the electrical current of one with a higher impedance but there’s a good reason for that as I’ll explain.

(Note that the Ohm symbol (Ω) is commonly used to represent units of resistance or impedance.)

What is the difference between a 2 ohm and a 4 ohm subwoofer?

difference between 2 ohm and 4 ohm subs diagram

2 ohm and 4 ohm subwoofers are the same but use a different impedance (total resistance) voice coil or pair of coils.

There are 2 ways to get high power in a vehicle with a +12V electrical system:

  1. Increase the voltage used to deliver power to the electrical load: a car amplifier uses a step-up internal power supply to create higher voltages than the vehicle has in order to deliver more power.
  2. Lower the resistance of the load (speaker impedance). 2 ohm voice coils make this possible when an amplifier can’t provide as much power to a 4 ohm coil subwoofer.

In the case of dual voice coil (DVC) subwoofers, a pair of 2Ω coils allow you to get a 4Ω speaker load if needed as they can be connected in series with speaker wire.

They’re really handy when changing amplifiers, bridging an amp, or using more speakers together as you’ll have flexibility in the wiring option.

2 ohm vs 4 ohm load amplifier power comparison

DIAGRAM – 4 ohm vs 2 ohm subwoofer amp power

2 ohm vs 4 ohm subwoofer amp power diagram

The reason why you get the best results with a 2 ohm or 4 ohm subwoofer matched to your amp is due to the relationship between voltage, power, current, and resistance.

If you’re not familiar with Ohm’s Law or Watt’s Law, they’re simple ways to remember the relationship between the electrical resistance, voltage, and current. When combined and re-arranged we have a simple formula we can use to calculate power to an electrical resistive load like a speaker.

Formula for power voltage an resistance with speaker power

Why the right subwoofer Ohm load is important for amplifier power

Car audio stereos or amps and home stereos create power to a speaker by boosting (amplifying) the tiny musical source signal to a higher voltage that can overcome the speaker’s resistance.

For your home audio system it’s not much of problem powering an 8 ohm speaker, however, cars & trucks don’t a high voltage available to make that possible.

Voltage, power, and speakers

The more voltage that can be output, the more current that be sent and therefore more power and louder sound. The issue is that each device (radio, amplifier, etc.) has a limit to how much it can put out.

This means that a higher speaker Ohms load will decrease the current, and just as you would expect, this means less power can be delivered to a speaker.

To get the most power your amplifier can provide it’s important to match the subwoofer Ohm load to the amp’s min. Ohms rating specified. There’s nothing “wrong” with using a higher speaker impedance, but you’re not going to get the power you paid for.

How do I know what my amp’s minimum speaker Ohm rating is?

example of car amp minimum Ohms specification and max RMS power specification

An amp’s power specifications should be provided by the manufacturer, retailer, and so forth. It’s normally listed both on the package and in the owner’s manual.

Here are some important things to pay attention to:

  • The maximum power rating to use is the RMS, continuous, or CEA-2006 power rating provided. “peak power” or “maximum” or not what you’re looking for.
  • Unfortunately, many manufacturers still list outrageous and misleading power numbers for their products. RMS is the power spec based on what an amp can produce reliably and continually.
  • The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) created the CEA-2006 standard to help buyers know a product lives up to its advertised specs. Look for that as it’s a reliable set of specs, usually from the better manufacturers.
  • The minimum Ohms rating an amp can handle, also called the Ohms it’s “stable to”, is the smallest number listed per channel. This also depends on the channel mode (stereo, bridged, etc.).

Important note about bridging an amp for subwoofer use

Diagram showing a 4 channel car amplifier bridged to 2 channels

One thing to bear in mind before buying subwoofers is that nearly all bridgeable 2 channel or 4 channel amps require a minimum of 4 ohms in bridged mode.

This is due to how bridging works. While many of today’s amps can handle down to 2Ω per channel, bridging works but using 2 channels together in a push-pull fashion to deliver more power.

For that reason, the 4Ω requirement is due to the total of both channels’ min. Ohms load.

Using multiple subwoofers in series vs parallel

DIAGRAM – Series vs parallel subwoofer power comparison

diagram showing how power is shared between subwoofers series vs parallel

When hooking up multiple speakers you can’t get free power – connecting two speakers or more speakers to one output channel means they will have to share the available power.

The way you go about doing that, and the total impedance, is very important.

Remember these basics:

  • Parallel speakers share the output power for the total speaker load. For example, connecting two 4Ω speakers in parallel means a total of 2 ohms. Each speaker would then get 1/2 of the amp’s rated power output at 2 ohms.
  • Series connected speakers receive less power overall because the total power to all is lower than parallel speakers. For example, two 4 ohm speakers in series add to an 8 ohm total load. Power output at 8 ohms is 1/2 that of 4 ohms, with each speaker having 1/2 of that.

When connecting 2 or more speakers to one output channel it’s a compromise you have to live with. A car amplifier is often designed with one or two speakers per channel in mind.

I get a lot of questions and comments from readers who are trying to use speakers that can’t be wired well to get the most power from their amp.

Take my advice: plan ahead and work out the speaker ohms and single voice coil or DVC details before you but the speakers and/or the amp.

What about dual voice coil subwoofers?

how to wire a dual coil coil speaker diagram

Dual voice coil subwoofers are also an option. They’re also handy in case you change your audio system later or want to switch things up.

To get the best results you’ll want to remember a few things:

  • When possible, buy or use DVC subwoofer impedance that will allow you to wire all coils in parallel to their channel. This will allow you to get a lower impedance to match the amp’s min. Ohms load.
  • DVC subwoofers can be used with only one voice coil when necessary but it’s not ideal. Their parameters are not quite they same and they cannot handle the same amount of heat or power as they can if both are used.
  • Mixing different Ohms rating DVC subwoofers rarely works out well. Most of the time you can’t get the right overall impedance. It’s often too high or too low to be optimal and in many cases some voice coils won’t be used.
  • You can use one amp channel per voice coil if necessary. However, ideally you’ll use a mono (non-stereo) input to both of the amp’s RCA inputs. This is so both channels have the same signal and avoids any differrences that can cause sound cancellation.

As long as you’ve correctly bought (or have on hand) the correct ones you can get a 4 ohm load, 2 ohm load, or even 1 ohm load as needed. When using a mono amp this can be a bit trickier if you’ve got more than 2 subwoofers.

**Note: many car stereos or signal processors provide a mono signal from the subwoofer RCA outputs, making it easy to drive one voice coil per channel.

4 ohm vs 2 ohm car speakers

2 ohm vs 4 ohm car speakers section image

There are some 3 ohm and even 2 ohm coaxial, woofer, and component speaker sets available one the market. While it may be tempting to buy those instead of a standard 4Ω car speaker for full range music, here are some considerations to consider:

  • You won’t be able to bridge amp channels (4Ω min.) in order to get more power. I recently had a reader contact me and unfortunately he’s stuck without a way to avoid this aside from using a higher impedance speaker set.
  • You won’t be able to use tweeters or another set of speakers in parallel. If you’re tight on space, money, or need to wait on buying a second amp this can be a roadblock. Many people use a 2Ω min. amp to drive two speakers in parallel, such as tweeters and coaxial speakers. Buying a lower impedance means that’s not going work.

If your amp offers more power per channel at 2Ω to your main speakers, go for it. But remember you’ll need a dedicated channel for each speaker.

Marty
About the author

Marty is an experienced electrical, electronics, and embedded firmware design engineer passionate about audio and DIY. He worked professionally as an MECP-certified mobile installer for years before moving into the engineering field. Read more »

Your comments are welcome.
  1. HI Marty!
    I am trying to put a 10″ sub w/built in amp, and after market stereo (Kenwood) into my Ford Taurus 2006. (Now I have already ran into problems with the interior face cover of the stock stereo.) I will tell you and see what you think about the stock stereo setup AFTER my main question.

    Main question is… She has a stock amp in the trunk and instead of bypassing it, is it possible to connect the 10″ Sub w/built in amp to the stock amplifier then connect to the Kenwood?If so how would I wire it?

    Now I have heard that because the face plate is more like a remote control for the amplifier in the trunk and not an actual Head Unit that the amplifier will not be able to communicate with an aftermarket H.U.,like the Kenwood.

    If that’s the case I just have to bypass stock amp correct? Hardwire speakers to Kenwood? Does the built in amplifier for the 10″ Sub only amplify the Sub? Or do all the speakers get the juice? Or do I have to wire the speakers to the Sub box?

    Crazy question; (…the stock stereo has a face plate with the motherboard for the stereo screen, buttons for search, play, ect. And is a solid piece holding the rear defrost and Airbag lights/buttons. AND the Heat/Air control knobs.)
    Is it possible to to cut the Motherboard in half and get rid of the stock stereo screen and keep the bottom circuit board parts connected to the Airbag , rear defrost, and little lights for the Air conditioning knobs?
    I have a picture of the circuit boards that connect together to run everything, if you want to take a look, let me know.

    Otherwise I would have to buy an 80$ faceplate to put in the Kenwood…not happenin.
    Or strap it on the dash or under the ashtray….any suggestions?

    No I didn’t buy a stereo install kit, or new face plate. Will be hard wiring it.

    THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR TIME!!!
    Denyka

    Reply
    • Hello Denyka. This is one of those cases where a person has a vehicle that’s somewhat more difficult than say a standard DIN or double DIN stereo installation and therefore it’s going to cost more and require a bit more work.

      To answer your questions:

      1. > is it possible to connect the 10″ Sub w/built in amp to the stock amplifier then connect to the Kenwood?If so how would I wire it?

      If you’re keeping the factory head unit and amp you’d connect an aftermarket amp to the speaker level outputs of the rear channels on the factory amp *or* the subwoofer amp output, if present. If you’re using an aftermarket head unit you’d connect it via RCA cables during installation.

      2. > Now I have heard that because the face plate is more like a remote control for the amplifier in the trunk and not an actual Head Unit that the amplifier will not be able to communicate with an aftermarket H.U.,like the Kenwood.

      Well, in a typical factory amplified system unlike higher-end ones in those such as Lexus, BMW, etc. the factory stereo just sends a low-level signal to the factory amplifier which then drives the speakers. Typically the amp needs to be bypassed when replacing the head unit. In some cases yes a volume or other control signal is sent to the factory amp, but as I recall it’s not likely the case for this Ford system.

      3. > If that’s the case I just have to bypass stock amp correct? Hardwire speakers to Kenwood? Does the built in amplifier for the 10″ Sub only amplify the Sub? Or do all the speakers get the juice? Or do I have to wire the speakers to the Sub box?

      The factory amplifier in a “premium” system powers all speakers. Ideally you will bypass the factory amplifier and use a “real” (aftermarket) amp for whatever subwoofer you’d like to use. Even a cheap aftermarket amp can be miles ahead of a factory amplifier in both sound quality & power.

      Unfortunately, you’ll need to spend the money for the stereo installation kit & amplifier bypass harness for the Taurus/Sable. Don’t cut any electronics as that’s a REALLY bad idea, and it’s exceptionally difficult to deal with both that and trying to sort out the cosmetic side for installing the head unit.

      (You may be able to find the parts cheaper online, however.)

      No reputable installation shop would attempt to custom-modify it rather than using readily available installation parts because they’re worth the money. Once you have installed the Kenwood and bypassed the amp, you can power the subwoofer with a small amp if you like. There may be a factory amp integration adapter for your factory system but I’m not 100% sure.

      Usually it’s not worth it since aftermarket electronics sound so much better, offer so many more options & features, and are so much easier to work with.

      In this case it may be better to reach out to a reputable installer or installation shop rather than do it yourself. Cutting corners isn’t really going to work in this case. If they’ve worked on a Taurus/Sable they’ll be familiar with it already and can handle it pretty easily most of the time if you’re not experienced with car stereo installation.

      Best regards and best of luck to you. :)

      Reply
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