Without a doubt the thing that most attracts people to the car audio hobby is bass. The sheer power that is experienced when your car is thumping can be very exhilarating. The right woofer and the right enclosure can really work magic if matched properly. There are several different types of boxes and several hundred different woofers available. With so many different combinations do you choose to do it yourself or leave it to the manufacturer?
Buy vs. Build
As with anything there are pros and cons to buying and building. Buying a pre-built enclosure is a no-brainer. Just write a check and walk out with an enclosure. But is it the right kind of enclosure for your woofer? If you buy an enclosure from a manufacturer with the subwoofer already installed then it might be. But be careful of the pre-built BYOW (bring your own woofer) enclosures. Woofers should not just be thrown into any enclosure that they'll fit into. This is especially true of the ported and bandpass enclosures. Serious sound problems can arise if a vented enclosure isn't made for a specific woofer. There's no "guesstimating" with these types.
Another problem with the pre-built enclosures is their one size fits all shape. They may not physically fit where they would give the most output. I finished some testing with enclosure placement and found that some locations outperformed other locations in the vehicle by as much as twelve decibels. That's the equivalent of increasing your amplifier power by a factor of SIXTEEN (100 watts to 1,600 watts)! So while you may save some money by choosing a generic enclosure you could be losing out on some serious output.
The option I prefer is to create a custom enclosure for the exact vehicle, woofer and sound desired. This gives me free reign over the entire design and let's me choose the best location for the enclosure. It also let's me choose the shape, enclosure covering and hardware that works with the cosmetics of the vehicle. No more dark grey carpeting in a light tan interior.
The cost is less than that of pre-built enclosure and you have the option of customizing the appearance. There's also a lot more satisfaction in doing it yourself too. Of course not everyone enjoys DIY projects but if you do it's a great way to spend an afternoon. I have a page on the site that gives a break down of some of the costs involved in creating your own enclosure. I've even created a list of items that I often order and put them on the site as well.
You should also check out Advanced Enclosure Design and Fabrication. It covers designing enclosures using free computer software, maximizing the output of a subwoofer system, building the box like a pro and testing the output using inexpensive equipment. Click here.