This is not another of those X vs. Y posts that lists a bunch of features and cops out at the end. By the end you’ll know my take on it, and the result surprised me a bit.
My own assumption going into this fit with opinions given all over audio forms everywhere, any time headlines between Kicker and Infinity appeared in the same statement. “Infinity for sound quality, Kicker for SPL.”
It made sense. Kicker describes their subs as competition speakers — when we’re talking the Kicker CVR series (or Comp VR) it’s even in the name. The emphasis seemed to be on playing at high volumes rather than being an accuate music speaker.
The Infinity Kappa line seemed like the more premium sub of the two, so I was interested to see how they’d compare.
Full disclosure before we jump in: I’ve used both of these subs in the car, but more recently have also used both of them in my living room run off a power amp with crossover. (I even rigged a 12V DC power supply so that I could use a car amp inside and power them that way.)
These are both discontinued models of each of their product lines as well, so proponents of either side can surely argue that newer offerings may fare differently.
But in a general sense for those looking for a head to head with Infinity vs. Kicker, here’s an honest opinion born of experiments.
I’ve powered both these subs in a variety of configurations over time, some of which in the car in their traditional setting and also more recently in my home for both music and movies.
For clarity, I first used a small AC-powered class D sub amp capable of 150W RMS and subsequently for both car and home use switched to a Pioneer amp capable of 350W RMS, 800W peak. Nothing insane like some people’s builds, but certainly enough power to enhance music and add punch to movies. Many self-powered home theater subs use similar power.
Configurations With Both Subwoofers
Early into my experiments I ran into some serious room nulls, giving me a falls sense of what the subs could do. I corrected those by reversing the phase/polarity of the subs, and both played better with the rest of the system.
I first played the Infinity in a corner and enjoyed the boost that corners often provide to sound levels. It sounded slightly more natural when moved right next to my main speakers (rather than the corner), but noticeably less loud.
Both of these subs have also been played in their more native situation: in the trunk of a car with an Alpine and a Pioneer amp (both ~350w RMS, 800-1100W peak).
Lastly, both subs are in a 1.25 cubic foot sealed box, but to rule out that one box might be better than the other and account for differences in sound I’ve also swapped which speaker is in either box throughout the testing.
Types of music used for testing:
- Various electronic music such as Bass Nectar, Moby, Nine Inch Nails
- Rap genres such as Eminem (particularly “If I Get Locked Up” feat. Funkmaster Flex), DMX
- Roni Size (Drum and Bass)
- Blue Man Group – Audio album (percussive bliss!)
- Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac, Dave Matthews Band, Beck, Madonna, and Justin Timberlake
Kicker vs. Infinity: Depth, Responsiveness, and Overall Impressions
From the very first A/B test I did the Kicker CVR seemed more overtly loud at the same volume level. you might refer to that as saying it seemed easier to drive, and a little more readily filled the space with depth.
Oddly when I’d first encountered the polarity issue that was causing room nulls the Kicker seemed less affected by it. Its low notes still prevailed a bit better, whereas the Infinity’s sound seemed completely ruined by it. Just worth noting.
With the Kicker, certain frequencies around 50hz seemed warmer and the Kicker’s upper-bass range (80-120hz) was mellower in a way that, to me, is a plus for a subwoofer.
The Infinity’s upper-bass is more audible, which for some may require a little more aggressive crossover use.
Here’s where the differences became more pronounced.
Ambient bass, like synth strings or bass guitars, sounded tamer on the Infinity Kappa. Notes were enunciated a bit more clearly, which is a plus. However, when it came to kick drums and the beat in general the Kappa actually sounded muddier and more subdued to me. It lacked that satisfying OOMPH you expect from a subwoofer, and sounded more like you might expect a tower speaker with a 10″ woofer would sound.
The Kicker shines here. Drum beats hit harder and more distinctly against accompanying bass. Though the ambient bass is slightly looser with the Kicker, the visceral impact of big bass notes is much better developed.
When people had described the Kicker as “more of an SPL woofer” I took that to mean it was built to get loud more than to be accurate. In this case, though, I’d say the statement is true in the sense that it’s good at generating impact, at any volume level.
Its power handling is roughly the same as the Infinity Kappa, but the Kicker definitely seems to have better motor force and seems more capable with less power. Put another way, the Kappa seems to need more power to generate a similar sense of punch. (Despite the Kappa having the higher sensitivity rating.)
One last comparison: the Infinity Kappa does seem to be able to play slightly deeper more audibly than the Kicker, though not by much.
I went into this expecting the Kappa to be the better sub, and was mostly curious how close the Kicker would get. It was pretty surprising, after auditioning a whole bunch of different music in repeated A/B tests that in general the Kicker seemed to perform better at the things most people probably want in a subwoofer.
The Kappa’s tighter handling of upper bass seemed to come in handy less often and improve the overall sound less than the Kicker’s ability to really lay down a beat did. The Kappa’s strengths were evident occasionally in certain types of music, which was nice, but the Kicker’s advantages were noticeable in everything I listened to.
Final Verdict: In my opinion the Kicker Comp VR is the better sub at the end of the day. The Infinity Kappa has slightly tighter upper bass and can play the really deep notes slightly better, but sounds comparatively weak in the frequencies a sub needs to sound the strongest (35-60hz).
The Kicker Comp VR is just a more fun subwoofer to listen to than the Infinity Kappa. It adds more life to the low end that you can feel even with just one sub, whereas I feel like you’d definitely need 2 Kappas to try to compete in terms of impact.
I think it’s a disservice to say Kicker subs are all about being loud, at least at the Comp VR level. Maybe it’s different for their entry level subs, but I imagine that’s true of most companies. Entry level is entry level.
An afterthought: Some have argued that subwoofers made for cars have deliberately weaker response on really low notes to compensate for trunk gain, and that’s why bringing them into your house makes them sound bad because they are then too weak in a living room without the trunk gain.
It’s also worth noting that plenty of other people have reported using car subs in their houses using power amps and had great results, so if this reliance on trunk gain thing were that significant you’d think more people would’ve run into issues.
Thanks for reading.