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. However, I found the corner also rather unevenly boosted unwanted upper-bass frequencies and muddied the sound, so I moved it to the front of the room to be in line with the main speakers.
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.
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.
While the Kicker seemed louder, generally, its response seemed to be slightly less even as I got further into A/B testing with a variety of music. 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.
The Kicker might not be billed as a “sound quality” subwoofer, but I think it sounds pretty good when properly driven for music and movies alike — and I tried it with both. It excels with music with a lot of very low notes, such as rap and electronic, and with movies.
Not that the Kicker sounded bad for other types of music, but the Infinity excelled in those areas because it sounded more controlled and articulate when blending with speakers.
Something a bit tricky about the comparison is the fact that the Kicker’s sounding louder at certain bass frequencies can easily cause you to think in A/B testing that the Kicker goes deeper. But as I listened more critically between types of music I actually think that the Infinity plays a little deeper. And the Infinity’s tighter sound definitely benefits the really low notes where they stay in control a bit better than the Kicker.
Does this jive with people’s assumptions that the Kicker is an SPL sub and the Infinity is better geared toward sound quality? Sort of.
I have a feeling the Kicker would be easier to power with a variety of amps, which is a definite plus.
Some speakers sound good at all volume levels, which I’d say is true of the Kicker. Other speakers seem to need a certain volume level to “come alive”. Below that point they sound dull, but really shine after that point. I think you could say that for the Kappa.
The Infinity does seem to require slightly more amp power to hit the same peaks, but this caused less of an issue when I wired with 350W RMS configurations and I imagine would be even less of an issue if you were using a stronger amp — especially if you used a stronger amp and powered two of them.
I don’t know that I’d use the Kicker Comp VR in a ported box given that even in a sealed box it’s less tight than the Infinity and since the Kicker’s Qts rating is .51, which is on the higher side of what audio forum folks recommend sounds better in a sealed box.
(I realize plenty of people do use Kickers in ported boxes; this is just my opinion given my sound preferences.)
The Infinity Kappa on the other hand seems plenty tight enough to afford being used in a ported box, and its Qts rating agrees. I wouldn’t be surprised if proper porting would also fully compensate for its being slightly less loud at a given power level.
Final Verdict: In my opinion the Infinity Kappa is a better subwoofer all around, with the caveat that you fully power it. It seems more dependent on having enough power than the Kicker, so the Kicker may be a better sub if your amp is lower power, such as 100-250W.
The degree to which the Infinity is less loud than the Kicker is subtle. Whereas the degree to which the Infinity sounds tighter and can play a bit deeper, and seems to have a more even response (to me) more than make up for the slight SPL hit.
You have to be critical when you’re comparing two speakers and planning to write about their differences. But I think it’s important to state that what surprised me in this process was how subtle the differences were.
Yes, the Infinity has a tighter sound, but not so much so that you’d say that the Kicker is sloppy or sounds bad. Yes, the Kicker seems a little overtly louder at the same wattage, but not so much so that you feel a real lack when switching over to the Infinity.
To me this speaks to good manufacturer pricing. These subs were both around the $149-199 range when they were new, and in terms of performance are pretty similar at that price point.
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.