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What Is a Subwoofer and Why Do You Need It in a Sound System?

Updated: September 13,2022

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Let’s face it, everyone loves bass. These are the deep, low frequencies that shake your insides and make your heart race. And if you’re like me, you want as much of that bass as possible in your music. That’s where a subwoofer comes in. 

While not absolutely necessary for a basic sound system, a subwoofer can take your music to the next level by adding those powerful lows that make your toes curl. So what is a subwoofer, and why do you need it? Keep reading to find out!

How Do Subwoofers Work?

Most people are familiar with the idea of a speaker, which converts electrical signals into sound waves that our ears can detect. So what does a subwoofer do differently to improve the sound your speakers produce? 

A subwoofer is only designed to reproduce low-frequency sound waves. They are necessary for getting the full range of sound out of music and movies. 

Subwoofers are an essential part of any surround sound system, whether it’s a 5.1 or a 7.1 setup. They help reproduce the low-frequency effects essential for creating a truly immersive experience. Subwoofers also improve the overall clarity of the sound, as they provide a foundation for the other speakers to work from.

While regular speakers typically have a frequency range of 20 Hz to 20 kHz, subwoofers reproduce a low frequency range. This range varies:

  • 20 Hz - 200 Hz for consumer products;
  • Lower than 100 Hz for professional-grade equipment;
  • The lowest frequency subwoofer is for THX systems, and its upper threshold is 80 Hz.

Subwoofers are also an essential part of PC gaming speakers. Bass tones significantly improve the gaming experience, and many gamers appreciate having them in games such as first-person shooters.

Bass sounds are notoriously difficult to reproduce because they require a lot of power and are easily absorbed by furniture and other objects in a room. As a result, subwoofers are usually much larger than regular speakers and are often mounted on the floor or in a corner. 

They also tend to be more expensive. So how does the subwoofer work?

Subwoofers come in all shapes and sizes, but they all work on the same principle as speakers. Inside the speaker box is a cone-shaped diaphragm connected to a coil of wire. When an electric current passes through the coil, it creates a magnetic field. 

This field interacts with a permanent magnet inside the speaker, causing the diaphragm to move back and forth. This movement creates pressure waves in the air, which your ears interpret as sound. The size of the diaphragm and the strength of the magnet determine how much bass the subwoofer can produce.

Speaker Cross Section

Speaker Cross-Section

The difference between a speaker and a subwoofer is in the size of the driver and the satellite. A subwoofer uses a larger driver or speaker cone than regular speakers. The size of the driver is directly related to the frequency range it can reproduce. The larger the driver, the lower the frequency. 

In addition to their larger size and higher power rating, subwoofers also have a ported or vented enclosure. This design helps increase the volume of low-frequency sound that is produced. 

Ports or vents help to extend the low-frequency response of the subwoofer by allowing air to move in and out of the enclosure. By moving more air, subwoofers can produce louder and more accurate low-frequency sounds.

Why Do I Need One?

Since the purpose of a subwoofer is to reproduce low-frequency sounds, it’s great for bass tones in music or sound effects in movies. You should seriously consider upgrading your home theater surround sound with a subwoofer. This is especially true if you enjoy listening to music with a lot of deep bass notes or if you like watching action movies with explosive sound effects.

While most stereo and home theater systems come with small speakers that reproduce low and medium frequencies, they are not able to produce the same deep, rich bass tones as a subwoofer. 

Subwoofers can also help improve the overall sound quality of your system by taking some of the strain off the main speakers. As a result, a sound system with a subwoofer can provide a significant improvement in sound quality.

Passive vs. Active Subwoofers

There are two main types of subwoofers: passive and active. So what is a passive subwoofer, and what’s the advantage of using an active one? 

Passive subwoofers rely on an external amplifier of your stereo system to produce sound, while active ones have their own internal amplifiers. Also, passive subwoofers are typically cheaper than active subwoofers, but they require more installation work and additional equipment.

Active subwoofers are usually more expensive, but they offer advantages over passive models, such as not requiring additional equipment. 

Active models are easier to connect to a TV or PC. They allow you to fine-tune your system’s sound to match your room better without tinkering with the external amplifier. In addition, active subwoofers can typically handle higher power and have greater efficiency than passive models. As a result, they produce deeper and more powerful bass. 

If you’re looking for the best possible subwoofer for your sound system, an active one is the way to go.

Subwoofers for Cars

When it comes to a car stereo system, the subwoofer is definitely the star of the show. After all, who doesn’t love that deep, bass-y sound while driving around? But with so many subwoofers on the market, it can be tough to know which one to choose. 

Here are a few things to remember when shopping for a subwoofer for your car audio system. 

Consider the size of your vehicle. If you have a large SUV or truck, you’ll need a bigger subwoofer than someone with a smaller car. 

Car Subwoofer Setup

Car Subwoofer Setup

Think about the type of music you like to listen to. If you’re a fan of hip hop or EDM, you’ll want a subwoofer that can really handle the bass. 

Make sure to get a subwoofer that matches the rest of your audio system too. If you have a high-end stereo, you’ll want a subwoofer that can keep up.

What Are Subwoofers with Down-Firing and Front-Firing Speakers?

Subwoofers come in all shapes and sizes, but one thing that sets them apart is the way the bass is emitted. Down-firing subwoofers have the speaker mounted on the bottom of the unit, while front-firing subwoofers have the speaker mounted on the front. 

Each type of subwoofer has pros and cons, so it’s best to choose one based on the room you’re planning on installing it in.

Down-firing subwoofers are typically more compact, making them a good choice for small spaces. They’re also less likely to produce echoing or bouncing sounds since the sound is directed downwards. However, down-firing subwoofers can be more difficult to place since they benefit more from being placed near a wall or a corner. 

Front-firing subwoofers, on the other hand, offer more flexibility when it comes to placement. They can be placed anywhere in the room, as long as there’s enough space for the sound to bounce off the walls. 

However, front-firing subwoofers can produce more bouncing and echoing sounds than down-firing subwoofers.

Front-Firing Subwoofer

Front-Firing Subwoofer

So which type of subwoofer is right for you? It ultimately depends on the size of the room and where you can place the subwoofer and speakers. 

What Is the Average Power Output in Watts for a Subwoofer?

We’ve seen that the subwoofer’s purpose is to produce low tones, which requires a lot of power. That’s why the average power output for a subwoofer is around 250 watts. However, some subwoofers are designed for high-powered systems and can have an output of up to 1,000 watts. 

When selecting a subwoofer, it is important to consider the size of the room and the type of music you will play. A lower-powered subwoofer is typically sufficient for smaller rooms or music with less bass. However, for larger rooms or music with a lot of bass, a higher-powered subwoofer may be necessary to get the best sound.

Subwoofer vs. Speaker Size?

You’ve probably noticed that subwoofers are much larger than speakers. In this case, size does matter. The larger the subwoofer, the more bass it can produce. That doesn’t necessarily mean that a bigger subwoofer is always better. In fact, the size of a subwoofer should be determined by the size of the room you’ll use it in. 

For example, a small 10-inch subwoofer might be ideal for an apartment, while a larger 15-inch subwoofer would be better suited for a large living room. Besides size, important factors include power handling, frequency response, and sensitivity. 

However, if you’re looking for a deep bass sound, you’ll want to choose a large subwoofer.

Where Can I Place a Subwoofer?

You can’t compare the placement of a speaker with that of a subwoofer. The ideal location will vary depending on the specific room and setup. Here are a few general tips that can help you get the best possible sound: 

If possible, try to place the subwoofer near walls and corners. This will help increase your subwoofer’s sound output, as reflections will produce a more even bass response. Remember that a ported subwoofer needs anywhere from 6” to 12” of space for proper airflow. 

Make sure the subwoofer is below your main speakers. This will ensure that the low frequencies are properly blended with the rest of the audio. 

Take some time to experiment with different positions until you find the one that sounds best to you. Play a movie or some music and sit where you usually do to check the sound. With a little trial and error, you’ll be able to enjoy deep bass sounds in any space.


What is the point of a subwoofer?

So, what do subwoofers do exactly? Subwoofers are designed to reproduce low-frequency sounds (bass). They help fill in the low-end frequencies that other speakers might struggle with. This results in a richer and more immersive sound experience.

What is the difference between a speaker and a subwoofer?

A speaker vs. subwoofer comparison is like comparing apples and oranges. They are both fruits, but they are different types of fruit. Similarly, speakers and subwoofers are both audio components, but they serve different purposes. 

Speakers reproduce mid and high frequencies, while subwoofers reproduce low frequencies.

Does a subwoofer make a sound?

Yes, of course. A subwoofer is part of a speaker system that reproduces low-frequency sounds.

Does a subwoofer need a speaker?

What is a subwoofer without mid and high tones? Sadly, not much. A subwoofer needs speakers to reproduce the full range of frequencies. Otherwise, you’ll only get the low-end bass sounds.

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With a degree in humanities and a knack for the history of tech, Jovan was always interested in how technology shapes both us as human beings and our social landscapes. When he isn't binging on news and trying to predict the latest tech fads, you may find him trapped within the covers of a generic 80s cyberpunk thriller.

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