Subwoofers Vs Speakers (What’s The Difference?)

In audio systems, speakers are the most crucial part of the sound system.

They are essential if you want to listen to music, watch a movie, or hear someone on a podcast.

For audiophiles having the perfect system goes beyond the primary speakers.

You’ll want to throw in a subwoofer for optimum sound effects – even if you have tower speakers paired with 5-inch woofers.

Subs are crucial if you want to experience soundstage depth, more complex system dynamics, and improved spaciousness.

However, many people can’t tell the difference between subwoofers and speakers.

Perhaps it’s the notion that they are both speakers, and you can do without a sub if you have high-quality speakers.

Well, you never know what you’re missing until you have a sub in your sound system.

So, without further ado, let’s get into subwoofers vs. speakers.

Subwoofers vs Speakers: What Are Their Differences?

Subwoofers and speakers are both transducers. They convert one form of energy to another. While both produce sound, they are pretty distinct.

What Is A Speaker?

A speaker is a device that amplifies sound. It is also called an electro-acoustic transducer because it converts an electrical signal to sound.

Speakers deal with the mid and high-frequency ranges. That’s why they are used in TVs and computers.

Speakers are either active or passive. The difference is that active speakers have a built-in amplifier while passive speakers don’t.

Active speakers also need to connect to an external power source since they need more power.

Still, passive speakers need to pair with an external amplifier to produce sound.

Speakers can produce both low and high frequencies.

Nevertheless, their intensity depends on the frequency range.

Generally, speakers are made to reproduce high frequencies better than low frequencies. That’s why they are easy on the ears.

You will find that low frequencies on speakers sound muted while the high frequencies are more precise and more defined.

As a result, sounds and instruments within the high range stand out more.

What About Full-Range Speakers?

You’ve probably encountered full range when shopping for speakers.

It means that the speaker can reproduce almost all of the frequencies that the human ear can hear without additional equipment.

What Is A Subwoofer?

A subwoofer is specially designed to reproduce lower frequencies.

Technically speaking, a subwoofer has a backward and forward motion driver to push audio waves into a sealed or ported enclosure.

Thus, emitting a low bass tone. When you place a subwoofer in an effective setup, you can improve your audio experience.

A subwoofer’s frequency range depends on its use.

A subwoofer for home use typically has a 20-200Hz range. This frequency includes a deep bass guitar, pipe organ, or kick drum.

20-200Hz bass frequencies enhance movie sound effects such as explosions and deep voices.

A professional use subwoofer has a range below 100Hz. It is also expensive than a higher frequency subwoofer.

These are the kind of subwoofers you find in events and cinema halls.

Types of Subwoofers

Subwoofers also come as active subwoofers and passive subwoofers.

Like speakers, an active subwoofer has an inbuilt amp while a passive subwoofer does not.

The amp improves sound quality since the speakers and sub are powered by a single amp.

Hence, you can adjust the crossover frequency to find the perfect balance between the sub and the speakers.

A passive subwoofer uses an external amplifier as its power source.

The amplifier has to have enough power to manage the bass effects of the subwoofer. In some subwoofers, the amp drives the speakers and powers the sub.

A crossover in the sub removes the low frequencies in such a setup.

The amp then drives the isolated signal to the main speakers. Other subwoofers use the same signal as the speakers.

Also Read: Down Firing Vs Front Firing & The Difference Between A Subwoofer And A Woofer

A Subwoofer’s Design

A subwoofer is often in an enclosed box made of wood or plastic.

The loudspeaker enclosure usually has one or more woofers.

Plus, the box can have a vent or a port. The woofers can be in specific areas within the structure of the subwoofer.

Their placement determines the kind of subwoofer, size, efficiency, distortion characteristics, cost, and power handling.

A sealed enclosure produces deeper bass.

It is ideal for audio targeting all frequencies.

A ported enclosure is louder and is recommended for genres like house and rap.

Also Read: Should A Subwoofer Be In A Cabinet & Where To Place Soundbar With A Subwoofer

What Is The Difference Between Subs And Speakers?

Frequency Range

A subwoofer is designed to reproduce low-pitched sounds such as bass and sub-bass.

Its frequency range is usually lower than a woofer.

As we’ve mentioned, consumer-range subwoofers have a 20-200Hz frequency range, while professional live sound requires 100Hz.

There are even those with a range below 80Hz.

A typical home theatre has a 5.1 setup. It usually consists of five main speakers and one low-frequency speaker.

The configuration entails three speakers in front and two on the sides.

The left and right front are full-range speakers that reproduce wide ranges from 50Hz-20kHz.

The center channel speaker can reproduce 60Hz up to 100Hz on the low end and 20kHz on the high end.

The rear speakers are for surround sound effects. They give you a 3D listening experience.

Sound Quality

Conventional speakers target higher frequencies and mid-range sound. But they can also produce a certain level of bass.

The treble of speakers allows you to hear the strings of an orchestra’s performance. Meanwhile, the midrange sound helps you listen to a lead singer’s warm, rich vocals.

However, you’ll notice that you’re missing something.

Subwoofers bring in the bass that’s coming from the speakers.

While they don’t scream attention to themselves, they bring a unique energy to a sound system.

The dynamics kick in harder in a manner that you wouldn’t experience in the absence of a subwoofer.

It’s better to go for a high-wattage subwoofer because it demonstrates it is powerful. It not only plays loud, but it also handles lower frequencies better than a low-wattage subwoofer.

Sound System

Another difference between speakers and subwoofers is that you can buy only one subwoofer.

However, speakers come in pairs to provide a balanced sound for your home theater.

Each speaker is on its channel (left and right). Both speakers work together to give you a lovely surround sound effect.

Low Frequencies

Most subwoofers can reproduce low frequencies ranging under 200Hz, while speakers produce both frequencies on both ends of the spectrum.

Do They Have Similarities?

Speakers and subwoofers have many common characteristics. Both systems integrate two complex AC signals and convert them into sound energy.

They also have a voice coil attached to a permanent magnet to produce sound when the voice coil vibrates.

Frequently Asked Questions


1. Can Subwoofers Be Used As Speakers?

Subwoofers are for low-frequency audio signals.

Their structural design, available inputs, and outputs, plus components, are different from speakers.

They cannot reproduce high-frequency audio signals. Hence, they can’t be used as speakers.

2. Does A Subwoofer Make Speakers Sound Better?

The speakers do their best to offer the best frequency spectrum in a quality sound system.

However, when these speakers have the task of reproducing low frequencies, you experience maximum distortion, and the bass is muted or inaudible.

Enter a subwoofer, and the speakers don’t have to produce bass.

The subwoofer will do it for them so that they will sound better.

You will find that different music genres benefit from various subwoofers.

As such, you’ll want a high-quality subwoofer that will handle a variety of music genres comfortably.

3. Are Subwoofers Worth It?

The fundamental idea is for you to feel lower frequencies like they are intended.

For example, when listening to an RnB song using floor-standing speakers, you will miss out on definition and clarity in the lower-frequency audio spectrum.

A subwoofer is worth it since it improves the sound output of speakers by freeing them from producing low frequencies.

As a result, mid frequencies are produced without distortion.

Subwoofers deliver every bass note in musical content.

While bookshelf and tower speakers can drop off at 50Hz, subwoofers take it all the way to achieve full depth and clarity.

Additionally, subwoofers reveal the sonic potential of surround speakers. As such, they cover every aspect that helps to improve an audio system.

4. Do Subwoofers Make Sound Output Louder?

Yes and No.

Subwoofers enhance the sound by producing a fuller, more powerful effect.

They capture the low frequencies that could be missing in your sound system, thus improving the sound quality.

Additionally, you can play audio as loud as you want without distortion – no matter how demanding the music material is.

Also Read: What Causes Subwoofer Pulsing With No Sound

Conclusion

The subject of subwoofers vs. speakers can be a bit confusing.

We hope we’ve clarified their key differences and helped you understand why you cannot use one in place of the other.

Speakers are crucial if you want to listen to audio. You can listen to a wide range of frequencies.

However, the bass will not be clear. That’s why you require a subwoofer.

A subwoofer reveals sounds and feelings that are impossible for speakers to reproduce.

It also reproduces every note in the low spectrum accurately.

So, the overall sound quality is greatly improved. All you need to do is blend the subwoofer with your speakers for the best audio.


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