Subwoofer vs Speaker: What’s the Difference?

In Short:

“Subwoofers and speakers differ only in their frequency range. Speakers cover mid-range and high frequencies, while subwoofers cover lower frequencies, also called sub-bass responses.”

A good-quality speaker system is essential if you want to enjoy the best audio experience. The sheer number of speakers and types available today can make knowing what to buy confusing.

Speakers vs. subwoofers: what’s the difference? The article will provide you with the difference and a comparison of these two devices to help you make a better decision. The main speaker and subwoofer are both speakers that are important for creating the amazing home theater experience you desire.

Comparison of Speaker and Subwoofer

Subwoofer vs Speaker

Despite the fact that speakers and subwoofers produce audio, they have little in common. It will be impossible for regular speakers to handle music with a lot of bass and sub-bass. A speaker is made to deliver high and mid-range frequencies, which is why it can be found on a computer or television. While the components are perfect for voice, something is missing when listening to music.

Subwoofers are necessary if you wish to hear the lower frequencies. In order to produce a balanced sound, subwoofers are designed only to produce deep bass. There is a key difference between speakers and subwoofers: speakers can be used without subwoofers, but subs cannot be used without speakers.

What is Speaker?

Speakers are essentially electroacoustic transducers that convert electrical audio signals into sounds. The term speaker simply refers to a loudspeaker that also produces audio. Speakers, on the other hand, amplify sound in a specific space. Speakers produce higher frequencies rather than low-frequency sounds that are easier to hear.

Computers and audio systems commonly use speakers. We’re going to discuss the main speakers in your home theater system in this contest.

In general, speakers fall into two categories: active and passive. It does not matter what type of speaker you choose; they are all designed for the same purpose.

Generally speaking, instruments like the violin or harp produce high-frequency sound waves. In contrast, low-frequency sound waves are produced by a bass drum or a bass guitar. All of these different sound frequencies can be reproduced by regular speakers but at varying intensities.

Despite being translated, lowest-frequency sounds are muted or inaudible because speakers can’t amplify them as strongly as mid-range sounds. Speakers create the most distortion in audio systems. In spite of their poor ability to reproduce the audio spectrum’s lower parts, speakers are necessary for an audio system to function. A perfect reproduction of mid to treble range sound frequencies is possible with them.

Most audio systems, such as computer speakers, come in pairs. It’s done in order to create stereo sound, which means the left and right speakers are fed separately. A surround sound system consists of multiple speakers and a subwoofer. The sound reproduced by them is realistic.

The subwoofer is not necessary for every audio system; therefore, a speaker can work pretty well on its own, but you won’t get a realistic experience.

Speaker Pros and Cons

Pros

  • You can enjoy the good sound without a subwoofer when you use a speaker. But a regular pair of speakers will still be able to play most frequencies, but the bass will not be as loud. Subwoofers might not be necessary depending on your speaker’s use and style of music.
  • Speakers are more affordable than subwoofers. It is often cheaper to replace factory-installed speakers than to add a subwoofer.

Cons

In general, there are very few downsides when you’re using quality speakers. A speaker cannot reproduce deep bass or sub-bass audibly. Because speakers are designed to produce higher frequencies, you will not hear deep bass.

Using speakers to transmit lower frequencies can result in muffled, fuzzy, muddy, or clear sub-bass sounds. Furthermore, if the volume is too loud, distortion can occur, which is known as clipping.

What is a Subwoofer?

Subwoofers usually come in wooden boxes with ports or vents. Subwoofers are mainly used to produce low sound frequencies in the 20Hz to 200Hz range, with more professional models having frequencies below 100Hz. A subwoofer is also referred to as a sub.

Most audio setups use subwoofers along with the main speakers. They cannot be used alone. In order to deliver better sound quality, they work with the main speakers to improve their sound quality by removing the low bass from the main speakers.

Therefore, when you set up your home theater system, you also need to set the crossover frequency. When you adjust the crossover frequency for your main speakers, you tell the AV receiver what lower frequency ranges should be sent to your subwoofer and what frequency the main speakers should be receiving. Regular speakers can deliver a wide range of frequencies, but the deepest bass frequencies are not as well reproduced.

There is an amplifier in the subwoofer as well as a larger woofer that amplifies the lower frequency signal, giving it a deep and cleaner sound. A subwoofer’s amplifier usually requires a power supply from an electrical outlet to function.

Unlike active subwoofers, passive subwoofers do not need their own dedicated power supply. They instead draw power from the amplifier of the AV receiver.

The simplest way to explain how subwoofers work is that they are connected to the AV receiver or preamplifier, even if their own power supply powers them. It is the receiver that sends the lower-frequency signals (usually between 20 Hz and 200 Hz) that are commonly referred to as low-frequency effects (LFE) on soundtracks.

Upon receiving an electrical signal from the receiver, the subwoofer amplifies it and converts it to sound. The subwoofer then sends these sound waves out into the air.

Types of Subwoofers

There are two types of subwoofers. These two types of subwoofers are passive and active. Below are the differences between the two types:

Passive Subwoofers

Subwoofers that are powered by an external amplifier are called passive subwoofers. Regarding amplifiers, subwoofers are the same as speakers because an external amplifier also powers them. In some cases, a single amplifier powers both the main speaker and the subwoofer.

When the sound is in the low-frequency range, more power will be required to produce extreme bass, so the receiver or amplifier, without draining from power, must provide enough power to drive the subwoofer. Speaker requirements and room size will determine how much power is required. 

Active Subwoofers

The subwoofer has a built-in amplifier, and the subwoofer speaker inside the enclosure is called an active subwoofer. Only a power supply is needed to operate these subwoofers. Furthermore, they must have to connect to the AV receiver of your home theater setup along with AC power from the electrical outlet. 

Amplifier/receiver can easily power the tweeters and mid-range because the power load on the amplifier or receiver is much reduced due to this arrangement. Most home theater systems use active/powered subwoofers.

Active subwoofers deliver better sound because the amplifier and speaker receive power from the single amplifier. As a result, you can maintain a perfect balance between the speaker and subwoofer by adjusting the crossover frequency.

Subwoofer Pros and Cons

Pros

  • If you add an active subwoofer to your audio system, it’ll provide rich and deeper bass as well as improve the mid-range sound resulting in less strain on your sound system.
  • With the addition of a subwoofer, the speaker’s sound quality is greatly enhanced because now they are not playing low-frequency sounds.
  • The speaker’s volume also gets clearer and louder because subwoofers reduce stress on the main speakers. It also reduces sound distortion to a great extent.
  • Audio setup with the combination of speakers and subwoofers provides a better overall audio performance across all frequencies than a standalone full-range speaker due to the distribution of different ranges of sounds to different devices.

Cons

  • Some subwoofers are not well-built, resulting in sound quality issues, setup difficulties and many other complications.
  • Subwoofers always operate with speakers together because subwoofers don’t work only on their own.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can you use a subwoofer as a speaker?

Everything in subwoofers, from their design and components to available output or input pots, is designed for the emission of low-frequency sound signals. You cannot use a subwoofer as a speaker because it can’t reproduce and deliver high-frequency audio signals. Speakers emit mid and high-frequency sounds.

Can you use a subwoofer as a regular speaker?

The answer is absolute No. You can’t use a subwoofer as a regular speaker. Basically, a subwoofer reproduces low-frequency signals that are otherwise unheard by the main speakers in an audio stereo system. For stereo systems, subwoofers serve as supporting speakers by handling low-frequency signals. As a result, they cannot be used alone as speakers. There will be virtually no mids, highs, or vocals, or they will be lacking in clarity at best.

Can you play music through just a subwoofer?

Subwoofers can be used in stereo and computer systems by setting their volume so that it sounds best from the chair you usually listen to. There should be neither a boomy nor a thin sound. 

Do you need a subwoofer with bookshelf speakers?

Not all bookshelf speakers are created equal, and you can achieve the ultimate audio experience without a standalone subwoofer with the right design and quality components. Having said that, however, many bookshelf speaker systems do not require a subwoofer to function.

Do I need a subwoofer with speakers?

Indeed, regular speakers are not capable of reproducing all frequencies – these speakers cannot reproduce the lowest frequencies, thereby removing a very important part of the sound. In the absence of a subwoofer, you will hear poor bass and overstressed highs.

Can you connect a subwoofer to a Bluetooth speaker?

Yes. An easy method to do this is to split the source that connects to the aux input. If you want to use Bluetooth, you have to open the cabinet and connect a speaker to the line level adapter to one of the woofer terminals. With this, you would have a line-level output that could be connected to a powered subwoofer.

Can you connect a subwoofer to any speakers?

Subwoofer outs, despite their name, aren’t the best method for connecting subwoofers to quality music systems. If a preamp does not have a subwoofer or preamp output, the preferred method still works; however, you must have a subwoofer that can accept a high-level input (also known as a speaker-level input).

Are subwoofers the same as speakers?

It is only the frequency range that distinguishes subwoofers from speakers. Subwoofers handle lower frequencies, also known as sub-bass, while speakers handle middle and high frequencies.

Is the subwoofer only for bass?

The subwoofer is actually a speaker that boosts lower frequencies in the audio you are listening to. Sound effects from movies, bass guitars, pipe organs, deep voices, and kick drums are all typical low-frequency instruments. A subwoofer is an extremely popular component for home theater and car stereo systems and is very easy to install.

Conclusion

Subwoofers are actually the speakers that deal with the low-frequency sound range to create a balanced and high-quality sound in your home theater setup or any of your audio systems. Speakers can also reproduce these low frequencies (bass and sub-bass), but the problem is that their performance is subpar at lower frequencies. Speakers deliver good mid and treble range frequencies but are impractical at low frequencies.

So, it is good to go if you have good speakers with a low-quality subwoofer than low-quality speakers with a high-quality subwoofer. The reason is that you can even enjoy a good sound on speakers without hearing low-frequency sound, but you cannot get full sound coverage with a subwoofer because it can’t be used standalone.

In short, speakers and subwoofers work hand in hand to deliver the perfect sound experience you want with your stereo system.

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