What is a Subwoofer and Why You Need One

If you’re starting to build a home theater system in your living room, want to improve the sound system in your car, or looking to develop a speaker system for your band room, you’re likely searching for that deep and in-depth bass for the best results. To achieve that kind of sound for an audio system you have, you’ll need a good subwoofer. But you may wonder, what is a subwoofer? In essence, a powered subwoofer is a loudspeaker that reproduces low-pitched frequencies like bass and sub-bass. A subwoofer will take low-frequency sound signals and convert them into audio that a typical woofer can’t generate. It takes your sound system to the next level — resulting in a deep and full-bodied that you can feel if you’ve set up the system correctly.

Adding a subwoofer to your speakers can significantly improve its output, as most woofers or regular speakers can only produce sounds down to 50 Hz, which is high for bass tones. A subwoofer system can create low-frequency sounds down to 20 Hz. Hence its name ‘woofer,’ coming from the deep, roaring sounds dogs make when barking. It allows you to ‘feel’ the bass’s sounds in a song, movie, or other sounds. According to some people, because the tones are low, many can’t hear the bass from a subwoofer. That’s why the feeling component of subwoofers is crucial. Healthy human ears can only hear sounds frequencies down to 20 Hz, meaning it can be challenging for middle-aged people to listen to these sounds. Having one or two subwoofers allow anyone to ‘feel’ the sounds through vibrations — even if they can’t hear it.

Now that you understand how the general subwoofer works, this article helps you dive deep into what a subwoofer speaker is and why you need one for your home audio system — allowing you to get the best for your sound system.

What is a Subwoofer Speaker?

Many people often talk about ‘bass’ as if it’s one thing. However, in reality, ‘bass’ consists of several types of low frequencies with different properties. You can only tell the difference when listening through quality equipment, such as a subwoofer. That’s because bass sounds have a relatively broad frequency range — and a subwoofer is capable of reproducing this full range. So, what is a subwoofer speaker? Before diving into what subwoofer speakers are, it’s best to understand how hearing ranges work in people. Theoretically, humans’ hearing ranges range from 20 Hz to 20 kHz, which gradually decreases as you age. Because of this, older individuals have a more difficult time hearing lower frequencies thanks to the long bass waves reaching their ears simultaneously and its lower-than-average frequency. So, how does this relate to a subwoofer speaker? Subwoofer speakers are like any other speaker, with only one speaker or driver, producing bass and lowering tones, allowing everyone to ‘feel’ the sounds’ vibrations.

One subwoofer can already be an excellent low-frequency extension for your setup, helping keep your speakers balanced. However, as a general rule, two subwoofers are always better than one — if set correctly and have a decent subwoofer enclosure. The exact frequency of each subwoofer varies from model to model. They also come in passive and powered versions. Most subwoofers are powered, meaning they have a built-in amp connected to the AV receiver through an audio cable instead of a speaker wire. Passive subwoofers are also a thing, but they’re less common. You can encounter this unique type of subwoofer at soundbars or high-end sound system setups.

There’s a reason why most subwoofers are ‘powered’ or active. It’s because controlling a subwoofer demands a bit of power, sometimes up to 2000 Watts. Every subwoofer driver needs electronics to improve bass performance to the fullest potential. Subwoofers require a lot of energy because they need to move plenty of air. Bass waves are larger than your average soundwaves from regular speakers, and only a large driver can produce them. The most common size for a driver is either a 10-inch or 12-inch speaker. Additionally, subwoofers also require control to be audible, and it’s the easiest to control an amplifier when a subwoofer is active or ‘powered.’

Subwoofer Meaning: A Technical Description

Now that you know the general concept or terms of a sub, what is the technical subwoofer meaning? A subwoofer is an amplifier or woofer that can play lower frequencies known as sub-bass and bass. Its frequency range can start as little as 20 Hz to 200 Hz for consumer products, less than 100 Hz for specialized live sounds, and less than 80 Hz for THX-approved sound systems. Home subwoofers can enhance the low-frequency range of your ordinary loudspeakers covering higher frequencies. They consist of one or two woofers mounted in an amp enclosure. A woofer is the primary part of a subwoofer, sometimes dubbed as the cabinet or driver. The speakers’ size is typically between 20 to 53 cm (8 to 21 inches). Odd sizes are ideal for specialized uses, while smaller ones are for desktop PC multimedia systems, and larger ones are for clubs. Its voice coil has magnets that allow its diaphragm to move and create sound. This suspension keeps the diaphragm intact, controlling its movement. A massive frame known as the basket houses the subwoofer parts, staying mounted on a cabinet or enclosure.

Subwoofers are fantastic accessories to add to your stereo system at any site, improving movies and music sounds. The difference between subwoofers is the size of the woofer it uses to create deeper and cleaner bass sounds. They usually have built-in amplifiers, so you’ll need to connect it to an electrical outlet. A subwoofer comes in two types, including active and passive variations. A passive subwoofer doesn’t require a power source as it uses energy from the amp or receiver. You’ll need to connect it to a pre-amplifier or an audio receiver, sending signals called low-frequency effects vita the sub’s electrical current. Then it will amplify that current, converting into sound using a magnetic coil, causing its cone to vibrate — resulting in a low-pitched sound blending instantly with the air. It gives you more flexibility than placement-sensitive speakers, enjoying top sound quality every time.

What is the Purpose of a Subwoofer?

Now that you know the concept of subwoofers and their technical aspects, you may wonder — what is the purpose of a subwoofer? These are integral products that deliver fantastic sound to listeners, whether for a home theater or different audio setups. It’s a loudspeaker component used to produce low frequencies, giving music depth and richness. Without the best subwoofer, you’ll notice the difference in your audio quality straight away — in fact, according to many, listening to sounds will never be the same again! However, besides optimizing sound quality, subwoofers have other purposes too, including:

  • Provides Optimal Performance
    The primary purpose of subwoofers is to provide strong low- to mid-range bass sounds that aren’t possible from other speakers. Bass is crucial since it gives low-pitched sounds that anyone can physically feel, allowing for a more immersive experience, whether at home or in your car.
  • Adds ‘Realistic’ Cinematic Sounds
    Besides providing rich sounds, another purpose of subwoofers is to offer an authentic cinematic experience at home. To realistically reproduce sounds like the honking of a car horn or ocean waves crashing, subwoofers are needed. Although you can hear these sounds without a sub, there’s no question that a powered sub can ensure that your favorite movies are as captivating and realistic as possible, improving your film-viewing experience substantially.
  • Produces Bass From Anywhere and Saves Space
    Bass-focused speakers are versatile. The human ear can’t know where bass comes from, so many assume that bass sounds come from wherever the audio is originating, giving the illusion of surround sounds. It provides a more immersive experience, especially for home theaters, as subwoofers don’t need to be on display or at a central location to work efficiently. Having one subwoofer around the same space, in the corner, shelf, or other unconventional places, allows for the best bass management. Subwoofers aim to provide an immersive experience minus the bulky speakers taking up most of the room.

What Does a Subwoofer Do?

After understanding the purpose of subwoofers, you may be thinking, what does a subwoofer do? In essence, subwoofers reproduce low-pitched frequencies to enhance the overall listening experience. Before anything else, you need to understand the concept of a subwoofer system. Generally, the fundamental idea is to reproduce low frequencies: the bottom two octaves, ranging from 20 Hz to 80 Hz. However, having a special subwoofer box that produces low frequencies doesn’t guarantee good bass performance in the listening room, whether you buy the best subwoofer or DIY it.

That’s because the acoustic properties, whether it’s in the living room or bedroom, are of utmost importance, so even if you place the world’s top subwoofer in an acoustically poor room, you’ll have poor performance left and right. If the room has terrible stand-wave issues, which most home studios do, you must first sort these acoustical problems before spending money on surround sound systems with subwoofers. Bass trapping controls and reduce room standing waves, which you can do at minimal costs and basic DIY. When you’ve set that aside, all you need to do is determine the number of subwoofers you need for your speakers and enjoy. Plus, a subwoofer can handle the power accorded to a system as a whole, improving frequency response while taking the satellite speakers’ burden.

Do I Need a Subwoofer?

Now that you know what is a subwoofer understand its purposes and what it does, you ask yourself “do I need a subwoofer?” There’s a lingering belief in the audiophile sector that subwoofers are only for home theater systems, and the benefits to music playback are suspect or lousy. Although lesser subwoofers can’t optimally handle the speed, detail, and nuance of all kinds of music, it’s not the rule for subwoofers in general. A quality subwoofer elevates the listening experience, no matter what room or space you place it. Below is a list of various reasons why an adequately constructed subwoofer like an SVS is essential and why you need one for your surround sound system, satellite speakers, or main speakers.

  • A Subwoofer Reveals the Sounds and Feelings Normal A Speaker Can’t Produce
    Subwoofers bring the sounds and feelings regular speakers can’t reproduce as a majority of them start dropping off at around 50 Hz, depriving one of the full depth and clarity of bass notes. A subwoofer leaves no room for hidden potential, reaching down to 20 Hz or lower, right down to the limit of possible human hearing. This capability means you’ll never miss a note and feel even the lowest bass tones from something like a pipe organ, bass guitar, or kick drum — providing a more immersive experience.
  • Subwoofers Can Play As Loud As You Want Without Any Distortion
    When you begin bumping sounds at high volumes in many sound systems, regular woofers in our speakers typically struggle to keep up with mid drivers or tweeters. A Subwoofer can play seamlessly loud music without any distortions, no matter how demanding the tune is, the subwoofer placement, and how loud you’d like to play it.
  • Subwoofers Unleash The Potential of Any Speaker
    A powered subwoofer can bring its low-pitched amplifier alongside proper bass management by connecting an AV receiver to speakers, driving smaller speakers in the mid and high sound pitches above their crossover point. In essence, it allows any drive to reach their fullest potential, whether you place them surrounded by furniture that usually hinders sound quality. Additionally, a subwoofer can blend with full-range speakers without affecting the frequency response or drawing attention to itself, resulting in perfectly blended audio.
  • A Subwoofer Accurately Reproduces Bass Notes in the Low-Frequency Spectrum
    Unlike a standard speaker that typically has a ‘sonic signature,’ subwoofers stringently follow the musical content the artist made, delivering bass notes the music probably intended. Because of this, you can match a subwoofer with any brand or model of the sound system, adding weight and energy to the overall listening experience.
  • A Subwoofer Adds Speed and Control in Low-End Transients
    Many music genres present rapid beginnings and abruptly stop in the vocals or instrumental part, leaving lesser subwoofers to struggle to keep up with it — resulting in distorted soundtracks. The best subwoofer possesses the speed and transient bass response, producing remarkable realism and impact, rendering even the fastest bass lines with feelings and unparalleled precision.

When you look past the technical enhancements, having subwoofer systems add a new dimension to music and other sounds. From raw guitar riffs to drum beats, the most complicated electronic bass compositions, a subwoofer output reveals all the layers of a sound speaker, leaving no room or site for bad sounds, elevating the users’ listening experience uniquely and palpably.

Conclusion

After understanding what a subwoofer is, its concept, and what it does to enhance audio quality, you’re probably wondering — is it a good investment? After all, can’t the lowest tones (bass frequencies) just be played through regular speakers? A standard speaker can’t produce low sound frequencies correctly. Even if there are column sound systems that can reproduce bass, these have a lower limit of 40 to 50 Hz, plus they increase the risk of burning your driver and ultimately destroying the product. In short, subwoofers are great investments to make as it complements regular speakers, allowing them to reproduce low frequencies correctly while freeing them from the arduous task of producing these tricky bass tones.

Moreover, because they no longer need to play basses by themselves, each drive can now perform better at higher frequencies. Because of this, you get way more and better bass. Subwoofers are also less obtrusive than other floor-standing sound systems with drivers large enough to pull off the same results. These subs have dedicated power onboard, reducing the strain of your Audio and Video (AV) receiver with a room correction or multi-channel amplifier, meaning they offer a more efficient method for satisfying low-end needs. Finally, the proper placement of a subwoofer improves the overall quality of your system, whether it’s for your car or home theater — increasing the depth and width of your system’s soundstage and overall sound.

So, all in all, having a subwoofer is a great way to improve your speaker or stereo system, bringing your favorite music and sounds to life. We hope this article helped you find the answers to your questions regarding subwoofers and if you need one — helping you achieve the best quality sounds for the best cruising and home theater experience.