Anyone that enjoys audio understands that a subwoofer is a crucial piece of equipment for a sound system, this is because subwoofers perfectly produce low frequency sounds.
Purchasing a subwoofer isn’t an easy task, you have passive and active subwoofers to choose from, and it’s passive subwoofers that require an external amp. So you will be required to diligently find the perfect amp for your subwoofer.
To answer your question, subwoofers that are passive will require amps, an external amp to be precise. But if you’re wondering if a subwoofer can function without an AMP, then the answer is no. Even active subwoofers require amps, it’s just that they are built into the actual subwoofer negating the need for the user to purchase an external amp.
Why Do Subwoofers Need An AMP?
First and foremost, let’s define what an AMP or Amplifier is, and what it does. An amplifier is a device that takes an audio signal and increases its strength, or amplitude. The stronger the signal, the louder the sound. This is why AMPs are essential for subwoofers; they need a strong signal in order to produce deep, powerful bass.
Now do subwoofers really need AMPs? The answer is yes, all speakers technically require an AMP otherwise you will hear silence. Passive and active subwoofers both use amplifiers, it’s just a difference in how they are integrated. This is why car subwoofers require an AMP, they’re practically passive subwoofers.
Subwoofers and their AMPs generally need to match their specifications, this means the AMP can’t be too weak or too powerful for the subwoofer. Ensuring this will prevent damage to either your subwoofer or amplifier. It is also not recommended to connect an AMP to a Powered or Active subwoofer for more power, this can cause damage to the equipment.
Passive Vs Active Subwoofers For AMPs
Most “all-in-one” subwoofers have an AMP built-in, which is why they are called “active” subwoofers. On the other hand, “passive” subwoofers don’t have an AMP built-in, and require an external AMP which is a perfect match for the subwoofer. If you don’t find the right AMP for your passive subwoofer, it can cause damage to your equipment.
Active or Powered subwoofers are probably easier to set up due to the AMP being built-in, but they’re usually more expensive. Also, they’re said to perform better by producing deeper and more impactful bass. This is probably due to the internal amplifier practically being a perfect match to the subwoofer. This is why active subwoofers constantly remain the popular option.
Passive subwoofers are cheaper than their powered counterparts, but they’re often said to be difficult to set up due to the extra components necessary. Passive subwoofers are more customizable allowing you to link multiple units together, this is ideal for home theater setups.
As for what’s better, well they’re both good in their own way, so it pretty much depends on what your needs are. Active subwoofers cost more, and provide deeper bass whereas passive subwoofers are cheaper and more customizable.
How To Pick The Right AMP
This is more targeted toward those going down the route of passive subwoofers. As we’ve established, if you’re getting a passive subwoofer then you’ll need an external AMP, but the tricky part is picking out the right amplifier that accurately matches your subwoofer’s specifications.
It’s considered best practice to pick an AMP that has enough power for whatever subwoofer you’re powering. While that it’s pretty obvious, it’s actually best to go for an AMP that has headroom to spare. This means that the AMP will be working at less than its full potential which results in cooler running temperatures and often provides cleaner sound.
Essentially, you should aim to provide at least twice the continuous power rating that your subwoofer’s manufacturer recommends. Just don’t aim to underpower or overpower your subwoofer as this can cause wave distortions/signal clipping which will destroy your subwoofer. This is mainly caused when you try to amplify a signal, but it begins to square off at the top and bottom of the wave.
What Is The Best Type Of Subwoofer?
We believe there’s no “best” type of subwoofer, there’s only whatever works best for you. Some people will benefit best from an active subwoofer which has an easier configuration, integrated AMP, and provides deeper bass. But some people will benefit from a passive subwoofer which pretty much is more customizable, and easier to link up with other subwoofers, but you will need to buy an external AMP.
Besides active and passive subwoofers, there are wireless options out there that obviously provide a benefit. Wireless subwoofers have the benefit of not having wires get in the way, and they’re often easier to setup. If you have a smaller living space then a wireless subwoofer might be perfect for you.
However, wireless subwoofers will often have audio quality issues such as latency and dropouts. This is due to the fact that they’re sending an audio signal wirelessly which can be interfered with pretty easily and can also produce annoying static noise. But, wireless subwoofers will come with an AMP integrated, so you essentially get a subwoofer that works out of the box.
Do I Need An AMP For A Car Subwoofer?
Put it this way, no matter what speaker you’re running, they will always require an amplifier for them to work. Cars will usually have amplifiers built-in to them, and depending on their spec, you may be able to use it to power your car subwoofer. If not, you can usually upgrade your car’s sound system by adding an external AMP.
If you’re looking to find car amplifiers, you can find them on Amazon, and there are a few reputable brands. Sinfoni, and Brax are great brands that produce quality AMPs, but there are plenty of other options to choose from.
In conclusion, yes all speakers will require an AMP to work, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a subwoofer or not. AMPs provide the speaker with enough power to actually produce sound, and without one they will be completely useless.
But to clarify, some speakers(Passive) will require “external” AMPs so they can work, whereas active and passive speakers do not. So, you must be careful of what type of speaker you pick up, not all of them have built in amplifiers.