Does a Subwoofer Only Play Bass?

Does a Subwoofer Only Play Bass? (What You Need to Know)

Subwoofers are most commonly known for playing bass(low frequencies) and adding an extra dimension to movies, music, and TV shows, ...

By Dewayne

Subwoofers are most commonly known for playing bass(low frequencies) and adding an extra dimension to movies, music, and TV shows, and you’ll usually have a separate loudspeaker for higher frequencies.

However, you’re probably wondering if it’s possible to use your subwoofer as a normal speaker, or does a subwoofer only play bass. The answer to this question is quite technical as there are a lot of physical and technical differences between a loudspeaker and a subwoofer.

Despite the subwoofer looking pretty similar to a normal speaker, it cannot be used for anything else other than playing bass. This is due to subwoofers being made specifically for low-frequency sounds.

What Is Bass?


First, we need to understand bass and how it works to understand precisely why subwoofers will only play low-frequency sounds such as bass.

Bass, which is a low-frequency sound is defined by how many times it oscillates per second. Bass is known to have a frequency of around 150 Hz, and these low-frequency sounds are typically high in energy, so you will feel them more compared to actually hearing them.

Low-frequency sound waves are capable of travelling much further, and they have the ability to go through objects much easier than higher-frequency sounds. This is due to their longer wavelengths, this is because bass is felt more.

What Is Sub Bass

If bass is felt, the sub-bass is felt, even more, this is because the frequency is much lower – (around 20-60 Hz). This means the sound waves will have even more energy, and even longer wavelengths.

Personally, sub bass gives a sense of depth to a song, you’re able to feel it in your chest, and you’re easily able to sense the power associated with whatever you’re listening to.

Due to the much lower frequency compared to bass, sub bass is actually what is responsible for the rumble and vibration you feel when watching your favourite action movies.

With subwoofers, they have the ability to play both bass and sub-bass, so technically, subwoofers don’t only play bass as they can typically go even lower into the sub-bass realm.

What Is A Subwoofer?


A subwoofer is a loudspeaker with the purpose of producing low-frequency sound also known as bass, as the bass is typically in the realm between 60-250 Hz

These low frequencies include instruments such as the kick drum and the bass guitar. And for movies, it compliments explosions and other low-frequency sound effects such as thunder.

Now the bass is heard, this is the case if you’re playing bass on your typical bookshelf or floor-standing speaker, but subwoofers take it to another level by making you actually feel the bass as well as accurately reproducing how the bass is meant to sound.

There are two different types of subwoofers too, there are passive and active subwoofers. Passive subwoofers require an external amp, and active subwoofers come with an amp already installed.

There are certain benefits to having one over the other, active subwoofers are easier to install, require less wiring, and have better power output. Passive subwoofers are better as they’re more affordable and more flexible in terms of choosing an amplifier and power supply.

Passive SubwooferActive Subwoofer
Amplifier:Requires external amplifierAmplifier is built in
Installation:Harder to configureEasier to configure
Cost:Generally less expensiveMore expensive
Size:Larger in sizeGenerally more compact

Can A Subwoofer Work As A Normal Speaker?

The reason you’re most likely here is to know whether a subwoofer is able to play higher-frequency noises typically associated with loudspeakers.

Despite a subwoofer looking similar to your normal speaker, internally, things are very different, and it’s this internal engineering that is responsible for the sounds a subwoofer generates.

Subwoofers will have larger drivers which are responsible for moving a lot of air to produce deeper bass. They also have larger voice coils and larger magnets to further amplify and create the low frequency noises we love.

Also, the diaphragm is much more powerful and larger which means its internals pretty much prevent it from producing anything other than low-frequency noises.

And if you intend on playing high-frequency noises, the subwoofer will work as intended, and only play the low-frequency noises associated with the soundtrack. So it will still work, but you won’t hear any high-frequency sounds such as vocals.

Subwoofer Vs Woofer

A woofer is similar to a subwoofer, but the frequency is generally much higher than one, woofers are made to reproduce frequencies up to 2.5 KHz (2500 Hz).

Subwoofers as you probably know already only reproduce low-frequency sounds, typically around 20 – 200 Hz, also known as bass frequencies.

You will find at least one subwoofer in a home theater setup, and many woofers to cover surround sound. You will also find woofers inside car stereos and PA systems.

Frequency Range:20 – 200 Hz20 Hz – 2.5 KHz
Power Handling:HighLow
Function:Reproduce Low FrequenciesReproduce High Frequencies

Also Read: Subwoofer Vs Woofer

Do Subwoofers Play Music Louder?

Subwoofers will not play music louder, this is because the loudness of your music isn’t determined by your subwoofer rather it is determined by the power of your amplifier.

But a good subwoofer will definitely improve the listening experience of music such as Hip hop, heavy metal, dubstep, and rock. Personally, heavy metal music benefits greatly from subwoofers as they can bring out the deep baselines which make you feel the music on a personal level.

So subwoofers merely enhance the listening experience you already have, it doesn’t make anything louder, it just makes the bass sound fuller and more realistic. This is because standard speakers are not equipped to handle lower frequencies to the accuracy that subwoofers can.

How To Configure Subwoofers?

When you’re building your home theater setup, it will consist of a receiver, a video source, connection cables, and an audio system. Now your audio system can be a surround sound setup or just a soundbar, but it should always have a subwoofer.

Now we need to power up your subwoofer, luckily this step is easy, and you shouldn’t run into any trouble. Just ensure that you connect one side of your receiver called sub-output to the subwoofer’s RCA input using an LFE cable.

Finally, and lastly, you should configure your subwoofers crossover frequency, this refers to the point where your subwoofer will start playing low-frequency sounds. Configuring your subwoofer’s crossover to play frequencies of only 150 Hz means your subwoofer will only activate when it receives a signal around 150 Hz.


Hopefully, this post has cleared up a few things for you. In general, subwoofers are incapable of playing anything other than bass tones(low-frequency noises) due to the internal and physical structure of the speaker.

Your typical speaker is made to produce high-frequency mid tones, whereas your subwoofer is made to produce low-frequency tones, typically around 200Hz.

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