Speaker Or Subwoofer: What’s The Difference?

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Speaker Or Subwoofer

You’ve probably heard about speakers and subwoofers when researching home theaters or car sound systems. These two devices are both in fact loudspeakers, and they both play crucial roles in sound systems.

I’m going to explain to you exactly what both of these devices are, and how they work. Also, you’re going to learn about how they are used in home theaters, and other types of sound systems.

The difference between a speaker and a subwoofer is the task they are made to handle. Subwoofers handle low-frequency sound waves, speakers handle higher-frequency sounds, and both complement each other.

What Is A Speaker?

Speakers
Speakers

    We’re going to define speakers by the main speaker that comes with home theater setups, and the speakers typically found within soundbars. These speakers are responsible for the main sounds you hear.

    When speakers are arranged properly, you can create a surround sound setup that creates a wide soundstage which is beneficial for home theaters. You will have speakers in the front, speakers to the side, and speakers at the back.

    Speakers typically consist of a few components, a woofer which is responsible for low frequency sounds, a tweeter which is responsible for high speaker sounds, and a cabinet which actually houses all these components.

    For this reason, speakers are used for the high frequency aspect of your sound system, and you will require a subwoofer or either a woofer to handle the low frequency range of things.

    Just like subwoofers, and woofers, speakers can either be passive or active, and this is the distinction between the two. Passive speakers will require an external amp, and active speakers already have an amp built in.

    Pros:

    • A speaker is a crucial device for creating a surround sound setup. They are also great for creating a wide soundstage. Speakers are pretty much in charge of the atmosphere of whatever you’re viewing as it’s able to change the mood and sound effects.
    • Speakers are also pretty independant meaning they don’t rely on other components like a subwoofer will rely on speakers. This means you’re able to create a decent listening experience with just speakers.
    • Speakers are also pretty affordable, replacing components is cheaper than adding a subwoofer. You’re able to experience bass, but not to the level that a subwoofer can produce.

    Cons:

    • Speakers have very few downsides, but the main downside of speakers is that they are not able to accurately reproduce low frequency noises. This means that you are effectively missing out on a whole new experience that is only able to be experienced with a subwoofer.

    How Is A Speaker Usually Used?

    Speakers are used to produce sound that is heard by the listener, and this can be done with many speakers. The most popular type of speakers are tower/floorstanding, and bookshelf speakers.

    With the right setup, these speakers can work well for home theaters by creating a surround sound setup. This should be all you need to experience a decent movie experience, but you may want a subwoofer to further enhance it.

    Speakers are also important for music, they can be found in music setups, and in cars to deliver a memorable music experience. For most music, you only really require speakers, so a subwoofer is optional.

    What Is A Subwoofer?

    Subwoofer
    Subwoofer

    Subwoofers are also loudspeakers, but they are quite different from speakers, this is because they specialize in low frequency ranges instead of high frequency ranges.

    Subwoofers operate in a frequency range also known as bass, and bass is typically between 60 and 250 Hz. Some subwoofers can operate at much lower frequencies, (as low as 20 Hz), and this is also known as “Sub Bass”.

    While subwoofers aren’t technically necessary to consume media, subwoofers do enhance certain aspects of media, and those assets/aspects usually reside in the low-frequency realm.

    For example, certain movies may consist of thunder, and explosions which exist in the low frequency realm, and a subwoofer can really enhance how they sound and feel.

    For music, subwoofers will enhance certain instruments such as the bass guitars, drums, keyboards, and horns. Subwoofers will enhance the sound by perfectly replicating these instruments.

    The reason why subwoofers aren’t necessary is because most normal speakers can reproduce low frequency noises, this is because they come with a “woofer” along with a tweeter.

    But woofers aren’t highly specialized like a subwoofer, so normal speakers will never accurately reproduce low frequencies to the same quality that a subwoofer can. In fact, a subwoofer makes bass “felt” more than “heard”.

    Pros:

    • The pros of a subwoofer is that they are easily able to reproduce low frequencies which a normal speaker cannot. This makes the subwoofer a necessary component only if you’re trying to go for accuracy for low frequencies.
    • Subwoofers also add another level of immersion by making bass felt as well as heard. This means it can make movies like action movies feel significantly more realistic.
    • Overall, your sound system will be under less stress due to the offloading of bass onto the subwoofer. This means you can turn up the volume more without your main speakers distorting.

    Cons:

    • Subwoofers are depedant devices, this means you will require at least one speaker for a subwoofer to make sense. You cannot use them on their own.
    • Subwoofers are not always well designed, so you will need to do your due diligence when selecting one. Poorly made subwoofers will suffer from sound quality issues which can have the opposite effect on immersion.

    How Is A Subwoofer Usually Used?

    So since subwoofers reproduce low frequency noises, they cannot be used on their own, they will always require at least one normal speaker as subwoofers only play bass.

    Subwoofers are a key component for home theaters, still technically they aren’t “mandatory”, but they are essential for recreating an immersive movie experience. As we’ve said, speaker’s can’t accurately reproduce all frequencies, that’s why we have subwoofers.

    Also, subwoofers are very popular for music sound systems for the exact same reason they are popular for home theaters. To truly enjoy music, you need a subwoofer that’s able to reproduce exactly how the drums, bass guitars, and electric bass guitars.

    But there are certain places where you won’t see a subwoofer, for example, they are extremely uncommon in apartments due to the complaints you may receive from your neighbors.

    Comparison Between Speaker And Subwoofer

    The table below goes to show how different subwoofers and normal speakers are from one another. Subwoofers generally require more power for the huge soundwaves they propagate, and speakers don’t.

    Additionally, subwoofers can get far larger than your typical speaker, subwoofers can reach up to 20 inches in size, this is because size is directly related to how low of a frequency a subwoofer can produce.

    Subwoofers will come with only one driver, whereas a speaker can come with up to 3 drivers, a tweeter, a woofer, and a mid-range driver. Subwoofers don’t require this many drivers if they are targeting really low frequencies.

    SubwooferSpeaker
    Frequence Range:20 – 250 Hz20 Hz – 20 KHz
    Power Output:HighLow
    Sizes:8 – 20 inches3 – 8 inches
    Drivers:OneUp to 3

    How Are Subwoofers Used With Speakers

    When you put these two devices together so they can work in harmony, what you will instantly see is a jump in audio quality. This is because the normal speakers are no longer handling the bass.

    The subwoofer will play its job well by producing low frequencies to the accuracy that was intended. This will perfectly complement the rest of your sound system as your speakers only have to focus on the mid and high range frequencies.

    How To Setup A Subwoofer

    If you’ve analysed your sound system and decided that you require a subwoofer, then you’re halfway there to a fully optimal sound system. And setting up a subwoofer isn’t all that difficult.

    Connecting the subwoofer is quite simple, all you need is a receiver, a video source, and connection cables. Just power up your subwoofer, once done, we can hook your subwoofer up to the receiver.

    Look for something called sub-output on your receiver, then plug one end of an LFE cable to it. Then look at the back of your subwoofer, and look for RCA input, this is where you will insert the other end of the LFE cable.

    Do Subwoofers Only Play Bass?

    Yes, subwoofers only play bass, they aren’t physically capable of producing higher frequencies due to a number of physical and technological differences.

    For one, subwoofers consist of a large driver which is responsible for moving a lot of air. The size of the driver is related to the frequency level of the sound it produces. The larger it is, the lower the frequencies they play.

    Also, subwoofers have a diaphragm which is more powerful and larger than anything a normal speaker has, this means the internals of the subwoofer physically prevent it from producing higher frequencies.

    If you intend on playing higher frequencies on your subwoofer, you will only hear the low frequency outputs. So don’t expect to hear any vocals or any higher frequency instruments playing out of your subwoofer.

    Conclusion

    In conclusion, I hope this post has cleared a few ideas up for you, subwoofers and speakers are two different devices that work in harmony when in conjunction.

    Subwoofers focus on the low frequency noises, whereas your speakers will focus on the higher frequency side of things. Both compliment each other, and can make for an awesome sound system for music or your home theater.